Re: Elite post-this and that

Michael J. Salvo (
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 23:54:39 -0600

nick carbone wrote:
>The problem is that the priveleges we
>have, even though we earned them and few of us were born to them, and the
>advantages we had should be extended to all. I don't pretend that this
>can happen without a lot of shaking up of the system.

one of the big problems i have with academia in general, and with futurists
in particular, is this idea that we *can* extend upper-middle class
(academic) status to all members of our culture in anything remotely
resembling this system. and if lyotard is right (that with the loss of
master narrative we've lost the abilty for massive revolution) massive,
quick reform isn't a possibility. shaken, stirred, or otherwise re-formed,
our system depends upon an underclass, a certain percentage of unemployment,
and the uneven distribution of wealth, both material and academic.

as idealistic as i am, i can't imagine massive reform that would distribute
the *current* level of wealth, that "the advantages we had should be
extended to all." my point is that we can't and won't have universal access
until we give up ideas of individual ownership ... and that obviously isn't
on the horizon. maybei'll see some movement before i die, but ...

so are academics elite? we are, and we *better* be, if we are "experts" and
"the best of our field." higher? up on the heirarchy? unfortunately --
it's how our social value is measured -- but i doubt many of us have seen
the top rungs of the ladder. maybe some time monetary reward will reflect
whatever level of respect academics are afforded, but i'm not holding my
breath. better? more important? ha haha ha ha hee.

my question is: are we elites that use our position to mystify and obscure
cultural structures and phenomena? well, until recently, as keepers of the
high literary skeletons, we have mystified behind our calls for "subtlety,
ambiguity, and irony." and, yes, we mystify behind lit-crit jargon ...
sometimes. but at the same time, lit crit -- or postmodern rhetorical --
language is a necessary tool to *undo* our tendency to heirarchize and then
solidify our distinctions. perhaps we can build a new, common langauge that
allows fluidity: a new language that has different ends than "defining" and

it's important that we make distinctions, that we *discriminate*, but at the
same time, the distinctions we make need to be contextual and meaningful.
to me, that means avoiding list-making and trying to enforce lists of great
books, or of excusing the obvious and undeniable priviledge we enjoy -- and
to admit that it's rather silly, if not insulting, to justify our priviledge
by saying "you too will have what i have, just wait."

we have priviledge. denying it makes us look foolish. failing to produce
useable knowledge with the priviledge afforded us means we have failed, and
our culture has a right to ask for accountability. however, the problem of
*communicating* the important knowledge we have created regarding rhetoric,
cultural critique, and digital communication is a separate issue, and i feel
our successes are simply too powerful, promising, and potentially valuable
to allow this continued squabbling about academic language / dialect keep us
from making this knowledge available to the culture we are a part, and which
supports our inquiry.