Tuesday, April 30, 2019

About reading

The biggest political phenomenon in recent years has been a surge in populist resentment towards a very vaguely defined other that is usually called “the elite”. Now, though, many of those leading the charge against “the elite” appear to be wealthy, well-connected, straight, white males, which always used to be a pretty good indicator of elitism. Now, though, the divide is as much cultural as anything. It’s not just attitudes to Europe, or immigration, or gay marriage that set the elite apart; it’s the books they read, or the fact that they read books at all.

For example, a recent ONS report finds that 31% of graduates are “overeducated” for the job they’re doing. Overeducation is a very anti-elite concept; phrases like “too clever by half” characterise a particular aversion to the idea that knowing stuff for its own sake is a good and beautiful thing. The Gradgrindian implication that the core purpose of education is ultimately economic also plays well to the base.

But if you want a single, succinct encapsulation of this attitude though, here’s this morning’s tweet from Adam Boulton (Sky TV, Sunday Times... a pattern seems to form) in response to Andy Miller’s end-of-the-month reading report:


blackwatertown said...

FFS! Deny global warming, destroy the planet, be Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin - that's all very well. But have this attitude to books and reading - now you're crossing a line.

Tim Footman said...

Pol Pot was so hostile to intellectuals, your life was at risk if you wore glasses.