Elite or Common Sense?

It is, sometimes, difficult to draw a line between elitism and common sense. Especially when the elite is just a pretension, a claim that has no legitimate foundation in reality but is established on the pillars of imagined rules of which the validity is only …, the claim of their legitimacy, presumed to be unquestionable. those are claims of conventional wisdom, of which J.K, Galbraith writes

Because familiarity is such an important test of acceptability, the acceptable ideas have great stability. They are highly predictable. It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.

(Galbraith, J.K., 1958: The Affluent Society; London: Hamish Hamilton:6)

‘Religious rites’ as he calls them a page later.

And they could also be seen as rules or hegemonic setting – we believe in them because …, we believe in them as all believe in them. And they are used to misguide the future generations.

The paradox: the elite turns into an ‘un-elite’, not knowing what they are doing but just doing what they don’t know. some time ago I read in an interview with the conductor Philippe Herreweghe the following lines, making me thinking about a strange reversal of elite and common sense we face in today’s algorithm society.

Ich bin beispielsweise der Ansicht, dass Beethoven seine Musik für eine kleine, hochgradig künstlerisch veranlagte Elite komponierte – diese Zuhörerschaft war mit seinen Werken vertraut. Fast alle spielten selbst ein Instrument, häufig auch im kammermusikalischen Rahmen, oder gehörten sogar einem Orchester an, welches diese neue Musik interpretierte. Und genau aus diesem Grund konnten seine Zeitgenossen den etwas später so genannten »armen Beethoven, der von niemandem verstanden wurde«, durchaus sehr gut verstehen. Das Niveau seiner Zuhörerschaft war schlicht und einfach um ein Vielfaches höher, als wir es heutzutage erleben. Heute kann es vorkommen, dass manche Zuschauer begeistert ein Tennismatch verfolgen, ohne dabei die Spielregeln genau zu kennen …

 translated:

For example, I think that Beethoven composed his music for a small, highly artistic elite – this audience was familiar with his works. Almost all played an instrument, often in a chamber music setting, or even belonged to an orchestra, which interpreted this new music. And precisely for this reason, his contemporaries could quite well understand the so-called “poor Beethoven, which was later understood by nobody.” The level of his or her audience was simply a lot higher than we do today. Today it can happen that some spectators enthusiastically follow a Tennismatch without knowing the rules of the game …

(Ich habe mir meine Neugierde bewahrt. Philippe Herreweghe im Gespräch mit Louvres Langevoort/
I kept my curiosity. Philippe Herreweghe in conversation with Louvres Langevoort; in:
Kölner Philharmonie; Das Magazin. Nr. 3; Jul/Aug 2017: page 19; 18/08/2017)
Time to get back then to another common sense – that of asking what the rules are about, demanding to understand and not simply accepting acceptability.

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