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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Are Wellness Enthusiasts Culture Elitists?

Monday December 27, 2004

On December 08, 2004, Ted Rall wrote a piece on the online site "Democratic Wings" asking, "Are We Cultural Elites? Why Yes, Thank You?" Rall held that there are good reasons why (to quote Senator Evan Bayh) "Democrats are a bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives." His position was that if "militant Christianist Republicans from inland backwaters believe that secular liberal Democrats from the big coastal cities look upon them with disdain, there's a reason. We do, and all the more so after this election." He explained that he grew up in a Republican town in southwest Ohio that was "racially insular, culturally bland and intellectually unstimulating" whose inhabitants were "knee-jerk conformists." Rather than spend his life "underemployed, bored and soused," he decided to do what anyone with a little ambition would do, namely, go to college. Not to return.

I thought of this when I got a letter from my friend Bob Ludlow expressing his low regard for popular culture. Bob holds that, with few exceptions, "dominant American culture is a gigantic embarrassment to any thinking person." Like Rall, Bob admits to being a cultural elitist--and proud of it, noting that the alternative would make him what Mencken famously termed a "Boobus Americanus." Bob continued: "Elitism is pervasive, a normal position for anyone who knows something about a subject. For example, try talking to a right-wing, Southern white male about NASCAR, or guns. Everyone is an elitist about subjects they know well. So if someone is generally well educated in, say, history and political science and also well informed about current events, every time he or she speaks on those topics, they're likely to be labeled a 'cultural elitist' by those exemplars of ignorance who voted for Bush (some 70% of whom believed at the time of the election that WMDs had been discovered in Iraq). Of course that group will likely resent and deride any moderately well-informed individual, especially since the president has made it fashionable to ignore facts and go by gut reaction."

Rall's entertaining (to a cultural elitist) take on the election follows this line of thinking: "So our guy lost the election. Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world. If you voted for Bush, we accept that we have to share the country with you. We're adjusting to the possibility that there may be more of you than there are of us. But
don't demand our respect. You lost it on November 2."

All of which makes me wonder: Are those of us who prefer wellness lifestyles not cultural elites as well? I think we are. We reject much of the popular and clearly predominant culture, including but surely not limited to America's clear preference for lifestyles of over-consumption and under-exertion, excessive medications and lamentations (in other words, "woe is me") and the integration of religion and government. We elites also note (and disdain) the consequences of such non-elitism (for examples, obesity, a bloated, ineffectual medical system, intolerance and the re-election of George Bush).

Rather than be defensive about being termed cultural elites or otherwise resisting the idea, the preferred strategy to employ with the non-elites might be to explain the nature of the phrase and ask them to switch teams. Urge them to join the ranks of the elite, at least in terms of wellness lifestyles, for starters. Maybe in time they could become more elitist in political ways, as well. If so, it might lead to a better America, if not a better world.

Be well. Always look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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