The English language is a wonderful thing. The changes and nuances in the meanings of words sometimes so subtle they can take you by surprise.
Take for instance the word ‘elitist’ – a good positive word, a word which suggests pride, top of the class, excellence of endeavor.
Elite sportspeople cherished
We cherish our elite sportsmen and women. We put money towards their endeavors so they can perform at the top for us as a country. We have elite sports’ clubs, elite sports’ schools and academies, and we don’t begrudge the money from Sparc for our elite performers in the arenas of sport. We have an elite corp. in the SAS.
Alas writers and artists don’t get such accolades. Unlike those sportspeople at the top of their form the practitioners of the arts – in the broadest sense- are often described as elitist and it is usually in a sneering, dismissive and pejorative sense.
Need to keep Hodgkin’s works
That was my experience when I spoke to Council recently about the importance of retaining a body of work from one of our better known artists and the need for the community and Council to support the Mahara Trust in its endeavors to retain what is commonly called the ‘Field Collection’- a collection of paintings from Frances Hodgkins and her family
Councillor Gurunathan called our proposal elitist! He dismissed the idea of its importance in his statement condemning the Mahara Trust and its proposal as ‘elitist’.
He is a former journalist, well used to the art of manipulating public opinion with a turn of phrase or a word, which changes completely the meaning and interpretation of a word.
My dictionary says of elitism: pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group, a group of gifted and educated members of a community.
‘Councillor Gurunathan’s sniffy statement’
If my interpretation of Councillor Gurunathan’s sniffy statement is correct then being a member of an elite group is something to be scorned and not something to be cherished as good for the community. But didn’t we all as a nation celebrate Willie Apiata and his elite SAS troops in Afghanistan?
So my question is – if we can take pride in our elite sports men and women and in our soldiers which we as a nation do, then why should we not take pride in our elite artists, writers, poets and therefore their body of work?