The word ‘Elite’ usually refers to persons of superior ability or qualities, or those exercising the most power and influence. The word comes from the French ‘élite’ (selection or choice), from the verb ‘élire’ (to elect)1.
In modern political parlance, ‘Elites’ is a term often used by conservatives to refer to people whose views are at odds with theirs, and who they wish to disparage. The term was often used by John Howard during his tenure as Prime Minister, to refer to people who actually knew what they were talking about, such as economists, scientists and sociologists, rather than those who actually were the elites in government and business. It was Howard’s way of deflecting attention away from those who actually had the wealth, power and influence, and were misusing it for their own gain. It is of course laughable that CEOs earning several millions of dollars and government ministers with salaries between $300,000 and $500,000, are excluded from the ‘elite’. It is these people who have the most power and influence. Howard excluded those in business from his label because they formed a co-dependency with him. They relied on him to decrease their taxes, while he relied on them to help fund his election campaigns.
Seemingly, the ‘Elites’ tag has worn a bit thin, because Amanda Vanstone is apparently again trying to shift attention away from those who have the wealth, power and influence, and onto those who actually know what they are talking about. She calls them “the clever” and accuses them of disenfranchising the ‘bogans’, and states that the bogans have had enough. In her diatribe, she divides rulers up into those who govern by brute force (dictators), birthright (absolute monarchs), and democrats, but that the latter has now become the rule by ‘the clever’. She acknowledges that the growing complexity of the world requires more specialists, but notes that their advice ‘need not be heeded’ by politicians. Among these specialists, she strangely lists ‘experts, academics, administrators and [the] occasional celebrity’, and suggests that they have become a ‘managerial class’, and that they have elitist views not shared by ‘normal people’2. Who the normal people are she does not say.
This sort of attitude, that places politicians in a class of their own, who can pick and choose whether they believe what the experts tell them, has given us a nation in which the disparity between rich and poor (her bogans) has increased dramatically; in which little is being done to mitigate climate change; in which education is seen as a cost, not an investment; in which bigotry is encouraged; and in which human rights are largely ignored. If Vanstone was genuine, she would realise that the problem with most modern politicians is that they can in no way be classed among the clever.