Thursday, March 03, 2011

Exclusivity and Elitism - Where is the Line Drawn?

Usually when I hear the word "exclusive" as a description of some type of special offer, group or opportunity, I view it as a good thing - like I'm possibly getting in on something really cool.  The idea of going to an exclusive resort or having an exclusive deal for marketing a product seems great, but what about the flip side?  A more common (and benign) example could be the Apple iPhone exclusive deal with AT&T.  Many people didn't get one because they only had one choice for a carrier, but the company benefited because it gained millions of new customers because they wanted that phone.  However, if you look at it now with Verizon on board, it seems like a better deal for people all around (unless you're AT&T).

Looking at the root word - exclude - gives another angle to the word though.  The first definitions for exclusive listed in the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary are: 1a. excluding or having power to exclude  b. limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group.  2a. excluding others from participation  b. snobbishly aloof.  This sounds more like elitism, where the same resource has this for its second definition:  the selectivity of the elite; especially : snobbery <elitism in choosing new members>.

After looking at those it doesn't seem so inviting to me.  There are definitely times and places in this world where exclusivity is much more harmful than good.  I have been a part of cliques before that were exclusive, and I wound up losing connections to good people just because the group mentality taught me to think I was better than those other people in some way.  It took me years to shake that idea, but I still see it being practiced to the detriment of otherwise good-intentioned people.  I think trying to be inclusive is a much better approach.  It is at the very least much more inviting doesn't automatically throw up walls or barriers.

While there are still some exclusive possessions I'd love to have, I wouldn't exclude my friends and family from enjoying them.  These would include visiting my enormous home, driving my ridiculously expensive and fast cars and riding in my private jet.  Not that I have any of those yet, but if you are a friend of mine, don't worry, because you'll get to share in those experiences too.  The notion would apply to knowledge and other things as well.  But next time someone tries to convince you that someone or something is less just because they're from a different place or believe something different, don't let their influence cause you to exclude others, and I'll try not to either.

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