Intellectual Snob

Yes, I have been called an intellectual snob. Someone pointed out this trait years before I began studying at a university in what seems like another lifetime before I became a graduate student. In my late twenties and early teens, I was sort of a street intellectual, in independent scholar. I used to have a box full of notecards with tempting quotes and information. I had charisma too. I could get up in front of a crowd, and hit some points that resonated with almost everyone in the audience. But more than anything, I valued knowledge. No particular reason, just the desire to know drove me. I took a class with a prominent Muslim scholar and he noted my curiosity.

During that time, many of my friends went to the semi-prestigious Santa Clara University. I used to hang out there in the library, unable to afford classes at the local community college. As a JC drop-out, I had a strong thirst for knowledge. And I had a strong sense of justice and a lot more energy than I have now. And I’d go toe to toe with anybody who wanted to test me on some issue relating to Muslims. I’d argue with white feminist scholars who came at me with some orientalist notions of Islam and women’s rights. I argued about Islamic Law and Women’s rights with a Harvard trained lawyer. Instructors, I’d check em. Professors, I’d confound them with difficult questions. And no, I didn’t have a degree nor a lot of training. But even in that early stage, during those formative years in and out of community college, I knew I had a strong disdain for anyone trying to test me in a debate that they knew little about.

The first time I heard the term intellectual snob was after a dinner party 11 years ago. There was some woman who was going to Stanford in feminist studies (who now does nothing with her degree, but stays at home married to a wealthy doctor in priveleged Atherton) had something to say about patriarchy in Muslim societies without acknowledging the ways she was also circumscribed by patriarchy in this society. She upset me and my best friend by accusing us of being oppressed for wearing hijab. While she, wearing her long curly hair free flowing and dress was free. My friend got upset and left the table. I lost patience and took some intellectual jabs at her. I had little patience for her inconsistence in this discussion. By the way, telling a non-Western woman that she is oppressed at a dinner party is pretty damn rude.

So, this is all a side-point. My major point is that I have and always will be an intellectual snob. I have a whole bunch of pet peeves in a heavy conversation. Here are some:

1. Devil’s advocates
This has got to be the lamest for of critical engagement. Just taking the opposing side insincerely is the most annoying tactic. Keep these people far from me. There are times when looking at an issue from both angles can be helpful. But for the most part, I see Devil’s advocates as the very spawn of Satan.

2. Those who argue over semantics
Unless you got a fricken dictionary, don’t quibble with me over you own chosen definition of a word. I hate those people who basically agree with you, but have to find that one little flaw that they have to interjects. At the point of understanding, you should focus on what can be agreed upon, where we differ, and what can we build off of it.

3. Ignoramous with an Opinion
Yes, opinions are like assholes, and everyone has one. But that does not mean that we have to smell your shit. So, unless you have an informed opinion, in the company of experts, you should STFU.

4. Know it alls
People who have to have an opinion on everything. Guess what? You do not know everything. So this means that you should defer, listen, and learn. Be humble. Not everyone is impressed by your constant ramblings and need to prove to the world that you know everything.

Okay, well I gotta run. I will add to this list. But feel free to add your own.

Addendum:
1c. People who sprinkle their speech with foreign words, especially French, German, or Arabic, to sound really profound. Things like: “Voltgeist” or “Ya’ani” or even trying to pronounce some ridiculous French word to prove adeptness with the French language makes me want to vomit. This is especially annoying when the English equivalent will suffice.

2c. People who name drop. Rubbing shoulders with some scholar or knowing some important person does not
make you smarter. In fact, I hate name dropping all together. Just drop it, okay. Work with your own merits.

3c. People who throw out book titles and feel like they have defeated you when they name a book you haven’t read. Academics are notorious for this.

4c. People who bait others into debates. You know, that seemingly innocent question that the baiter uses to launch into some campaign of proving their intellectual prowess.

5c. People who won’t concede that their stances are not well supported. Or basically, people who cannot admit that they are wrong.

6c. People who say you don’t get their point, especially if their point is not clear or evident in what they are writing or saying. We are not mind readers. What you put out there is what is left for us to interpret. If I missed your poorly presented point, then clarify your thinking and get back at me.

7c. People who try to quiz you on the languages you know. “How many languages you speak? Oh, I speak 5.” My response, “STFU, you barely speak anyone of them well.” sometimes, I come back with, “I speak broken ebonics, some English, studied other languages….” Or the finally question of snobbery:”How is your French?” My reply: “non-existent you pompous idiot savant!!

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