Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Lowest Common Denominator

Note: I’m sorry if I have taken something you’ve said to me out of context but I’m talking generally about this phrase. Please don’t take this as a personal attack, it is an exploration of my blurted-out opinions, nothing more.

Lowest common denominator.

I want it said here and now that I utterly despise this phrase. I will not use it. Saying something which appeals to the masses is “lowest common denominator trash” or implying that it is somehow beneath your level of evolutionary progress makes you elitist. Whether you're describing music, art, literature, entertainment or sport (or indeed anything else) it makes me disregard what you say about popular culture, about society, about everything. I am going to explain why.

Class is not something I talk about with any level of sincerity at any given moment. I joke about being working class and how this makes me different from others from time to time but in a lighthearted way. I truly believe that no matter your background, in this day and age you can rise above whatever box you were brought up in and chase your dreams. I do also admit fairly frequently that I am naïve, gullible and starry-eyed, so perhaps that clouds my judgement.

I get upset when people who I class as my peers; who’s opinions I respect; who I often will look to for clarity, guidance and debate, when these people waste their well-processed arguments in one fell swoop by their use of lazy snobbery.

By forcing, in your mind, a certain group of people into a group of lower intelligence, morals and values you are oppressing them. I can see we are moving into cloudy and frankly unsavoury territory here but please do bear with me. I want you to understand how I see it for a second.
Because a person enjoys entertainment that isn’t wholly educational does not make them a lesser being. I see it more and more every day, the geeks (like myself) ganging up on people whose only crimes are to be slightly ignorant or incorrect or interested in other things. Are you really the sort of person who still looks to separate people into groups ranked from highest to lowest? Whether through wealth or intelligence, pushing people apart like this is, in my humble opinion, wrong and I won’t stand with you while you do it.

Separating ourselves from “them” whoever “they” might be makes us weak. In times like this where even the most tolerant of citizens (aka. Me) are beginning to feel a daily dose of rage against the current injustices in our society, surely we should be looking to work together? I don’t want to start preaching about politics as it’s not my place and I certainly don’t know enough about the subject, but what I do know is that squabbling amongst ourselves makes us easier to control.
You may not agree with your fellow people, you might even think they are morons quite a lot of the time. That’s your prerogative. Quite honestly a lot of the time I do believe that I’m the best person and everyone else is an idiot, as I’m sure you do too. I think what I’m trying to say is that if you truly believe there is a class of people below you who only deserve to be loathed and ignored; you’re as bad as Cameron.

Take a look at the people you’re sneering at and admit that every once in a while, you are one of them. Unless you live in a state-funded townhouse you are part of the general populous which gives you the same perceived flaws as the rest. Doesn’t feel nice to be despised, does it?

1 comment:

ben_wren said...

I do love a good rant about things which appear to be examples of utter bullshit. This blog post being a good example! I hope to write a similarly ranty blog one day.

However, I do wish to debate this point... Not just to disagree with you Katie, but because I wouldn't like to see you shouting someone down as a snob unless they actually deserve it!

I think the phrase is used not to refer to a group of people, but to a trait which can be found in all of us. Doesn't it criticise the makers of such entertainment, rather than the consumers? The producers of a given TV show, newspaper, magazine or whatever, might have decided to focus on things which, while they do appeal to us on a basic human level, are generally accepted as not valuable to civilised society. Things that either waste our time, erode our values, or reinforce lazy and negative ideas. Things that might even damage the lives of the people who are made the subject of such entertainment. This stuff isn't referred to as Lowest Common Denominator because the people that consume it are "lower" than other people, or because they are "common". It's because we can all find ourselves entertained by such tittle tattle - it's "common" to all of us. And yet we know it's not really that good for us. It represents the "lowest" thing we humans have in common.

The people who make this stuff could, with a little extra effort, aim for the highest common denominator - things we can all share which encourage positivity, or which develop our insight into ourselves and our world. And those who reject that sort of entertainment don't do so because they are naturally "above" it, they choose to avoid it. But that doesn't mean that some of those people might happen to also be snobs. I'm sure a lot of them are. By all means throw your venom at the snobs if you wish, but I don't think everyone who uses this phrase has inadvertently revealed their snobbery!

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