12 August 2008

Threalmic pseudism

Stephen Potter redux


ALDaily pointed me recently to a type of article I haven't seen for yonks: a self-mocking parody on the latest fads in pseudo intellectual one-upmanship. And here was me prematurely grieving at the apparent passing of this eternal game.

David Brooks in the New York Times writes:

" Dear Dr. Kierkegaard,

All my life I’ve been a successful pseudo-intellectual, sprinkling quotations from Kafka, Epictetus and Derrida into my conversations, impressing dates and making my friends feel mentally inferior. But over the last few years, it’s stopped working. People just look at me blankly. My artificially inflated self-esteem is on the wane.
What happened?

Existential in Exeter

Dear Existential,

It pains me to see so many people being pseudo-intellectual in the wrong way. It desecrates the memory of the great poseurs of the past. And it is all the more frustrating because your error is so simple and yet so fundamental.

You have failed to keep pace with the current code of intellectual one-upsmanship.
...

It's a tonic to read old Stephen Potter principles from my undergraduate days getting a re-working in our on-line universe. It was a partial throw back to when I first stumbled on Pseuds Corner, the apparently still extant pricker of pretensions in Private Eye.Brook's gambit is to proffer that today's status rules have reached a new meta-context. Instead of being in front of the pack by having adopted the latest technology or cool posture, you can only pretend to be in the race if you can claim to have already tried and abandoned such tiring triffles. Gattling-Fenn might well have approved. But they'd both be behind today's real game. To be truly one-up you have to be without anyone knowing.


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