How to Be a Happy Healthy Snob

Keep one foot in humble self-awareness.

Posted Apr 10, 2019

If you have fun sneering at fools, join the club and no, it’s not just your clique. All cliques do it. It’s self-elevation by demoting other people, snobbery by whatever standard.

Any standard will do. There are snobs and counter-snobs, elites accusing others of being elites.

  • If you’re a woke left-winger you’re a snob.
  • If you’re a woke MAGA fan, you’re a snob.
  • If you think wine snobs are fools, you’re a snob.
  • If you’re a smug atheist, you’re a snob.
  • If you’re a smug religious person you’re a snob.
  • If you think it’s unpatriotic to support what you don’t support, you’re a snob.
  • If you think you’ve found the one true faith, you’re a snob.

Snobbery is on the rise and for good reason. Technology exposes each of us to way too much world. It’s overwhelming. We’re inundated. We naturally reach for ways to dismiss whole swaths of what overwhelms us. We seek reasons why it’s OK to not be interested in what we’re interested in. Life has become increasingly like running a sidewalk gauntlet of fundraisers with clipboards and homeless people all demanding your attention. You’d welcome reasons why you don’t have to give them your attention.

We’ve always required ways to distinguish signal from noise, but these days there’s just so much potential signal so, of course, we seek ways to call more of it noise, especially ways to elevate our signal by putting down other people’s signals as noise.

The term ‘woke’ has traveled the same path as the term “PC” and “elite.” All three started as badges of honor but were quickly converted into terms of abuse, ways for counter-snobs to accuse their opponents of being snobs. It’s easy to overlook how “woke” the movements are that oppose “wokeness.” MAGA Evangelicals scorn progressives for their wokeness without recognizing that being born again is just another, older version of wokeness.

Wokeness is arrogant, but it’s also, honestly fun. The question then becomes how to enjoy the benefits of snobbery – whatever flavor of snob you are – without becoming a total jerk in the process.

The trick to being a happy healthy snob is recognizing, admitting and publicly acknowledging that you’re a snob too through variations on ironic, self-effacing humor, “That’s my glory and I’m sticking to it.”

I’ll use me as an example. My tongue is tone-deaf to the difference between one wine and another, so much so, that I think that wine aficionados are posers, fakes wasting their time taking their preferences way too seriously – in a word, snobs. I feel that way about lots of avid, super serious pursuits. Modern art connoisseurs, sports connoisseurs, car fanatics, foodies – I laugh at them all. They make such a big deal out of what’s so obviously trivial.

I enjoy what I’ll call we glee — the fun of sitting with like-minded snobs, gleefully laughing at the fools who aren’t us. I come away perhaps feeling a little tawdry but nonetheless uplifted. Putting others down can be fun.

But for all my self-glorification, I work hard not to forget what a snob I am. I happen to have a bass guitar fetish. I could fill pages with all the tedious details I know about different makes and models and the tones they yield. I’m no less a snob than the snobs I ridicule.

My fetish is especially funny because I’ve got severe hearing loss. Chances are, I have no idea what these instruments really sound like. I make a big deal out of different tones I can’t probably hear anymore. But that’s my glory and I’m sticking to it. I look at it, I laugh at it and I get right back to it.

When one zooms out to geological time and cosmological space, none of what we do makes an ounce of difference. Some of our snobbish commitments have more consequence than others, but none make a hill of beans to the universe no matter what fictions we come up with to pretend they do. You can be a snob for something more meaningful or less meaningful but none of it has the ultimate meaning we snobs wish it had.

When you dismiss someone’s eternal priority as a dead-end non-starter, it’s bound to make them wince and bristle. That’s a good reason to keep your snobbery to yourself and your like-minded snobs, and above all, to be ironic about it, not believing that your woke commitment really elevates you above the rest.

Snobbery is a fun indulgence. Everyone indulges, even and perhaps especially those snobs who look down their nose at snobbery. Just don’t take your snobbish indulgence too seriously or you and others will be harmed.

Whatever floats your boat so long as it doesn’t make the waters choppy for everyone else sailing high on their own variety of snobbery.