Susan Cooper

minnow at minnow at
Tue Nov 4 17:22:22 EST 2003

Deborah responded:

>On Mon, 3 Nov 2003 minnow at wrote:
>|Deborah wrote:
>|> It *is* elitist to feel
>|                     ^^^^
>|That's the keyword.
>Yes, that is the keyword.  I don't disagree with any of your comments
>about actions, but my emphasis is on long-term assessments which may or
>mat not be based on actions.

At which point I think it stops being exactly "elitism" and becomes a
matter of preconceived bias being silly.  Because let's face it, generally
this sort of thing doesn't have its roots in "I am/we are better" (which is
not something people generally seem to think about much, once they have
assumed it) but "they are worse".  Or less worthy of consideration or some
such thing.

>|An actual elite is surely not in and of itself evil wicked bad non-PC and
>|so on; it's only when it wickedly starts to think of itself as being in all
>|ways superior to people who aren't part of it, and entitled to boss them
>|around, that it's objectionable.
>To be a Lee of Time City may well make one better/more necessary/more
>responsible than one who lives in Time, but when characters are allowed
>to believe that is true *as a given*, they make poor choices.

Again, I think you hit something on the head there.  "More responsible"
implies, to me at least, that they have greater responsibility.  More of a
duty than most.  Something along those lines.  Coming all over biblical,
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to
whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." [Luke 12:48]
I think it may be something to do with proper payment of debts, a business
of using one's advantages properly.  Some at least of the Lees didn't seem
to, much, they were making assumptions about their own worth and using
those to extrapolate the worthlessness of others on minimal data, which led
to bad behaviour.

>|I had no time whatever for careful
>|evaluations: I was on the rear platform of a moving bus as as it came round
>|a corner and I realised what was being done and might be about to happen.
>Right -- the evaluations don't have to happen when you act, but later,
>when you decide whether or not your actions gave you the right to hold
>yourself superior in judgement or ability to those who didn't act.
>Which you may well have been, but the judgement is valid, in my opinion,
>unless is accompanies reflection.

There wasn't anyone else around who was or wasn't taking any particular
action, as far as I remember, so I didn't have to feel superior or inferior
or anything else, just rather surprised.  I think that's where it rests, to
this day, a sort of "what on earth possessed me?" feeling.  On balance it
was probably a "good thing" to do what I did, but it might easily not have
worked and simply made things worse, so I can't say that I feel or felt
superior.  Glad that I did do it and glad that it did work, but that's not
I think what you're getting at?

>Thus the generation between Adara's and Gair's rest on superior laurels
>and thus, make poor choices.

As far as I can make out, re-reading the book, neither side in that
particular quarrel behaved well or had any particular right to feel
superior.  I thought that was the point....  As with the Giants feeling
superior, when they also hadn't any particular reason to.

>|It doesn't even have the snappy charm of "cheese-eating surrender-monkey"
>|as an insult.
>Pizza-eating war ferret!

But I thought the list had been convinced by Kylie that ferrets are cuddly!  :-)

Incidentally and thinking of insults, has anyone got a source for the now
unusable "nig-nog"?  As far as I know it had nothing whatever to do with
"nigger", but was a Northern English dialect insult.  It wasn't about
skin-colour when I was a child, just meant someone who was mean and
Scroogely and piffling.  I'd love to know if there's any bookish evidence.
"Nig" turns up in the 1811 *Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue* as the
clippings from the edge of coins, which would fit, but of course the S.O.D.
is above such slang, and doesn't have ning-nong either, which in my youth
meant "twerp" or "nitwit" (and is now also assumed to be racist.  *sigh*)


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