Saturday, July 07, 2012


I fucking hate pretentiousness. If I had to fill out a questionnaire for some poppy-culturelike magazine in the 'turn-offs' section I would put 'pretentiousness'.

But an episode of Qi, feautured an interesting law whose name I can't remember but it was the answer to the question 'how can you tell if you're incompetent?' being 'you can't.' it is one of those paradoxes but if you actually possessed the level of expertise to predict your incompetence you would have the level of expertise to be competent, indeed, even an expert.

And I got to thinking, does the same apply to pretentiousness? I've always had a thing about pretentiousness, I'm sure I engage in many pretentious behaviours, blogging for one, but there's just a bunch of shit....

Look, Dylan Moran in one of his comedy specials once said 'I have limited sympathy for heroin users, you would think they would have heard something bad about it by now.' and I mean there's shit to me that just seems so obviously pretentious - francophilia, the love of all things French, surely by now people would realise that there obsession with the sophistication of the French and their anamorment with it would come across as pretentious?

Objecting to Starbucks on the quality of their coffee, is another sure giveaway. Buying your Murakami books from Readings instead of Boarders, when Boarders was still open was another one. Opining about wine, Slum tourism, Wearing a scarf, Using country of origin names instead of English translations, Inaccessible music, Reiterating Michael Moore movies as your own opinion at dinner parties...

Which isn't to say any of these things are intrinsically bad, but just like you will see clustered traits in say a left winger (opposes death penalty, supports abortion) and right wingers (opposes abortion, supports death penalty) you see clusters of behaviour that make being pretentious seem like people have made a choice to be that way.

I am going to construct a pretense of sophistication.

And that's the deal, pretentious people rub me the wrong way because they seem to hold an inflexible verticle heirarchy in their mind of things that are really quite subjective.

My response is always passive aggressive, I probably can help it, I just haven't found sufficient motivation to try. But I get really anti-intellectual. To me the rules transgressed (or alternatively, obeyed) seem so obvious, I find the response obvious as well - say deliberately ignorant things in order to upset people.

'Homesexuality is a choice, and a terrible one at that.'
'Europe? Europe is shit, America is the birthplace of culture.'
'Manga is shit.'
'The West Wing is Shit.'
'Obama is shit.'
'Reading is shit.'
'I don't drink coffee, it's shit.'

You get the idea. I always assumed though, that I was in the wrong, as an old and somewhat pretentious housemate of mine wrote a paper on, I had agency over an act I myself considered evil.

I guess I assume that pretentiousness is a relative scale, like I might find somebody passing off Michael Moore movies as both a) factual and b) their own opinion, pretentious, Chomsky or Dawkins or Harris or Q-tip (the Abstract) etc. might find my garbled and lazy attempts to emulate their opinions as pretentious.

But then other people think pretentiousness is some kind of absolute measure. I wonder if any sociologists or fucken psychologists have published on the most susceptible group to pretentiosness. I know the fast show did that 'I'm so middle class' recurring sketch, and I think I have somewhere in the past probably described pretentiosness as 'the dumb kind of smart' but that generally puts me in the mind of boffins or conservatives and often both.

This I will say, the case for pretentiousness is probably circumstantial, for example treating Australian culture with disdain doesn't make you pretentious. There are many legitimate reasons to treat Australian culture with disdain. Reading Haruku Murakami doesn't make you pretentious, you may read other books too. Paying too much for underwear doesn't make you pretentious, you could be trying to arouse somebody you are sleeping with. Dressing in business attire to attend marketing classes probably does make you pretentious in a hole-in-one sense.

But in most cases you probably need to collect four or five strikes against you before you can be called pretentious. And maybe the cumulative nature of these traits mean there's no obvious 'Oh my god, I crossed a line, I'm pretentious!' moment, you are just queitly enjoying a glass of wine and reading a 'Graphic Novel' about growing up in Iran infront of the fire place when you switch on the television to catch this weeks Q&A which riles you up so much that you need to throw on 'The West Wing' just to enjoy an escapist moment into a model of leadership you believe in and in this episode the speech writers are discussing the nuances of writing a speech, bravo!

And while aside from 'Q&A' there is nothing intrinsically worth disliking about any of the things you enjoyed that evening, they just snowballed into a perfect storm of pretense. And of course like hard core pornography, probably everybody does it from time to time, it's just certain people seem compelled to advertise the fact.

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