Opinion. Elitism and Creativity by Hal O’Leary

Opinion. Elitism and Creativity by Hal O’Leary

Opinion. Elitism and Creativity by Hal O’Leary. Today, another important article in the weekly section of Hal on Yareah Magazine. Enjoy your Saturday, friends.


Chen Hongshou (1598–1652)

Let me begin by confessing to a slight change of mind and heart. I fear that I must admit that I am not the egalitarian I once was, for I have come upon what I believe to be a justifiable form of elitism. But, I must hasten to add that this in no way lessens the deep and abiding compassion I feel for the poorest of the poor. Any encounter with our deprived brethren will inevitably call forth not only the pain of pity in my heart, but the shame of guilt in my mind as well. I must ask what justification there can be for the obvious disparity between my relative comfort and their distress. I contend that any society that does not provide barest of life’s necessities for the least of its citizens is an unjust society.

Having said that let me attempt to define the sense in which my recent posture has led me to the conclude that the cherished phrase from the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal” has been misconstrued by all too many pseudo egalitarians for all too long. The phrase is purely a political statement with respect to human and civil rights. The truth is that we are not created equal in body and mind, for in those respects each man is unique unto himself. My elitism, if we can call it that, has nothing to do with rights except that those rights are necessary to insure that all men have an equal opportunity to develop their unequal uniqueness. Herein, lies the basis for what I believe to be an unfortunate division, not between those who have and those who have not, but between those who do and those who do not, those on the field and those on the sidelines, in short, those who create and those who do not. In this respect, as one who creates, I suppose I can justifiably be labeled an elitist.

My contention is that, if there is a reason for man’s existence, it has nothing to do with the attainment of some unknown destination or goal. Not even religion, to my knowledge, dares to reveal a divine intention of the creator. In the absence of such knowledge, I can only assume that there can be no other purpose for our being here other than to simply adapt and to survive. Of course, if we fail to adapt, we will not survive, evidenced by the horrendous number of extinctions that have taken place over the life of the planet. To survive we must adapt and to adapt, at least a portion of humanity must create the means for adapting. It is that portion that becomes the elite that I now recognize. The dictionary defines elite as the best or most skilled members of a group. I would add to that, the best and most creative, for although every man has the capacity and potential for creativity, not every man achieves it. There are those who will simply choose to remain on the sidelines. I do not speak disparagingly of those who abstain. I accept them as equals in all other respects. I must presume that this is simply an unfortunate choice they have made, for in doing so, they deny themselves the true happiness that can only be found through the act of creating.

Perhaps at this point we should explain what we mean by creativity. The dictionary defines it as, “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas forms, methods, or interpretations.” I often hear people speak of this person or that person or of themselves as being either creative or uncreative. I believe that one is capable of being creative simply by virtue of the fact that they have a brain. The designation of ‘uncreative’ for a person can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are limitless ways in which one can become creative. You do not need to be an artist, a scientist or an inventor. The act of solving the simplest problem with the use of your brain is an act of creativity. Assuming that everyone has, at one time or another done just that and enjoyed the pleasure of fulfillment that goes with it, it is unfortunate that so many will have convinced themselves that they are uncreative and simply refuse to venture. They settle for calling on others to address their problems accepting a passive existence without any risk of failure. The thrill of achievement is lost to them. The closest they can get to true happiness lies in merely having fun with a cruise or a trip to Disney Land which is nothing more than an escape from the boredom a day job that offers little or no opportunity for creativity. What they fail to recognize is that instead of using their leisure time in having fun, that time could be used in pursuits that allow for creativity and its subsequent fulfillment. It’s the same fulfillment you felt as a child when on tying your first shoe, you screamed, “I DID IT”.

I think it is unfortunate that the word elitism has for many a negative connotation of snobbery, and the word creativity for many is viewed as something unattainable. The true creative elitist is not a snob. It’s just that he is usually much to engaged in creative pursuits with little time for folly. It is only the pretender to an artificial elitism based on social or economic prominence that is guilty of snobbery, Anyone who can find the courage to resist the unreasonable demands of society and peer pressure demanding that you join the throng will discover unknown talents and qualities that will take them from the sidelines to the field. One is never too old to experience the glory of shouting once again, “I DID IT.”

View Comments (3)
  • Isadora

    I absolutely agree

  • martincid

    Congratulations for another great article, Hal. It’s always a pleasure

  • another interesting/thought-provoking article – always love reading his commentaries!


Hal O’Leary is an eighty-seven-year-old Secular Humanist who believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.

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