Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Confessions of an Elitist
I was recently confronted with the possibility that I am a wealthy elitist.
I was amused at the wealthy part, but the charge has some merit as it depends on your point of view. I heard once that if you have more than one meal a day your are more wealthy off than 3/4 of the world's population. So from that perspective I suppose I am guilty as charged. But my banker would probably contest the assertion that I am wealthy.
The elitist charge was a bit bewildering to me and required some self-examination. The charge wasn't leveled at me individually, but against those who fly fish in general, and those who are members of Trout Unlimited in particular.
One definition of an elitist is "consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group". By that definition, being a fan of a particular sports team, ethnic group or military unit would apply. Certainly being a member of one of the most effective and respected conservation groups in the world, and the largest chapter of that organization fits this definition. And by that definition it is a source of pride.
Those who accuse us of elitism probably are not using that definition, but the alternate one which states, "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources."
One of the biggest culture clashes currently in fishing is between those who catch and kill their fish, and those who espouse catch and release...the C&R group being the accused elitists.
As with most subjects, those on both sides of this debate defend their persuasion with fervor normally relegated to religious or political debates. If you live in Texas like I do, that extends to debates over the best barbecue or if chili should have beans in it or not.
Recently, I have been disturbed by the taking of fish from my home creek, presumably by those who are taking the fish for food. At first my opposition to catching and killing fish on our creek made me feel a bit superior, since I am primarily of the catch and release position.
Twice in the last week I have seen people catching and keeping fish on my home waters. One such incident occurred in a place I know harbors fish that are quite large for this small creek, an which are currently on their spawning beds, making them easier to spot.
Both times I was inwardly angered at what is most likely a legal activity that these people were engaged in. Then I had to squarely face the question of whether I am an elitist or not.
Aristotle said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." So I entertained the thought that I may be just that...someone who considers himself superior to others. I confess that I am guilty to a certain degree.
In the court of popular opinion thought (at least from those who read my blog), let me state my case. Though guilty of a form of elitism, let me also say that I too on occasion kill the fish I catch and eat them. Usually this is limited to trips to the coast, and an occasional white bass or crappie fish fry. I also hunt, where catch and release is a bit more tricky.
However I do not take wildlife in cases where it endangers either the species or their populations in a specific locale.
In the case of my home creek, it takes less than an hour to fish out a hole that may take years to recover, if it ever does. Therein lies my defense of my flavor of elitism.
I would submit that the enjoyment,relaxation, and rejuvenation afforded by fishing far outweighs the cost of a fish dinner. But once a fish, particularly a fish of breeding age is removed forever from a small stream, the ability of future generations to enjoy that fishery are impacted. Perhaps a little, perhaps dramatically. And to be honest (after all this is a confessional piece), I want a chance to catch that fish too.
So to the charge of elitism, I plead guilty, and I repent. My air of superiority has no place in the life of a Christ-follower, for any reason.
However, perhaps I can continue to be an evangelist for conservation...wise use of all our natural resources. They are not infinite, and I wish that my friends, children and grandchildren can experience catching a native Guadalupe bass in our creek, rather than only being able to experience it through books or video because of unregulated taking of fish.