the complement pompous

I’ve just been called pompous, again.

I was called pompous many times when younger, generally when talking, usually enthusiastically, about something that interested me, something about which I knew, that required listeners to know themselves, or to do work to understand.

Most people took what I said as I meant: I’d put effort in, I was interested, I had an understanding, I was enthusiastic. But some resent that others can rattle on excitedly. Perhaps they lack ability to understand, perhaps they won’t do the work. Whatever, instead of fixing their failure, they resort to insult, they admit their failure, their stupidity, their laziness, their ignorance.

I’ve been called pompous many times when rattling on enthusiastically about modernist music. Complex music takes work to appreciate; the reward is worth the work. I’ve done this, I enjoy the music, I find it utterly rewarding. When I challenge the insulters, I find they don’t know it, they’ve not done the work. They’re lazy. Yet they insult me. By calling me pompous, they acknowledge my effort, they admit they’ve made none, they resent the situation, they resent their own laziness. They’re not insulting me, they’re insulting themselves, and they’re too thick to realise it. They’re also being naïf: music is personal taste.

When I was young, programming was a rare profession, seen as the stuff of whizz kids and geniuses. This was nonsense, of course; we know now anyone with a fascination and enthusiasm for computers can gain an understanding. I knew then I was no special whizz kid, it was an ordinary profession; I’d got into computing because I liked it, I was fascinated, I’d had the luck to find it. We interested were called extraordinary by the sillier media. On the ground, people called me pompous. Without exception, the accusers didn’t understand computing, resented my enthusiasm. Without realising it, they admitted themselves too lazy, or too thick, to understand. They resented their own failure. By calling me pompous, they insulted themselves.

Of course, the dictionary definition has an implication of false pomp, of windbag, like glamour sans amour. That’s the meaning the insulters attempt to invoke. They see no substance. They don’t look, they won’t look. They don’t see, they won’t see, the substance. They don’t see, they won’t see, the pleasure of modernist music. They didn’t see, they wouldn’t see, the simplicity of programming. They insult those who do, who can. They’re lazy or stupid.

Of course, pomp itself is spectacle, is trance, is a bright pride in dull weather. It has something, a culture, a history. To be accused pompous is accused of wanting association with that culture, that history. It’s to be accused of cultural taste.

To be called pompous is to be called more intelligent, more productive, or better in another way, than the person making the accusation, a person of resentment. It’s a complement.

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