“What do you call an Italian hooker? A pastatute!”
Adam Weinstein (It figures!), at Gawker, tries to console Obama-voting-bedwetters for the holiday prospect of encountering unassimilated-American, politically-incorrect relatives. He suggests that dining with his racist, sexist uncle will make the pillow-biting liberal stronger, if it does not destroy him.
We are nervous about our racist, sexist old uncles.
“America needs Obamacare like Nancy Pelosi needs a Halloween mask!”
We wish they’d go away, letting us enjoy the undercooked poultry and over-sugared ambrosia in some semblance of utopian progressive peace.
But let me tell you why that’s a terrible idea, America. Why you need your racist, sexist old uncle.
First, your racist sexist old uncle focuses your anger on the right things. Let’s face it: As socially liberal as you are, you will always find some reason to freak the fuck out on your family at the holidays. Holidays are stressful. They cost a lot. The weather sucks. The travel is hard. And at the end of it, there is your mother, offering unconditional love and advice on how to care for her beloved grandchild, your obvious neglect of whom has caused the flu in her, and that’s okay, because Nanna has drawn an ice bath with mustard seeds, because that’s how the Amish did it, and it was good enough for them, and of course you couldn’t know that. ...
If you had no racist, sexist uncle, these perils would be more immediate. The holiday conversation might border on the minutiae of domesticity — your baby is so big! The yams are so big! Would you like to see Dad’s photos of our big Cozumel cruise? This ancient pyramid with these trinket-hawking natives is so big!
All the time, there would be no acknowledgement whatsoever of the fateful role in our lives played by Obamacare, Benghazi, Trayvon Martin, FEMA camps, the Fed, and those sorority girls with their silly accusations. You might be forced to acknowledge the gaping canyon of nothingness that stands between you and the alien zephyr of life that animates these blood relations, these strange meat sticks whom society holds up as the biological and ethical raison d’être of your person-ness.
Fuck that. Your racist, sexist uncle is throwing you a lifesaver. Don’t let yourself drown in a turbid sea of Updikean suburban malaise. Seek refuge in your racist, sexist uncle’s miasma of burped-up Jameson and slutty Italian jokes, the only thing that broke his six-month catatonia after Wife No. 3 went down the shore to Brigantine and never came back.
He is a sacrificial anode, your racist sexist old uncle is. Absent his intervention, we would be pitted and wasted away by the smaller destructive forces of the holiday season.
But beyond the blessed distraction that he provides you in his grace, your racist, sexist uncle makes you a better person, engaging you in an elaborate staged mimesis of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic. For if there is no racist, sexist uncle, then there is no comparative challenge, no middling standard of ugliness, against which to prove your culturally enlightened nature. Without the counterpoint of his rusted-out V8 Firebird with the “NO FAT CHICKS” bumper sticker, your low-emissions Subaru with the “YES WE CAN” magnet is just another car in the jammed-up driveway.
“What do you call two blacks on one bike? ORGANIZED CRIME.”
Your racist, sexist uncle is the oval track, and you are the sprinter. Your racist, sexist uncle is the bench-press bar, and you are the lifter. He is the open journal, and you are the pen. You are a master of your fate, of the dictates of racial and gender politeness, only because your other family members can see the reductio ad absurdum of their bigotry in your combed-over foil across the table, sitting there stuffed in a disintegrating Bill Blass dress shirt that Wife No. 2 bought him in the now-defunct Wanamaker’s for $8.95.
You sit, a paragon of yoga-loving, organic-banana-mashing-for-the-baby virtue, proving once and for all that, no, Obama is NOT a FUCKING Kenyan, all because he allows you to profess it as he strokes his mustache, the one he calls his “pussy tickler.”
Jeffrey Lord describes how control of Academia, elite media, the entertainment industry, the foundations, and the mainstream Protestant denominations allows liberals to define the reality around them (most of the time) and to frame every debate in their own terms.
He uses as a metonymy the very apt comparison of the Downfall of Rush Limbaugh, perennially predicted by the liberals, with the recent sale of the (liberal) Washington Post. Rush continues to flourish, while pillars of the establishment MSM are failing everywhere, but none of this matters, because the MSM is able to define reality, at least within its own establishment bubble.
Let’s define… Liberal Privilege.
In four words?
“We make the rules.”
Is Rush Limbaugh in trouble?
Is the Tea Party extremist?
Was Ronald Reagan dumb, the Soviet Union eternal, did Bush lie, are conservatives racists? Is Sarah Palin stupid, Hillary Clinton brilliant, global warming a scientific fact, and abortion overwhelmingly popular?
The answers? Yes, yes, yes, yes, of course, it’s obvious, absolutely, and everybody knows it without question.
Why? Because liberals say so, that’s why.
This is the Doctrine of Liberal Privilege that finally forced the Graham family to sell the Washington Post.
Using Liberal Privilege liberals make the rules, establish the common assumptions, send them forth into American society through the liberal media, liberal academia, liberal Hollywood, liberal religion, and other liberal venues.
So let’s define the Doctrine of Liberal Privilege more specifically, academic-style (and note, sources will be provided at the end of this article):
• “Liberal Privilege defines the societal norm, often benefiting those in the privileged group. Second, privileged group members can rely on their privilege and avoid objecting to oppression. The result of this societal norm is that everyone is required to live by the attributes held by the privileged. In society liberals define and determine the terms of success and failure; they are the norm. Thus, achievements by members of the liberal privileged group are viewed as meritorious and the result of individual effort, rather than as privileged.”
• “Liberal Privilege is a form of racism that both underlies and is distinct from institutional and overt racism. It underlies them in that both are predicated on preserving the privileges of liberals (regardless of whether agents recognize this or not). But it is also distinct in terms of intentionality. It refers to the hegemonic structures, practices, and ideologies that reproduce liberals’ privileged status. In this scenario, liberals do not necessarily intend to hurt people of conservative or non-liberal belief, but because they are unaware of their liberal privilege, and because they accrue social and economic benefits by maintaining the liberal status quo, they inevitably do.”
• “Liberal Privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets which liberals can count on cashing in each day, but about which they are ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. Liberal Privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.”
When understood in this fashion, understanding the “invisible weightless knapsack” concept, the essence of everything from the liberal media to academia, mainline Protestant churches, the bureaucracies of Washington, DC, the NAACP, La Raza, the AFL-CIO, and so much more comes into 20/20 focus. Everyone involved, social, cultural, and political liberals one and all, has the requisite “maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks” of Liberal Privilege.
James Delingpole contends that hostile exchanges on issues in today’s news between left and right on Twitter and on other Internet venues of expression of opinion are really minor skirmishes in the ongoing battle for civilization.
What all these disparate issues are really about is the things they’re always really about: the bitter, ongoing struggle between those on the one hand who cleave ardently to the statist religion of equality, diversity and sustainability in which society’s “best interests” are decided by an “enlightened” elite of bureaucrats, technocrats, petty officials, social workers, Local Agenda 21 groupuscules, administrators, UN and EU apparatchiks, Guardian editorial-writers, grandstanding politicians and members of the BBC Trust. And on the other, those of us who have sufficient faith in human nature to take the view that – barring the odd safety net here and the occasional piece of protective legislation there – the best route to creating a more fruitful, enjoyable, richer and, yes, fairer world is for us all, pretty much, to be left to live our lives the way we want to live them, unencumbered by confiscatory taxes, Nannyish government edicts and pettifogging regulation which seeks to micromanage every last detail of our daily existence from how many different coloured bags we put our rubbish in to the degree to which we’re permitted to be rude towards our enemies on Twitter.
I know which side I’m on. This columnist here seems to be equally sure which side she’s on. You can all decide for yourselves where you belong on this ideological battleground. But don’t kid yourself that this is a war where you can just sit on the sidelines or where there’s a “reasonable middle ground”. Ultimately, it’s about liberty v tyranny; about freedom of speech v creeping state control; free market capitalism v anti-growth collectivism; personal responsibility v suckling on the teat of the state; optimism v pessimism.
Nicholas Poussin, The Victory of Joshua Over the Amalekites, 1624-1625, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Eratosthenes notices that the culture wars are being waged relentlessly and with unlimited persistence, by one side which is absolutely and unequivocally determined to win everything it wants every time and which, whenever it wins, will then proceed to move the goal posts even further.
Somehow, somewhere, it has been decided that this one culture should reign supreme. It must ALWAYS win; there can be no exceptions. What do we call this culture, now. We should try to define it, if it always has to win! That’s a lot of influence. We know it by the offenses it takes. Bullying, homophobic remarks, guns. It isn’t “politically correct,” for the politically-correct culture, while also defined according to the offenses it takes, is confined to offenses taken against verbal or written statements. Guns aren’t statements. Ass-kickings are not statements either, although I suppose that may be debatable. But this is not political-correctness, and it isn’t “women over men” since it takes just as vicious umbrage against a woman brandishing a firearm in self-defense, as against any man doing likewise.
It isn’t modern liberalism, either. It doesn’t have an opinion about labor-versus-management, or minimum wage, or affirmative action, or school vouchers. It holds a lot of appeal for people who do not self-identify as liberals. And its field of interest is very narrow. I can summarize it with a phrasing almost bumper-sticker-sized:
“When we make everything safe enough, nothing bad will happen, to anyone, ever again.”
Just outside a school on a 55 mph county highway, it isn’t good enough to take the limit down to 25. My recent experiences here in upstate New York show it has to be 15. I guess twenty-five wouldn’t show how much we care. This culture cares about children arriving at adulthood with all their limbs and with their hearts still beating, but with not too much else.
Can we call it “the nanny state” and be done with it? There is certainly some overlap. The Mayor of New York City trying to ban soda sales fits into the object of my inspection here, and it is certainly part of the nanny state. Pondering it some more, though, I find this doesn’t quite work. There are differences, and the differences matter. The nanny state is an organization, and it is a sale. It is narcissists in office who have power, trying to accumulate some more. ...
This culture — which always must win — is endangering our very society… As the nanny-state seeks to everlastingly grow by way of creating more and more rules, this culture seeks to everlastingly grow by altering the definition of “bad things happening.” It has progressed so far now, without anyone consciously noticing it evidently, that bad-feeling evidently qualifies. If nothing bad really happens, but someone feels slighted, then action is required. This, of course, has to be a selective thing. It’s okay to make a guy “feel bad” when he approaches the State Fair with a Leatherman on his belt, by commanding him to walk a mile and a half back to his car, and back again, to stow the threatening-looking device. And a twelve-year-old girl who wins a pistol shooting contest might feel good with a little bit of extra applause, but this feel-good-all-the-time culture will refrain from that, and command everyone else to refrain as well.
The Leatherman is not dangerous and the pistol is not dangerous. In some situations, they both have the potential to make someone safe.
So this culture is not concerned with safety or danger. It has definite ideas about individuals and what, or how, the individuals should be.
He’s perfectly right. It goes way beyond politics. It is a religious crusade and “the side which must always win” is determined to forcibly convert everyone else to its own entire worldview, values, and perspective.
The Washington Times makes clear that Hizonner is not actually referring to cases of civil war or national emergency either. He means, in fact, whenever we (the bien pensant class of busybodies) are convinced that we know best what’s good for you.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: Sometimes government does know best. And in those cases, Americans should just cede their rights.
“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom,” Mr. Bloomberg said, during an appearance on NBC. He made the statement during discussion of his soda ban — just shot down by the courts — and insistence that his fight to control sugary drink portion sizes in the city would go forth.
The latest wave of laws on abortion and gay marriage are meant to make it impossible to hold beliefs, religious or otherwise, in contradiction to those of the state. That’s a somewhat new phenomenon in the United States, but a familiar one in Europe. And the consequence of these Orwellian measures is the stratification of these societies into three categories.
The Party – This is the group whose dogma is legislated into law in a thousand formal and informal ways. Its members may belong to the government or non-profits that act as a collective political movement pushing to enact and implement even the most radical elements of that dogma. Or they may still work actual jobs. But it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Members of the Party are a minority, but they are the vanguard, the ideologically committed core that acts as the ruling class and the force for political conformity. Party Members report thought-crimes to the government, swarm as morality mobs to shame and denounce dissenters and campaign and vote for tighter restrictions and harsher penalties.
The Party is inflexibly liberal. It hasn’t formed into a single group yet, but in its scattered pieces, it is the nexus of the American version of the Bolsheviks. In some European countries it already is a party with its own attached youth movements.
And one of the benefits of Party membership is virtual immunity from its own laws. Being a Party member allows you to have the racial sensitivity of Harry Reid, the sexual harassment cred of Bill Clinton and the environmental correctness of Al Gore’s mansion, jets and Al Jazeera sale.
The law is enforced by Party members on the People. It is infrequently enforced by Party members against fellow Party members.
One of my Yale classmates yesterday forwarded this New York Times editorial denouncing the National Rifle Association’s efforts to prevent sophistors, economists, calculators, and “leading experts” on violence from artfully collecting data and massaging statistics in order to produce a scientific, apparently empirical case favoring gun control.
Why would the naughty NRA oppose data collection and scientific research by well-credentialed experts?
The NRA sensibly opposes these so-called empirical studies because it knows that when you get to establish the principles used for collecting data and the methodologies employed in arranging the assembled information and evaluating the results, you possess the ability to prove any case you want to prove, empirically. The NRA knows that figures lie and liars figure, and that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Where does such empiricism lead? Just look at Britain where conventional pocket knives are banned as “offensive weapons” and “leading experts” have been calling in recent years for a ban on pointed kitchen knives.
[Accident & Emergency] doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.
A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.
They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.
The research is published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.
They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen.
None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.
The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault – but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs.
They won’t stop with taking away our guns. As the example of Britain shows, they will go to the most absurd lengths in criminalizing innocent and harmless possession of marginal examples of weapons in their fanatical pursuit of the elimination of every kind of risk and hazard by the calculative power of human reason operating through the coercive agency of the state.
A disabled caravanner who kept a penknife in his glove compartment to use on picnics has blasted the authorities after being dragged through court for possessing an offensive weapon.
Rodney Knowles, 61, walks with the aid of a stick and had used the Swiss Army knife to cut up fruit on picnics with his wife.
Knowles yesterday admitted possessing an offensive weapon at Torquay Magistrates Court. He was given a conditional discharge.
But speaking after the hearing, he said: ‘It’s a stupid law. Now I have a criminal record.’
Manhattan Upper West Side brownstones
William Deresiewicz has an uncharacteristically self-critical commentary on the aesthetic sensibilty of the urban-based community of fashion elite.
[N]ow I wonder if there’s also something new. Not middlebrow, not highbrow (we still don’t have an avant-garde to speak of), but halfway in between. Call it upper middle brow. The new form is infinitely subtler than Midcult. It is post- rather than pre-ironic, its sentimentality hidden by a veil of cool. It is edgy, clever, knowing, stylish, and formally inventive. It is Jonathan Lethem, Wes Anderson, Lost in Translation, Girls, Stewart/Colbert, The New Yorker, This American Life and the whole empire of quirk, and the films that should have won the Oscars (the films you’re not sure whether to call films or movies).
The upper middle brow possesses excellence, intelligence, and integrity. It is genuinely good work (as well as being most of what I read or look at myself). The problem is it always lets us off the hook. Like Midcult, it is ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices. It stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, doesn’t seek to disturb—the definition of a true avant-garde—our fundamental view of ourselves, or society, or the world. (Think, by contrast, of some truly disruptive works: The Wire, Blood Meridian, almost anything by J. M. Coetzee.)
There is a sociology to all of this. As Clement Greenberg pointed out in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939), the predecessor to Macdonald’s essay, high culture flourished under the aristocracy. Mass culture came in with mass literacy, while Midcult is a product of the postwar college boom, a way of catering to the cultural aspirations of the exploding middle class. Now, since the ’70s, we’ve gone a step further, into an era of mass elite and postgraduate education. This is the root of the so-called creative class, the Bobos, the liberal elite as it exists today. The upper middle brow is the cultural expression of this demographic. Its purpose is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class. The salient characteristic of that class, as a moral entity, is a kind of Victorian engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.
In countless areas of life, we are urged to bow to the better-informed consensus of the highly-educated community of fashion elite. After all, unlike you bitterly-clinging rubes and bumpkins out there, these people attended elite schools. They know better. Take Andrea Mitchell, for instance, she graduated from U of P. And as Glenn Reynolds gleefully notes, she recently identified herself as being one of The ‘Elite, Smart People.’
I can’t seem to find a very flattering photo of Clint Eastwood out there today for some reason, but there are sure a lot of photos making him look angry or confused.
It is always impressive to see just how thoroughly and competently the professional apparatchiks of the left-wing commentariat do a take-down on a genuinely threatening adversary. The same kind of pretentious culture mavens who will happily queue up for tickets to a six hour opera by Stockhausen, and who have no difficulty in parsing the subtle symbolism of the latest Abbas Kiarostami movie, we are being told today, were supposedly baffled by Clint Eastwood’s little skit.
Since last night, the anti-Eastwood quips have been flying like snowflakes in a blizzard of negative commentary. What you see going on, of course, is the customary effort of the establishment media to write history its own way.
Bias and political manipulation aside, today’s massive hit job on Eastwood, I thought, constituted a revealing commentary on the dimness and superficiality of the American elite and its culture. Most societies respect the elderly. One might suppose that elite members of a nation as highly educated and sophisticated as the United States would be perfectly well aware that most men of Clint Eastwood’s age are, in fact, already deceased. That very, very smart people would be conscious that a fellow 82 years of age (if lucky enough to be above ground) is usually bent, shriveled, wrinkled, bloated, palsied, confused and barely able to navigate. Clint Eastwood actually looked damned good. He was slender and still handsome and stood tall and straight.
With characteristic self-deprecating modesty, Clint Eastwood deliberately chose merely to ad lib an informal conversation with an imaginary Barack Obama. Eastwood’s performance was by intention spontaneous and un-professionally-polished. It could doubtless have been smoother and more crafted and artfully designed, but Clint Eastwood (being an ordinary American and a Republican) decided to just wing it and went with authenticity. Non-snobbish-members-of-the-leftwing-pseudo-intellectual-community-of-fashion naturally recognized that it was no easy thing for an 82-year-old guy to stand up that long, or to concentrate well enough to extemporize such a performance, and we all thought Eastwood did really well. He performed smoothly enough, and delivered several nifty and very telling lines with an impact that was highly effectively underlined by his obvious modesty and sincerity. We recognized, and admired, his disinclination toward indulging in insult and open animosity and could see that his criticism of President Obama was deliberately being understated. We liked Clint Eastwood’s performance very much, and thought it was fitting and a real indication of the rightness of our cause that a man like him was on our side.
I thought myself that it demonstrated beautifully the way the American left’s commentary emanates from Planet Asshole that, when an elderly celebrity is courageous enough to speak in public honestly, displaying openly some of the deficits of old age, the pseudo-intelligentsia scratches its head in confusion and demands aloud: “What’s wrong with that guy? Doesn’t he understand that you’re supposed to be completely smooth, polished, perfect, and… young?” There are no old men in the country of the left.
The left dominates the media, the universities, Hollywood, the arts, all the engines and apparatuses of communication and creation of culture. Jonathan Chait, in New York magazine, freely admits what everybody knows, and openly gloats.
You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism. Americans for Responsible Television and Christian Leaders for Responsible Television would be flipping out over the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee, except that those groups went defunct long ago. The liberal analysis of the economic crisis—that unregulated finance took wild gambles—has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. The conservative view that all blame lies with regulations forcing banks to lend to poor people has not, except perhaps in the amateur-hour production of Atlas Shrugged. The muscular Rambo patriotism that briefly surged in the eighties, and seemed poised to return after 9/11, has disappeared. In its place we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures. The conservative denial of climate change, and the low opinion of environmentalism that accompanies it, stands in contrast to cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. The decade has also seen a revival of political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named “Tex Richman.”
In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. ...
[The] capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements, may or may not be unfair. What it is undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power. Liberals like to believe that our strength derives solely from the natural concordance of the people, that we represent what most Americans believe, or would believe if not for the distorting rightward pull of Fox News and the Koch brothers and the rest. Conservatives surely do benefit from these outposts of power, and most would rather indulge their own populist fantasies than admit it. But they do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.
The New York Times’ idea of a conservative, Harvard-man Ross Douthat warmly defends the practice of the establishment community of fashion elite “using every means at its disposal short of banning speech outright” to coercively change American culture and the private views and opinions of Americans generally in directions it deems more enlightened.
Douthat is nowhere nearly as offended as such liberals as Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Greenwald by quasi-legal harassment of heretics by politicians on the fashionable side.
As always, the solution to noxious ideas like the ones from this chicken CEO are to rebut them, not use state power to suppress them. The virtue of gay equality has become increasingly recognized in the U.S. because people have been persuaded of its merits, not because state officials, acting like Inquisitors, forced people to accept it by punishing them for their refusal.
Greenwald and I have been over this ground a bit before, so I’ll say again what I said then: This is an idealized view of how cultures change, and it doesn’t acknowledge the link between law and culture, and the crucial role that [emphasis added -jdz] stigma, harassment and legal sanctions can play in changing attitudes and behavior. The cause of gay marriage has indeed advanced because many millions of people have been persuaded of its merits: No cause could move so swiftly from the margins to the mainstream if it didn’t have appealing arguments supporting it and powerful winds at its back. But it has also advanced, and will probably continue to advance, through social pressure, ideological enforcement, and legal restriction. Indeed, the very language of the movement is explicitly designed to exert this kind of pressure: By redefining yesterday’s consensus view of marriage as “bigotry,” and expanding the term “homophobia” to cover support for that older consensus as well as personal discomfort with/animus toward gays, the gay marriage movement isn’t just arguing with its opponents; it’s pathologizing them, raising the personal and professional costs of being associated with traditional views on marriage, and creating the space for exactly the kind of legal sanctions that figures like Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel spent last week flirting with.
This reality is not a judgment on the cause of gay marriage itself. Many admirable causes, including the cause of civil rights for African-Americans, have advanced through a similar legal and social redefinition of what constitutes acceptable opinion, and obviously gay people have historically been the victims, rather than the victimizers, where the human tendency to use law and custom to pathologize difference and marginalize dissent from respectable opinion is concerned. But it’s naive to think that gay marriage is only winning because of the power of sweet reason, and that the climate created by the bluster of figures like Menino and Emanuel isn’t a big part of the story as well. When David Blankenhorn, heretofore one of the leading critics of same-sex marriage, wrote last month that he was “bending the knee” on the issue, it was an explicit nod to this reality: Causes advance by persuading people to change their minds, but they win their final, sweeping victories by inducing people who haven’t really changed their mind to simply give up the fight. And there’s no surer way to gain that kind of victory than by adding legal hassles — or even just the threat of legal hassles — to the list of reasons why the fight isn’t worth having anymore.
The Jesuits used to say: if the ends are lawful, so are the means lawful. Obviously many prominent representatives of our elite establishment agree, and consider themselves empowered on the basis of their own allegedly superior moral insight to forcibly cram any change in morals, culture, faith, or opinion that they believe to be desirable right down the throats of their less powerful and influential fellow citizens, because they can and because it makes them feel so righteous and so powerful.
David Brooks is just one of several writers recently identifying the character of our contemporary elite as a grave problem, and he has a theory about the source of members of the modern meritocratic elite’s extreme sense of self-entitlement and personal exemption from any and all rules and standards.
The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.
Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment.
As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.
The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.
Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.
If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.
Walter Russell Mead imagines the Declaration of Independence as revised by today’s American community of fashion.
The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen Post-Colonial, Multi-Racial Societes of North America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to strengthen the political bands which have connected them with the Global Community, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the cooperative and deferential station which a careful review of the relevant peer reviewed literature suggests is most appropriate for long term win-win outcomes, a decent and rigorously equal respect to the opinions of woman- and man- and transkind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the ever deeper union.
We hold these views to be consistent with the evolving cultural consensus, that all humans are equally obliged to the performance of certain Duties, that among these are the Participation in the Struggle against Racism, Economic Injustice, Genetically Modified Organisms, Homophobia, Nationalism and the Excessive Emission of Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gasses. That to secure the performance of these Duties, Governments are instituted among humans, deriving their just powers from the considered Opinions of the Educated Classes.