Natalia Dashan brilliantly explains why the Radical Left is winning at elite schools like Yale and everywhere else in the National Establishment.
Western elites are not comfortable with their place in society and the responsibilities that come with it, and realize that there are deep structural problems with the old systems of coordination. But lacking the capacity for an orderly restructuring, or even a diagnosis of problems and needs, we dive deeper into a chaotic ideological mode of coordination that sweeps away the old structures.
When you live with this mindset, what you end up with is not an establishment where a woke upper class rallies and advocates for the rights of minorities, the poor, and underprivileged groups. What you have is a blind and self-righteous upper class that becomes structurally unable to take coordinated responsibility. You get stuck in an ideological mode of coordination, where no one can speak the truth to correct collective mistakes and overreaches without losing position.
This ideology is promulgated and advertised by universities, but it doesnâ€™t start or stop at universities. All the fundraisers. All the corporate events. The Oscars. Letâ€™s take down the Man. They say this in front of their PowerPoints. They clink champagne glasses. Letâ€™s take down the Man! But there is no real spirit of revolution in these words. It is all in the language they understandâ€”polite and clean, because it isnâ€™t really real. It is a performative spectacle about their own morale and guilt.
If you were the ruler while everything was burning around you, and you didnâ€™t know what to do, what would you do? You would deny that you are in charge. And you would recuperate the growing discontented masses into your own power base, so that things stay comfortable for you.
Yale students, if they werenâ€™t powerful when they came in (and most of them were), they gain power by being bestowed a Yale degree. What would you do with this power? You donâ€™t want to abuse it; youâ€™re not outright evil. No, you want something different. You want to be absolved of your power. You are ashamed of your power. Why should you have it, and not somebody elseâ€”maybe somebody more deserving? You never really signed up for this. You would rather be somebody normal. But not, â€œnormal,â€ normal. More like normal with options and vacations and money â€œnormal.â€ Normal but still powerful. Or you want to be something even better than normal. You want to be the underdog. There is always a certain strange sense of pleasure in being an underdog. Expectations are lower. Whenever you accomplish anything at allâ€”it is an accomplishment. You would rather have a narrative story of â€œcoming up from the bottom.â€ Someone who not only does not have the responsibility of power, but someone who has a right to feel resentful of those who do. And better yetâ€”someone who can use this resentment as a tool for self-interest.
How do Yale students give up their power? They do this in one of two ways. One way is termed selling out. This usually means taking a high-paying job at an institution that is at worst blatantly unethical, and at best not intentionally idealistic. A consulting job, a meaningless tech job, or a position at an investment bank. This is generally seen as the selfish route.
But there is more to selling out that nobody talks about. These jobs are the dream jobs of the middle class. Theyâ€™re not supposed to be jobs for the sons and daughters of millionaires and billionairesâ€”these kids donâ€™t actually need the money. They want independence from their parents and proof that they can make it on their ownâ€”and prestigious work experienceâ€”but they have wealth acquired through generations that they can always fall back on. These people are generally as harmless as the middle classâ€”which is to say completely harmless. They keep to themselves. They quietly grow their bank accounts and their 401ks. And just like the real middle class, they donâ€™t want to risk their next promotion through being too outspoken. They have virtually no political power. This mindset is best encapsulated by: â€œIâ€™ll go with the program. Please leave me alone to be comfortable and quietly make money.â€
They effectively become middle class, because there is no longer any socially esteemed notion of upper class. They have a base of power, of f-you money, that they could use to become something greater than just another office worker or businessperson. But there is no script for that, no institutional or ideological support. What would it even mean to be an esteemed, blue-blooded aristocrat in 2019? So they take the easy and safe way.
How else do Yale students give up their responsibility?
They go in the other direction. These are the people who call themselves idealists and say they want to save the world. They feel the weight of responsibility from their social statusâ€”but they donâ€™t know how to process and integrate this responsibility into their lives properly. Traditionally, structurally well-organized elite institutions would absorb and direct this benevolent impulse to useful purpose. But our traditional institutions have decayed and lost their credibility, so these idealists start looking for alternatives, and start signalling dissociation from those now-disreputable class markers.
But the capacity to really think through what an alternative should look like, and create one, is so rare as to be effectively nonexistent. Instead, idealists are forced to take the easy way of just going along with dominant ideological narratives of what it means to do good. They feel guilty about their wealth and privileges, and feel that they wonâ€™t be doing their part unless they do something very altruistic, and the idealistic ideologies reinforce these feelings. So they go overboard, and rush headlong into whatever they are supposed to do. They purport to speak for and be allied with underprivileged groups. They get their professors fired for minor infractions. They frantically tear down whatever vestiges of the old institutions and hierarchies that they can, and conspicuously feel guilty about the rest.
These are the people who buy clothes from Salvation Army and decline your Sunday brunch invitation because itâ€™s too expensive, sometimes with the implication that they are saving their money to donate to more effective causes, if they arenâ€™t pretending not to have it. They are the people who might attack or cut off their friends for ideological reasons. They discharge their personal responsibility by sacrificing everything outside of their distant mission, including friendships and social fabric.
Itâ€™s an understandable impulse. After all, given the state of legacy institutions, what else are you going to do with the energy of idealism? But ultimately, by going along with the narratives of an ideology that can efficiently capture these impulses, but has no structural ability to deliver on its promises, just diverts more energy from what a normal benevolent elite should be doing.
These people might sometimes say that they are â€œtired of fightingâ€â€”but this is not the full truth. Fighting is fun. It is always very fun to be a warriorâ€”to have something you believe in that guides you. To be part of a tribe, working for the good of mankind. To be revered and respected for being on the bleeding edge of the paradigm.
Especially when youâ€™re winning.