Category Archive 'WASP Culture'

26 Feb 2020

Digby Dent on What’s Happened to Poor Vermont

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Glancing through the morning’s potential blog fodder, I found a Spectator piece on The Evolution of Vermont. The hijacking of that once-paradigmatic flinty conservative, rock-ribbed Republican state by goat-milking hippies and trust-fund bolsheviks is, to my mind, one of the true tragedies of our time. Seeing Ethan Allen and Calvin Coolidge replaced today by a crazy ranting Communist makes my blood boil.

The Spectator piece turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek philosophical reflection on the same theme by an imaginary old school WASP commentator from the Yale Class of ’89 named “Digby Dent.”

“Digby Dent” is the pseudonymous author of a more-or-less-monthly Wasp Life column, whose nom-de-plume is borrowed from the membership of a dynasty of two British admirals of the 18th Century. The current, quite talented Digby Dent turns out to be one Marlo Safi, a conservative Eastern-rite Catholic writer of Syrian extraction and graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Digby Dent series links at the Spectator include only four columns going back to last November, but I found them all worth a read.

Getting back to Digby on Vermont:

I’ve wintered here all my life and during that time Vermont has, like old Digby’s marital status, seen three permutations. In my boyhood, it was a poor but charming backwater, chockablock with flinty, taciturn Yankees. By bright college years, hippies were making goat-milk ice cream and the cities were run by sex maniacs and communists. Now, Vermont’s resorts are as gauche as Saddam’s bathrooms, half the tourists don’t ski and one of the sex-maniac communists aspires to lead the free world.

The permanent things endure, of course. The Green Mountains are still beautiful and I’m told they still work them like dogs at the Putney School. Still, I have my doubts. Vermont has never been much for schools and still isn’t; consistency, I suppose. But you can’t have a student kicked by a mule in the Y of Our L 2020. The damn lawyers won’t have it.

Even the skiing has changed. Last year we got the best snow in ages, but the season is indisputably shrinking. Whatever the causes, and I won’t pretend to know a damned thing about them, the climate is changing. As a devoted conservationist, I’ve done my part. The four-door I keep at my summer cottage carries a ‘Preserve the Sound’ plate. …

When I strode through Phelps Gate and onto the Street in ’89, I was full of vim and vigor, with big, bold plans to bend the world of junk bonds to my will. Those went the way of my waistline and slackened over time. That’s why God invented pleated pants.

As the gal pal clears away lunch and I watch the sun set over the woods, I think about … about my marriages, my career and all the vaporous dreams of youth, these last evanescent as a retreating shoreline. The world will be fine long after we’re gone.

RTWT


“Digby Dent” aka Marlo Safi.

19 Feb 2014

Elite Financial Journalist Crashes Industry Club Party

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Oppressed peasant and champion of the laboring man (despite being himself a highly paid journalist and graduate of Brown) Kevin Roose gate-crashed a financial industry’s private club party at the St. Regis, and was shocked, shocked to find joking about the financial crisis (and cross dressing) going on.

Roose indiscreetly waved his cell phone around, recording songs and monologues, and taking snapshots, until they finally recognized him as an interloper and threw him out.

As I walked through the streets of midtown in my ill-fitting tuxedo, I thought about the implications of what I’d just seen.

The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.

The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization. Here were executives who had strong ideas about politics, society, and the work of their colleagues, but who would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting. Their cowardice had reduced them to sniping at their perceived enemies in the form of satirical songs and sketches, among only those people who had been handpicked to share their view of the world. And the idea of a reporter making those views public had caused them to throw a mass temper tantrum.

The last thought I had, and the saddest, was that many of these self-righteous Kappa Beta Phi members had surely been first-year bankers once. And in the 20, 30, or 40 years since, something fundamental about them had changed. Their pursuit of money and power had removed them from the larger world to the sad extent that, now, in the primes of their careers, the only people with whom they could be truly themselves were a handful of other prominent financiers.

Perhaps, I realized, this social isolation is why despite extraordinary evidence to the contrary, one-percenters like Ross keep saying how badly persecuted they are. When you’re a member of the fraternity of money, it can be hard to see past the foie gras to the real world.

Traditional WASP culture, any Ivy League graduate should know perfectly well, is not utterly and completely built around hard work, steady habits, and the Protestant Ethic. It occasionally lapses into self-mockery and carnival.

WASP culture has a recognizable penchant for creating extremely socially exclusive, but purely farcical, tongue-in-cheek “secret” societies devoted to holding occasional banquets featuring abundant alcohol, comedy sketches, and cross dressing.

The Financial Industry’s Kappa Beta Phi is clearly an institution created on the basis of the same impulses, and operating the same way, as San Francisco’s Bohemian Club. Membership in this sort of club is a rare honor, awarded only to persons famous and eminent, but it is also entirely a joke.

You clearly couldn’t have a mock secret society of progressive journalists with its own annual comedy dinner. They take themselves too seriously, and are too poorly informed to be capable of accurately identifying the causes of current events like the great recession. Kevin Roose thinks it was the financial industry’s “foibles,” rather than federal meddling in real estate finance followed by Obamacare, which produced “real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.” He would never get the point of a comedy routine, mocking the failure of the News Industry to properly vet a radical democrat candidate for the presidency.

Hat tip to Tyler Carlisle.


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