Why are so many of the most privileged people in all of human history so meanspirited and narcissistic? The educated elites in the developed world have a higher standard of living than has ever existed. Instead of a sensibility of gratitude, generosity, and open-mindedness, they (we?) are spiraling into a mindless tribalism in which signaling membership has replaced a substantive moral perspective.
They adhere to a mandatory oversimplified model of the most complex phenomena on earth (climate) in which ideology punishes inconvenient observations and calls that “science.” They opt for “solutions” like the demonstrably silly Paris Climate Treaty which is hideously costly and would have no measurable effect on climate. But that “solution” accomplishes the tribe’s usual dual purpose of (1) appearing to Do Something, and (2) disproportionately hurting the non-elite.
The “revolution” from 1960s radicals which the modern elite carries like a low-grade contagion has seeped into society resulting in the degradation of every social institution large and small, mostly to the detriment of the nation’s lower socioeconomic classes. The malformation of our young men is especially troubling but none of that can be discussed because the tribe offers no self-aggrandizing signals on such topics.
This is why Gun Control is such a sacred signal. Like the Paris or Kyoto Accord, these regulations offer zero curative effects but they distract from discussions that might reflect badly on the weltanschauung of the tribe. They are a form of harassment and a beatdown of non-elites and they strongly signal what now passes for virtue and a clean conscience.
The utterly incoherent immigration positions cheered by elites signal the tribe’s transcendence over outmoded and tacky allegiances such as patriotism and national identity. If implemented (even by inaction and legislative stalemate), they would disproportionately impact the non-elites as it already does by ratcheting down wages, creating troubled neighborhoods, and draining limited social welfare resources. But as a means of signaling, it’s a major win-win for those eager to remain in the tribe.
My mother’s southern family fiercely distinguished themselves from “poor white trash” by a sustained almost aristocratic demeanor even as the Great Depression greatly reduced the economic difference between them and their lessers. I see something similar in the tribe. The fear of falling out of the elite triggers an intense hatred of a caricature of the non-elite. The latent moral pull of the religion and traditions of immediate ancestors must be fought with a denigration of all religious people lest they be dragged back into less self-celebrating practices and duties. (Islam, Buddhism, and Native American religions have no such ancestral claims and can be safely respected like dolphins or the rainforest.)
We see millions of privileged young people in horrific debt to pay for bloated college administrative salaries (I fear I could endorse a revolution that focused on these people first). Their intellectual formation is noticeably inferior to that of older alumni, which makes them less able and far less confident about questioning the common wisdom. The sheer worthlessness of that education must foment an abiding feeling of vulnerability, as if they could be dragged down to live among the deplorables at any moment. Thus, the need to signal and affirm an utterly vacuous yet putatively elite sensibility is especially strong. We have produced a privileged class with little noblesse oblige and lots of fear and loathing.Published in