|Pick one: Get to Mars or treat everyone on earth as equal|
Before American culture vanishes, would it be too much trouble to produce at least one true genius before it goes? Just one man (it would have to be a man) in the class of Newton, Darwin, Shakespeare, Smith, Hume, Gauss, Mozart, Beethoven...
I know there's a case for calling Mr Jefferson a genius, but only as a spin-doctor, which would be so undignified a legacy. Come on, chaps, just one.
I'm still not sure what "American culture" is, but I know what American intellectual culture is, circa 2018, and it's not something you want on your Weetbix. Vanishing would be the best thing that could happen to it. As for "American culture" of barbecue, square dances, or whatever, it's quite orthogonal to genius. All you need for genius is the right DNA and a good library. Or database.
In any case, the problem with genius is not promoting it, but suppressing it. It takes a very large and intricate system to perform the latter task, but it works pretty well today, as you can see. It works so well that even the people who could approach genius-levels are suppressing themselves with something that smells very much like the weaponised guilt of Christian thought.
Modern elites think they’re above it all, but all I see is fashionable people saying fashionable things so that other people can see them as fashionable.
This happens in every regime. People fight, one side is victorious and gets both reproductive rights (it’s always about women) and the privilege of re-writing history. Then the system begins to splinter into castes with the elites on top and the losers at the bottom. Anyone who wants to be fashionable must adopt the tenets of the regime (+10 points if you actually believe it) and must recite the benedictions.
But should another regime take control, these same people will quickly learn the new words to recite and pretend like they "never believed in that other nonsense!"
Narcissism had his partner Echo, and so do you.
In modern America, narcissism isn't a pathology – it's an ideology. And wherever narcissism goes, borderline personality disorder follows in lockstep. You know the type. When they're with you they "love the 76ers," but with a new guy, suddenly she’s "always loved the Lakers, duh." Neither narcissists nor borderlines have any culture, only trends, just like America – the only place on the planet embarrassed to have culture because "that's what
America is a teenager. Even worse, a rich, spoiled, cotton-wooled teenager fiddling around watching TV when it should be studying. It hates Dad, stomping and screaming about "oppression" and "unfairness," always stopping just short of leaving in a huff because, how else will it pay for the smartphone? Everything it does – from revolution to "going West" – is just play-acting. America is like a 19-year-old who travels halfway across the country to get away from her parents, but the moment she finds a house hits play on a recording of her parent's voicemail at full volume.
Americans never had a revolution of the mind. They only had a revolution of guns. They pretend to want to be free, but you can smell what they really want is to be European. Not Eurozone European, but Habsburg, Carolingian or Romanov European. Americans thought they’d left the Old World but the only thing "new" about the New World was a fresh chance to create the Old World, with different faces.
They both hate and desire this reality, leaving them trapped in a permanent adolescence far more dangerous than any global disease, intercontinental war or alien invasion.
Their hatred of responsibility goes so deep that they created a system of cheap globalisation just so they can throw away a broken appliance and buy a new one to avoid interacting with blue-collar workers and be reminded that even with all their education and knowledge, they can't repair something as simple as a toaster.
Intellectual elites despise that they don’t earn money like industry. All this knowledge, and yet the man with the pliers is an unarguable symbol that a PhD alone does not a society make. Of course, the repairman couldn't care less. This toaster is #14 on a list of 23 stops at ticky-tacky McMansions he’ll forget about at five-o-clock. Anyone can be an academic, but not everyone can be a successful businessperson, and our elites know it. Business ignores intellectuals. And if the group you secretly admire and aspire to be like ignores you, you burn with resentment. Hence the TPP.
Adolescent elites today desperately want it to be true that people are equal, and if they aren't, then it must be “They’s” fault. These people can never say the obvious: some people are better. Rich people are better than poor people just like a top athlete is better than an amateur. Our elites can't tell the truth because the reality is, they aren’t better.
The early 20th-century architect Ralph Adams Cram had an interesting theory that we're all subhuman. Shakespeare, of course, put us somewhere between the ape and the angel. I think when we use the word "human" we often really mean "angel." So, yes: we are all subhuman. I'm not just saying this: I think the main flaw in modern political systems is that they're designed to govern angels. If you plan for apes and allow for angels, I think you get a much better result (especially when there's a Y chromosome in the mix).
Instead, our elites will say God doesn’t exist but cling to all the pieces of Jesus' message. In progressivism, the rich are allowed to be rich, but they must feel bad about it, absolving this "sin" through philanthropy to the only God that remains – the demos. The penance keeps them safe from the howling mob over which they rule, but they fail to be better than the mob. And that is why we won’t get to Mars.
It’s not difficult to get from Enlightenment beliefs that all men are born equally free, equally good and equally talented, to state housing and welfare galore.
If all men were equally noble, a social system that treats all men as nobles – that is, by making them financially independent and (pretty much) free of government – would create a "vertical community" full of noblemen. Indeed, all sorts of 19th-century reformers (and 18th and 20th) thought this was true. Google "and above this ridge new peaks will rise."
Instead, every time the experiment is tried – in both the modern and antique worlds – we get the epitome not of nobility, but of ignobility. Proving no more than the basic counter-Enlightenment reality that the poor are not (on average) natural noblemen and need for the sake of their own humanity to be forced to work if they want to eat (this is true of most of the non-poor as well). Whether this compulsion is implemented by an overseer with a whip, or by impersonal economic forces, is not terribly meaningful on an individual basis.
The only way any of this can change is if people are truthful about what they are. We can either waste our lives talking in riddles to each other or communicate what we want so we can both be at least mostly happy, most of the time. Your call.
Wealthy people used to at least strive to become something honourable, to develop science, be a patron of the arts and music, to think further or to advance the idea of the good society. They were taught to see the bigger civilisational picture.
They knew a poor person had no time because they had no money. In contrast, wealthy people have money out of proportion to their work effort and can quite easily "buy time" to spend on building the future. Instead, they sip Pina Coladas between theatre bouts of Maoist “struggle sessions.” People who inherit wealth know what having money means. But the nouveau riche pretend to be "one of the people" wearing ripped jeans in solidarity. It looks like they care, but it's just that they don’t want the responsibility that comes with being better.
Sons and daughters of genuine elites, with little ability to create wealth themselves, would obviously prefer to appropriate the wealth created by others. But they go further than this, forcing the definition of “elite” to change. They want an objective bar to be changed to fit them – they want "some other omnipotent entity" to change it so it remains both entirely valid yet still true for them so that others have to accept their identity.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about look at your university degree: you know, and I know, that if university graded you based on the actual number of correct answers you generated, no curve, then you would have gotten an R. Somehow that R became an A.
The question is, why bother? Why not set up a truly free world? Why not either make university grades rigorous and valid so we know exactly what they mean or else do away with them entirely? Because in any of these cases, society and your head would implode from the existential vacuum.
In this world, everyone has to get As, AND the As have to be "valid" so you feel good enough to pay next year's tuition. Unfortunately, this leaves employers with no other choice but to look for other, more reliable, proxies of learning such as race, gender or physical appearance. Oh. Did you assume employers would be more influenced by the fixed grades than their own personal prejudices? "Wait a second, I graduated with straight As from [insert top-tier university], and the guy you hired had Bs from a polytechnic?! The only reason you didn't hire me is because I'm a woman!" Ok, this is going to sound really, really weird: yeah.
The part that's going to really have you scratching your head is why did either of you need university when the job only requires an early high-school education?
Anyone who thinks the attitude of favouring equality over responsibility will result in greater equality is not reading The Economist as carefully as he should.
These elites are adolescent and filled with resentment, but it’s all a game. They’ll grow up eventually, and when they do they won’t want a monarchy, and sure as hell won’t want democracy either.
Whatever is happening to the American system, equality won’t be the result. The problem is most advanced countries are packed full of SMEs, so business truths aren't well-known these days. But anyone who has worked in real business understands two things: a) that monopoly is for winners, competition is for losers and b) certain people are better at certain tasks.
Yet the real monopoly is in controlling both the capital and the conversation. Everyone’s talking about empowering women, but women are always encouraged to become pilots, CEOs, lawyers, scientists, etc. They are NEVER encouraged to take ownership of companies, property, capital, resources, deeds, contracts, or entire sectors. Guess who benefits from the "we need more women doing X" framework? It ain't women.
A CEO is still an employee. A board member is just a contractor. And a prime minister is not a king. Why don’t we read articles telling women to own Goldman Sachs? Oh, that's right, because they own the world.
“No, you’re wrong. I see plenty of females on Goldman’s homepage?” Well, at least you learned something from watching TV. You’ve been trained to look for diversity in a company’s public image, therefore you automatically believe things are progressing, equalising. But the problem is not that Goldman is lying, look at their board of directors, the problem is that you accepted the pretence of diversity, the image. You only see symbols, not because of propaganda, but from your own elaborate attempts to maintain the fiction that other people will accept the symbols you plaster on yourself.
Do you see? It is those symbols of being elite that will corrupt culture – the watches, yachts and $900 ripped jeans. The rest of society is begging elites to accept the responsibility of being better. We all want to get to Mars, cure cancer or crack fusion energy. But we can't do that if the people on top hate the idea of there actually being a top.
It’s yes, it’s no, it’s stop, it’s go, it’s weaker sex, it’s stronger sex, it’s outrage, it’s hypocrisy, it’s me, me, me, me, me, me, me...got it? This isn’t feminism, patriarchy or some glorified socialism, it’s just adolescent narcissism wrapped up in a non-overlapping religion that says everyone's equal but the individual – you – are the most important. You’re the lead actor in your own movie while everyone else is just supporting cast.
The resulting system is the sum of individual vectors pointing in different directions.
We’re not getting to Mars.