Who are these Elites?
August 29, 2016 4 Comments
Mark A. Signorelli had an article in The Federalist the other day, that I think is important for us to think about.
As the accumulating crises confronting the Western world stuff our newsfeeds more and more each day, a certain broad narrative about what is happening seems to have gained near-universal acceptance. It says the populations of Western nations are presently ruled by an incompetent and out-of-touch “elite,” who evince no regard for, or even knowledge of, the people’s will on a variety of issues, ranging from immigration to free trade to education.
In response, the citizens of these nations have demonstrated their contempt for these elites in fairly dramatic ways, from the Brexit to the rise of the Front National to the Donald Trump campaign. It is a contest between populism and elitism, we are told, that defines our political moment. […]
I’ve said it, so have most of you, sometimes with approbation and sometimes with dread. It is how it appears. But is it so?
Consider the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates. If there is anywhere we can look into the heart of the sort of people running the world, it is here. The Left has lauded this author up and down as one of their most outstanding thinkers for his writing on race. I do not wish to enter into the quality of his arguments here. Rather, I want to call attention to the attitude or spirit that pervades his work.
Coates repeatedly councils his son (and, by extension, his readership) that the institutional structures of the country he was born into are incorrigibly malignant, having their origins in violence perpetrated against black people. He tells him American society was built on “looting and violence” against his ancestors; that brutality against blacks is its “heritage and legacy”; that power is irrevocably placed in the hands of white persons under the sway of a “demon religion” of racism. He warns him that the police force of his country is endowed with the legitimate authority to kill and abuse him. He laments that his place in his society, as a black man, will always be subject to a “cosmic injustice.” He also dismisses the hope that anything could change these conditions as chimerical; that he can see “no real promise of such a day.”
Again, I am not interested here in the extent to which any of these claims may be justified. I simply want to ask: What is the pervasive tone of all these claims together? The answer is plain to see: Alienation from those in power, and a persistent rancor against the institutions in which that power is located. An incurable sense of outrage and resentment. Suspicion of the political structure as such, with no suggestion that it could be reformed (and, in fact, explicit denial of the possibility it could be). Clearly, we have here a state of mind akin, in all its essential features, to the populist mentality. […]
I’ve surely noticed that and am confident that you have as well.
It would no doubt cause Coates and his many besotted admirers horror to learn they are close spiritual kin to the Trumpistas of the world. Nonetheless, it’s true. […]
It is why the people running our civilization have never developed the virtues necessary to carry out their duties adequately. Determined to always think of themselves as persons out of power, they never learned to regard themselves as persons with power, and all the responsibilities power entails. They never learned to imagine the kinds of moral formation that would fit a person for rule, rather than for protest. [..]
This is a key point, I think, that many of those in power have simply never prepared themselves for the responsibility that comes with the position. They cannot take responsibility because they have convinced themselves that they have none. Thus the ludicrous situation of the President’s closest advisors claiming to “Speak truth to power”. Just who do they think has power, anyway?
Once we account for the historical dimensions of our situation, we can discern the ruinous consequences the politics of resentment has had on the character of our present leaders. It will cure us of any temptation to engage in different varieties of that politics, as they make themselves available in the populist movements of the time.
Well, one hopes so, anyway.
via Why The Elites Are Really Populists At Heart, do read the whole thing™.