A Ruling Caste on the Edge of Forever?
Have you heard the news? America’s elite (according to The Atlantic Monthly), the entrenched aristocracy of 9.9%, have created--like all elites before them--an internalized barrier to all that is Good in “The Good Life.” Lordly gatekeepers now control all entry to the rarified air of status, equality, and respect in society.
The United States today has enshrined the equivalent of the British class system in Victorian times. Just as rigid, just as impassable (to those not already anointed), just as impossible to identify and criticize, and just as impossible to proclaim publicly.
Critically, class demarcates an evolutionary path to caste: An American caste system!
In Anthropology, an existential postulate is the Ur-proposition of any article of faith in a society’s belief system. The American Elite’s existential postulate is that they deserve to rule — and you don’t! This truth then becomes the ultimate dispensation for the inequalities they enforce, the tyrannies they impose, and the national calamities into which they lead us, again and again.
All is permitted to those entitled to rule.
Matt Taibbi’s review of Michael Sandel — The Tyranny of Merit: What's become of the Common Good? — gives us, at last, a very public marker. Moreover, at long last, “Science”can weigh in outside of sacred religious incantation. Anthropology now can speak on the cognitive disaster that is American society today.
Thus, we now know five things about elites:
History is made of the rise and fall of elites. Since civilization (the world of cities) began, elites have been necessary to the growth and success of society.
Elites begin their rise with boundless vigor, leadership, and new thinking. Over a course of generations, though—especially if highly successful—elites grow increasingly entitled, hierarchical, rigid, and selfish.
Their selfishness takes the form of looking out for "Number 1"—themselves. They lose their sense of mission and the character that made their leadership so successful. Elites become all about enrichment and assurance of status, especially the status quo.
They begin to see the People as "the great unwashed," or "the masses, or "a great beast," or as "deplorables." They erect barriers to entry and false reasoning for growing inequality, and then, not only blame the People for their own misfortune, but also, finger them thus as threats to their own commonweal!
Elites make sure that a nation’s narrative recounts the story of why today’s elite rule is as “the founders” intended they should. If these same founders were “flawed”—as the new Woke narrative has it—then Woke rulers are needed who can form a more virtuous state. History always leads to the Good, and we, the Elite, write that history, so the Good is us.
Rome survived in large part because it changed and exchanged elites over 2000 years (from republic to the final fall). Many other societies threw their elites over, however, when those elites neglected to change, and hung on too long. France? Russia? The Slave Power?
Today's elites are struggling perhaps more than we know, and moving closer now than ever to an historical precipice.
American elites today have decoupled themselves from the people with whom they once (for practical political reasons) sought to bond, and they have done most visibly and remarkably since 2016.
Yet they have done so in the face of surging populism. In doing so, elites have rejected the desire for people to be fully recognized as citizens and as essential to political life. Elites are working instead to lock in and assert an overarching framework of control over society. The COVID emergency has been used as a precedent for a national control regime. In the future—if they can pull it off, and if they can stay in power—they will impose a more permanent regime based on the perpetual emergency of climate change.
Today the elite is a bastion of force running the country. The situation in the United States is fraught in a world historical sense: Such a divide, as never existed between our people and their elites—not in the American Revolution, not even in the American Civil War or the time of FDR—is today a state of full separation.
Our class system is forming itself into a hierarchy as rigid as what Britain suffered after 1066, the Norman invasion, that has bedeviled Britain for a 1000 years. Given our original declaration of an egalitarian society, for the United States to move toward an antique aristocratic model is no less than a crime against history.
America’s original constitutional essence was that elites were leaders who served the Republic, who were chosen for their manifest skills, their charisma, their willing ability to do what the people, the citizenry, wanted. Yet today our elite is completely cut off from the people. Moreover, to gain entry into this elite is almost impossible for those who grow up on the outside.
The reason: Our ruling elite has created a system where people from the lower orders, whether they are white, black, hispanic, because they are not part of the elite, cannot get in. Yes in theory anything is possible, yet in reality, everything is working against them.
This is not to say that certain select cadre from the lower orders are not ostentatiously selected and raised up. The elite we know so well makes brassy noise as it ostentatiously ushers in new BIPOC member to become part of a minority elite, duly initiated into a still exclusive—depending on algorithm—5% or 9+1%. The prime time advertising that accompanies induction can then be used as a rhetorical buy-off of a still-restive—and always to be excluded—vast remainder of the BIPOC left-behind, shut out along with their equally vast (if deplorable) white brethren.
America has been an empire for a long time, yet decade after decade, this estate was not visible to us, just as it was not to the Romans. The cognitive dissonance between the idea of a republic of virtue and a republic that has become an icon of corruption is too overwhelming to contemplate. Up until about 50 years ago, we insisted that America was still a republic, still safe, and that people who were citizens still served to defend the republic. We used to believe that we had a society in which the most modest citizen was equal politically to the highest elite.
That is no longer true. How can elites survive the loss of trust that big lies always bring?
The short-term answer is an elite-attendant media that lives to mask the truth. A ruling class that has lost the people’s trust can still cling to power by hiding and misdirecting truth. Yet regular people are not fooled: many understand fully that the realities of American life, and how the constitutional basis of our society has been perverted.
The populist voice of 2016 put the ruling class on notice. Media misdirection fails, and continues to fail. Hence, the only other solution now is censorship. A media regime that silenced, muzzled, bullied, excised, disappeared, cancelled, has begun to emerge. The threatening voice will be overthrown.
In the historical dynamic of elites losing control, this is a warning bell, even a klaxon. It means that an elite regime has lost the ability to artfully shepherd the people it rules. Only artless force remains, and throughout history, such force is always the creator of eventual counter-force, meaning insurgency, rebellion, and revolution (in that order).
In other words, our American elite is responding the way out-of-touch ruling castes have always responded: they will not change or accommodate the worries and anxieties of the people, but will instead bring them to heel. Hence, the parade of COVID lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine passports, all represent a first, expedient (and yes, tentative) take on what will over time become a thrall-like neck-ring state information vise.
Moreover, the Church of Woke’s “cultural function” is to create a successor religion to the old American civil religion, and permits our former “liberal” rights and laws to be replaced by a distinctly “illiberal” order.
Thus, the American elite has chosen the very practical path of so many beleaguered aristocratic predecessors. Yet down that road, suppressing speech and outlawing opposition can morph into a self-defeating strategy.