The Mandarins

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Foseti wonders what to do about the mandarins, who have clearly lost touch with the common people.

Charles Murray argues that the upper class needs to resume preaching what it practices, even if this isn’t likely to have much effect.

Handle remembers reading a story about Irving Kristol:

In 1942 he was in full Enquiry Radical Trotskyist Leftist “US Socialist Workers Party” mode and really believed all that idealistic nonsense about the uncorrupted virtuous purity of the proletariat, yadda yadda. Then he joined the Army (as a Private with the 12th Armored Division, though he had graduated from New York City College two years prior and could have been an officer) and met a lot Chicago underclass on the way through training and to war.

He had already met his share of working men as a machinist in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — but it was common for smart and educated men to work in such field in the Great Depression-WWII era, so that experience had not quite prepared him for the real, unfiltered exposure to the proles that the Military was about to provide him.

And upon actual having real long-term undiluted exposure to the proletariat, he realized that, in fact, a lot of them were lousy human beings you didn’t actually want to live around.

Personally, I’ve met my share of “potential elites” from white upper middle class upbringings, that, through the military, or certain other professions — social work, ghetto urban teachers, etc. — get direct exposure to the underclass for an extended stretch of time, and while there’s been a great deal of similar “delusion shattering” and “true learning and understanding about the life and problems of the underclass,” the result is burnout, contempt, and flight and struggle to live and work amongst one’s “true peers,” and not at all an enhanced sympathy or better ideas for policy.

The military is still the only semi-feudal-aristocratic type of organization I know where (at least in the idealized version) you give a smart, educated individual a group of average men and immense power to run their lives and the good incentive to run those lives well to maintain the capability and effectiveness of the overall unit purpose — all built on reciprocal loyalty.

The “power to run their lives” bit is key. Ideally, your society has a system of acculturation and social conditioning in the virtues to hand you working material that, mostly, is able to take care of itself. Otherwise, you have to act the tyrant to make the uncivilized grunts behave.

Look, I think the Mandarins are gradually coming to these realizations. They don’t like the stupid proles, and need immense power — through government — to intervene in every aspect of their lives because they are like children who can’t handle things on their own.

Anyway, the question really is, especially if you’re a mandarin yourself, “Why care about the proles anyway?” And the answer is really that all but the most successful Mandarins end up spending every dime of their disposable income bidding up the land-price of housing in scarce, low-underclass (or gentrifying that way) neighborhoods. Maybe you’re at the 85th percentile, but if your society become Brazil, and you can’t afford the gated fortress on the hilltop, then you’ve got to put up with the favela right outside your door.

If the high mixed with the low more, they’d remember their responsibility to lead and care for the low, right? Handle disagrees:

This is simply not true. Every time I’ve seen this happen I’ve witnessed precisely the opposite. See my comment above.

There are plenty of people from ruling class stock who grow up as idealistic goodie-goodies taught to really care and sympathize with the plight of the poor and the low (not so much the ordinary or the middle).

They really believe that class is a matter of accident of birth or societal oppression (racism, sexism, or some form of bigotry, almost always), and that a poor, lower class person, is just like them, or, conversely, that they themselves would be just like that poor person were the situations reversed. They really believe that, if only someone like them, pure, smart, dedicated, could bestow upon them poor people a bit of smart leadership and inspiration, they could easily lift them up from their unfortunate station in life and solve their problems. Why, the power of their example alone is supposed to civilize and turn a bunch of street hoodlums into budding Shakespeares, “Dangerous Minds”-style (and a few dozen copycats — Hollywood loves this plot, precisely because a certain audience so desperately wants to believe it could be true. “Waiting For Superman” is the real-life version.)

In short, they believe a deluded fairy tale despite all the evidence unanimously to the contrary. You see this fairy tale currently playing out with the whole universal preschool push despite the failure of Head Start to accomplish anything. Legions of upper-class youth are encouraged to go into things like social work and ghetto teaching to work their fairy-dust magic. And … nothing.

What that exposure actually does varies, but hardly creates some kind of lingering sense of loyalty, duty, and affection — which is what you seem to be claiming.

A few of these (inevitable) burn-outs switch parties and/or ideologies. But most don’t! Most just manage to maintain a state of cognitive dissonance about it while, in their own practical life, they try to isolate themselves and their children as much as possible from these “hopeless” people (and pay through the nose to do so.)

The conclusion that they inevitably come to (that The Cathedral encourages them to come to) is that, it just wasn’t enough (and it’s the fault of those greedy conservatives, naturally). There’s just too much oppression out there and not enough “investment” from a benevolent government to get the job done. Clearly, I must shift my focus to politics to “make impacts” and “generate awareness” to marshal more support to dump more resources down this black hole into this critical, life-changing area.

What nearly none of these people have is someone out there that gets past their trust-bubble filters and antibodies who can readily provide them with the ugly but true alternative.

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