Yesterday, I made the trip to the Imperial Capital. I passed through the majestic gates of the Secret City, ascended the golden staircase into the heavens, to be among the Cloud People. I stood beneath the Glasir and watched Eikþyrnir and Heiðrún graze on the leaves of Læraðr. Despite the weather on the ground being dreary and drizzly, for us in the clouds, it was sunshine and gentle breezes, perfumed with the odor of honeysuckle. It was everything you imagine it is, among the Cloud People.
Actually, I was in meetings all day, in buildings that resemble the administrative structures you see on a typical college campus. In TV and movies, corporate and government structures are imagined as cold and sterile buildings made of glass and steel. In reality, they are almost almost always like the administrative buildings built on colleges that the boomers fondly remember from their youth. The new Apple lair is like something from a comic book, but only if the super-villain is a middle-aged homosexual.
Being a man of two worlds, I’ve found it easier to adjust to the Cloud than the other way around. When circumstances require me to spend extended time among the Cloud People, the trip back to the ground is like coming home from the 10-day dream vacation. It’s nice to see the old familiars, but there is a certain ennui. I always imagine it is the same feeling Adam and Eve had when they were ejected from the Garden. I also imagine it is what the Cloud People fear it is like too, which is why they avoid it at all costs.
For reasons I cannot go into, I was required to sit through a presentation by a middle-aged woman on the new diversity strategy for their organization. Of course, not a single person in the room was diverse. It was wall-to-wall honky. The presenter did not mention it and, if I had to guess, did not notice it. There was a ceremonial feel to it, as if she was leading the group in prayer. In fact, I had flashbacks to my youth in Jesuit schools where every class began with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer or a Hail Mary.
Communists used to work the civil religion angle this way, by having indoctrination sessions for workers before their shifts. They would also have struggle sessions for those who wandered off the reservation. My guess is this is the inspiration for the constant harangues about diversity among the Cloud People. The difference is the Dirt People are not participating. We’re more like audience members now. Instead of the ideological enforcers mingling with the workers to educate and discipline, the prols are now ignored.
It suggests that the Revolution has moved onto a new phase. In the French Revolution, after the White Terror, the Constitution of 1795 established The Directory. This was the start of a new phase in which the lower classes were mostly ignored, as the new ruling class consolidated its power. That may be what we are seeing with our managerial class as they largely ignore the results of recent elections and enforce discipline in their own ranks. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it may be useful in analyzing what we are seeing.
There is another angle, one you can see in this Scott Alexander post a few weeks ago, that was popular with the cognoscenti. Star Slate Codex is popular with people who not only think they are smart, but see themselves as steely-eyed reason machines. It’s also popular with people who like to believe stuff like this:
Yes, CNN leans liberal, but it’s not as liberal as FOX is conservative, and it’s not as open about it – it has a pretense of neutrality that FOX doesn’t, and although we can disagree about how realistic that pretense is I think few people would disagree that the pretense is there. Nor is there a liberal version of FOX that lacks that pretense of neutrality.
That’s a very believable argument if you have no familiarity with cable news or you look out at the world from deep inside the Progressive fever swamps. It is the sort of thing people write when they want to seem like the people who write things like this. It’s the worldview of someone confusing a mirror with a telescope. To Alexander, Fox is way out on the fringe and they are brazen about it. CNN, on the other hand, is maybe a little biased, but they are good people, my people, so they mean well.
Of course, there is the omnipresent hive mindedness. The world for Scott Alexander, and most of his readers, is a world of black hats and white hats. There are those inside the walls, the people of light, and the people outside the walls, in the outer darkness. The people outside are an undifferentiated collection of eyes peering out of the darkness, which is why they routinely misuse works like “conservative” when describing the people outside the walls. Words like “conservative” and “right-wing” just mean the outsiders.
Animals that find themselves isolated, like on an island, evolve in different ways, compared to those on the mainland. Insular dwarfism is the process where large animals get smaller over a number of generations when their population’s range is limited and isolated, like on an island. The reverse can happen where a small animal ends up on an island without predators. This is known as island gigantism. Some argue this is what happened with dinosaurs, but there is debate about that.
We may be seeing a form of this with our managerial class. Their isolation is shrinking their understanding of the world outside. The lack of interaction is resulting in a narrowness of the caste, to the point where we are as alien to them as they are to us. The latter is normal, while the former is dangerous. Similarly, their isolation is allowing their confidence to grow out of all proportion. Read Scott Alexander and what oozes through is a naive sense of confidence that he has it all figured out.
On the way down the mountain, into the land of the Dirt People, I started thinking about the not-so-silent coup that is unfolding in Washington against Trump. It’s not really fair to call it a coup. It is more of a tantrum. Trump is not going anywhere. But, the managerial class attempt to de-legitimize Trump is somewhat analogous to the Coup of 18 Fructidor V. After the elections in which the Royalists made great gains, republicans purged all the winners banishing 57 leaders to death in Guiana and closed royalist newspapers.
After the election of 2016, we are seeing a panicked managerial class trying to pick off members of the Trump team and isolate him from any base of support he may enjoy in his own party. Just as with the Directory, the people in charge seem to be wildly out of touch with the reality of their circumstances. Trump is not Napoleon, but Napoleon was not Napoleon at that point either. The point here is our managerial elite’s determination to circle the wagons and enforce ideological discipline may be weakening their position.