Every human civilization has some mechanism to find talented people who can be of service to the ruling class of the society. The system can be formal, like the Chinese exam system or graduate school in modern America. It can also be informal, as it was in the Middle Ages when a talented young man could be noticed by his lord and given a chance to raise his own status. The Hundred Years War created fortunes for many common men who fought on behalf of their king.
This search for talent is not only internal. Jews in Europe found that there was always a noble in need of smart and literate men. The Hoffaktor in Germany was almost always a Jewish banker who not only kept the finances of the house he served, but he also maintained connections with other court factors. In return for these services, these Jewish men were often awarded lands and titles. The endless search for talent by the ruling elites is why we have Ashkenazi Jews.
This is important to keep in mind when members of the chattering class talk about the meritocracy and the role it plays in the current crisis. This column by David Brooks titled, “What if We’re the Bad Guys Here?” is a good example. Brooks speaks as a member of the meritocracy, which he defines as the highly educated and highly connected urban class that runs the institutions. His column is mostly a self-congratulatory call to action to address the growing unrest.
The place to start is the assumption on behalf of Brooks and no doubt his intended readership that he is a member of the meritocracy. He ticks many of the boxes he repeatedly insists are requirements of the meritocracy. He is the child of wealthy foreigners, and he went to the right schools. He has avoided anything that looks like productive labor. He has no loyalty to his host country. He sent his son off to serve in the army of a foreign country.
By the standards of the people who throw around the term “meritocracy” as a compliment, David Brooks is a good example. The question is what service is he rendering to the ruling class? He has no useful skills, and he has never tried to do anything that requires sacrifice on behalf of the ruling class. His career looks like the life of a self-indulgent fop from the British literature. What has David Brooks ever done to merit consideration of the ruling class?
The first clue is a quote from Thomas Edsall he uses in his post to explain why he and his fellow meritocrats aligned against Trump. “Republicans see a world changing around them uncomfortably fast, and they want it to slow down, maybe even take a step backward. But if you are a person of color, a woman who values gender equality or an L.G.B.T. person, would you want to go back to 1963? I doubt it.” That right there captures the Cloud People – Dirt People divide.
Opposing Trump was never about practical things like the priorities of government or the general welfare of the people. It was class struggle. The meritocratic class view their membership in that class as a sign of their moral goodness. Their ability to worm their way through the labyrinth of credentialling mechanisms in order to fill up their resume with the best associations is proof of their virtue. A perch at the New York Times is no different from an assigned seat in the front pews.
Hatred of Trump, and it was real hate, was a defense of the optimates versus the populares on purely class grounds. The problem is the optimates are a polite fiction, a fig leaf for the tiny ruling elite at the top of the system. The role of thoroughly impractical men like David Brooks is to maintain both a moral code that benefits the ruling elite and to provide a barrier between the optimates and the populares. Trump crossing that barrier was viewed as a violation of this system’s integrity.
That is the heart of the Brooks post. The headline is misleading as at no point does he genuinely suggest the meritocrats are the bad guys. Instead, he explains how people could possibly make this mistake, because their highly exclusionary systems do seem to violate their alleged moral code. Note he quickly moves along to the part his readers expect from a Brooks column. That is the part where he says the Dirt People are undereducated rubes who need to be put in their place.
In fairness, he probably sensed this and finished with “We can condemn the Trumpian populists until the cows come home, but the real question is: When will we stop behaving in ways that make Trumpism inevitable?” Fools grabbed onto this thinking it revealed some genuine self-reflection and perhaps a sign that the managerial elite is coming around to the criticisms leveled at them. In reality, it was another blow on the shofar to rally the people of the meritocracy.
That is how the Cloud People view things. Like the children of Israel camping in the wilderness of Sinai, they await the final instructions. They have seen the destruction of the Dirt People and they can see the ultimate end of their leader. What comes soon is the Promised Land where the meritocrats will build a kingdom of priests and a holy nation that serves the gods of the new religion. The Dirt People will be gone and what will remain is the righteous led by the meritocrats.
That is the purpose of these men of the meritocracy. Their role is to keep the dream alive and encourage the elites to push forward and faster. Whether any of this is possible is never considered. Those debates are left to the Dirt People and once they are gone, all doubt will be gone. In the end, the meritocracy is nothing more than a cheering section for a system that serves elite interests at the expense of the people and nations on which they feed.
If you like my work and wish to kick in a few bucks, you can buy me a beer. You can sign up for a SubscribeStar subscription and get some extra content. You can donate via PayPal. My crypto addresses are here for those who prefer that option. You can send gold bars to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. Thank you for your support!
Promotions: We have a new addition to the list. The Pepper Cave produces exotic peppers, pepper seeds and plants, hot sauce and seasonings. Their spice infused salts are a great add to the chili head spice armory.
Above Time Coffee Roasters are a small, dissident friendly company that roasts its own coffee and ships all over the country. They actually roast the beans themselves based on their own secret coffee magic. If you like coffee, buy it from these folks as they are great people who deserve your support.
Havamal Soap Works is the maker of natural, handmade soap and bath products. If you are looking to reduce the volume of man-made chemicals in your life, all-natural personal products are a good start.
Minter & Richter Designs makes high-quality, hand-made by one guy in Boston, titanium wedding rings for men and women and they are now offering readers a fifteen percent discount on purchases if you use this link. If you are headed to Boston, they are also offering my readers 20% off their 5-star rated Airbnb. Just email them directly to book at email@example.com.