“Elites, by definition, are often brilliant and attractive-looking people who, because of their own sophistication and social confidence, welcome cosmopolitanism in all its aspects. For they are never insecure in the midst of exotic environments. But most people in this world are not brilliant, not terribly attractive and therefore not confident. Their lives are full of struggle. So they naturally take refuge in family, community, religion or some form of solidarity group. And in an era when mass communication technologies foster a vulgarized assault on traditional values — whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly — the sense of alienation among the masses intensifies, leading them deeper into such exclusivist beliefs.”
This is the quote from this article that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. You can apply the points made in this article to pretty much all global political events that happen today, including Ukraine. I find Ukraine events to be a symptom of other, more global geopolitical shifts. Today, I’d like to explore one of the reasons for this global turmoil. It’s the failure of the elites.
It doesn’t really matter if the elites are liberal or conservative. No matter how open-minded they consider themselves they still remain isolated from and thus blind to the real world. They ask themselves: “Why can’t others be like us?” To which they quickly find an answer: “Why! Of course they can, if only they do X, Y and Z! And we should encourage them to do that.” That’s how they fashion themselves into benevolent citizens of the world. But no one mentions that to become like them you have to be born a Romney, have rhetorical talents and political prowess of Clinton, the looks of Gwyneth Paltrow or the money of Arianna Huffington or simply be at the right place at the right time. This blindness is stunning. Maybe the elites are more concerned about appearing like they care rather than actually caring? All these bullshit self-help and spirituality and new age crap books just confirm my hypothesis. “Look at me, I’m so spiritual and so successful, I found balance and wisdom and so can you.” I mean, seriously, Arianna’s recent cause is “mindfulness and spirituality”; Gwyneth is now a lifestyle guru who hands out diet and lifestyle advice on her blog. But let’s think of who is their target audience? Is it their own fellow elites? But that would make them look “elitist” – a label they surely would reject. Or is it the rest, the rubes, the 99%? Here we are talking about people who commute hours to and from work, do some repetitive menial or administrative tasks, then go to a second shift just to make ends meet, counting pennies paycheck to paycheck. And you’re telling me in order to make their lives more fulfilled they should take yoga and spinning classes, eat tofu and try to get an afternoon nap? Or, as conservative elites prefer, they should go to church and get a kick in the butt that they need so bad to get off the couch? What the fuck?
I’m sure meditation helps to those who practice it. Having free time to practice mindfulness is a luxury that the middle-class doesn’t have. I’m not against people having spare time to sit and stare and meditate. In fact I do want the people to have as much free time as they need to become “spiritual”. But let’s face it: they don’t have the freaking time to do all that fancy shit. And let’s stop pretending that they can find that time, if only they could, you know, cut their working hours. Conservative elites for instance, like future presidential candidate Paul Ryan, believe that the rubes don’t work hard enough. So, I guess, cutting the workload is out of the question.
As a result, the poor and middle-class are trapped between “do yoga and meditate” and “work harder” messages coming from both sides of the political aisle. And the elites are upset that those unwashed show some unwanted tendencies like being too religious, or too lazy or too dumb to follow politics? That’s where the elites are stunningly detached. The problem is that, the other 99% are not as successful and beautiful and shrewd as the ones on top of the hierarchy. The elites, perhaps genuinely, want those at the bottom to break out of their circumstances, probably because many of the elites did it themselves, thus awarding ordinary people qualities they don’t have. Every time someone like Sam Zell or Sheldon Adelson goes on TV and delivers us a sermon on his scrappy childhood and pulling themselves by the bootstraps and how anyone can do it – that’s where it all breaks down. No, not anyone can do it. It takes a special person in a propitious situation at the right time with the right amount of resources. It also takes some noblesse oblige from the elites. But let’s stop pretending that these days everyone can do it.
Thus the ordinary people seek refuge in other things, like their self-identity, or belonging to a group, or religion. And the elites can’t complain, don’t have the right to complain, about the unwashed rubes who just don’t understand things. It is the elite’s job to understand those things and to show prudency and statesmanship and restraint and to not fuck things up the way they did in the last few decades. And then the elites act surprised when these people don’t vote the way we want them to vote.
Ordinary people, like the elites, want to be and feel special. But when they are denied access to real political and economic resources and get offered yoga or some worthless business advice instead, the soil is rich for social break down and various nationalists, separatists’ and populists movements. When that happens, the elites will have no one to blame but themselves.