There has always been a scene. In the glittering heights of Rome, there were the special ones, who ate and drank and wrote fine things. When horses raced across long tracks to the clink of champagne glasses and gold coins, there was a scene, the beautiful people. It Girls and Bright Young Things, all crystal and shimmering and light, gowns brushing over out-of-the-way cobblestone paths like fingers over secret places, soft warm breaths like gentle caresses, a whispered word to a secret ear, and a secret that is a promise.
Is there any wonder it holds such attraction? In the distance, they see it blazing bright. So far from the humdrum ordinary of their small town, so full of potential and possibility. Imagine a somewhat awkward kid who feels deeply that they don’t belong where they grew up. They know – and feel – that they are more talented than those around them. And some of them are told as such.
“You’re special.” “You’re special.” “You’re gifted.” “This is not your lot in life.” “You are going to go far.”
And where is far? How can far be anywhere but that bright sun over the horizon? Are they headed for their very own sun? Are they kindling for the bonfire? Are they moths to a flame?
Up flies Icarus, towards his destiny.
Once upon a time, the world was in ruins. America stood alone. America stood triumphant. Whatever you may think of China today, being the workshop of the world has made thousands of billionaires and countless steel and glass towers. America was that tenfold over. After WWII, America was the world’s premier industrial power, and all the markets of the world stood available to it.
This was the whalefall, a tremendous surge of economic nutrients that made fortunes across the country. When members of the new Creative Class, the Bureaucratic Class, the PMC, whatever, talk about the blond fratboy Chad as an elite, it is not merely a figment of fevered imaginations. Rather, it is an observation of a newly formed class, the Middle American Nouveau Riche, which came about from the outpouring of prosperity during mid-century. Normally, the rise of a new elite occurs mediated through existing elite institutions. Someone doesn’t just magically become rich, they become rich after going to Harvard. Or they make business deals and create a business network which draws them into contact with the established elite. The New Money of the Gilded Age was assimilated into the social set by being seen, mutually recognized, and invited in. But that didn’t happen in the last mid-century. What was created was “free wealth”, wealth that existed independent of and unaware of existing elite institutions. The closest thing today is the crypto boom – some NEET who bought bitcoin earlier has now become New Money without being drawn into the formal institutions of eliteness or building those social or cultural connections. But Middle American regular white people were able to build their own businesses and other operations that allowed them to amass fortunes of a few million dollars. And lacking any reason not to (it means Anglo-Saxon, right?), they styled themselves WASPs. It made sense, of course.
The reason why the Creative Class sees the Ohio State frat boy as the picture of the WASP elite, something that is almost mind bogglingly confusing to the real elites I talk to, is because that is what they see. And part of this comes from the receding of the WASP from public life. People often talk about the death or replacement of the WASP elite. They’re not dead. But they have gone West, beyond the sea, past the ken of mortal men. This agglomeration of PMCs and nouveau riche readily take the name of UMC because they don’t see any other credible claimants. Why should they? The traditional elite establishment is invisible.
At the same time, the Managerial Revolution was underway, creating a new class, the PMC. When you imagine what people call middle class, what are some things that come to mind?
First of all, there’s the high prole or labor aristocrat. This is an old kind of person. There have been skilled laborers in guilds or other organizations since time immemorial, and they have earned comfortable wages. They, like the regular prole, produce value and receive a fraction of that value back. But their skills allow them to create far more value than the average unskilled laborer, and their rarity means they have a lot of bargaining power: see the Freedom Convoy. In economic terms, they’re proletarian, with a few owning their tools (this does not meaningfully make them not proletarian), but they make as much as the other middle class categories here and sometimes culturally blend into the middle class. And they are usually called middle class in American pop culture. Class is complex and exists on material, cultural, and social levels. These are things like plumbers, truck drivers, electricians, nurses (nurses produce the value of medicine, despite being called “professionals”), and pilots.
Secondly, there are those who teach and culturally condition the population. Because there are so many people, this class is also relatively numerous, because there must be so many for every group of people. A classroom can only be so large. In the past, this was the clergy and clerisy, dispensing the opiate of the masses. Today, it is the teachers of primary and secondary school, still dispensing the opiate of the masses. This is another social relation which is very old and likely to continue.
The last category is the PMC, the new class. As it was being born and expanded, it created a huge demand for people who were brought into it and thereby achieved a middle class lifestyle. But what is the PMC? Does it exist in history? The instinctive answer people want to give is “yes”. But the similar roles in the past are not middle class, but minor aristocracy or haute bourgeois. In business, there were clerks, but clerks were paid much better than administrators now, and clerking was a path upward through the firm to become a partner. Clerks in haute bourgeois family partnerships were more like law clerks today, the larval form of a future haute bourgeois. You might say that the bureaucrats of Imperial China, the mandarins, were the same as modern PMCs, but were they? A mandarin held sway over hundreds of acres of land and earned the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A mandarin was more like a European baron than he is a modern paper pusher. The same applies to things like UX “programmers” vs the engineers of old. In fact, software allows for easy illustration of this idea. There are many people earning a decent wage being UX *programmers* or UI *programmers* or C++ *programmers*, but the big bucks and prestige belong to *full-stack engineers*, especially when the *full-stack* element is so assumed as to no longer go unsaid – everyone is fully versed in all skills and potentially able to take on all tasks. Here we see what has happened. In the past, you had the service aristocracy, the baronage, which earned income and lived as what they were, which was landed gentry, minor members of the aristocracy. Why do the PMC often make pretenses at being UMC? Partly because they kinda are. But only kinda. What is a PMC? A PMC takes the responsibilities of an old-style baron, but only part of them. The baron’s work is divided among many people. A lawyer is replaced by a small group of paralegals. The old haute bourgeois becomes a team of administrators and bookkeepers. One UMC becomes many MC people. But because they do similar work, in some sense, confusion and pretension is natural. This also helps account for some of the parasitic nature. The aristocracy was already often considered a parasitic class. What the PMC is is a minor-minor aristocrat, an even less skilled and useful version of the old aristocrat. In short, the PMC is a historical novelty that comes from the splitting of UMC work into many people, brought about by the high demand for information processing in the monopoly-managerial mode of production, because a monopoly is always implicitly doing central planning and therefore cannot depend on the easy information of the price signal.
So what happens as prosperity recedes? The whalefall could not last forever. America’s ability to maintain a large amount of PMCs was conditional on it being the world’s greatest industrial power. But the world was always going to recover. Furthermore, all those nouveau riche fortunes require energy to keep going. They must find growth – or at the very least, sustenance. Otherwise, inflation will waste them away into nothing. These newly prosperous classes are facing the void. Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. Part of why Twitter posters insist the regime is invincible is because they need it to be invincible to guarantee the continuation of their way of life. Without the regime, who will provide these PMC jobs? This huge swath of the middle class was created by managerialism. The crisis of scarcity was brought home by 2008. After 2008, the broad middle realized the good times were over.
No one takes proletarianization lightly. Even though their grandfathers might be proles, of either the skilled or unskilled type, labor sucks. People do not like doing labor. Part of why Marx’s vision seems to never come true is that he thinks there will be a classless, stateless society because people will actually enjoy and find fulfillment in their work. Nah. Only ISTJ freaks think that way. The rest of us need to get paid, son, and desire to do as little work for as much pay as possible. Real work, labor work, is really hard.
For the modern gifted kid trying to hold and or get a middle class lifestyle, only a few avenues remain.
One is to try to shoot for the stars and secure a position in the true upper middle class before the music stops. The horn is blowing, the train is about to depart the station. Last call. But the trip is already overbooked – can you make it? The traditional cutoff to be gifted in America is 130IQ, the top 2%. This is roughly as big as historical aristocracies, as I have repeatedly said in my various posts about the upper middle class. But part of the problem is that there are not many Harvard slots. The top 2% of America is millions of people, but Harvard only admits a few thousand. Now, you could shoot lower than Harvard, but given the fever pitch of competition, you may not make it. And is our gifted kid 130IQ? Are they as talented as the traditional elite? This is in doubt. Nathan J. Robinson, the Plantation Riddler, went to one of these no name gifted schools. He got a perfect SAT, a +3SD result, roughly norming to an IQ of 145. The problem is that he was the only person to do this in decades at that school. If the cutoff to enter a gifted program in Middle America really is 130IQ, then something is fishy, because the rate of perfects should be much higher than that, mathematically. I suspect there are two problems at work. First, the standards in Middle America are lowered, because the point of gifted school, like “good schools”, is not to guarantee a path to the elite, but to avoid minorities. This is why Twitter posters are often incredulous when I explain to them the importance of IQ to the American elite or the purpose of GATE, which is assumed to be occult or some kind of scam. No, in the coastal metropoles, the elite schools really are designed as paths to the elite. But in Middle America, it seems like gifted programs are not full of the top 2%, but often are broader than that, because the real point is to separate white kids from minority kids. This creates a bunch of kids with 110-130IQ, the proverbial midwits, with hugely inflated egos but actually mediocre talents. The other explanation I have is that skilled laborers are often precocious in youth so that they can learn skills in an apprenticeship from trusted community members or their father, before settling down into their skilled labor life. When these kids were creamed into the gifted system, they really were gifted as kids and maybe teens, but that spark burned out. That mental suppleness was used to learn things like calculus, which they will never use again, instead of blacksmithing or how to fix a Chevy. I believe it is a mixture of these two explanations. And that’s just the merit side. Middle class kids exist at a severe disadvantage when it comes to the social connections, networking, cultural context, and financial capital elements of getting ahead in the upper middle class pathways.
So the gifted kid “burns out”.
But they’ve seen enough of what lies above to be resentful and envious. They deserve better than working at Starbucks.
The other path is to fight as hard as you can for what you’ve already got. The scene has always existed. But the scene has gotten worse – more venomous, less creative. Part of the problem is competition. When everyone around you is a competitor, you can’t engage in free and easy collaboration. This goes into my recent thread about Achilles and the political Right, but part of why Frogtwitter and 4chan were so open and creative was the zero stakes environment. You could tolerate all manner of heresy and weird but potentially interesting losers because it didn’t matter. After all, people liked Achilles’ tweeting until they realized who he was. If this thing wasn’t a movement or pseudo-movement, if it didn’t have political pretensions, if there weren’t political sinecures and podcast dollars at stake, would it matter if there were losers among it? No, it wouldn’t. It didn’t matter for the longest time. But these dynamics of gatekeeping and cancellation must occur because there is something at stake. And the stakes are only getting higher because the pie is shrinking, so any slot must be fought for more desperately. A cancellation is an excuse to off a rival and get their job. But this kills the open air, making the space sterile.
Furthermore, part of why the creativity has declined is the inability to experiment. The same has happened with movies. Arthouse movies can still be weird and creative because the budgets are small – they can afford to go wrong and nothing will happen. Indie games still have many gems. But with big blockbusters and triple A gaming, they stick to a formula that guarantees mediocrity because mediocrity is not failure. Failure means being out hundreds of millions of dollars. Mediocrity means a modest profit, even if no one will remember it in future ages. Part of why the scene of the past was more creative was a lack of economic anxiety. If you fooled around in your twenties, you could still return to a comfortable middle class existence. Or you could have rich parents bankroll you. But now, those middle class jobs are in short supply, and those nouveau rich parents are getting poorer by the moment. What can be done?
And these are the origins of the war.
All’s war in love and art, Monsieur le Baron
PS: These two essays relate to the last part of the series. They were sent to me after the last post. While I don’t endorse everything there, they are interesting.
Imagine a whale, free and fair, swimming the ocean blue. Then kill it. Kill it dead. Let its corpse drift askew, down, down, down into the abyssal depths. The fat and gristle and bone and blood to be carrion for the worms.
A good day for the worms.
Speaking of, let’s talk about Brooklyn. There is a class of people there. They are the scenesters, the tastemakers, the take merchants. They are the hip people. They call themselves an elite, if not *the elite*. I call them, in line with Fussell, the “middle class”. Others call them “upper middle class”. Sometimes they are called the “creative class” or the “bohemians”. But what are they? What sort of labelling is most apt? Can this question even be answered in a short essay or series of essays? Probably not, but let’s take a crack at it. We can at least trim down on the effort by not going too deeply into describing the characteristics of this class, as a full book would. If you do not know what the “Brooklyn scene” or the urban cool look like, count yourself blessed.
Are they middle class? That’s how I usually lump them, but is that really true? Fussell describes the NPR listening urban New Yorker readers as middle class, being below the upper middle class. In his Three Ladders post, Church has a middle ladder of the “Gentry” where the traditional middle class is G2 and there exist a higher form of professionals and creatives at G3 and G4. This ladder is defined in opposition and against what I would call the uppers, the elite ladder, which comprises the upper middle class and upper class. But is this a good lumping? Are teachers and nurses and accountants really the same creature as the Brooklyn Twitterati? To propose one gentry ladder or middleness is to suppose that these people are the same as regular minor white collar workers, or, more generously, that they are an evolved form of the latter, that given enough money, a teacher will move to Brooklyn and start a podcast. And while I continually scoff at their pretensions to being elite, in some sense, they are elite – they are part of the power apparatus. This class is the minor government functionary class and the media class. They are the people on Twitter angling for government sinecures or trying to start a podcast or sucking to newspaper blue checks. They do the bidding of the regime and in some sense control it, since they write all the “policy” “white papers” and the thousand ant farmer plans always ready to enslave the American people. They may only be the Outer Party, but the Outer Party is still in the Party. Is the archetypal middle class American a Party member? As for money – they seem to have a lot of it. They’ll drop as much in one night as one of my paychecks. And someone’s paying that expensive New York rent – and their jobs can’t seem to cover it.
Are they upper middle class? That would seem to be the natural conclusion from the above. But that doesn’t seem quite satisfactory either. First of all, they’re… not rich. Their financial situation seems almost contradictory – at the same time that they’ll drop massive sums at thrift stores, they will also scrimp and save and struggle to make rent or pay for drinks or a thousand other things. And they’re always complaining about their debts, especially their student debts. They can’t buy houses either and also seem to have no savings. What kind of a capital class has no capital? Seriously. They are constantly hit by the slings and arrows of financial fate, and this is because they lack capital. When you have capital, passive income from capital levels out income and expense variance, and when times are tough, you can draw down on the principal as a last resort. Still, one might object that these people are young and haven’t had time to accumulate capital yet. But there are other discrepancies. When one is part of a culture or group, invariably this shapes their identity. What do I mean by this? I define myself as a member of a cultural group, the upper middle class, which has certain traditions and assumed norms. Like Curtis Yarvin, the milieu of the Left was so dominant as to go more or less unsaid. My current identity is defined in opposition and in contrast to the assumptions of left-liberalism – I am a right-illiberal. But that identity comes about through a dialectic between me and the assumptions of my environment. The shape of my rebellion is determined by what I take for granted. It is rebellion for me to be a redneck, but conformity for the son of a small town. The shape of the rebellion of a child of the upper middle class looks like a reaction against center-left neoliberalism. I will elaborate more on what that means later, but needless to say, this is not the specter that haunts the dreams of the dirtbags. Instead, they define themselves in relation and against the “boat dealer” or “jet ski dealer”. This is my concept of the imagined other – we discover what things are by seeing how they define who they are not. Is it possible that they define themselves in opposition to “boat dealers” because they are wealthy globe emojis looking down on the plebian boat dealers? I find this unlikely because one of the key characteristics of the boat dealer is their wealth. The reflection of the boat dealer is tinged with a sense of *superiority*, class and cultural superiority, but mixed with a resentment of the boat dealer’s wealth. For someone like me to condescend to a boat dealer would be condescension full stop, but here is mixed in resentment – there is envy in this hatred.
There’s a parallax effect going on here. To the Brooklyn crowd, I am a far-left boat dealer kulak (inaccurate). To my own people, I am far-right for a landed aristocrat, a real eccentric who flirts with HODLER. The exposure of my views to those in my circles who are not my friends would lead to an extreme loss of face for me – I’d be painted as a Nazi.
So we return to the conclusion of various books of the last decade about the Creative Class or Creatives or Bohemians and term it its own thing. And yet many persons will lump this group either upwards with the traditional upper middle class or downwards with the traditional middle class, myself included. Sometimes the lumping goes both ways and all of it is grouped together as one broad elite. Many people have done lumpings, myself included, despite the discrepancies. Why? Is it because we’re all insane? No. There are genuine traces of the lumped classes present in this Creative Class. When these people describe themselves as upper middle class, it’s often not unfounded. Many of these people really are the children of doctors and lawyers. When they’re described as Midwestern strivers or the children of teachers or accountants trying to make it in the Big City and move up in the world, that’s also true. And when they’re described as first generation college students scammed into crippling debt for shitty, worthless degrees, that’s true too. How can this be possible? Because the socioeconomic backgrounds of this class are heterogenous.
Let’s break them down.
First is the otherwise downwardly mobile son of the traditional upper middle class (or very rarely, the upper class proper). These are people who come from the traditional elite, the WASP Establishment so to speak, but have to resort to affirming the values and status of their new Creative Class/Bureaucratic class milieu in order to not descend into penury. These people must know, unless they are particularly stupid or unobservant, that the stories told about who and what the traditional elite are are bullshit, but a man will readily believe what they have to believe if it’s what separates him from starvation. Nevertheless, there is something insidious and soul-rotting about repeatedly affirming that which you know is true.
Second is the child of the nouveau riche. What does the Creative Class imagine the elite to be? Often, a blond cornfed Midwestern with a square jaw and winning smile. When they say WASP, they usually mean some white guy, probably a Chad, rather than a Norman-American Boston Brahmin – more Biff Tannen than Gore Vidal. This “WASP” elite goes to a Midwestern state school with good football and then goes home to run his dad’s boat dealership or construction company. Some of them aren’t so crude, being doctors or lawyers, but they’re fundamentally conservative people who believe in pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps – because they did! That’s the Creative Class prototype of what an elite is, or sometimes what a “WASP Elite” is, a right-leaning person who became incredibly prosperous after going to college in the middle of the 20th century. And the reason why is because, predominately, the members of the “upper middle class” within the Creative Class are not traditional WASP elites, but the children of these very same boat dealers. The prosperity of midcentury created a whole generation of nouveau riche who came into being *unmoored and unattached* to the traditional elite establishment. While some of these people were eventually assimilated into the old elite, the rest existed blissfully unaware of a parallel elite, and their children grew up thinking of themselves as the top of the top. These types attempt to form the upper echelons of the NGO-bureaucratic complex, with varying levels of success, but one avenue with particular draw is the chance to become a media or artistic figure, using parental wealth to bankroll a foray into culture, which exists as a path in opposition to their (at least perceived as) unsophisticated New Money parents. I will discuss this set more in part II of this series, the Whalefall.
Third, we have what we might call the traditional middle class striver. Here we have a person who is not what we might call elite, but who may consider themselves elite for standing above the working class CHUDs. These people come from the middle class milieu – broadly, people who work ordinary white collar jobs that aren’t considered prestige professions, things like accountants and insurance adjusters. They consider themselves college people, but unlike the upper middle class, their world is not related to going to a prestigious college, but rather, they take status merely from going to college (as opposed to non-college people). They are drawn into the world of Brooklyn in pursuit of “the good job”. As corporate offices centralize into a few major metros, so too follow the middle class strivers seeking the same jobs their parents had – or better. Increasingly, to find a middling white collar job means working in HR or administration for a corporation or for the government (the NGO-bureaucratic complex). This draws them into the scene. And for some of them, it’s not just about doing as well as their parents (though even this is rarely accomplished), but the possibility of moving up in class and becoming the elite they believe themselves to be. As before, the middle class so rarely encounters people above it that it considers itself to be the top of the world – they see themselves as the upper middle class and sometimes even the upper class, the elite, the privileged.
Part of the frustration of the scene is the mismatch between expectations and reality. For both downwardly mobile nouveau riche and middle class strivers, the world has not been as kind as they expected. This status pain creates a desire to rebel, but the rebellion is not about destroying the system but getting a place in it – getting a seat at the table. For both the middle class and nouveau riche, a college degree was often the ticket to great worldly success: a “comfortable” life for the middle, and a few million dollars for the nouveau riche.
Finally, we have working class people who are entering the college world and faltering. These are people whose parents saw the great windfall of mid-century or who saw their parents suffering while others they knew prospered, and received the lesson that a college degree is the way to get ahead. And it was. Emphasis on was. The college boom of midcentury came in response to the Whalefall. Those working class kids were now fighting to join institutions they had no folkways to navigate, resulting them getting lost and confused. Because they were marginal to begin with, they often ended up at the most marginal institutions with less than prestigious credentials, and because they lacked the cultural information to navigate how to pay for college, they frequently are saddled with debt, debt they cannot pay off with a credential that got them a one way ticket to the same working class jobs (or worse, if their parents are skilled labor) their parents do, but with extra resentment on top. Both the middle and working class students end up with student debt. To compound the insult, the working class kids that stayed behind and built skills outpace them economically, if for no other reason than lacking any debt. This creates a characteristic poisonous mixture of resentment and superiority, where the targets of their resentment are simultaneously demeaned as stupid hicks, but envied for their relative prosperity compared to the failed striver.
All these classes come together to form the “Creative Class”. But all too often, what the Creative Class does for a living is not create, as that doesn’t pay anything, but work for government or media. More properly, we can call this the Bureaucratic Class. These would-be creatives, in their day jobs, either work or aspire to work at a media outlet or at a quasi-public bureaucracy, one of the numerous policy NGOs that dot the landscape. Sometimes they find themselves in the formal public service, if they are particularly successful, but this is a harder task because the real public employees guard their pensions jealously. NGO-work is the Uber/Doordash/Rover gig economy of the government sector – same jobs, shittier pay and benefits. Why is Twitter fake? Why is Twitter real? Because the media discourse is actually manufactured on Twitter every day. This is where new government policy is written, drawn from the minds of resentful goblins poasting about the frogs that live rent-free in their heads.
Chapo Trap House are high priests of the “Cathedral”.
Because this class comes from heterogenous socioeconomic backgrounds, they don’t have a shared discourse by nature. As I’ve said before, one of the huge costs of diversity is the loss of unspoken assumptions. When we are around people like us, we communicate a lot without having to verbalize it or even grasp it consciously. Because we grew up the same way and have similar experiences, there is a huge amount of shared context that can be drawn from unthinkingly. When you don’t have that shared context, everything must be explained in painstaking, explicit detail. You can’t subtly allude to things because the others won’t get your subtle allusions. Furthermore, the subvocal communications people make end up misinterpreted. Flexes are seen as signs of weakness, offers of help become insults, etc. Diversity adds huge transaction costs to everything, as everything has to be constantly translated back and forth to make sense, even if everyone speaks English. They speak the same language, but they don’t speak the same experiences. When I say upper middle class, I mean a WASP gentleman of New England. When a middle class person says upper middle class, they mean a standard white collar worker who lives “comfortably” in a suburban home who watches MSNBC and has proper opinions and behavior. To reach understanding, we have to drop out of shorthand and explicitly explain what concrete realities we are referring to, and even then, there may be an outside context problem. I may not be able to understand the Mall of America, for instance, because I’ve never been there (I have, but I am unusual among my class). It really is quite impressive, but try explaining that to a white shoe lawyer type.
A mall? A fucking mall? People go on vacation… to a mall? Absurd.
When a new group forms, therefore, it cannot exist in this state of diversity. Groups want to homogenize in order to reduce the cost of transaction and communication. They therefore form a creole culture in their new environs. To deal with the diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds, the Brooklyn set develops its own norms. Because they are heterogenous economically, the currency of interest can’t be monetary, but cultural. A new scene is formed, and advancement, status, in it is governed by knowing certain cultural touchstones or having clout on Twitter. Furthermore, because they are used to doing things through culture, it naturally lends itself to forming many circles. When dealing with classes as large as the traditional middle class, these middling strata in general, they are too big to have one ladder or cursus honorum as the upper middle class or traditional aristocracy does. Therefore, they form multiple ladders that exist laterally to each other. With the old middle class, you weren’t necessarily a big deal in the US, but you could be a big deal at your local bowling alley or Elks or other parts of civil society. With this new PMC/Bureaucratic class, you can create several distinct subcultures to advance in, like craft beer or hipster literature or extreme kite flying. You can’t be capital E Elite, but at least you can be an Elite of Punk Rock Trivia. The problem is that a status mismatch still exists. Even if you’re an amazing craft brewer, society as a whole doesn’t give a shit, unlike the old traditional Middle Class, which got some degree of respect for being upstanding citizens and doing charity work through the Elks. This is a problem, especially for nouveau riche or traditional middle class kids, who are used to seeing themselves as the Elite, above the deplorable masses of Middle America.
They must go to war.
Change indeed in the Commonwealth. What shall become of me?
But what led us to this war in the first place? Where did all these people come from anyways?
To be continued in The Whalefall, or the Anatomy of a Gifted Kid Burnout: The Brooklyn Notebook Part II.
O’er better waves speeds my rapid course, Monsieur le Baron
Happy Halloween and merry Election Day! It’s hard to say which is scarier some years, eh? While I’m sure many of you came for treats, as the kids say, I’ve only got tricks. Then again, so does Joe Brandon. You’re fat and spoiled anyways, you don’t need any more treats!
Remember the leftist creed: “The strong will eat, the weak are meat.”
So this is a post I promised to make in my latest thread in the Class Megathread, attached below for your convenience. It will also be included in Twitter Volume IV.
What is the principle of similarity? It is simple: Every class imagines that every other class resembles itself, psychologically, by default. The main differences are supposed to be the quantity of money, and to the extent they can imagine difference, it is because they see that quantity has a quality all of its own. So it is easy to imagine things like Vimes’ Boots Theory, because it is about everyone being essentially rational actors with the same motivations but different economic constraints leading to different results, qualitatively.
It’s a neat just-so story, but it’s also untrue. Allow me to present Monsieur’s Boots Theory.
Proles buy expensive shoes – sometimes. Proles are often buying expensive things, because they like them. Jordans are cool and it’s fun to look cool in front of your friends. For very small children, there are designer shoes that will invariably be grown out of in a few months, but people still buy them, because they are cool and you look cool to your peers (other low class moms). The middle class just buys regular shoes for a regular price, generally. Men buy men’s shoes cheaply, and women buy women’s shoes for a staggering price. I’d say that a woman’s shoe is 3x as expensive as a similar man’s shoe. For the upper middle class, I’ll share some stories. All my life until college, I went shoe shopping at Payless and bought sneakers that wore out in six months. Then one of my friends, of my class but who went to boarding school and thus had different tastes than me, said we should go buy some high quality shoes. We went to the mall and he saw a Foot Locker, which he said looked like an interesting store. That day, I spent over $100 on shoes.
They wore out in six months. I told my friend this is why I shop at Payless.
But later, he took me to a store he learned about from his boarding school friends, Nordstrom Rack, and there, the quality was exactly as advertised. Sometimes.
One last story. I was with an upper class friend whose shoes were wearing out after several years of service. He wanted them to get resoled, but being rubber cup soles, this would be prohibitively expensive. And yet, the desire remained there, strongly, despite the inability to reasonably fulfill it, and he lamented the decline of the age of cobblers. You see, it’s not primarily about cost and utility, as in Vimes’ Boot Theory. Fundamentally, clothing is a statement of identity through which we try to express our belonging in our sociocultural tribe and our values – his values here being longevity and legacy.
If Vimes’ Boot Theory were true, we would expect to see either a straight line or log-line relationship between clothing price, market segment targeted, and clothing quality, such that the rich pay the most and get the highest quality clothing while the poor pay the least and get the lowest quality clothing. I’d like to start with market segment and price and show why that isn’t true to begin with. Here we have shirts – and as best I can, I am going to use the same kind of clothing across all demos.
Click to expand gallery:
The Paul Stuart item is upper class, the Brooks Brothers item is upper middle class, Vineyard Vines is middle class, and the loudly branded Gucci is prole. You may notice that the prole item is consistently the most expensive by far (you can tell it’s prole because of the very large and obvious brand logo), the middle class item is somewhat more expensive than the upper middle class item, and the upper class item is several times the price of the upper middle class item. This is not consistent with Vimes’ Boot Theory in the slightest – there is actually a inverse relationship with customer income and price except with the upper class, an extremely small and almost insignificant cohort that shops at basically small boutique stores/brands.
But what about quality?
Have you ever heard of a “market for lemons”? The idea is that products are heterogenous, information is limited, and the cost of information is high, resulting in every used car being priced as lemon-like except for things like CPO cars. Well, imagine all those things are true, but your purchases are now high pressure and necessary. This is what I call the “market for quacks” – the archetypal example being healthcare. Because products are heterogenous and information is limited, you can’t effectively shop around. But unlike lemon cars, you must have your product, and therefore, rather than the limited information forcing all offers to be lowballs, it causes all offers to be highballs. Fashion is a market for quacks. I have gone into Nordstrom Rack and bought the highest quality item on the rack for $200 when all the other items are $2000. But at the same time, the $2000 item may be the best thing on offer and the $200 blazer might melt in the rain. There is not a consistent relationship between price and quality. All you know, vaguely, is whether a given clothing item is for your tribe, and you *must* always signal tribal allegiance or be ostracized. As such, we develop a market for quacks. If the prices are allowed to find a rational relationship between price and quality, then it ceases to be a market for quacks. That sounds good, right?
After all, not all luxury goods are markets for quacks. In steaks, wagyu A5 is better than prime (A3 equivalent) is better than choice, and the prices reflect that. In alcohol, ultrapremium liquors ($1000+) taste better than premium and superpremium liquors ($100-$300/bottle) taste better than a nice liquor at your local store ($50/bottle) taste better than some trash booze. So why is fashion a market for quacks? Why does it not follow the price of commodity textiles?
Well, commodity T-shirts are… a buck a shirt. If fashion simply reflected the cost of the textiles used to make it, every fashion brand would go out of business, and that includes the fucking Walmart store brand. Necessarily, we must have a market for quacks, because only massive pricing uncertainty allows for such outrageous price multiples over commodity textiles to survive.
Now, you may protest that fashion is a special case and thus a bad example for class markers and pricing. But what other categories of goods are used for class signaling?
Restaurants? Books and cultural products (the price here is time, not dollars)? Home decoration?
These are also markets for quacks.
You can see that the quality widely varies, the price widely varies, and the market can only be navigated with tribal knowledge corresponding to one’s class (or other identity) positions. For the most part, what you know is what others like you consume, and so your choices do not reflect rational shopping to maximize quality for price (impossible in markets for quacks), but a desire to signal belonging, causing wildly variable prices.
With me so far?
Oh, but you may protest – this is just basic class dynamics in the Fussellian manner.
Certainly, but I am merely refuting the money-as-quality-of-quantity thesis. The price points of various class categories in markets for quacks reflect not price-for-quality, as with normal goods, but the values of particular classes. What does that mean? Proles love to be flashy and splash their wealth around, when they have it. When they are saving, they buy bizarre, chthonic products like Tampico and Flavor Aid, but when they splurge, they splurge. As a rule, they are imitating the most showy, brash luxury they can find – proles like to go to restaurants like Red Lobster as a special treat, because this is the meal most like 1950s-esque high luxury still around. The middles are trying to keep up with the Joneses, so they can be milked pretty hard as well. Their products are often quite expensive (in the case of restaurants, places like Saltbae et al are far, far more expensive than anything else out there), and the goal is to project an image of sophistication and wealth that you don’t have. The upper middle class, loving a deal, is attracted to miserliness, or at least the appearance of miserliness. Though they won’t always have the absolute cheapest prices, they will almost always be paying less than the middle class.
The upper class has a personal relationship with its products. For instance, much of what is made for Nordstrom Rack was manufactured for the outlet as an outlet product. But haute couture? The total market of haute couture customers is a few thousand people on the whole planet Earth. These are the tastemakers, and fashion is their world. We just live in it.
So what governs the markets is not price-for-quality, but a reflection of values. What are those values? For a more detailed examination of class values and characters, please consult the Class Dynamics category. To finally, finally get to the point: Each class projects its own values onto every other class.
The long digression about fashion was to establish that the idea of price-for-quality and money having a quality of its own merely from quantity does not apply in markets for quacks, which happen to be the markets most used to signal class. But nevertheless, people believe that differences in class are merely differences in the quantity of money. Therefore, their idea of what people at different classes do is merely a reflection of what they would be doing – or what they imagine they would be doing – with different levels of money.
When classes above prole propose solutions to prole problems, what they are proposing is usually imagined solutions to the imagined problems they’d have at that strata – and that’s when they’re being sincerely benevolent. What proles generally want, more or less, is to secure their precarious existence, and then to live “good”, to have nice things that they enjoy and leisure time, and to be left the fuck alone from meddling interventions.
So that is the idea of the Principle of Projection. But why does this projection come about? Well, first of all, America systematically denies the idea of class. Ask any Briton whether class exists and the answer will be obvious and immediate. Britons understand class as a sociocultural tribe of birth that grants certain, largely immutable, characteristics which shape one’s experiences of the world. It is totally natural for them to believe that. But both America and Britain are class societies. In fact, every complex settled civilization on Earth is a class society! And yet, this understanding must still be taught. The only way most people learn things is through drilling, and culture is a way to drill complex understanding in an intuitive way.
Absent this, what we have is epistemic solipsism. That is, absent being taught that people are different in certain ways, the default is to assume they are the same, even when this doesn’t make sense. I’m sure everyone can relate to being asked if they were cold when someone else is cold, followed by a baffled insistence that you must be cold. No, I’m not cold. If I was cold, I would have put on more clothing, like you want to. Or, encountering fresh Midwestern Protestants, the bizarre insistence that Buddhism is another form of Protestant Christianity, only with Buddha instead of Jesus. It’s not, but they have this mental category of real religion, and Buddhism, being a real religion, is therefore like Protestantism but recolored. The news constantly writes articles about how millennials can’t afford houses. Well, I bought a house and my first paycheck was enough for the down payment. I am a millennial. And some millennials come from strata that can never buy houses and their parents and grandparents are also permanent renters. This housing narrative is only true for a given slice of the population, largely urban, coastal, and middle class, but it is projected onto the whole.
The world of acknowledged differences and possibilities we might call a universe of possibilities, and whenever a person encounters something outside their universe of the possible, they will often have an emotional reaction of some kind, followed by a small loss of sanity. Only one’s own existence is real, anything else presented is probably some kind of LARP. Something too far outside the universe of the possible will be rejected entirely – written out of one’s mental map of reality, forcibly blanked out. The Babylonian Hebrew has had this experience many times trying to explain the upper class to his middle class peers – it will not sink in at all. The height of epistemic solipsism is “theater kid”-ism, in which all differences are merely LARPs, and therefore anything can be put on by putting on the right costume. I am not sure why people go on Reddit so often and tell fake stories from an obviously fictional viewpoint (I AM BAD MAN. I AM VERY BAD. YOU NEED TO COME INTO WORK EVEN THOUGH NINJAS KILLED YOUR PREGNANT GIRLFRIEND’S SISTER-WIFE-FATHER. AND NO OVERTIME PAY.), but I suspect it’s an outgrowth of this theater kid mentality. Anything can be true if you believe it is and put on the costume.
The final rejection of epistemic solipsism, which results in a “redpilling” and a permanent shift to the “right” is the understanding that different things are different. This is only an abstract, theoretical statement, but it lays the mental groundwork to conceptualize new kinds of groups as being merely different things in a highly varied and complex world. I would describe this as the foundational concept of anti-liberalism: anti-universalism. Things are particulars, and particulars are different. Different things are different.
I will tell you that as a child, I was a “high-functioning autistic” and also scored high on those internet autism diagnosis tests. Well, once I understood that different things are different, and that people are a matter of pushing the right buttons, which vary by person, my autism score declined from autistic to neurotypical, and my Hare checklist rose to clinical sociopathy, which proved to be inconvenient during certain employment screenings. Ah well. Such is life. Full anti-liberal understanding, of course, only came later. Why is this relevant?
Epistemic solipsism is not actually a problem in a socially homogenous environment. The main differences one encounters in such an environment is mostly the personality difference, the gender difference, and the age difference – and one notes how often the class war is instinctively framed as the generation war (boomers fighting millennials over housing) – because age is one of those easily grasped natural categories. But cultural differences are very different to grasp. It often takes a lifetime, or at least a good few decades, to write a proper ethnography of a strange culture. Even to grasp class differences *within* a culture often takes several years to articulate. Diversity, therefore, is inherently costly because it raises the cost of social transactions by doing away with informal shared understandings born out of a common cultural environment. When social environments are heterogenous – diverse – the normal person becomes, effectively, autistic, requiring all social norms and rules to be formally verbalized. Which is not something that most people can do, absent exposure to the different. A fish does not know what water is. Only the contrasting of water and air can teach that.
What does it matter if our Midwestern Protestant biddy doesn’t understand Buddhism if she never meets a Buddhist? But drop Buddhists into her world, and now you have a problem. Of course, with enough decades, the two communities can come to understand each other, and Creolization will occur (hybrid cultures are cheaper than maintaining two cultures apart like a salad bowl). But in a world of infinite diversity, this can never properly occur. The result is perpetual social autism. Nobody can understand each other.
This is probably one of my least well-written articles, but I hope you won’t mind. I find the topic of talking about minds is almost inherently awkward because you have to formally articulate everything – which obviously does have some artistic merit in mimicking the experience of being socially atomized by diversity.
Well… what the fuck is Tampico anyways?
Lost in a sea of unknown water, Monsieur le Baron
APPENDIX: The Imagined Other
So our last class thread was about material relations and how they relate to radical political tendencies. But I’d like to go back to class as a sociocultural formation for this thread. Today, we’re going to be talking about identity as it relates to the imagined class Other. It may surprise you, but the judgement of one towards the Others can itself be a class marker, and an even more reliable one than consumption markers or belief systems. Why? Because the judgement of the Other tells us where someone situates themselves in the universe. Tell me what you hate, and I will tell you are what you are. The Other is always a mirror of the anxieties, hopes, and prides of the Self.
For America, there is no China and never was. China does not exist.
There is only a projection of our own fears and hopes. On this website, you’ll often see people talking about the opulence or lack thereof of the rich. This says more about them than the rich. There are a number of assumptions that need to be unpacked. First, that the minimalist aesthetic of the rich is not conspicuous consumption. It is. But it is conspicuous consumption with a particular culture in which it is valued. Making this mistake immediately gives away the game and reveals the speaker as middle class or lower. But what they propose as a motivation is indicative of the speaker’s class. For the proles, they have an Imagined Rich. Their idea of the Imagined Rich is much like a prole, but much richer. Their reaction to minimalism is confused. They often believe that the rich want ugly and stupid things (not untrue) or that they are hiding (very untrue). If the UMC+ wanted to hide, they wouldn’t buy minimalist things because nobody else likes that crap, so it sticks out like a sore thumb – as it is meant to! It is conspicuous consumption, just with a terrible aesthetic.
But the Prole Imagined Rich is a Trumpian figure. I will explain the concepts further in a full blog post, but this is an extension of the Principle of Similarity, or Class Solipsism. Everyone assumes their class experience is the default and normal.
Therefore, deviation from sameness requires some sinister motive. The Prole also has an Imagined Middle, but this Imagined Middle is mostly the product of the Middle’s own interaction with the Prole. Which brings me to the MC. Being in the middle, they have a lot of perceptions. And being in an insecure spot, they have a lot of Imagined Others. The interactions of the Middle with the Prole are dominated by the fear of falling. What the Middle has is a “comfortable” lifestyle (comfortable is the watchword of the middle for their wealth/status), and what they fear most is losing this position. Therefore, the MC, to salve their own fears and ego insecurities, tries to create as much distance between themselves and the deplorable CHUDs as possible, to minimize the possibility of falling and becoming them, as they then build themselves up to be so much better than them. This can express itself in a benevolent and malicious way. The benevolent manifestation is to try and baby the proles, to be their valiant “protector” because they are too weak to protect themselves. This is the impulse behind defending petty ghetto criminals. The malicious way is to mock and demean the proles as all stupid, evil, ignorant, and all manner of bad things. They’re simultaneously spoiled and hungry. They’re jet ski dealers but illiterate. They’re everything bad at once at the same time, somehow. Fuck them. The unifying theme, either way, is to condescend and create distance to assure the insecure Middle that they are, by character and nature, superior to these proles, and thus not at any risk of falling.
The Prole response to the Middle is to deride this unearned condescension. You think you’re so much better than me, college boy? Just because you have that stupid degree?
I’m gonna kick your ass, you weedy twig.
The Prole restores their own ego by creating an inverse of the Other’s Other. This allows the Prole to dismiss the attempts to condescend.Education becomes overeducation. The lack of practical skills of the middle class white collar worker becomes uselessness and also a lack of commitment to “real” skills and hard work. In a Marxian sense, the Prole takes pride in being a producer of surplus value. But the Middle is also in a dual role of looking upwards. They are always reassuring themselves of their own classiness, because if they lose their class status, then they fall back to hated Proledom. This fear is projected others.
The Middles also have an imagined Rich. The Middles want to go to classy expensive places because their Imagined Rich do. The Imagined Rich are always consuming the most sophisticated things, because they are so sophisticated. The Imagined Rich are always perfectly composed and mannered because they are so classy. Swearing becomes a kind of “socialist” transgression against the Imagined Rich, which is defined by “classiness” as a kind of purity totem, but so too does being a gigantic slob and pooping on the street. The content Middle emulates the Imagined Rich while the malcontent rages. The Imagined Rich must be obsessed with being classy and obviously classy and rich because the Middle imagines they, too, fear falling. Therefore, the Imagined Rich must spend their time showing how classy they are. Then the Middle tries to keep up with these imagined Joneses. This is the market for things like Salt Bae and fake private jets. The Middle imagines the Imagined Rich eating at Salt Bae and showing off as they fly private. But these pictures on RKOI and other places come from other Middloids as they show off (and torment) each other. Well, I happen to know a real story of a private jet (there are very few of these in the world). The wife is autism golem, like many noble women, so they need a private jet because otherwise she has sensory overload and starts autism screeching at everyone. To finish out this line, I was visiting a city and a person once, and she, of the middle, wanted to impress me by reserving a table at a fancy restaurant. I don’t reserve tables. I walk into Michelin restaurants and demand to be served. The food was pricy and “cosmopolitan”. Contrast this with a recent lunch where a young UMC person petitioned me for assistance, looking to raise a million or so for their startup. They proposed a “hole in the wall” tucked away, with “authentic” cuisine, then showed off by thanking the waiter in a foreign language. He did not walk away disappointed.
This fear of falling narrative also, I believe, drives how the Middle sees the Imagined Rich, politically. This is partly speculation, so I may be as off about my Imagined Middle as the Middle is about their Imagined Rich. So appropriate caution is needed here. But I believe the Middle frames history as a series of struggles by Middles to attack and replace Elites. History is thus a series of events in which intellectual Middles rally the Proles and overthrow the Elite, becoming the Elite. The only problem is that this isn’t true. History is filled with countless peasant revolts, though few peasant emperors – peasants are disorganized. And history has many, many noble revolts. But middle revolts? The most common example given is the French Revolution. Well, at best, that’s one. And while Robespierre may be of the middle, the Society of Thirty had a very high number of noblesse d’epee. Other instances of rising middles are not “Middle” in the way we understand it, but lower elites who are denied status for one reason or another. Like factory owners. Because history becomes framed as Middle leading Bottom vs Top, the strength of the Elite is imagined to be the strength of their Middle opposition. If the Middle is weakening, the Elite must be strengthening. Therefore, society worsening is evidence of a strengthening Elite. To crush the Middle becomes the main task of this Imagined Rich, because that is the main threat in this framing. The more the Middle suffers, the stronger the Elite. Arbitrary, random suffering becomes a flex, a show of strength. Humiliation compels obedience rather than hate. Well, let me tell you this: the noble families, as a class, have ruled for thousands of years because that’s just how humans work, just like how ants have queens. It’s not evidence of supernatural competence, it’s more of a fact like the sky being blue. It doesn’t mean anything.
But this obnoxious striving by the Middle does create a reaction coming from the real UMC (and not the Imagined Rich). And this is epater la bourgeoisie. The obsequious brand worship and conformist worship of fanciness is amplified into an Imagined Middle which is mindless NPCs. To spite the Imagined Middle and their trend loving and swallowing of propaganda, the real UMC tries to create as many destructive, transgressive ideas as possible, so that the Imagined Middle copies them and ruins their own lives, resulting in the UMC laughing disdainfully. The UMC lives by an ethos of “Go Fuck Yourself” and “Fuck You Money” because this is a way to show you’re not like those NPC Middles, you are a real man. And a real man is a Free Man. Metternich, consummate baron in material terms, said “Humanity begins at the rank of Baron.” Wear gray T-shirts because you can. Board planes bare-chested. Buy an anime car. Be eccentric, but obnoxiously and obviously so. Above all, fuck everyone else. Fuck them, fuck them, fuck them. Fussell advises driving slowly on highways to make everyone who needs to work angry. This is not the same as “Can I speak to the Manager?” because the point is not get better service. It’s to ruin someone else’s day and then laugh about it, getting the delicious pleasure of causing a little more pain in the world. Haha.
The Imagined Middle, which is a perfect NPC, exists downstream of the UMC’s own self-perception, which is the perfectly competent and universally skilled gentleman. They are the doers. They build things and get shit done. They move fast and break things. They are Hank Rearden. The UMC is a man of wealth who chooses to work regardless because they see themselves as so competent and capable. Metternich is a perfect diplomat but also the sinister Grand Inquisitor. A scholar and a gentleman. An officer and a learned man. Well-rounded. The cream of Eton. Gore Vidal’s own description is telling – at boarding school, there are the rich kids and the smart kids, himself being one of the latter. The UMC carries on a self-perception deriving from the traditions of being the strong sword arm of feudalism and of the Ancien Regime. While the modern managerial state runs more on middle class minor supervisory employees and bureaucrats rather than eccentric gentlemen managing estates, doing gentleman science, and personal industrialization (owning your own factory), the memory remains strong. The UMC is born with agency, if not hyperagency, and this can never be stripped away. If the MC tends to blackpill irrationally and give up in despair at the first obstacle, the UMC, as a stereotype, are often irrationally whitepilled. Elizabeth Holmes still thinks she’ll win.
This agency also leads to a tremendous mental burden. I say to myself frequently that there is no cavalry coming. I am the cavalry. I am always the force of last relief, the Triarii at the back of the line. Is this true? Nevertheless, it creates a mental burden. “What if I’m not good enough?” Imposter syndrome. “What if I can’t hold the line?” Burnout. A desire forms to have a simpler life. This creates its own imagined Other, the Imagined Prole. The Imagined Prole lives a carefree life because they are not responsible for others. Obviously this is not true, but this becomes an idealized lifestyle to emulate. This is the practice, still around, of gentleman farming. Of giving up the UMC life to live the simple life of a prole. One of the WASPs in WASPS: Splendor gave up his wealth to become a mechanic. Successful UMCs, ones that have made it, will spend tens or even hundreds of thousands on a chicken coop so they can pretend to farm chickens and be a redneck. Some of them even succeed at making eggs! But they will never know the essential fear of being at the whim of crisis. When these UMCs slumming it impact Proles, they invariably leave a curious impression. Damn, what a rich idiot playing games. Of course, these encounters are rare enough that no lasting and durable Other is formed, but it would probably be something like the “Butter Bars” Lt.
If the UMC imagines themselves as the hypercompetent hyperagent, then the Imagined Upper is the mirror of that. Other classes are far enough from the top that they lump everything together into a generalized Imagined Rich, which they often call “upper class” or just “rich”. But the UMC is personally acquainted with the UC. If Gore Vidal is the “smart kid”, then the UC is the “rich kid”. Rich, not smart. Or, as Fussell would snark, the UC are a class without ideas.
This is highly uncharitable to the upper class. The Imagined Upper is a complete dolt. They are the thoughtless people Woody Allen implicitly parodies. They are the people without ideas. Actually, most real UC people have plenty of ideas because they need them to be charming (dinner conversation always revolves around ideas). But as with many interactions, there is a seed of truth. In feudalism, you had kings summon their lords to provide a levy. The Italian word for knight, capo di lance, is the origin for our own term, Lance Corporal – an E4 marine. From “miles”, Latin for knight, we get militia. The lord was expected to bring his knights to fight in war. In peace, the knights protected the land. They were the baddest dudes around. They were given land so they could gear q***r to their heart’s content. But the baron was their field grade officer. So they are also *there*. This persists into the Industrial Age. The noblesse de robe, the professionals, your doctors, lawyers, engineers – they are not workers. But they are still *there*. As such, they can only be so disconnected from reality and the understanding of labor and production. The real upper class may not be as big of twits as the Imagined Upper, but like the Middle they still live in @GmorkOfNothing‘s Richard Scarry’s kids book world because all they do is party and socialize all day. Their view of the world is the world seen through cocktail parties. And the upper class? Well, they live in the Richard Scarry world.
I don’t think I can generalize their Imagined Others, but they are interesting.
Grendel was a good book. Grendel himself is a fantastic pointless man as crybully. But all of the mortals struggle. Grendel and other mortals are most like the Dragon and have the Dragon scent when they transcend their pathetic meat forms to grasp eternity. By inhabiting the story-forms, they become things beyond time and more than meaninglessness. What angers Grendel most is that someone might try to match his pitifulness. But at the same time, he drives them towards it. When he sees Unferth trying to live a story, he destroys him. Simultaneously, he wants to drag people to his level while also remaining the most pitiful. He’s the happiest when he can be the monster, and this is also when his dragon scent is strongest. But he loves to hear the stories too. We are so eager to defy structures because we see them as impositions on our absolute freedom. But we are defined by our relations to others and the world. If we never make a mark, what are we? By breaking free of these relations in their entirety, we abolish our own meaning. We become Grendels, pointless monsters, in love with our own pitifulness but afraid to admit it. Everyone is so wrapped up in ironic and gesture that nothing sincere or eternal remains. We cut off our families because we are afraid to love – and hate – them. We abandon friends. Where does that lead us? The Dragon. And the Dragon as timeless thing is no accident. The Dragon is Nietzsche’s timeless value creature, with an eternal and recurrent lifecycle. The Dragon is the Ubermensch completed, the Ubermensch the larval Dragon. Unferth is only a mortal man, and thus must steel himself with mere words of heroism. Beowulf *is* heroism. And thus Beowulf can restore meaning, as the Ubermensch, and banish the hideous nihilism.
Does Grendel sacrifice himself to religion, or does religion sacrifice Grendel? Does it matter?
There is a difference between sleaze and filth, and this is the difference between the crime wave coming now and the high crime times of the 1980s. Sleaze comes out of an unrestricted freedom, and this freedom begets psychological emancipation. An indifference to tired pieties. The crime of that day was *selfish*. The crimes of today are *selfless*. Crime then, and the accompanying filth, came from an abundance of ego which denied the rights or wellbeing of anyone around them, so eager was it to get some for itself. It is the behavior of the outlaw.
By contrast, the selfless criminal, the anarchist, behaves not to fulfill a hunger within them so strong it cannot be denied, but as a yearning for meaning, for something to coalesce self around. It is empty. It is narcissist in the Lasch sense. The anarchist struggle becomes an attempt to construct a cosmology, a narrative, some thing which will justify the person. The totally selfish person needs no justification. Their own hunger is the only meaning in the world. This is not to excuse it. But it is different. “Natural Born Killers”. That’s the crime of egoism. They have a message, as savage and brutal as it is. They have desires. They are full, so full, they impinge on others, and take from the weak to fill their own bellies.
And that is why the 60s, 70s, 80s, saw an outpouring of art. Art was the spontaneous expression of these selfish, cruel selves. But they were *selves*. Why is the modern Leftist censorious? Because they are a devourer of art, because their self must consume art, not create art, because there is a hole there. So it goes. Once as tragedy, again as farce. And that’s the difference between sleaze and filth. The filth is a product of sleaze, but it isn’t sleaze. Sleaze is the run-down nature of absolute egoist freedom. The filth cult of the modern left is just a cargo cult to sleaze, vainly hoping to be the same.
Let’s talk nobility!
Imagine! Grand palaces! Luxurious feasts! Dictating the course of world history with your whims! Conquering! Being a tiny king in your own right!
Yeah, I’m not talking about those guys. No counts or dukes or princes today.
I’m talking about the baron. How much does a modest manor produce? Between 20 and 30 pounds sterling in Britain. In France, just over 20 livre tournois. Today, this purchases about $20,000 in goods. But we don’t care about that. We care about relatives. I’ll explain later. This is about 2500 days wages. Converting back to modern money, 2500 days wages is about $200,000. So a manor produces about $200k/yr in income. How many manors does a baron own? Well, some own several. Some are even as mighty as a count or duke! But probably not. You see, the medievals did do censuses. In the County of Champagne in 1252, the count had 1182 fiefs under him. 42% were held by knights, 39% were held by bourgeois, 15% were held by barons, and 5% by clerics. The average amount of manors for a fiefholder was ONE, regardless of the official title. Single manor. But what about Britain? British barons are so important! Yeah, title deflation. Norman barons became major landholders in the new England. The English equivalent to the baron is the gentry. I will treat knights, barons, untitled lords, gentry and high bougies as interchangable.
So what did the barons do? So what are the barons? The barons are the people who rule your little shit village for the great lord, the Count, who can’t be arsed. He’s too important. And in times of trouble, they are marshalled for war. That was their original purpose. There are tons and tons and tons of these guys. Whenever you hear a historian quote a stat like “France had 1% nobility” or “Russia had 2% nobility”, by weight, that’s all fucking barons. They’re everywhere. The British peerage is a few hundred people. How many French? About 200 Frenchmen were ranked Count or above in medieval France. That’s not a lot of dudes. In fact, it basically rounds to zero. You may be noticing something similar in our lives. Millionaires and billionaires, perhaps? There are a few thousand billionaires ON EARTH. We’ll return to that and many other things later. The role of the barons was intricately tied to the feudal regime. They administered its lowest levels, managed its peasants, and fought its wars. So when early modern states formed with professional armies, they were gone.
Right? In evolution, Nature doesn’t come up with new organs willy-nilly. Limbs are adapted into other kinds of limbs. Systems are repurposed. So too with memetics.
The new system needed a labor pool to staff it. The baronage is dead. Long live the baronage. Why are college students upset when they have to be baristas? One could say it’s the income, which is terribly low. But they won’t be tradesmen or factory workers either, even when those can easily pay high 5 figure incomes. No, they want particular jobs. What jobs? Things like, I dunno. Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer, Banker, Bureaucrat, Professor.
What jobs did the baronage take up after the 16th century Crisis of the Nobility?
College degrees are minor titles. Always were. So, recall the average incomes of a barony? $200,000? Familiar, eh? What are the average incomes of a midcareer BigLawyer, Software Engineer, or Banker? About $200,000?
Applying Piketty’s 5% land value rule, we find a barony is worth $4mm. The average wealth of a US millionaire. Funny how that works. And what did they need the money for? Maintenance of honors. So dowries, housing, and… college tuition.
It all starts to click, doesn’t it?
All these figures are constant over time because the social-material relations have not changed in 1000 years. This is the dead hand of feudalism reaching into the present. Material conditions remain the same because social-material relations remain the same, regardless of whatever ideological garnish you put on. Call them professionals, managerials, nomenklatura…
The Eternal Baron. It is often said that the 19th century marked a new crisis of the nobility. And it did. But don’t we still have doctors, lawyers, etc? Of course. The decline of the traditional landowner was a minor crisis to be sure. But it merely finalized the shift to professionalization. But what was changing? And changing in a big way? Capitalism. The old world was being upended, and with it, the social order. Peasants became migrant farm labor or prole city workers. The communal village was destroyed. The *status* of the nobility was under attack. Remember our old friend, the haute bourgeois? In the middle ages, we see he earns about the same as the baron. They’re peers. The baron and the boat dealer are friends.
In the 19th century, the bourgeois stops being a boat dealer. And now he earns 100x what you do. Engels’s father is a factory owner, a typical New Man, a bourgeois. And he hates what Engels writes. So how can Engels always get a living? His mother. His mother adored him and gave him her moral code and values.
She was an aristocrat.
And Marx married Jenny von Westphalen.
And why? Imagine those peasants, whom you have lived with, loved, cared for, and struggled with, for a thousand years, turned into grist for Satanic mills. Their children devoured by machines. Their lands despoiled by belching steel monsters run by migrants for a profit. Your communal village, destroyed. Overrun by foreigners. Your nursemaid’s family, gone. As Marx says, capitalism reduces the qualities of the proles to quantities.
Numbers. Data points in a spreadsheet. Dehumanization. Atomization.
All that is solid melts into air. Welcome to Hellworld.
There was only one thing to do. Make common cause with the peasants and proletarians being destroyed by this system and destroy Moloch.
Revolt against the Modern World.
Tragedy is the pain of facing irresistible fate. All politics is material interests, not ideology. Always remember that.
Blessed proletarians, will you join me again?
We will not eat the bugs.
And we will not go gently into that good night.
In the year 1666, a strange thing happened. A rabbi from Turkey, Sabbatai Zevi, had declared himself the Messiah and was gathering up quite the following. He was marching to Constantinople (still of that name in that day) where he would confront the Sultan and depose him.
When he arrived, he did not depose the Sultan. On the contrary, he submitted – totally – not only surrendering his mob, but converting to Islam. The Sultan gave him a modest pension but later revoked it, because the man was troublesome. A few followers remained, but only a few. They disappeared back into Judaism or converted into Islam, like their leader. A few stubborn holdouts remained. About a century later, they rallied behind a leader, Jacob Frank, who claimed to be Zevi’s reincarnation. But Frank also converted, to Catholicism. Thus ended a curious footnote in history, as the Frankists followed their leader into Catholicism and Mother Church, assimilating into Christian Polish society. So it goes.
And this is where the textbooks end. So what did these curious people believe? Some of it may be familiar. They believed that the God that others believed in was a false God, a material God, a demiurge that created a world of wickedness, and that the true God had to be redeemed through special knowledge. And they were feminists! Yes, they believed in #girlbosses, slay. There could even be a female Messiah, and women had to be delivered from the bonds of marriage, a wicked, patriarchal concept. They were free, like us.
Is it any wonder that the like were drawn to the Enlightenment? They found themselves influencing movements as disparate as Enlightenment liberalism, Reform Judaism, and even @bog_beef‘s favorite, the Quakers.
So obviously they were hounded and hunted by the authorities. Such bigots never appreciated the Sabbateans in their own time. Orthodox Rabbis and Christian authorities attempted to root out this heresy, which was spreading both high and low.
Some, uneducated as they were, claimed the Sabbateans were engaged in magic, mysticism, strange rituals…
Ridiculous notions, all absurd.
After all, the Frankists had many friends, distinguished friends. They had protectors among powerful Christian magnates, such as the aforementioned Bishop Dembowsky, but also other wealthy Polish Christians had taken an interest in Sabbateanism, as well as wealthy Jews.
The influence of Sabbatai and Frank immediately calls to mind other charismatic religious figures. One obvious parallel is, of course, Rasputin. As we all know, this mad monk, unkempt and wild, quickly rose to prominence in the Russian court. Why? Well, the Tsar’s son had a terrible disease: hemophlia. But Rasputin could make his son well using his special technique of hypnosis. Of course, those outside the royal family didn’t know this. They were disgusted by this man and his disgusting and immoral behaviors. Rasputin slept around. Rasputin seduced noble ladies. And most of all, Rasputin had terrible hypnotic eyes that could draw anyone in. There is an essence in the eyes. A magic to them. In the eyes are marked terrible, horrible things. Princess Marat saw the power of his eyes.
What beliefs did Rasputin have? Although he was not a Whip himself, Rasputin was influenced by the Whips and their doctrines of holy sin and magical sex. The struggle of sin led to the heights of redemption. Holy sin.
His influence was vast. Trotsky himself remarked on this “leprous camarilla” ruling the state. They practiced magic. They had sex. They had sex… with children. Some as young as 7. “Widespread child seduction had become associated with the ‘best’ members of society.”
That is what held sway over the monarchy.
So let’s return to the Sabbateans. What did they believe in? You see, the conversion of Sabbatai Zevi was not an apostasy, but a sacrament. To save the world, Zevi had to pass into the world of gentiles, which meant converting. And so too did Frank. Zevi became a Muslim and Frank became a Catholic.
So what did these Sabbateans, these Frankists believe? They believed that they had to join their Messiah’s fight and do as he did.
Firstly, they too had to falsely convert, and enter the kelipot, the Kingdom of Evil. Their true faith would be that of the prophet of 1666.
But their false faith would embed them among Quakers, Reform Jews, heretical Orthodox and Reformed Christians, Enlightenment thinkers, Masons, and all manner of people. There they would spread their beliefs. And what were their beliefs? Why, the same as Rasputin, of one of these very heretical sects. Holy Sin. Sex Magic.
And… other things.
In the darkness, they helped each other prosper.
It may be instructive to inform you that Sabbatai’s name? It means Saturn.
The Sabbateans were the Saturn worshippers. They infiltrated sects and ideologies around the world. And their beliefs sound awfully familiar, now don’t they?
“I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
The mail order catalogue is dead, but shopping is not. Consoom is dead, long live consoom! Today, many people buy things at the Big Box stores or Amazon. And here, at the Big Box stores, you have class distinction. You see, there are many, fundamentally the same… But different. Big Box stores are all Big Box stores, but people will describe a vague distinction between them, not in the products, but in the atmosphere. That’s class culture at work. We respond to market segmentation by class.
So let’s start. Walmart is working class/lower middle. That one should be obvious, but I will still state it. The focus is on frugality and everyday low prices. The working class, by necessity, counts pennies. Walmart is bulk, but bulk of low grade/commodity grade items. The customers are usually dressed in a slovenly, prolish manner, and they act accordingly. I see a lot of arguments and messes at Walmart. I like it. It feels earthy, secure, down to earth, authentic. There’s not a lot of focus on projecting an image – people are here to shop.
Up a rung is Target. Target is middle class. You can tell by how it markets and positions itself. No longer are you here for [product], you’re here for the Target experience. You’re not a customer, you’re a ~guest~, like you’re at a hotel. And there is conspicuous wait staff. The middle class like the experience of being conspicuously waited on and treated as special, worthy of distinction. The analogue here is how the middle class in Fussell’s day loved “posh” French restaurants that focused on the continental atmosphere and wearing fancy clothes. They’re not just there for the food, they’re there for the atmosphere. Target shoppers aren’t just there to shop, they’re there to live – and Tar-jay will help. The price is a little higher, and this keeps penny-pinching proles away. It is subtle things that classgate.
Next in our list is Costco. Costco is upper middle class. Costco is very austere and minimalist. Customers are still waited on, but silently. At Walmart, you have to go flag someone down. At Target, the wait staff gets in your face. At Costco, everything runs smoothly, invisibly. The theme of frugality returns, but in a variant form. Things are cheap because they’re bought in bulk. But what’s being bought isn’t cheap. The Costco promise is the cheapest price *for the finest of goods*. Real extra virgin olive oil, imported wine, wagyu steak, Mexicoke, etc. The message is clear – Costco customers expect the finer things in life, and they treat it as the everyday, not as a conspicuous expenditure for which costlier is better. Steak is just the grocery bill, and you’ve got to keep it down. It is similar to another class marker. Costco is the dusty car of Big Box stores.
But there is also another side – the luxury car. And what’s the Luxury Car?
Well, you had to have guessed it. Whole Foods.
Whole Foods/Costco represent New Money/Old Money. Frankly, Whole Foods is a place that makes me incredulous. It’s flashy, it’s showy. Everything about a Whole Foods is meant to show off gaudy, conspicuous wealth. What they sell is often ridiculous and they sell it at ridiculous prices. At Whole Foods, you make a splash. So what above? Is there a Big Box store of the upper class? No, frankly. It would go out of business. There are simply not enough upper class people to sustain a Big Box store. But they do have their own stores. They’re smaller, more specialized stores. The upper class has small, boutique stores selling basically handcrafted or specialized versions of goods. These stores are expensive, and the products are almost indistinguishable from generic – but they are fine, very fine. You will find them in the back alleys of cosmopolises. Does the upper middle class have boutiques? Yes, but not for regular stuff.
Basically, you spend lots of money on amusing white elephants. The upper middle class has plenty of money and likes to be amused. Being amused is an important class value.
The old Fussell wisdom still holds true, mostly. A general disdain for education is prolish. Proles (rightfully) mistrust the higher education system. The education system forms a key part of the American class system. I won’t belabor the old points, but I’ll quickly sum it up.
The middle class is very proud of having gone to college. If they are from a small town, they may be convinced this makes them much better than their origin. This is the transplant of CB’s “Midwestern Excellence joke”. It’s middle class to draw the line between college-educated and not.
The upper middle class assumes college is a given, since most of them have been getting an education since time immemorial. The thing that brings status here is going to a good, prestigious college. Don’t just go to Podunk Directional State U. You’ve got to be a Harvard man like your uncle and your father and your grandfather – carry on that legacy. The principle of legacy. This is what matters.
Uppers often go to silly little Lib Arts colleges that cost a king’s ransom.
Speaking of king’s ransom, let’s move on from Fussell and talk about what’s new. In his day, college was cheap. Now it isn’t. While the uppers can pay their way, lower classes must figure out how to pay for college. The proles, often first gen students, get need-based aid if they can wrangle the education bureaucracy/FAFSA. What they misunderstand is the generosity of need-aid at prestige schools. If they get loans, it is often because they go to for-profits or stingy low-grade schools. It is the middles that bear the brunt of student loans. Their parents are too well-off to fairly qualify for financial aid, and yet they are not well-off enough to pay their children through. So the middle class ends up saddled with student loans, made worse by high tuition. While uppers often go to these strange liberal arts colleges, they’re not an unpopular choice among the middles, since they’re not as competitive as fighting for one of the Harvard slots. But the price is steep, incredibly steep. So the upper middles. The more prestigious universities have incredibly generous aid packages and fat endowments to fund them. As such, many upper middles end up getting full ride need-based scholarships or sometimes full ride+ merit scholarships that actually make money. This is helped along by generous loopholes in the tax code that allow them to maximize the financial aid given to them by shielding lots of income and assets from FAFSA. Piketty has studied the US tax code, and the tax rate begins to decline at the UMC as SSI phases out. Tax and asset shelters allow the UMC to game the system and get “welfare”. The result is that I graduated to a higher income than most of you and without a penny of student debt.
Remember, privilege is what you get for free.
If you pay for it, they’re selling you something. The tax gap in action. Note the dip that starts at the top 10% and dives at the top 1%. That is the UMC hole. Red is with sales tax, blue without.
So that’s paying for the party. What about getting there? Let’s talk about school. This is something else that has changed since Fussell’s day, and it deserves some looking at it. What does schooling look like for the classes? For the underclass, school is like an tiny prison. The purpose is discipline. Rarely can enough order be imposed to teach anything, and the students often aren’t terribly interested in learning anything anyways. These schools are usually failing. Teach For America kids go here. The working class will send their kids to whatever’s around. They don’t have the luxury of uprooting to chase a school. This can be good, this can be bad. For what it’s worth, I had a working class Latina classmate in Calc, and these people get sucked up into the UMC stream. The middle class is the beginning of school consciousness and the desire for a “good school”. Their main goal is to avoid the disorder of the underclass, so for them, “good school” is a euphemism for white school. You can admit that here. Ha! Any school is enough for “college”.
What is alien for Fussell’s generation and probably most of you is what I call “The Thunderdome”. It is a school system of intensive winnowing and it is the main pipeline from which our nation’s elites are produced. This is the form of intense American meritocracy. It begins when the aspirant elite is a toddler. They begin to take IQ tests to qualify for an elite preschool as well as personality screening. The cutoff for these tests is usually somewhere about 130. Some parents make their toddlers do test prep. The stakes are high. If accepted, the Thunderdome begins. The toddler, then child, then teenager, begins to compete with their rival-peers for resources and attention. The best survive, the rest are winnowed. Rank and yank. Ace the test or don’t come back. At every stage, advance. Never fail. A grade that isn’t an A is a permanent black mark on the transcript that will ruin your chances for Harvard. The child must have perfect grades, perfect grades, and perfect extracurriculars. The leadership requirement means they must outmaneuver their rival-peers to take a club. Many cannot handle the pressure. The suicide rate is not insubstantial. Coffee is common. A common coping mechanism beyond caffeine is performance-enhancing drugs. A swift trade in amphetamines has developed, as well as cocaine. Anything to get an edge in the academic race. The winners are the products of “meritocracy”, its blighted fruits. They are, as a rule, both brutal and conformist – conformity is a must to reach “perfection” as defined by a grading rubric. No principles but obedience. No desire but hunger. An Ivy league professor, himself an alumnus, compared the commencement speech he had received, one calling for noblesse oblige and reminding them of their responsibilities, to the one his young students were receiving.
They were told thus: You are the fruits of meritocracy, and you deserve this and more. The world belongs to you by right. You must take of it. So eat, eat and never be full, and feast until the world’s ending – this is the truth of the world and what is right.
Anyways. On to the upper class. More cheerful! The upper class is schooled and socialized to be affable. Their schooling is not as intensive, generally, because the goal of their education is to make them good members of the upper class: socialites and networkers. For the upper class, the world can be treacherous, so school networks can be some of the most honest and true sources of friendship. In addition, a lot of their education doesn’t just come at school, but exists passively, in their upbringing. The upper middle class is cultured and sophisticated by education and training, the result of 10 hour school days. The upper class absorbs knowledge by osmosis. They end up with a passing knowledge of fine art because everyone knows it. They read books by whim. The goal is to create that charming affability and the perfect manners for which the upper class is famed. Imperturbably fine spirits, level moods, and a willingness to cover. Generosity befits an upper class person. This leads me to manners, but that’s a matter for another day.
A subject conspicuous in its absence from the Fussell book. Money and class are not the same thing, but, of course, they are related. Without money, one cannot maintain the expenditures needed to live above low proledom for long. So then money. For proles, money is a means for consumption. Proles convert money into goods or services and then consume them. For the lower sorts of proles, this consumption is primarily for survival, but the higher proles enjoy many (very expensive) luxury goods like jetskis and boats. Why is this so? Precarity. @acczibit has a concept “Hood Post-Scarcity”, where one can satisfy all one’s needs, but a single emergency would wipe out any savings. Luxury goods are expensive but “cheap” compared to wealth. Money is here today, gone tomorrow. Spend while you can.
As you move into the middle class, incomes are not necessarily higher, and often lower. But the tone is different. The watchword of the middle is “comfortable”. 90% of the time, when you meet someone who self-describes their upbringing as comfortable, that’s middle class. If they describe themselves as upper middle class but have low class consciousness, they’re also middle class. Twitter is a very middle class place – most of its users are middle class. The middle class no longer fears starvation – here is the source of its comfort. Instead, the middle class uses its spare cash for *status*. The middle class is always attempting to keep up with the Joneses, because its key value is respectability. So the middle class is in an arms race to maintain its status. It buys trends because it is forced to *conform*. And why must the middle class conform? Because little separates them from proledom. Certainly not their income. Respectability means keeping up the habits that keep you from becoming another “deplorable”, who often have lots of personal and life drama. Middles live by codes. Because of these material realities, the middle class plays the role of morality police. Their main asset is their home, and the patrolling of morality helps preserve the niceness of their neighborhood – and their net worth.
Remember: Class is downstream of material conditions. Above this, the upper middle. Here, many living expenses are permitted to fall, since the UMC does not have to follow (expensive) trends, while income drastically increases. This creates an inevitable and perpetual surplus. Within a year of graduation, I had >100k. Here begins the accumulation of capital. What is money here? Money is a tool. Money is power. Money is not hoarded, but deployed to useful ends. The UMC readily uses money to solve its problems. But it primarily is a means of accumulating more money and projecting power. Money can be donated to buy influence, and influence can be used to advance the self. Every investment begets further investment. The UMC is funding political movements, research, etc. Bill Gates was born UMC. As Burnham says, the UMC is the strongest part of the ruling class. Now, let us digress.
Imagine the classes as celestial spheres in the firmament. Hydrogen gas is capital.
The life of the underclass is fragmented, bizarre, full of misadventures, prison, and drama. They go from gig to gig, and sometimes prison to prison. They are space debris. If the space debris can cohere, if some semblance of order can be brought to life, then there appears a terrestial planet out of these space rocks. The proletarian has a functioning life now, a routine, and steady work. But no savings. No capital. That can change. When a proletarian internalizes the disciplined living of the middle class, the need to live respectably, it begins to save. It develops a small capital buffer, which is the “comfort” of the middle. The middles are gas giants. They have capital, but it is inert. However, the process of saving is long. Eventually, a successful middle accumulates enough gas that something changes. The capital begins to work upon itself. The gas ignites.
A star is born.
A Novus Homo takes their place among the Nobiles. Which, finally, leads me back on track. The upper class. While the process of entering the nobiles is slow, the ascent of a lesser noble to the greater is exceedingly fast. It happens in the “liquidity moment”. The UMC have, on average, a few million. They’re multimillionaires. In the liquidity moment, one very quickly experiences an increase in wealth in an order of magnitude or multiple orders of magnitude. A critical point is passed and explosive growth occurs.
A star becomes a giant. And what is money for these giants? Everything. Nothing. What is water to a fish?
Money is merely the reality they dwell in.
Fundamentally, the upper class does not understand money. In this, and many other ways, they are the most alien class of all. When I met @babs11111111, he asked me how much my Camry cost. His guess? $500,000.
But at the same time, the upper class can be quite frugal. I make money. For better or for worse, the upper class is beyond making money. That means no more is coming. The Banana Test. I do not know how much a banana costs ($10?) and don’t care to learn. By contrast, Babs knows how much a banana costs, down to the cent, because the principal must be preserved, but for big prices, he has no understanding, while I am shrewd and haggle. The upper class just has money. It’s always there. Like the tap, you turn it on and fill up a glass. But it has to be respected carefully, because one day it might go away forever and never return.
That’s the balancing act. The principal must be preserved, at all costs. From this, we see a material reason why the upper class is fundamentally anti-consumerist (whereas the upper middle is minimalist but can spend a lot). Consumerism would devour the fortune and return them to the lower nobility from whence they came.
Not that that happens often. In the act of rising, the upper middle class striver builds ideologies and movements, which become funded into small NGOs, which grow into large bureaucracies of power in triumph. But what happens after the rise?
The NGOs, finally, begin to do their ostensible goal. Where the UMC spends to create power, the UC is beyond striving. The NGOs stop being a front for a machine (or at least, not their machine), and become real charitable endeavors. The main living of the UC person is to be a socialite, and that means charity, charity, charity. For a long time, the upper class family exists in this kind of philanthropic stasis, throwing many fantastical and spectacular charity galas. But eventually, all things end. At long last, the star’s fuel burns out.
Things begin to change, once more. The final change. An upper class family, spending all its time socializing, builds up deep and wide connections across an entire civilization. Normally, it exists in torpor. When the money ends, it wakes. In its waking, it stirs, and it moves the world. Activity goes out across the connections. This causes the entire civilization to shake. When an UMC family ascends to the upper class, that makes the news.
But the decline and fall of an upper class family? That makes world history. The conditions which create and sustain an upper class family are fundamentally rooted in some reality about material conditions. When those are invalidated, the era is changing.
The liquidity moment is so explosive because its agent becomes an avatar of world historical trends. The ending and undoing of those world historical trends is not only as spectacular, it is more spectacular.
The giant goes supernova.
Elements are scattered to the far solar winds in vast, billowing clouds.
In some distant cloud, the fragments begin to cohere again…
So why does Fussell not talk about money? Part of it is that money played a much less central role back then. And why is that?
Something has happened since the 80s.
Let’s talk about consumer debt.
Do the proles have debt? Yes and no. Many of you are familiar with payday lenders, which charge hundreds of % in interest a year. Now that people have cottoned, they are evolving into “social justice microlenders” that… charge hundreds of % in interest a year. But that’s not the only scheme. Witness CreditOne and other shady credit card companies which charge fees for carrying a balance, fees not carrying a balance, a fee when you pay, an annual fee, etc. Like the NASCAR card (NASCARD). Scams. Or rent-to-own, which started with furniture and appliances, but has actually expanded to housing, with the same exploitative terms. In this context, Walmart’s layaway program, with an APR of 7-20%, like the rest of Walmart, is exploitative but relatively benevolent. Subprime car scams involve setting exorbitant payments and luring customers in with promises of zero or almost zero down, then repossessing the car when they inevitably fail to make the payment. Or they might, like the others, charge really high interest. Which leads to the other side of prole debt. No debt. Proles come to distrust this usury, and for good reason. So the other side of proles is movements like Dave Ramsey and going totally debt-free. It makes sense. The kind of debt they run into is almost all totally predatory.
Leaving the proles behind, how does the middle class interact with debt? The middle class believes in having a sanitary credit score. Why? Because it wants debt. But only some debt. Instead of all-or-nothing, like the proles, the middle class separates out its debts. There is good debt and bad debt, and these differ primarily by category. Good debt includes house debt and at least used to include student debt. Car debt is also considered good debt. Bad debt is debt for frivolous purchases and other things. Credit card debt is bad debt.
This is a middle class credit card ad. Let’s analyze it, shall we? The card level is fairly basic, but it is treated as an aspirational goal (gotten after building credit with a pointless card). This is topped off with the symbolism of climbing a mountain. This act of climbing a mountain on vacation, a status expenditure, is treated as far more important than the boyfriend (not husband). Marriage still carries a lot of cultural cachet with the UMC while it is slowly dissolving in the middle. Class matters in how things are marketed.
So to transition to the UMC, let’s look at an ad for a similar product, but for a higher class. Same thing, different culture.
Like the previous ad, it has a travel motif. But the vibe is artsy. Furthermore, the card opens the beginning of a journey, not the end. While the Gold card is the result of building credit for middles, I got offered one (and similar cards) as a broke, 0 income college student.
In this ad and the next ad, we see the principles of amusement and countersignalling the high – shows you don’t hold it in awe. One of my friends, descended from a colonial governor, wears work boots and T-shirts smeared with truck grease to Whole Foods. The card the Vikings are pitching is one of CapitalOne’s top cards.
Here we have big deal Wes Anderson treated with humor and irreverence. Countersignal the high.
Before I forget – note the importance of family in the sincere commercial! What is the end of the journey she undertakes? A good marriage! Striver middles, take note.
So how does this tie into UMC relations with credit? First of all, everything is cheaper for the rich. As mentioned with Costco, the prices are lower. When I shop on Amazon, I get special Amazon Business Prime discounts not available to the hoi polloi. You apply corporate discounts, that’s another price cut. But the credit cards play into this. When you spend, you get money or points. These programs synergize. On UberEats, I pay with a Samsung wallet discount offer on UberCash, and those purchases earn Marriott points. So I get cashback on the underlying credit card in the wallet, points with Samsung, points with Uber, points with Marriott, and all of these get redeemed in my normal life – on top of cheaper sticker price to begin with. All in all, my prices are probably 20% less. The rich do not go into debt on the same terms as the poor. Like many things, it’s cheaper to be rich.
But the relationship with debt, like money, also differs. Money and debt are both part of one pool, liquidity. It’s all lumped together. What matters is the cost (opportunity cost + APR, cash has APR 0%), availability in crisis (cash is perfect), and liquidity needs. In that sense, debt is not necessarily a meaningful concept. Debt becomes part of a general pattern of money deployment to maximize asset efficiency. It’s not debt, but leverage, to be used wisely. It’s all of a kind.
Now, for the upper class, which has money for everything, why would they need debt? And generally, they don’t. But there are exceptions. When an upper class family begins to decline, they still need to maintain their social and philanthropic obligations. It’s all they know. In those times, you begin to see noble estates take on debt. And as these estates become increasingly indebted, they reach a crisis point. They have to act. Let’s take a look at an example. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a grain glut and economic shifts led to the collapse in value and income of vast landed estates, a ruinous event for great magnates and small alike. In Eastern Europe, the result was communism and collectives run by these very nobles. But in Britain? The great lords decided on marriage. They went across the pond and found wealthy heiresses.
The birth of an Anglo-American empire.
The birth of its champion.
Churchill was the fruit of such a union.
His old (American) home is down the road from my lake house. Like I said, the decline and fall of upper class families? That shapes world history.
henlo pals i am a frenly guy here to exposit a thing okay thanks
You ever think about like… clothes? Man, why do we even wear clothes? To cover our nudity? Man, that’s fucking stupid. This is a total grift, and, bro, bro, this is such a fucking racket! Let’s get in on it! That’s always my first instinct when I find a racket, as the good value transference parasite I am (Still the best, two millennia and counting, arguably three!)
So let’s talk about this racket. Why do people buy clothes? To cover themselves, obviously. But also, to express tribal identity, hence all the amusing novelty graphic tees. And what is the biggest racket in the market? You know what I’m going to say if you’re a regular reader of the blog, and I know there are literally dozen of you. Luxury. The attempt to signal wealth through clothing. So let’s talk about that.
Most people’s first instinct would be to aim upscale or ultra-upscale. At the highest heights, maybe you sell something for $100,000 – once. Once a year. That’s not much fodder for your business, and there is a shit load of variance. I saw a art piece that struck my fancy, but the low five figure price tag didn’t fit the budget. It’s still for sale, years later. Unless you’re one of the few that arbitrarily strikes a mood (and if you do, milk that hard), your prices can only rise so high, and your volume will be anemic. So maybe less upscale, less tailored, something more for the broad upper class. Let’s widen our market to centimillionaires and their cadet branches. There were 50,000 centimillionaires a few years back, probably quite a few more now, and there are associated families with those. We can reasonably eyeball our global upper class market as a few hundred thousand households. Now you’ve got a much larger customer base! Still, they can’t dig as deep into their pockets, right? But you can still charge them a couple hundred bucks. So you open up your store, call it Taul Spuart, and you sell 10,000 sport jackets for $300 each and make a snappy $3,000,000 and then sell 10,000 more shirts for $100 each and call it a day. Hey, that’s weird. By sliding down the class totem pole, we made more money.
Is there a pattern here? Let’s move down again. Let’s start selling to the upper middle class. Now our market is a whopping 5% of the population. Sure, maybe we have to cut the price per shirt to like, $40, but we are literally selling millions of shirts now. Profit goes up again. Incredible. But if we keep chopping prices, we’ll have no profit margin, right?
Well, that’s the magic of it. In 1980, a book came out called The Official Preppy Handbook. The retailer pimped, LL Bean, was a fairly standard retailer catering to upper middle class clientele. What happened to it? Now middle class shoppers were clamoring to buy their products. Obviously, prices had to drop to accommodate poorer customers, right? Wrong. Prices doubled, tripled, sometimes even quadrupled. A LL Bean shirt in 1980 was only twice the cost of a Sears shirt. Since then, the cost of a LL Bean shirt has far outpaced inflation. Profits went up an order of magnitude. Girbaud, an upscale jeans brand, was appropriated by blacks. Since that point, the price has doubled in inflation-adjusted terms. The pants were more expensive than commodity pants, but part of that is just the cost of materials and the cost of having a smaller market. The truth is that the upper middle class exists in an awkward valley where they are extremely stingy relative to other classes as a proportion of their income, and thus demand lower prices to buy anything. Hence, core UMC stores like Costco run on discount stores. The thrift store, when it was classy and not for bandwagon grifters, was a cheap way to pick up novelty clothing that smelled like urine, the urine smell adding a level of class by shocking prudish middle class assholes. When I shop at Amazon, I get special discounts on top of Prime thanks to Amazon’s Special Rates For Rich Assholes program. Credit card companies and banks induce their mass affluent/millionaire customers to spend more by enticing them with generous point and reward programs, while hitting the proles and middle class with intrusive credit score requirements and fees.
If you can market your product to the middle class, you take that opportunity. Now you’re selling $100 shirts again, but even more than before. And at the end of the day, it’s all the same plastic crap anyways. You’ve got plastic crap for the upper class, for the upper middle, for the middle, for the proles. The main difference is that the plastic of the very rich is made by slaves in Italy, not China. Still plastic crap. But what people buy is not the actual product, but the image of the product. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Middloids on Le Reddit insist Walmart shirts disintegrate into plastic goo within a year, when I’ve got hand-me-downs going strong for years now. For all intents and purposes, that’s perfect durability.
But wait, why would the middle class pay so much for ordinary plastic clothing? Because they believe it conveys an image of being classier than they are. After all, they can afford “designer” now. But that puts you into a bind. In order to keep selling, you have to maintain the image of being upper class or at least upper middle class while simultaneously being far more accessible and downmarketed. That’s the dance of mass fashion. Ignore morons who talk about Burberry burning coats to keep them out of the hands of hobos. The amount of coats Burberry can burn can’t possibly put a dent in global supplies – shock, they destroyed millions in merchandise! What a terrible destruction of stock for a company that pulls in billions! It’s a fraction of a WHOLE PERCENT! You lose an order of magnitude more stock to shrinkage. What it can do, however, is reinforce a narrative of exclusivity and prestige. The intended audience, who falls for it hook, line, and sinker, is the middle class, which eagerly shlicks itself to the idea of buying merchandise that can’t possibly fall into the hands of those deplorable proles, while also being able to masturbate to the feeling of virtue signalling about designer clothing for hobos. The prestige dance can be helped along by actually having genuine upper middle class products or upper class products while producing a gaudier, more expensive version for the middle class. Bigger logo, anyone? To illustrate with another kind of example, a $125 tasting menu at some celebrity chef’s shitty 1 star Michelin restaurant is a genuine upper middle class experience, the counterfeit of spending $1000 for a gold-plated steak and a selfie with a celebrity of non-chef persuasion is middle class at best. But the latter is more expensive than the former.
Marketing is fake and bullshit, so what? You’re probably rolling your eyes at these observations you already made in grade school. Well, the act of marketing itself makes an image. And that image is not a true reflection of reality, but an exaggerated distortion. Just as Instagram creates unrealistic images of female appearance, marketing creates unrealistic images of tribal identities. Take my good friend, the Iraqistani Hebroid. When inebriated, one of his favorite rant topics is about the beautiful blond goys and their exclusive fucking country clubs and their Dartmouths and their boating. This is a very insane topic of conversation. The reason why it is insane is because half the people in his rich Jewland are blond, his family has been life members in a club since the 19th century, his relatives went to said white bro Dartmouth, and he is such a boater, he only knows how to boat and can’t drive. I fucking drive him. The conscious mind recognizes that this is unreasonable. But the unconscious mind does not. What the unconscious mind sees is a lifetime growing up on LL Bean and J Crew ads showing impossibly beautiful people on boats. The unconscious mind understands that the self is not an impossibly beautiful person on a boat, and thus nurses a resentment against an image that does not exist. In fact, the image is meant to depict a tribe which he is certifiably a member of, the Judeo-Puritan ruling elite, so that the masses might admire their Calvinism. But the image is so distorted that the Funhouse mirror reflection becomes a figure of superiority to taunt him. Rich people will do a lot to self-confirm their own membership in the tribe. In the past, striver New Money Americans would invent new genealogies tying them back to European noble titles, which is why genealogical documents and Ancestry websites today are totally trustworthy and true. In the more recent past of a few years ago, autism was a physical proof of bluebloodness, so grown ass men would pay to get fake diagnoses of autism to confirm their own superiority of blood. For my part, back in university, I would Banepost with my college roommate, another aristocrat, in real meatspace. The waiters were in awe of our Calvinism, or at least they were paid enough to pretend to be.
But what if the neuroticism of the rich doesn’t bother you? It should. Here’s the moneyshot. What is the figure that all people are compared to and found wanting? Fussell famously said that every American wants to live like the upper middle class, but I’d like to add my own addendum – but they’d like to look like the white middle class while doing so. It is a fact that middle class white people are the most beautiful people, which is why they are used as the pretty person when not diversity pandering. But the fact that white middle class people are used to model all these distorted identities means that all sorts of insane tribes are ascribed onto them subconsciously. They become the targets of every status resentment, and marketing works by creating status anxiety and status resentment. In short, unrestricted capitalism, even without the woke component, creates marketing, and marketing is all implicitly anti-white by aligning the resentments of all non-white middle class people (and, for that matter, white middle class people who resent the fake marketing images of wealth) against an imagined figure that looks like… the white middle class.
Ogilvy said that the best advertisement is infotainment. How foolishly the wisdom of elders has been ignored.
A second effect is that over time, these constructed images and reality yaw farther and farther apart. The image of rich people that most people have is some kind of indifferent white Republican with boomercon views. That’s been outdated since the 1920s. They think rich people are conservative, when conservatism is indisputably low rent. I express my conservative leanings among my peers by identifying as a fucking Marxist-Leninist. That’s how you signal family values and support for Trump without getting cancelled. My image of factories is a conglomeration of media images of British satanic mills, and I worked as an engineer in a fucking modern factory. Just like with LL Bean, the image overrides the truth. People simp for tradwheats in sundresses when those thots have a high body count than Hiroshima. What kind of a woman dresses up as a tradwheat? A woman who wants to drown in male attention – a whore, in short.
The key problem is that most of us aren’t wired to handle signals and tribal outfits changing so fast. They change so fast because free societies permit cheap signals to be appropriated quickly, but any large tribe necessarily must have relatively cheap signals. Tradwheat quickly becomes a thot sign, because the form and the function are not inherently aligned. We’re looking for the old stereotypes, but the stereotypes are constantly changing in real life, helped along by marketing departments manipulating them to drive up profits. Autism is high status before, but is it high status now that low rent moms use it to excuse the behavior of their shitty children? That’s just a few years of change. Nothing sticks long enough to form coherent cultural narratives. We exist in a constant state of agitation and status anxiety, and Uncle Capital has the answer for only 20 payments of $29.99.
The most status insecure of all, the downwardly mobile middle class white, thus becomes the archetypal consoomer, filling the identity void with infinite amounts of expensive plastic crap. His race is devalued, his class is in trouble – what’s a man to do but watch MARVEL CAPESHIT KABOOM?
So what did ye olden people do? It’s like there was a problem like this in China, where names and realities went out of sync. It required a sort of rectification of names. A formal designation of things, so to speak. A formalism. That’ll work. Let’s call these sumptuary laws, dictating exactly what people of a specific caste can look like. Perfect!
One problem is that people will do what they can to circumvent those laws so they can signal higher status than they have. The second problem – how do you decide who is a noble, who is a burgher, etc? In Ancien France, they self-identified during the census. Yes, sir, I am most def a noble, pinky swear. But we can do better, right? What if we created some kind of institution of autists that screened other autists for the proper autism, and if they could successfully defend a statement of autism, then a panel of King Autists would give them the vaunted designation of PotatoHead Douchebag, and Emperor von Hipsburg could send them a letter of baronhood in the mail. Surely they would never devalue the prestige of their own name by issuing far too many degrees for short-term monetary gains, since they are institutions with centuries of history and a long and unalienable connection with noble culture. Old problems demand new solutions.
Next time you’re talking to someone and the labels get thick and confusing, use this.
Class is a sticky socio-economic concept.
When someone says “UC” or “UMC” or what have you, they could mean any of the things to the right.
Church’s conception of class is basically three career tracks or life paths. A young E begins their life in E4 and tries to scrabble upwards. They start with a ticket punched to join the ranks of America’s professionals, but often have their eyes on higher things. A G dues pays their way up until they arrive at a comfortable G2 position. These are the people who go to the Big City to “make it”. Labor people develop skills and certifications to advance, while paying their dues in time. These represent three ways of making your way through the world. You can vaguely call them “connections”, “culture”, and “skills”. Church is bigoted against Es, who he considers vaguely sinister at best and downright Satanic Illuminati evil at worst.
The Fussell conception of class is more like different ethnotribes. You can imagine three different tribes, “Uppers”, “Middles”, and “Proles”, with their own customs and cultures. There are, in turn, little clans with their own quirks within the three. That the classes happen to be arranged hierarchically is less significant than the three basically being distinct populations with their own unique physiognomies and cults. They eat differently, drink differently, speak differently, and play differently. Fussell is bigoted against “Middles”, who he considers pretentious, snobby, spendthrift pikers.
The money conception of class is rarely expounded formerly by any academic or bloggers, but it’s probably the most naturally American. Class is your money, and class can be bought. The economic brackets I have highlighted can be thought of the status of established households. You will note the considerable overlap. This is intentional. Each economic class imparts different attitudes about money. For the uppers, they simply do not understand money, just as a fish does not know what water is. How could they? For the upper middles, money is a tool of influence and power, used to extend one’s reach. Debt and hard cash are interchangeable as “liquidity”. Two attitudes predominate: “Ambitious” and “Contemptuous”. The ambitious mindset is possessed by those well-aware of their own lowliness, who feel the knife cutting lightly into their dangling gonads. The contemptuous mindset is possessed by bohemians, who turn their back on a life of striving to go live in a dumpster. The middle segment sees money as a way of obtaining fine goods, the better things in life, and to keep up with the Joneses. Their watchword is “comfortable”, they are born into “comfort”, then spend their adulthoods trying (and sometimes succeeding!) in regaining that “comfort”, banishing money anxiety from their minds. The working and lowers experience money as a fleeting thing, to be spent as soon as it is seen, before it darts away. In fat times, they purchase bling like jewelry and TVs and boats. In lean times, they clip coupons and try not to starve.
The common terms are basically a hodge-podge medley of all these concepts. And this occurs partly because it is true. People of the “UMC” world might interact with Es who were born into professional jobs, Gs who finally clawed their way into being G2, and labor elite business owners. Trump might act like a member of Fussell’s Prole tribe, but he still lives among people of the “UC”. It’s very easy to imagine a teacher knowing a cop, even though a cop is the better sort of prole/L, while a teacher is a “Middle” or a G.
I cantered on over to the Crimson Crustacean, a chain cafeteria which is common ‘cross this continent, to chow on cooked clawed creatures and cows. Some of you may be saying, Monsieur, that’s not classy. To you, I say, those who put class over cash in the long run find themselves parted of both. Over many centuries, money talks and bullshit walks. Although, if someone had pointed a butter knife in my direction, I would have found myself short cash, class, and clothing.
It’s enough to make someone support a knife ban, isn’t it?
But you’re not here to listen to me talk about what I eat, even if sometimes I eat that wonder of the post-post-post-post-Modern post-scarcity age, the Eleventy Layer Quasispace Chalupa, the pride and joy of Taco Town (may the maior and the magister chililitarum live forever). So then, the main course.
It is often said, especially by old people, that an armed society is a polite society. And this was remarked by that venerable scholar, Thorstein “50 Cent” Veblen, that barbarians tend to be quite well mannered. “The barbarian of the quasi-peaceable stage of industry is more notoriously a more high-bred gentleman, in all that concerns decorum, than any but the very exquisite among the men of a later age, bitch nigga.” And it’s true that even I, of the genteel castes, am a rather rude fellow compared to even the Victorians, my nigga. It is only because the fucking shitty manners of the lower orders are even dogbothering worse that I pass for mannered. And it is true that I am hopelessly confused by cutlery, that I find the notion of restaurant dress codes outrageously outdated (though it was only a few decades ago), and many other things. A quick survey of the early Middle Ages confirms Veblen’s notion that ages of industry and learning and ages of war and politeness are inversely related. And why wouldn’t they be? Besides displaying leisure, politeness serves an important purpose in regulating the tendency of the warlike towards feud and random violence. What keeps people prim and proper is the threat of physical violence. In the World War International Netweb, there is no way to hit a bitch, so everyone’s asshole grows three sizes that day, threatening to consume human decency like a giant yawning goatse.
Hell, it seems like the malpractice of modern mastication alone would drive Miss Manners mad. Motherfucking monkey testicles. Gadzooks. So what does this matter? Politeness is the keeping of behavioral codes. Well, functionally, so is morality for most people. While I find ethical arguments and theology fascinating, most people do not. For most people, morality is a set of things they shouldn’t do because reasons. Even those who get off the Christianity train usually end up on the crypto-Christianity train, where they do all the things that Christians do except they justify it by some vague appeals to a fuzzy universal morality. They’re still essentially keeping the Christian codes. It’s like Western Buddhists. They’re just funny Christians who worship Buddha like he’s Christ. Truly alien moralities are just that, alien.
Creating conlangs is hard not because creating language is fundamentally hard but because we are bad at top down modelling of processes that are the result of a bunch of tiny modifications over time.
Human brain can’t into catallaxic effects arising from networks. That’s why proles perceive world politics as a vast conspiracy by the Illuminati, because world politics is the emergent order from an incredibly wide and ancient network that makes me, the nobody Monsieur le Baron, a second degree connection to multiple heads of state, and means almost every upper middle class person knows a centimillionaire or billionaire. The vast, byzantine Illuminati plans that span centuries are more the product of investments by people with a certain level of FTO. If normal humans have low FTO, and the conscientious, child-delaying or childfree middle class person has high FTO, then this level of FTO is stratospheric. Comparatively low FTO aristocrats like fatty fat fatty no self-control Lena Dunham live lives like high FTO prole city people, except the latter are convinced they’re exemplars of self-control, and Lena Dunham is a sister-molesting cow who lives by the spur of the moment (this moment is defined as one whole human lifetime). The idea that Lena Dunham isn’t planning for generations down the line is appalling to me. The idea that *anyone* could be investing for generations down the line is deeply alien to the prole. So, world conspiracy. I could go on, but I digress. Another time.
Adhering to ancient traditions when the context is rapidly changing is a recipe for disaster. No point in mastering seal-hunting if there ain’t no more seals. No point in mastering the manners of being a courtier if there ain’t no more royal court. Etc.
So why does politeness decline as we leave the age of warriors? Politeness is the keeping of a bunch of arbitrary behavior codes. In a rapidly changing industrial society, this presents a comparative disadvantage. To the innovative go the spoils. So having good manners, being socially conservative, makes you a weaker in the status battle. Or, as previously discussed, leftism is the language of power, rightism the language of losers. A tradition is not valid outside its context, industrial societies rapidly invalidate contexts.
So what? Monsieur, isn’t this all obvious. My apologies, but I was dropped on my head a lot, so I have to slowly spell things out. Furthermore, the obvious does not go stated often enough. There are too many contrarians and not enough metacontrarians. An armed society is a polite society is a quaint aphorism, and it doesn’t come with a justification because it’s held to be self-evident. So people throw it aside because they don’t have a good rational story for it.
So let’s get to something new. Why is neo-reaction, a predominately middle class movement, so attracted to the idea of the Kshatriya? We’ll throw out a lot of stated reasons right away. The high FTO, caring, responsible ruler, to the extent he exists, is a scholar-aristocrat, not a warrior-aristocrat. Unlike these lowborns, I have the advantage of witnessing military bloodlines myself. A knight, like any other jughead, loves Camaros and lives a reckless lifestyle. Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse to ghostride your bitchin’ Camaro. The reign of warriors is not the reign of Fnargl, it’s the reign of turning your national GDP into lots of Camaros and Dependapotami. So what are some real reasons to support the Kshatriya meme? Well, for one, it allows this band of usurpers and oathbreakers concerned citizens to seize power, since, obviously, a bunch of internet bloggers are the *true* warrior aristocracy we’ve been waiting for, which legitimates their claim to overthrow the existing elite. But, to be quite frank, I don’t think many people are fooled by this.
The second reason is more deep rooted. I’ve said before that the middle class is the keeper of morality. In Victorian times, they were the paragons of respectability. They called it bourgeois norms and respectability. Today, they are the most strident globohomos, the ones that walk their talk. Now, if a clever bourgeois notices something is up with globohomo morality, they are naturally disgusted. They would want a return to a polite society. And who offers the polite society? The armed society.
The warrior aristocracy.
Alles in Butter, not just my lobster tail.
Every dog has its day, even celebrities, though Hollywood types are all sons of bitches. And one day, the Kshatriya will ride atop their steel horses, and there will be much weeping and revving of Camaros.
Next time maybe, I fill in for the Sad One and explain the essential similarities between Ayn Rand and Karl Marx. It’s Economics for Dummies with Monsieur.
Eats to fill the void in his head,
Monsieur le Baron
Witness the city of steel and silicon. Prostrate yourself before the throne of code.
Do you see the many petitioners? Do you see the glories which have been wrought?
To land in SJC is to land in another world. The air is thick with the scent of hierarchy.
The Second Estate lives. It reigns. All fall beneath it.
The machine men drink deep of globohomo and commune with the spirit of transcendent aristocracy.
It is strong.
It is confident.
It is hateful.
And it will not be denied.
In order to successfully reach the elite, a group needs strong asabiya. It must have the unity to form a meaningful organization. It must have the unity to assert one shared narrative of gentility, lest it be relegated to the category of mere “labor”. And ultimately, it must have unity of purpose, to be able to assert the necessity of its mission to the existing elite, and if need be, the unity to wage a war against it, just as the doctors defeated the old families of France and their ancient fortunes, subsuming them into their group. At long last, engineering has done so.
But a group with the asabiya to do all of this has the asabiya to go further. Just as border people do not stay at their border, so too do prospective elites not stay within their niche. The border men soon turn their sights on new conquests and back towards the center. So too did the men of machines.
In 1968, there was a crisis, a crisis that needed to be solved for the glory of the empire. Talented men flocked to the field to solve the crisis. They developed their own group identity. It had its own culture, a sort of nerd culture, which was in some ways traditionally elitist and aristocratic, loving board games, learning, and disdaining the masses, but also in many ways new. It was excluded from power. But economic necessity grew its strength, year by year. It yearned to be accepted. Bill Gates made electronics popular, then Steve Jobs made them cool. It became acceptable for a young Harvard grad to go into tech.
The men of machines went further, just like the men of medicine before them. In the end, the men of medicine sought to remake society in their own image. They changed the societal narrative to a biological one. So too did the men of machines go and take other industries. What is the difference between Uber and a taxi service? What is the difference between AirBnB and traditional hospitality? The difference lies in the narrative. The former are “tech companies”. That means they embody the tech company ethos, not the ethos of taxis or hotels. Tech went off the reservation. Bankers became quants, half-math and half-man. Trades went higher and higher frequency. Everything was and is to be technocratized. The words of the machine men went back to the center, to the Establishment. Everything would become agile. Everything needed management metrics. Everything would be technological, rational, data-driven. The Cloud had come, and Big Data was its prophet.
This is another turning of the elite cycle. Big whoop. It happens all the time. Why is it significant now?
Because of *why* Anglo society rejected the message of the machine men. Machines are things to be manipulated and changed to suit one’s purposes. Inputs and outputs. But in a land of sacred individuality and liberty, men could never be reduced to mere numbers.
This isn’t just a turning of the elite cycle. It is also a turning of our color cycle. The sacred ideology of liberty has been overturned. And so, the machine men reign. The machine men, the engineers, will most likely be the elites leading us through the final days of this stage of the color cycle, the final secular cycle of Anglo liberty, and into the brave new world that comes afterwards. In between, there will be conflict, and possibly even civil war. The empire long united…
The years will pass, and there will be cycles past that. Who will succeed the engineers? Nobody knows. But nerd culture is fascinated with Megacorporations and a marketized world. Everything for sale. No rights but property rights. What a world that would be. Such would be the work of Mad Men.
Writes articles just to make shitty puns,
Monsieur le Baron
Urist was punched in the head, bruising the brain and severing his nerves. I’m afraid I shall have to be your host today, shabby though I am.
Let’s get to it.
One of Turchin’s cycles is the asabiya cycle. Groups have asabiya – a sense of identity and cohesion. Asabiya forms along borders, where two groups are in conflict for long periods. Asabiya, the identity, is thus most strong near the edges of the territory it encompasses. Of course this is so, for without the other, there is no meaningful distinction to the self. Identities define their self, *who we are*, in opposition to the other, *who we are not*. Therefore on the borders, we see the most cultural conditioning.
It is the borders which are the seeds of great empires. It is ultimately the borderlands that unite the whole and make great conquests. China is periodically invaded by steppe nomads and marcher lords. Germany was united by the Prussians, half-Slav, half-German mongrels. Rome was a city on seven hills, but also a city on the border. America was a frontier state before it was the USG world empire.
But there is more than inter-group conflict. There is also intra-group conflict. Class conflict. Classes are also identities, just as national identities are identities. When they come into sustained conflict, this identity will grow stronger. Where do we see the most cultural conditioning today? Where are the borders of our classes?
On one side of the divide, we have the last of the prestige firms fighting for their survival in otherwise middle class fields. I speak of Accounting and Marketing. At places like EY and PwC, there is more cultural conditioning and orientation than I’ve seen anywhere else. That’s it means to be a marcher – it means fighting for your soul at every turn. Below you, the oblivion of the middle class. The Age of Mad Men never got off the ground. While they began to gather their strength, ultimately, society would reject its message. Yes to consumerism, but no to marketizing everything. The age of SEC-regulated kidtax and kid derivatives markets is yet to come. The Mad Men sleep, let them sleep a while longer.
And who lies on the other side of the divide? We shall see soon.
The beginnings of an aristocratic group are driven by economic need. A new field is born as a result of economic or cultural shifts. But there are many jobs out there, not all prestigious. Which drives the difference? When a job forms, it ideally would like to be as prestigious as possible. If it can do that, it maximizes the earnings of its members while minimizing their work. But how can it do that? First, it must make a stake to skill, to differentiate it from the unskilled masses. But many prolish occupations are highly skilled. To raise its status further, a job ought to make a claim to gentility, to claim that it is not just mere labor. This is something that accounting and marketing definitely do. But it is clearly not enough. To become aristocratic, a group must be accepted by the aristocracy. This requires more than just an economic need. It requires high society to accept its mission, its reason to be. It must impress upon high society the urgency of its spirit and the necessity of changing to accommodate it.
In the beginning, there were the warriors. Long ago, even before the beginning, there were scientists too, but the chaos had sent them away. The warriors battled and left carnage in their wake. At its basest level, government is the monopoly of force, and power the only law. But such a state of existence is a brutish one. As the kings grew in power, they desired to bring an end to the fighting and to bring the warlords to heel. For that, they needed centralized. Bureaucracy. Laws.
When you need law, you need men of law. But need the men of law be important? They must be if you are to be ruled by laws, and not men. And so rose the lawyers. The curtains closed on the Medieval Era. There was peace, of a sort. But with internal peace came external war. The states grew strong, and in their strength, they grew greedier. The crowns of Europe went to war, again and again. And the sinews of war were golden coins.
Governments needed money. Lots of money. The cry was answered, and so were born the money men. But, it turned out, money could be used for more than war. It could be used for development projects and long-term planning. Bigger, better, and more prosperous. The banking clans grew fat and happy. In the background, innovation continued its steady clip. And soon, a new thing was available to be financed. Wondrous machines that could save labor and multiply manpower like nothing ever seen before. One by one, the estates of Europe were mortgaged and smokestacks filled the sky. The machine men took the reins.
Except in Merry Old England. The Anglos accepted the Industrial Revolution, but not its implications. The Anglo economy changed, but Anglo society carried on. Stiff upper lip. The engineers of Britain formed a professional organization, changed the economy, and lobbied hard for recognition. But ultimately, their mission was not found to be compelling. The societal revolution of the machine men was denied, because of some mysterious X factor. Britain carried on much as it was. Among the British, engineer came to mean something similar to “mechanic”, a mere technical specialist.
The doctors had slumbered. While they had made their own colleges, their remedies had always been ineffective. No longer. As Europe prospered, it grew wise. And the secrets of life made themselves clear. Wondrous tonics and remedies multiplied. The machine men made men wealthy, but the medicine men would make them whole. And wasn’t society itself the body politic? Couldn’t it, too, be cured of what ailed it? New cities must be built, healthier cities. New works will be made, to protect the public health. But still, there lurked a cancer. Some of the denizens did not belong in this pure society. They were unclean. They had to be excised. It was time for chemotherapy.
Across the sea, the ad men attempted to usher in their ad age. They failed.
But in the hidden war rooms of the new USG world empire, NATO, a problem was being discussed. They called it the crisis of software engineering.
The year was 1968.
The X factor was Anglo liberty.
We are now ready to see who sits on the other side of the divide.
Looking for the hidden fun stuff,
Monsieur le Baron
It is early, it is late. There is coffee, there is melatonin. It is in these twilight hours just after waking and just before morning where the mind wanders free and light, past the boundaries of convention. It is at transition points that interesting effects occur. Fussell once said that America would be interested in class if someone made a work telling the stories of the boundaries, where the ghetto person becomes bougie, and where the struggling aspirant claws their way towards the upper middle class. If only there was someone to explicate the boundaries.
Why does old money disdain new money anyways? Is there a reason for it?
For that matter, why are those media types so disgustingly crass and prolish?
Well, the main goal of old money is to perpetuate itself indefinitely. As they say, three generations makes a gentleman. Why would you want to insulate yourself from new money? In the conventional view, there’s no reason to. They’ve got all the talent and the energy. But evolution doesn’t end at the neck, does it? Someone who has the talent to make it to the top doesn’t necessarily have the *genetic* talent to make it to the top. That is, there is regression to the mean. Some of that talent is going to be from environmental factors. And some of that success was just plain luck.
When you marry into the glitterati, you’re marrying someone that’s basically just a prole, but an extremely lucky prole. Luck is not heritable. The force of regression is going to carry you right back into the trailer park. Media types should rightly be shunned as perpetual new money. What they touch, they corrupt. The Met Gala was once respectable. Just look at it. Look at them. I mean, come on. Come the fuck on. I believe that’s proof enough of my point.
But what about the talented outsiders? That’s where the most danger lies. That handsome young lawyer may seem like a great bet, but *you have no idea how much of that talent is genetic*. A lawyer who makes more than a million a year sits at the top of their field. But if that’s an upwardly mobile lawyer and not a hereditary lawyer, then their kid might be fucking garbage. Selecting for old money means eliminating the noise. If a family sticks around for grandfather, father, and finally your new son-in-law, then you can be assured that their skill has genetics underlying it. Reasonably assured, anyways.
But a separation of middle and upper middle also has a secondary purpose. There are cultural boundaries between the two.
The middle class is “crass” and “boorish”. They shop at Target. They mistreat the staff. They buy Margaritaville mixers and wild, showy things. They flaunt their alleged wealth at every opportunity. In short, fuck ’em.
The upper middle is “snobby” and “dishonest”. They shop at Costco – a warehouse, really? It’s so not nice! And it’s full of that Kirkland store brand instead of real brands. In fact, how do your stuff won’t wear out if it’s not branded? And they lie. They lie through their teeth. Look at their universities – full of cheating and corruption. They’re clannish. They lack Hajnal values good character. In short, fuck ’em.
Who polices these norms? They’re policed by moralizers. Moralizers take shared cultural norms and moralize them, such that matters of taste become matters of right and wrong. It’s not just wrong to shop at Target, it’s EVIL. When moralizers from two different groups meet, it ends in conflict. While matters of taste can be dismissed, the same cannot be said for matters of good and evil. The proximity of the classes will lead to class warfare. With the end of the formal nobility, the classes are closer than ever. Before, the elites could be checked by intra-elite warfare. But with the introduction of the middle class, they are able to find a common enemy.
How can the two classes come to interact peacefully? For that matter, how do two sides ever come to agreement? There are equilibriums of compromise and equilibriums of conflict. 2/3rds of pro-life and pro-choice people have the same view – abortion, but restricted abortion. But the conflict between pro-life and pro-choice is deep and polarizing. It’s not because of false consciousness, it’s because the markers of pro-life and pro-choice constitute tribal boundaries. Having become a tribal issue, it behooves one to fight for the tribe’s identity, and to assert a more extreme version of the stance in order to distinguish one’s self from the enemy. The settling point of abortion DOES tend to be near the natural compromise point. But it settles there through conflict and cyclical movement. As you approach an extreme, less of your tribe fights and more of the enemy tribe fights. The momentum of one tribe stalls out as it approaches its ideal (its members don’t actually happen to want that ideal). If views change, conflict consensus will naturally adjust the settling point. It’s an organic settlement. Compromise equilibriums are ant farm equilibriums. They minimize short-run microconflicts at the cost of a bigger conflict erupting much later. In Taleb terms, conflict is antifragile and compromise is fragile.
Ironically, compromises are more foundational to a culture, not less. Compromises on heavily disputed issues simply won’t take. So a compromise that survives must exist on or create ground which is in common. It must either be in or form a low dispute environment. Its assumptions must be largely shared. And those assumptions being shared creates a feedback loop causing those assumptions to become more and more shared.
What is the core compromise at the heart of American culture? An agreement, loved by no one, for the classes to come to peace. We call this compromise Anglo liberty.