The country is going to hell, whaddya gonna do.
Yesterday I finished reading Chris Hayes’s book “Twilight of the Elites,” and although I enjoyed it, I have to say it was more about the elites than about their twilight.
He focused on the enormous distance between people in society, how the myth of meritocracy is widening that gap (with healthy references to Karen Ho’s book Liquidated, which I blogged about here), and how, as the entrenched elite get more and more entrenched, they get less and less competent.
But Hayes didn’t really paint a picture of how things would end, although he mentioned the Tea Party and Occupy as possible important sources of resistance, not unlike Barofsky’s recent book Bailout (which I blogged about here), in which Barofsky appealed to the righteous anger of the people to whom government is no longer accountable.
Well, I guess Hayes did add one wrinkle which surprised me. He said it would be the upper middle class, educated class that actually foments the coming revolution. Oh, and the bloggers (because the mainstream media is so captured they’re useless). So me and my friends.
His argument is that we are the ones sufficiently educated and sufficiently insiderish that we will be at the window, with our faces pressed against the glass, looking in at the true insider elites, and seeing how stupid and incompetent those guys are, and how they are rigging the system against the rest of us, and we’ll eventually explode with disgust and righteous anger and that will signal the end.
Kind of feels like that’s already happened, but maybe I’m being impatient.
Two things I really enjoyed about his book:
First, the fact that practically everyone thinks they’re an underdog and has fought tooth and nail to succeed in this world. Absolutely true, including the guys I worked with in finance. I think the phrase he used is “people born on third base think they hit a triple”.
Second, he does a really good job describing the never-can-be-too-rich culture of our country; his example of going to Davos is an excellent one and brings that concept to life perfectly.
It’s enough to get you kind of depressed overall, though. If we are to believe this book’s thesis, our entrenched elite and dysfunctional political structure and economic system are doomed to fail at some future moment, and the best we can hope for is a moment where the hypocrisy collapses in on itself. What is there to look forward to exactly?
I asked that of a friend of mine, and how it was getting me down. His advice to me was to own it more. To make the coming apocalypse an event, kind of like the 4th of July or a vacation, that you plan for and enjoy thinking about.
He said plenty of people do this, it’s in fact a huge industry of doom and gloom. The country is going to hell, whaddya gonna do, he said, might as well have some fun with it.
What? Who are these doom and gloom people? Start here, where Dmitry Orlov compares the preparedness of the US to the former USSR for the coming inevitable apocalypse. He calls this the “Collapse Gap”.
It’s got some great points (although he can’t both say that lawlessness ensues and people take what they want, and also say that people behind in their mortgages will be homeless) and it’s really funny as well, in a completely cynical, Russian way of course. My favorite lines:
One area in which I cannot discern any Collapse Gap is national politics. The ideologies may be different, but the blind adherence to them couldn’t be more similar.
It is certainly more fun to watch two Capitalist parties go at each other than just having the one Communist party to vote for. The things they fight over in public are generally symbolic little tokens of social policy, chosen for ease of public posturing. The Communist party offered just one bitter pill. The two Capitalist parties offer a choice of two placebos. The latest innovation is the photo finish election, where each party buys 50% of the vote, and the result is pulled out of statistical noise, like a rabbit out of a hat.