The patterns are beginning to coalesce in genuinely illuminating ways.
I’ve written about America’s elite – actually, twice now – out of a sense that I ought to be able to light a few cranial bulbs merely by stressing the fact of its existence. After all, an elite is something “we’re not supposed to have,” at least in the political sense. No kings, princes, dukes, earls, counts, viscounts, barons, marquises, or whatnot allowed, right? Shall we all shout DEMOCRACY!! as one, preferably in the key of C?
And yes, a few people did write to say that they’d been disturbed by the notion. Mildly, anyway. Yeah, yeah. Now tell us about corporate takeovers.
It seems my fulminations were missing something.
The indispensable Ace of Spades supplies the critical element: Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
- Immediate survival.
- Security against threats, immediate or potential.
- Acceptance by a valued group.
...which Ace recasts from an explicitly political viewpoint:
- Security from bandits, invaders, Vikings, street criminals.
- Security from harassment or assault from government officials themselves. (Note that 1 and 2 can easily flip depending on which is more threatening, but generally, states are formed to defend a land against outside conquerers and then that state moves on to conquering its own people.)
- Security from social or cultural degradation and being assigned to an officially or semi-officially inferior caste -- think "Civil Rights." Think casual slurs directed at any group.
- Big picture, gut level, philosophy-defining questions, such as on abortion, the sanctity of marriage, whether the state will permit personal property or whether it will all be shared, whether criminals will be treated leniently or punitively, etc.
- More wonkish refinements of the big-picture gut level items -- whether or not we'll have a border adjustment tax or an Ex-Im Bank or whether we will declare as a nation that we will go to war with Russia if it threatens Estonia, even though we all know it doesn't matter what we say, we won't go to war, but it's important for our self-esteem to claim we might.
I might quibble over the placement of particular items in certain categories, especially at levels 4 (Self-esteem) and 5 (Self-actualization), but on the whole Ace has captured the political implications of Maslow’s hierarchy quite well.
The insight here is so large that even a Certified Galactic Intellect can overlook it, purely out of the inability to “see the edges:”
If you’re not a member of the American political elite – and I severely doubt that one of them would bother reading Liberty’s Torch – until quite recently your level 4 criteria were all satisfied, and you spent your time and attention at level 5. For us of the hoi polloi, “the action” is elsewhere:
- Some of us are under immediate, survival-endangering attack (level 1);
- Many Americans are struggling for self-sufficiency (level 2);
- Acceptance can be elusive if your circle is politically divided (level 3);
- And many Americans’ self-regard is challenged by recent events (level 4).
Very few non-elite Americans are fortunate enough to operate at the level of self-actualization.
The property that determines whether one is a member of the political elite is access to power: more specifically, power over the non-elite. Such access virtually guarantees the elitist the satisfaction of his levels 1 through 4...or it did until recently.
The election of Donald Trump, and the stunning discovery that he means to carry through on his promises, is of course at the base of the upheaval. The elite sees Trump and his agenda as an existential – i.e., level 1 – threat.
It was as though a foreigner had usurped the throne, not necessarily a bad man, but a different man who didn’t assemble people from the Establishment. They’d waited patiently for him to come to them, as all presidents did, to seek their wisdom and counsel, to give access and get it in return, as courtiers had for centuries. They handled things for a busy chief, doling out justice, seeing to it that things were done in the same old way, which had to be the right way, since all of their number agreed with it while serving and being served by it.
But the old system hadn’t so much been destroyed as ignored, and that befuddled the thousands of members of the Great Network. They held their cocktail parties and discussed the new President over Perrier and pate, smiling tolerantly at his new ideas and waiting for him to see the light. But it had been quite a while now since that awful night, and it hadn’t happened yet. Networked people still working inside as appointees of the Fowler-Durling Administration came to the parties and reported that they didn’t understand what was going on. Senior lobbyists tried to make appointments through the office of the President, only to be told that the President was extremely tied up and didn’t have time.
Didn’t have time?
Didn’t have time for them?
It was as though Pharaoh had told all the nobles and courtiers to go home and tend their estates up and down the river kingdom, and that was no fun—to live in the provinces...with the...common folk?
Perfect. What we grubby groundlings see as a ray of hope, the possibility of salvation from Leviathan’s ever expanding maw, the elites see as a threat to what they value most – and critically, the power that’s brought them the goods we’ve struggled to amass and conserve.
Ace makes the stakes perfectly plain:
Stated as offensively and provocatively as possible (and I'm cribbing this from a cynical friend): Morality is a luxury good. Rich, prosperous countries breed a value of life. Desperately impoverished people will murder people for a meal.
Their protestations about “public service” notwithstanding, the elite are aware that their opulence and status are founded on exploiting their political power over the rest of us. Moreover, they know that were they in our place, they’d resent such treatment – i.e., what they’ve done to us – and want to take a bloody vengeance. That sense is what makes the ascendancy of Donald Trump a level 1 threat to them.
Accordingly, just now, for the elite, there are no rules. They’ll do whatever they “must” to remove the usurper and reinstate themselves in Their Right and Proper Place.
With that I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.