[Note :I wrote this as a comment to this Victor Davids Hanson post but it ran long enough that I think I will make it an actual post.]
Way back in the ’80s the columnist William Raspberry wrote about a conversation he had at a Washington party.
Looking around at the collection of lawyers, bureaucrats, journalists, academics, etc., he turned to a friend and asked:
“Do you know anybody who makes anything?”
It had suddenly occurred to Raspberry that his entire professional and social circle was comprised of people who more or less did nothing but talk for a living. He had no personal contact with anyone who participated in the creation of any material good. After asking around, he found that he didn’t know anyone who even made things as a hobby. He said, “I couldn’t even find anyone who had made so much as a bookcase.”
That little newspaper column opened my eyes up to the most profound division in modern society. It is not rich vs. poor or ethnic-group/race A vs. ethnic-group/race B or male vs. female etc. It is the division between those who create the real physical wealth of our civilization and those who merely manipulate others by persuasive communication.
The trouble is that the manipulators are always inherently more politically powerful because politics is about persuasion not creation. Worse, the manipulators are completely oblivious to their own ignorance about the materially creative and the process of material creation. Even when they approach a problem with a sincere, unselfish intent to do good, their lifelong restriction inside an insular subculture prevents them from understanding the practicalities of material production.
So we end up with an elite political/culturally-creative class that functions as did the mandarins of traditional China, who were so prideful of their distance from material production that they grew their fingernails to ridiculous lengths to intentionally cripple their hands. They did so to demonstrate that they worked only with their minds. They could not even feed themselves and were proud of it. When the subculture of the mandarins reached that state, their administration of the empire became actively delusional and the collapse of the dynasty soon followed. Then a new crop of mandarins who did value the materially productive would rise from the ashes, but within a generation or two they also would grow just as distant and insular as their predecessors and the cycle would repeat itself.
Now, we too are governed by a class of people who see no value in material production. Oh, they value nebulous “jobs”, but they think any job is as valuable as any other, and so see no problem with driving the materially productive out of their communities (and eventually the country as a whole) and replacing their jobs with jobs in which people just talk to each other. They are actively proud that they shut down factories, farms and prevent the construction of infrastructure. They sneer at the materially productive for being greedy, even while their own lives are fully devoted to obtaining more coercive power over their fellow human beings.
Perhaps, as in many things, the Chinese are the template for all human civilizations. Perhaps the talkers are in the long run always destined to dominate and then destroy every polity. Perhaps we too must suffer through collapse, destruction and rebirth.
As the old Chinese curse says, we may be living in interesting times.