The Phobia(s) That May Destroy America (rerun)

(originally posted in 2012–a rerun seems appropriate under current circumstances)

I am continually amazed by the level of fear, contempt, and anger that many educated/urban/upper-middle-class people demonstrate toward Christians and rural people (especially southerners.) This complex of negative emotions often greatly exceeds anything that these same people feel toward radical Islamists or dangerous rogue-state governments. I’m not a Christian myself, or really a religious person at all, but I’d think that one would be a lot more worried about people who want to cut your head off, blow you up, or at a bare minimum shut down your freedom of speech than about people who want to talk to you about Jesus (or Nascar!)

It seems that there are quite a few people who vote Democratic, even when their domestic and foreign-policy views are not closely aligned with those of the Democratic Party, because they view the Republican Party and its candidates as being dominated by Christians and “rednecks.”

What is the origin of this anti-Christian anti-“redneck” feeling? Some have suggested that it’s a matter of oikophobia…the aversion to the familiar, or “”the repudiation of inheritance and home,” as philosopher Roger Scruton uses the term. I think this is doubtless true in some cases: the kid who grew up in a rural Christian home and wants to make a clean break with his family heritage, or the individual who grew up in an oppressively-conformist Bible Belt community. But I think such cases represent a relatively small part of the category of people I’m talking about here. A fervently anti-Christian, anti-Southern individual who grew up in New York or Boston or San Francisco is unlikely to be motivated by oikophobia–indeed, far from being excessively familiar, Christians and Southern people are likely as exotic to him as the most remote tribes of New Guinea.


Equally exotic, but much safer to sneer at…and here, I think, we have the explanation for much though not all of the anti-Christian anti-Southern bigotry: It is a safe outlet for the unfortunately-common human tendency to look down on members of an out group. Safer socially than bigotry against Black people or gays or those New Guinea tribesmen; much less likely to earn you the disapproval of authority figures in school or work or of your neighbors. Safer physically than saying anything negative about Muslims, as you’re much less likely to face violent retaliation.

Some other factors which I think motivate some people toward the anti-Christian anti-Southern mindset…One is the fear that Christians, especially Southern Christians, are anti-science, and that Republican electoral victories will reduce Federal support for science or even lead to restrictions on scientific research. And indeed, some conservatives/Republicans have been known to make some pretty strange statements, such as Representative Paul Broun’s recent assertion that “All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” But in realistic terms, there is far more threat to U.S. science from “animal rights” terrorists–the vast majority of whom are politically on the Left–than from anti-evolutionists. Also, there are certainly significant pressures on allowable and non-allowable topics for university research emanating from the “politically correct” Left. And numerous followers of “progressivism” are believers in various forms of mysticism, such as magical crystals and a conscious Gaia, which are at least as inconsistent with pure scientific materialism as are the Biblical miracles. At the level of practical technology, the irrational hostility toward nuclear power, genetically-modified crops, etc comes almost entirely from the Left.

Another factor is sex. Many seem to fear that conservatives/Republicans are anti-sex “Puritans,” and will force women into metaphorical (or maybe not so metaphorical!) chastity belts. Democratic Party operatives have done their best to conflate opposition to forcing institutions to pay for birth control with opposition to birth control itself. In reality, of course, no serious Republican national-level politician is remotely proposing the banning of birth control, or for that matter the banning of homosexuality. And, speaking of “Puritanism,” we should also note that the anti-male hostility emanating from certain radical feminists, who are almost entirely creatures of the Left, has done much to poison the relationship between the sexes, especially on college campuses.

Yet another factor involved in fear/hostility toward Christians is historical: it is indeed true that Christianity has often been used as an excuse for religious persecutions. Mary Antin, a Jewish immigrant who came to the U.S. from Russia in the early 1900s, wrote that pogroms in her home country had sometimes been led by priests carrying crucifixes, and it took her several years to get past an instinctual aversive reaction when passing by a Christian church. (She later became acquainted with several American priests and came to respect them for the work they were doing among the poor.) And, of course, the Holocaust was perpetrated largely by people who represented themselves as Protestants or Catholics. But in today’s world, hostility toward Israel…which more than occasionally shades off into outright anti-Semitism…is mainly generated by the “progressive” Left. Surely one is far more likely to encounter anti-Semitism among the members of the church that Barack Obama attended for 20 years than among the members of your typical Southern Baptist church or Catholic parish.

It’s important to understand history, but it’s also very dangerous to identify one’s friends and enemies based entirely on historical considerations while ignoring current realities. I read somewhere of a remote town in Russia where, at the time of the German invasion in 1941, the local Jews looked forward to the coming of the German troops. The town had been occupied during the earlier war, and the German officers of that time–only 20 years earlier–had been considerably less thuggish and anti-Semitic than the homegrown Czarist local officials. The town’s Jews, largely cut off from news of the outside world, did not realize that “German soldier” meant something different in 1941 than it had in 1914. Analogously, “Democratic politician” means something very different in 2012 than it did in 1960.

The primary factor behind anti-Christian/anti-“redneck” feelings is, almost certainly, the fact that these groups offer a convenient target for in-group solidarity and feelings of superiority at the expense of the “other.” To the extent that people not motivated by this factor are considering a vote for Barack Obama and/or other “progressive” Democratic candidates based on concerns about Christians and “rednecks,” they are prioritizing fears which are largely imaginary over dangers which are all too real.

The anti-Christian, anti-“redneck” phobias have been key contributors to the spread of the “progressive” ideology that threatens virtually all aspects of American life, from freedom of speech to national security to economic well-being.

33 thoughts on “The Phobia(s) That May Destroy America (rerun)”

  1. I have three children who can be described as left wing. One, my oldest son, is a trial lawyer and it seems sort of an occupational situation. I cannot talk about politics to him and he has gradually shifted from calling himself libertarian to non-communication. We don’t talk. He was, at the time we last discussed any of this, convinced that I was an ignorant primitive.

    He is married to a professor of psychology in a small college. They live in the Bay Area and he has been contemptuous for years of Orange County, a conservative enclave in left wing California. Recently, his wife, while every bit as left wing as he is, has expressed concerns about their two daughters growing up in the East Bay area which has a horrendous crime rate. It sounds like there is some growing concern that could lead them to move back to the “primitive right wing” Orange County. We’ll see.

    Another child, a daughter, is still willing to talk and expressed her concern to me a few months ago that a Texas school district had decided to teach Creation alongside Evolution in science classes in school. I think it was in elementary school but I am not certain. I asked her if she thought it was more important to teach people to read and do arithmetic than science at this stage of school. She agreed it was. I’m not sure her brother would agree.

    I have had an ugly encounter with the website Ricochet over evolution so I am not advocating Creationism.

    My other son is conservative and his wife is quite religious. I have no idea what she believes about evolution but we do talk about medicine.

    Based on these experiences, I think the left wing people I have talked to are very certain of their superior knowledge and contemptuous of those who disagree on matters of George Bush and Dick Cheney who are devil figures to them who cannot be discussed.

    The reflex defense of Islam is odd. I saw a photo of gay rights marchers carrying a banner defending Islam. Women who are obsessed with feminism should be suspicious of Islam but are not. I wonder why ?

    My personal opinion is that the left lives in a fantasy world where things are as they wish them to be and they are quite angry at anyone who attempts to insert reality into this imaginary world.

  2. Hello David and Mike K.,

    Astute commentary and excellent response, as always.

    On (re)reading and pondering your post (yes, I read it back in 2012!), I can’t but help be reminded of the analysis and conclusions in Christopher Lasch’s brief yet penetrating 1994 essay, “The Revolt of the Elites and The Betrayal of Democracy”.

    Lasch seems to have astutely anticipated – by over two decades – the social and intellectual atmosphere now prevalent in the United States, and it seems, the now-atrophying “West”, as a whole.

    I agree with your conclusion about the underlying, unarticulated motivations of those who malign the religious, Southerners, and those in “flyover country”. Ironically, there are innumerable Americans inhabiting ostensibly “blue” urban areas and the “coasts” who share the ethos of these three disparaged categories!

    In a sense, perhaps all this is best understood as a drive for personal validation (in one’s own eyes) and social status (also in one’s own eyes, let alone the perception of others), where group validation and personal status are viewed as a “zero-sum game”. “I can only be accepted and attain the respect of my peers, if I condemn others; if others fall; if others fail!”

    From my own observations and interactions, I’ve found that people in the demographic you alluded to in your first paragraph – credentialed (overly credentialed?!), elite (and by no means always elite, for this ethos is creeping through all levels of society!) urban (not always urban, anymore!), upper-middle class “professionals” – who manifest these attitudes, rarely offer arguments, analysis, or thought to support their disparaging opinions and mindset. They typically have none. Rather, and what I find to be particularly chilling, they operate on an “as-given”, mentally closed, taken-for-granted set of assumptions about human nature and society.

  3. A couple of points I would make::

    * The Democratic Party of FDR was the party of the working class. Back then the ‘rednecks’ were their core constituency. America was also a much more religious place then, and remained that way until the 1960’s, and Christianity was the primary religion of Americans. (There was also a lot more casual anti-semitism in America then, but nothing like what was found in Europe and Russia.) The Democrats were also the party of segregation.

    * In the late 1950’s, the communists and radicals of the New Left began a takeover of the Democratic Party. JFK was wholly independent of them and saw communism as antithetical to American ideals, but young Bill and Hillary Clinton were deeply influenced by them. From the 1930’s through the 1950’s the Hollywood communists, most refugees from Europe, remained quietly in the background trying to influence themes and writing, but a minority group. In the 1960’s the strongly anti-American, pro-communist, radical Left emerged in Hollywood. They proceeded to destroy it, but not before producing enormous amounts of anti-capitalist, anti-American, and anti-Western-Civilization movies and TV. The atrocities of the communists and 3rd world dictatorships have never been a theme they wished to take up. America was the primary enemy because it stood in the way of the worldwide communist revolution. In Hollywood, the propaganda arm of the New Left, America still is the enemy. It must be fundamentally transformed.

    * The reason Christians and observant Jews have been targeted is the same as the reason they are targeted under any communist/socialist regime. Christianity represents an alternate power, the Judaic God of the Torah and Bible, and the values and ideals contained in those writings. That cannot be tolerated since communism depends on The State and those who control it being Absolute Rulers. They decide values, they decide right and wrong, they decide social processes and norms, they decide outcomes. People are not people, they are ‘the masses’ on which their social experiments will be run until an outcome is achieved which they, the rulers, desire. You as an individual matter not a whit except as fodder to be held up as an example when it’s useful. You are a pawn in their plan, and as such cannot answer to anyone but them. Your Christian or Jewish values are an impediment and must be abolished. ‘Christians’ and ‘rednecks’ and even ‘Zionist’ is now code for people who hold on to old fashioned values. They are now the Enemy of The State.

    * In addition, Zionists and Christians are especially considered Enemies Of The State because they oppose islam, with which The Left have made tacit alliance, because they both see America and its Old Ideals as the common enemy. It is the primary entity that stands between them and absolute power. (In that sense, Obama is their Dark Lord, in more ways than one.)

  4. “One, my oldest son, is a trial lawyer”…..Say no more.

    I have family, liberal progressives, in Oakland. I visited them two years ago and was stunned at what a cesspool that place is. Soul sapping, intergenerational, economic and cultural stagnation, unless you are white or Asian with a minimum of a Masters degree. In which case you get the privilege of paying $800,000 for a 3 bed 1 bath house in the foothills. While stuck in traffic going through Berkeley we were surprised to see not one, but two separate drivers of cars puffing on what appeared to be illicit hardcore drugs while behind the wheel in the gridlock. I would never live there. But the NPR types love it.

  5. MikeInPA wrote: >>Ironically, there are innumerable Americans inhabiting ostensibly “blue” urban areas and the “coasts” who share the ethos of these three disparaged categories!

    Yes, I run into those those folks too here in deep blue MD among the group I work with, who generally lean to the right. We don’t talk a lot of politics, but it does come up occasionally. I find when I press most people about WHY they believe what they do, they can’t tell me. I think most often beliefs are inculcated socially and people don’t actually give them much thought. It’s ‘the right thing’ to think. That’s why saturation propaganda is so effective. Orwell knew this.

  6. The 1972 election was the date of the big shift of the Democrat Party to the left. Humphrey was the last of the old Democrats. My father-in-law knew him and said he was a brilliant guy and fun to be with. In 1968, he was trapped by the Johnson phenomenon and could not compete. Nixon, as hated as he was by many, was still stronger. Trump may be the same phenomenon next year. I don’t like him and think he may have the seeds of a tyranny in him but he seems to be winning, especially the old style Democrats.

    It will be interesting to see what blacks do next year, The BLM idiots seem to me to represent a small radical fringe that may be funded from outside. Soros ?

    College students who are rioting and demonstrating may alienate people the way they did in the 60s.

    I suspect the next few years will be a rough ride.

  7. We all know what happens to “Enemies of the State” eventually.
    “Drawings from the Gulag” illustrates quite well. Peak leftism in action. Don’t look unless you have a strong stomach, the artist knew his subject well, having been a guard in the camps for years.
    Most people have NO CLUE as to the stakes they are playing for.

  8. This business of Christians rejecting evolution: is it an American eccentricity? It’s pretty much unknown in Britain; even the local Roman Catholics seem eventually to have given up their censorship of the idea in their schools.

  9. Mike K
    The reflex defense of Islam is odd.

    Two factors are in operation. First,they are operating from the assumption that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Second, while there is a plethora of evidence to show in this instance that the Islamist enemy of the wingnut enemy is also the enemy of the feminist or gay progs, their being LIVs means that they do not bother to find this out. A further consequence of their being LIV types is that their provincial outlook means that they cannot imagine anyone could actually think differently from themselves, which means that they understand neither Islamists nor wingnuts.

  10. The Evolution thing is odd. Mainstream churches don’t have that much trouble but there is a subgroup who are into literal Bible stuff.

    I was surprised by the reaction at Ricochet. I wrote that I would not write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to medical school who did not believe in evolution.

    First, you would think I could prevent them from attending.

    Next, I was informed that professors of something or other (probably Pediatrics) did not believe in evolution and knew more than I did.

    I think it may be a subgroup the US. Especially the South but not exclusively.

    Here is a bit about why I think it important.

  11. As a long time redneck resident of Kentucky, FWIW, my nephew remarked one time that he was sick and tired of people portraying us as red-necked, ignorant, Bible readin’, gun toters. It shouldn’t bother him so much. As far as I’m concerned, it keeps the riffraff out. Yuppified, overeducated, lacking in common sense ‘furriners’, who know everything and are more than happy to enlighten our ignorance. (choke, choke) We may be undereducated as far as they are concerned, but we think they’re over-educated show-offs with their fancy words and ideas, who don’t have sense enough to run a roadside produce stand, let alone have knowledge of how to stock it. They’re not really fooling us, bless their little hearts. I can drop into a drawl at the first sign of condescension, and am more than happy to feign ignorance. My beloved FIL never graduated from HS, but he had the media’s number years ago (1960’s) when after a presidential speech he looked at me and said “Honey, you know how the president comes on and tells you all those things he’s gonna do, then after he’s done talking, those commentators come on and tell you what he said, and what the president said and what they say he said ain’t the same thing at all.”

    I think it boils down to that they think the government is the alpha and the omega to them, they couldn’t survive without it. The great majority of us in the south, and the Midwest, and the mountain west are independent, and don’t need or want their approval, but they need ours to validate their belief that they are indeed superior, and MUST have some one to look down on, and we’re the lucky ones. Then, too, we don’t bitch nearly enough for them, but just go ahead and do the job with or without help.

    My opinion of the MSM is a little less convoluted. “If’n they’re fer it, I’m agin it. If’n they’re agin it, I’m fer it.

  12. I think that there are historical reasons, too, for this.

    Consider that what became America was not settled in a uniform manner or by like-minded people. The North was settled by functionally English low church Protestants and their dissenters. And it is noteworthy that the Puritans who settled New England were a sufficient pain in the a** that even other Protestants could not put up with them.

    The South was settled by basically high church Anglican protestants, a large mixture of poor Celts, and were closer to Catholicism. Note the names of the colonies: Virginia [Virgin Mary], the Carolinas [King Charles}, Georgia [King George], and of course Maryland, the only colony where Catholicism was not grounds for persecution. The coastal “southern” accent is actually derived from an upper class London English accent.

    The North and the South considered each other as foreign, and really did not like each other. It was Crown provocations that forced them together, and even then there were Tories in both.

    As late as the War of 1812, the New England states actively worked to secede from the United States just as the Southern states later did. One could argue that secession in 1814 would have occurred if the Hartford Convention [q.v.] of the New England states had moved faster. As it happened, the delegates arrived to present the demands to Congress that would result in secession if not met, just as the news of the end of the war arrived in DC. Part of the New England vehemence about Southern secession may well have been repudiation of their parent’s generation’s attempt.

    The United Colonies and later the United States were more a hope and a construction at first than a reality. And while it happened politically, culturally the two remained very different. The pioneer experience between the North and South differed greatly [the Western pioneer experience differed from both].

    New England, and what is now the Mid-West, experienced the Second Great Awakening religious revival in the early 1800’s. Americans shy away from examining the cultural implications of religion; but any serious consideration of it would show that it had the same effect in the North as John Knox did on Scotland during the Reformation. Religion became more a personal thing than a matter of public rites and ceremonies. The argument over salvation by Grace or Salvation by Works ended up being resolved by all sorts of reform movements that re-shaped Northern society, including the creation of the abolitionist movement. The secular world became the mark of your religious piety. Which tends to make man continually try to change society.

    These movements did not affect the South nearly as strongly. And they were not universal in the North. New Englanders had no problem with financing and profiting from the triangle slave trade, they just did not want to soil themselves with actual slave owning.

    The North and the South became VERY different societies and cultures, that fought a Cold Civil War for decades before the hot one, not unlike today. The issue of slave -v- free states was an issue in and of itself; but it was also a proxy for political power.

    Up until the Civil War, the only sources of tax revenue for the Federal government were excise and import tariffs. The South sold its agricultural goods overseas. The world monetary system was not up to transferring money except in the form of cash, so Southerners would buy goods overseas and ship them home. The South paid over 60% of the taxes supporting the Federal government. The more numerous Northern states spent the money, on the North and West. The argument over slave and free states was also an argument over who the new states would side with in control of the treasury. Cold Civil War.

    Without getting into the specifics, it was inevitable that the Cold Civil War turn hot. We had [and have] two separate, hostile nations and cultures inside one set of borders. In the 1860’s they were not intermixed as they are today.

    During the Civil War, the North regarded the South with contempt, hatred, and loathing supported by their religious beliefs. After they won, and especially during Reconstruction, that continued and was taught and passed down generation to generation. It took a century before the hatred began to recede. And it is still present.

    Toss in the religious differences. Southern Christianity is rooted in faith and Grace. Northern Christianity is more by perceived works. And it is reflected in the denominations present in each and their theology. If you believe that what you do in the world reflects your status in the afterlife, someone who believes in faith and Grace is a heretic, and by your measures would be considered damned.

    With the question of the right of state secession settled by force of arms in 1865, which of the two hostile nations prevails will have to be settled by force internally.

  13. Subotai, that’s a good assessment of the north/south division, but I think there are a couple other elements involved that make an important contribution to the whole dynamic. I’d like to think that particularly the Midlanders, may be the glue that holds the whole layer cake together, but I could be biased.

    Lilo, I’m a big fan of Kentucky. Louisville is a great town, and the Bourbon Trail is a great slice of America (not to mention the wellspring of my favorite drinks). Also, I have lots of fond memories of Kentucky Lake, one of FDR’s few worthwhile accomplishments. I’d like to think there’s some meaningful connections between Chicago to Kentucky.

  14. SB….”During the Civil War, the North regarded the South with contempt, hatred, and loathing supported by their religious beliefs.”

    There was also contempt the other direction, with the assertion to Northerners only cared about money and they were hypocrites who made much of the fact that their laborers were ‘free’ while treating them badly.

    I saw one quote from a southern slaveowner who was explaining the superiority of his way of life to that of a northern factory owner: the northern man had for reasons of business to be polite to everyone, even people he didn’t like, whereas he, the plantation owner, could treat people rudely when he believed that was merited.

    (The degree to which the custom of dueling acted as a restraint on such rudeness was not I think mentioned)

  15. We will not escape a Trial already begun.

    Do not in searching for motives ignore the question of interest. Politics and belief follow self interest as water follows gravity.

  16. I’m getting into the scene in Gold-Rush era California – when the clash of various cultures in San Francisco was accentuated by the North-South split. I’m not certain how we all can be divvied up so neatly, as per British Folkways in America. That was the foundation, to be certain … but there are so many outliers; were do we fit in? My parents were unique for being born in California in 1930 (so many of their friends were arrivals of various vintages from somewhere else) — but three of the grands were British immigrants, and the fourth was descended from a long line of Pennsylvania Quakers.

    The split inherent in the new Cold Civil War is … horrific, to me. I can’t talk political matters to any of my kin, and few of my friends in the real world. But when I read various editorials and statements – like that wretched writer for a NY tabloid writing an editorial blaming one the the Jewish and apparently sort-of-conservative victim at the San Bernardino event for his own death at the hands of Islamic terrorists … I can see it happening. They have no idea about the scope of cold anger they are provoking because of stuff like this.

  17. “”During the Civil War, the North regarded the South with contempt, hatred, and loathing supported by their religious beliefs.”

    I think the leadership did but most people cared more about the Union and less about Slavery until late in the war.

    William T Sherman has been study of mine and I have read several books about him. He liked the southerners but considered them deluded about their fate if they took on the Union. He was the president of what became LSU, at the time a school for the children of New Orleans. They wanted him to stay and even asked him to join their side. He told them they were just not realistic about the power of the North.

    He is still hated in the South but he was very lenient with the leadership who wanted to end the war. He was treated badly by the Union officials after Lincoln was assassinated and he refused to shake Stanton’s hand at the Grand Review in Washington City, as DC was called at the time.

    Much of the hatred and loathing was from abolitionists who poisoned Lincoln’s plan for reconciliation after he was dead. We have lived with the consequences of that decision for 100 years and more.

  18. That novel looks like a story of a Jewish terrorist. Where have we read that before ?

    Oh yes.

    “The victim,” Stasi wrote, “is also inaccurately being eulogized as a kind and loving religious man. Make no mistake, as disgusting and deservedly dead as the hate-filled fanatical Muslim killers were, Thalasinos was also a hate-filled bigot. Death can’t change that. But in the U.S., we don’t die for speaking our minds. Or we’re not supposed to anyway.”

    Yes, Stasi to the end.

  19. David Foster Says:
    December 6th, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Oh, I readily grant the feelings went both ways. But after April 1865, Southerners had to bite their tongues . . . . for over a century. Feelings always go both ways, even now.

    Sgt. Mom Says:
    December 6th, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Yeah, it would seem that we are at a level where there is no talking to them, and no reconciliation possible. “Stasi”, both the individual in question and the mindset of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit are the norm amongst TWANLOC.

    Be safe, my friend, in the coming times.

  20. I was struck by an essay by Walter Russel Mead at The American Interest today, which I think is very much on point with your post, David. Mead is a quintessentially establishment figure, and an academic. But, he is honest and thoughtful. I have taken the liberty of setting forth the nub of his argument today:

    “European Nightmare: Jihadists Using Refugee Flows?”

    Europe, which just a few years ago thought that it inhabited a post-historical universe in which nothing could ever go seriously wrong, is painfully waking up from the dream. It’s now crystal clear that one can’t combine a passive foreign policy with a legalistic adherence to absolutist ideals—that, for example, one can turn a blind eye to a disintegrating Middle East and North Africa while opening the gates to every refugee and migrant that the meltdown creates.

    Not far behind this lurks the realization that a cosmopolitan and tolerant society can’t thrive if it admits millions of migrants who hate and despise cosmopolitan values. Still obscure to most European elites (and to their American counterparts) is the understanding that neither the values nor the liberties of liberal civilization can long flourish if the religious and spiritual foundations of that civilization are allowed to decay, and are treated with scorn and neglect by society’s leaders.

    Today’s Western elites, in the U.S. as much as in Europe, have never been so self-confident. Products of meritocratic selection who hold key positions in the social machine, the bien-pensant custodians of post-historical ideology—editorial writers at the NY Times, staffers in cultural and educational bureaucracies, Eurocratic functionaries, much of the professoriat, the human rights priesthood and so on—are utterly convinced that they see farther and deeper than the less credentialed, less educated, less tolerant and less sophisticated knuckle-dragging also-rans outside the magic circle of post historical groupthink.

    And while the meritocratic priesthood isn’t wrong about everything—and the knuckle-draggers aren’t right about everything—there are a few big issues on which the priests are dead wrong and the knuckle-draggers know it. Worse, as the mass of the people become more aware that the elites are too blind and too wrapped up in the coils of elite ideology to deal effectively with society’s most urgent problems, an age of demagogues is opening up around us. People need leaders; when the meritocratic priesthood seems incapable of providing leadership, people start looking elsewhere.

  21. A comment I made to the Mead essay:

    I find the term “meritocratic priesthood” somewhat clumsy. Certainly, they have no real connection to religion.

    I think a far closer analogy is the mandarins of Imperial China. Their claim to power was, like our elite, meritocratic, based on learning certain texts and passing examinations on them. They were also intensely concerned with morality, but indifferent to theology. Indeed, they tended to oppose spirituality and religious movements.

    Their power base was the imperial bureaucracy, but they looked down on the military, This combination of attitudes led to dynasties of Barbarian conquerors. Because the Mandarins controlled the bureaucracy, without which the enormous country could not be ruled, they always wound up bringing the Emperor to heel. But, the price they paid was vulnerability to Barbarian invasion, and to peasant unrest, because they lacked the tools to control force, and because the religious system could not help them control the peasants.

    I think the parallel to our modern American and West European Elite is stunning. Barbarians invade, and the peasants are resentful. The mandarins are unperturbed.

  22. Another thing I read this week that also seems relevant is an Essay by Razib Khan on his Gene Expression Blog. I should explain that Razib is a geneticist who mostly writes about genetics and evolution. But, he also reads and writes about a lot of deep history.

    “Dubai vs. Democracy” Razib Khan • November 25, 2015

    “But an article in The New York Times, “Emirates Secretly Sends Colombian Mercenaries to Fight in Yemen”, does put into stark relief the sort of choices we’re facing in the modern world. On the one hand technology is advancing apace, but our social structures seem to recycle the same forms. The Gulf petro-state system is in some ways straight out of Dystopian science fiction, combining a modern capitalist economy with the a sort of commoditized attitude toward human life with a neo-feudal tincture.

    * * *

    Another system is the Western democratic liberal one. This system presupposes citizens who are co-equal, without large groups of disenfranchised people. Even in the American case with slavery in most of the territory non-free males were a small minority. There is also often a rough cultural homogeneity which is presumed for a nation-state. … Not to be conspiratorial, but I think part of what’s happening is that cosmopolitan Western economic elites, the top 0.1% or so, have no real loyalty to the nation-state, and find them impediments to the free flow of their labor and their capital. Though few would explicitly admit this, I think that the Dubai model is quite appealing because it dispenses with the non-economic niceties. The main caution I would offer to this is that the Dubai model is probably a “high reward/high risk” play.”

  23. Finally a response to Subotai. The Puritans who settled New England, had an interesting religious evolution.

    When they arrived, they were hard core Calvinists, predestination and all. By the middle of the 18th century, they had become Arminians. When Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermons at Northampton in the 1740s, his congregation responded by firing him. By the early 1800s, Boston had become Unitarian. Despite these theological changes, the fundamental attitude of the Puritans, that the moral elect should directly control the behavior of the community did not change. Abolitionism was a fundamental focus of this mentality in the middle of the 19th Century.

    By, the end of the 19th Century they had become progressives, prohibitionists, and eugenicists, even though their theology had mostly disappeared.

    Now, in the 21st Century, our modern puritans are all Marxists and atheists. But, their moral focus on making everyone else think and act as they do is unchanged. Now they are Social Justice Warriors. They want to ban tobacco, sugar, and fat. Their campaign against sexual pleasure has taken the form of “yes means yes”. It goes on and on, but none of it is really new. Our problem is the same, how can we get them to shut up and mind their own business.

  24. “People need leaders; when the meritocratic priesthood seems incapable of providing leadership, people start looking elsewhere.”

    Exactly and it worries me. Progressivism was founded on the theory that a technological elite could rule with an unbiased efficacy. Woodrow Wilson was the modern promoter of this and his writings go back twenty years before the turn of the century. One of his first books was Congressional Government, that discusses Congress and its role.

    Heritage has a nice summary of Wilson’s philosophy of governing.

    A prerequisite for national progress, Wilson believed, was that the Founding be understood in its proper historical context. Its principles, in spite of their timeless claims, were intended to deal with the unique circumstances of that day.

    This interpretation of the Founding ran up against the Founders’ own self-understanding, as Wilson well knew. This is why much of his scholarship is devoted to a radical reinterpretation and critique of the political theory of the Founding. Wilson understood that the limits placed upon the power of the national government by the Constitution—limits that Progressives wanted to see relaxed if not removed—were grounded in the natural-rights principles of the Declaration of Independence. This meant, for Wilson, that both the Declaration and the Constitution had to be understood anew through a Progressive lens.

    Obama is another in a long line of Progressives that have attempted to change the very basic concept of government. The reaction to Islamic adventurism may swing the sentiment too far the other way. That is why Trump worries me.

  25. I work with lots of clients both at the management and craft/operations. In my business (power plants) few are lefties or Democrats, but the craft and operations guys are the traditional labor base of the Democrat party. What concerns them is what I call the “terms of employment”. Since few are independent contractors, they are at the mercy of their bosses and appreciate some of the real/imagined government regulation. They also are subject to an inherent feeling that cronys are getting better deals. The takeover of the Democrats by the left/university elites hurts them with the old labor voters. If the GOP were to really attack crony capitalism this would be well received if promoted well. So any fix/replacement for Obamacare needs to help these voters manage their insurance and help them understand how they are better off running things themselves rather than the government.

    The elite voters are another matter. If I hear one more MD complain about the evil insurance companies and wish for single payer, I want to slap them and point out that they got this by giving up their status as independent businessmen. And these MD’s are supposed to be smart guys. They now are subject to the same issues as the labor group, with the added disadvantage of needing to be perceived as one of the elites. Ditto for many managers, administrators etc.

  26. If the GOP were to really attack crony capitalism…

    That dog isn’t barking. It’s possible that the people who run the GOP really are that stupid, but after years of such apparent systematic ineptitude corruption seems increasingly likely to be the main explanation.

    If I hear one more MD complain about the evil insurance companies and wish for single payer, I want to slap them and point out that they got this by giving up their status as independent businessmen.

    Present company excepted, many doctors have limited education outside of science and medicine and are naive about politics and economics. I think this situation is getting worse as younger doctors are less likely to see themselves as business people and more likely to work for institutions than previous generations of doctors were.

  27. Robert Schwartz @December 7th, 2015, 2:25 am :
    Now, in the 21st Century, our modern puritans are all Marxists and atheists. But, their moral focus on making everyone else think and act as they do is unchanged. Now they are Social Justice Warriors. They want to ban tobacco, sugar, and fat. Their campaign against sexual pleasure has taken the form of “yes means yes”. It goes on and on, but none of it is really new. Our problem is the same, how can we get them to shut up and mind their own business.

    Good point. A book which addresses this is Joseph Bottum’s An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Bottum points out that while many of the heirs of the Protestant tradition have formally abandoned Christianity, they still maintain the same desire to be one of the Elect. How does one determine who belongs to the Elect? The Elect have certain social and political opinions which distinguish them from the Damned. Diversity, anti-Racism, anti-bigots, so on and so forth. Those who disagree with the 21st Century Elect, whom the 21st Century Elect label as bigots or racists or being against “diversity” etc. etc., comprise the Damned.

    The 21st Century Elect also spend a fair amount of time pointing out the THEY are of the Elect whereas there are others who are Damned. Why else do so many SJWs automatically apply labels like “racist” or “bigot” to their political opponents? I find it rather amusing that many of those SJWs- or just plain Democrats- apply a term which originally meant “testicle licker” [Teabagger] to their political opponents. This Ad Hominem attack seems to me like rather bigoted behavior – ironically coming from those who label themselves as anti-bigots.

    It is also ironic that many of our current SJW crowd, who of course are very much against racism, also want to effectively ban the expression of religious belief in the public sphere- unless Muslims are involved, of course. These SJWs who want to effectively ban the expression of religion in the public sphere are apparently not aware that a substantial proportion of the 19th century Abolitionists were motivated by religious belief. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the daughter and sister of prominent preachers. Not a coincidence.

    ChicagoBoyz- thank you for fixing the Preview software.

  28. “If I hear one more MD complain about the evil insurance companies and wish for single payer,”

    Absolutely. I was looking for another associate about 25 years ago and contacted a couple of young surgeons. Even then, they were interested in vacations and time off. Salary was also assumed. This came about around 1980 and has just progressed to the point that no medical student I’ve talked to is thinking about anything but employment. Some of this is also the feminization of medical schools with 60% female students. They have no plan to work full time and the hours I had when I started out would horrify them. My first job as an associate with no guarantee of partnership included one weekend a month and one night a week off. The rest of the time I was it. The two older guys complained about how much I was costing them.

    “help them understand how they are better off running things themselves rather than the government.”

    When I was president of the county medical association, we used to have annual retreats with interesting people. One year the CMA annual retreat was with Jesse Unruh, the Democrat political boss of California. He was retired and was getting ill with the prostate cancer that killed him later but he was a fund of information.

    One year we spent a weekend with a group that included the head of benefits for the culinary workers union. He was a very bright guy and I learned a lot from him. They ran their own health plan.

    Jesse was honest in his own way. He was the one who said, “If you can’t drink their whiskey, and eat their food and f**k their women and then vote against them in the morning, you don’t belong here !”

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