Revolutionaries Become What They Hated

The flood of the revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy. The chains of tormented mankind are made out of red tape – attributed to Franz Kafka

Whenever anyone from the Centre-Right talks to a leftist about elites, it usually results in eye-rolling and sighs.

So it’s nice to see real discussion of how our current elites – economic, creative, media and status – at their core deny their elite status.

David Brooks at the New York Times and Ed West at UK Telegraph both write of a recent book  Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy, by Christopher Hayes. Core observation: we have ostensibly meritocratic elites (open to debate) that deny their elite status (blatantly clear).

As Brooks says:

The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.

To any observer of our left-leaning privileged friends, this is no surprise.

The post-60s mindset of our educated brethren is one of permanent oppositionalism. The 60s revolutionary wasn’t just revolting (in fashion and sex especially) against a particular regime: they revolted against regimes in general.

The hierarchy wasn’t bad, all hierarchies were. Outsiders weren’t disadvantaged in specific ways, all outsiders as outsiders were always disadvantaged. Government wasn’t good unless it was attacking its own foundations, limiting itself, lessening the conditions of reciprocity it imposed on citizens.

It was, in glib and in short, a worldview where “The Man” was always the bad guy.

Which makes is a problem when our 60s revolutionaries and their inheritors have become “The Man” themselves. Our radical friends have become their own elite and their own bureaucracy. But the Permanently Oppositional mindset doesn’t sit well with being a senior public servant, a well-paid correspondent on an established paper, a comfy academic or a multi-millionaire IT developer.

Hence the cognitive dissonance of denying they are an elite. Denying the money, connections, security and influence they have. And above all, denying how the thinking behind their pseudo-revolution has resulted in the slime of a new bureaucratic impulse  and a more powerful bureaucracy.

The slime left behind from the grandiose vision of our radical friends? HREOC. Gender and identity-based political units enforcing discrimination. Speech codes in public institutions. Finkelstein and urges to limit speech. Nudge thinking and policy on personal choices like diet and lifestyle. Planning controls that squeeze supply and increase prices because developers are “elite”. Creeping, wowserish restrictions on play and partying. Seeing any media that disagrees with them as “The Man” and squashable, because, hey, they’re the radicals, aren’t they? A generally politicised public sector that sees itself as unbiased to everyone else’s utter amazement.

But above all else, we see the new elite justifying government  coercion of people who disagree by reference to their own definition of ‘justice’.  Because when the radical outsider talks about justice, the ends justifies the means. Pity now the radical outsider isn’t so radical, and isn’t so outside. But somehow those “ends” still justify some pretty dodgy means.

Equally we see NGO advocates and community artists making a living by filling out grant forms and tender applications funded by the tax dollars of tradies in the Western suburbs, and calling it fighting for social justice.

All researched, promoted, legislated and enforced by legal and economic elites who deny their elite status, and who self-identify as being against the hierarchies that they not only belong to, but shape and drive.

Their permanent oppositionalism has morphed into a bureaucracy that in parts has become permanently oppositional – except now, it opposes all that undermines its own decaying, shop-worn 60s sloganeering.

So we are left with the nonsense of a “radical” bureaucracy and monied professionals and bureaucrats viewing themselves as radicals.

Time to wake up. There’s nothing radical about the privileged using government to push their own agenda. It used to be called oligarchy.

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