Western civilisation is vulgar. By that, I don’t just mean that it is boorish, coarse, and offensive (though it certainly is these things), but rather that it is common. Plebeian, if you will. The drive to egalitarianism which has plagued the West since 1775 has created in Western man a desire to debase himself. America – founded as it is upon the spurious principle that all men are created equal – has led the pack in the decline to the bottom. It is in the United States, especially, that the lowest common denominator is exalted in every area of life – the social, the political, the religious.
Sadly, this absurd view of equality has not encouraged Americans (or other Westerners, for that matter) to better themselves or to pursue equality by raising themselves to the level at which they would become worthy of admiration and esteem. Quite the opposite has been the case, and this debasement has been coupled with any ever-present drive to expand the number of lowest common denominator people who are allowed to exercise political power through voting, which has further eroded what remained of decent civil society. Indeed, our political leaders seem to be actively abetting this degeneration of our societies by importing massive numbers of low-IQ third worlders and rushing them into political participation as quickly as possible. At exactly the time when our nations need better citizens, we are only getting more, and more active, ones.
Thus, it was with interest that I read Victor Davis Hanson’s essay entitled “Camouflaged Elites” a few weeks ago. In it, Hanson is concerned about the fact that the “elites” in America today are largely indistinguishable from the plebeian masses. As he notes, this is true both because the elites “sloppify” themselves (Zuckerberg wearing T-shirts to board meetings, etc.) and because the rise of mass production and industrialisation has made what “should” be “luxury” items like high-end electronics and clothing available to the masses.
I believe that Hanson has made a set of correct observations in this essay, but that he comes to the wrong conclusions from them. In his essay, he argues that one effect of this “camouflaging” of our elites is that it dupes the masses into thinking that the rich and powerful are “regular Joes,” and thus are “on their side.” This allows the elites to hide their real agendas (i.e. becoming richer, accruing more power, etc. etc.), whereas in times past, when elites were more readily identifiable through various types of social cues, their aims and purposes were supposedly more obvious.
I doubt this. Everybody knows that elites will seek to increase their wealth, power, and influence. Even the most insensate proletarian in our inner cities knows, at some reptilian level, that this must certainly be true. I don’t believe that our elites are increasingly indistinguishable from the masses due to any effort, whether premeditated or spur of the moment, to fool the commons about their intentions.
Our elites are not “sloppy” because they’re trying to hide their agendas, they’re sloppy because they’re not aristocratic in charactre to begin with.
I’ve pointed out previously that we have a non-aristocratic “aristocracy.” By this I mean that while we may have an elite that forms the upper strata of our society, this elite does not exhibit the traits and characteristics of a genuinely noble caste. This is, of course, entirely unsurprising for a nation whose guiding document explicitly forbids its citizens from receiving titles of nobility.
Rather than being comprised of genuinely superior individuals, natural aristocrats if you will, the functional elite in most Western states is made of vaisya commercialists – the perennial nouveau riche who use their wealth not to enrich their communities and provide leadership to their people, but to buy influence and power within increasingly corrupt democratic systems. It is a testimony to the debased mindset of the modern world that elite status flows solely (or nearly so) from great wealth, either through direct ownership or through political and social access to those who possess it. The high status of today’s elite is based in semi-capitalist wealth used to buy control of the apparatus of democratic government in a consanguineous marriage of bank and state.
Yet, aristocracy as a principle flows not from mere wealth, but from a genuine superiority of mind, body, and soul, which is a different matter altogether from the superiority in unscrupulousness and cunning for which our current social system selects. Plutocratic vaisyaism is the enemy of genuine aristocracy – the latter is founded upon greatness of soul that leads to superiority in charactre, while the former is based upon greatness of bank account and ability to purchase favourable public policy. In traditional systems, when the genuine aristocratic caste grew wealthy, it was (or at least was supposed to be) through their ownership of the land and the production which sprung from it. Aristocrats were supposed to stay away from commerce, speculation, money-lending, and other such activities. It is a notable example of this that in the early days of the Republic, Roman senators were forbidden from engaging in these types of commercial endeavours.
What should be grasped by the reader is that no matter how finely dressed or well-provisioned, the “robber barons” of yore, and their like throughout the history of the various cycles of decadency, were not “aristocrats.” Rather, these plutocrats arose as revolutions against the aristocratic principle. In each case, the new moneyed class that came to power during decadent periods came to actively oppose the older aristocratic and landed interests. Such was the cause of the declines of the Roman Republic, the Venetian Commune, Tudor-era England, and many others. In each case, the levers of power (access to the court, control of the armies and apparatus of the state, etc.) were taken over by commercialists which led to increasing corruption. In all cases, genuinely aristocratic holdovers were gradually rooted out by rapacious moneymen and court intriguers.
Thus, a plutocratic system, though it may represent a certain form of hierarchy and be marginally better than democracy, is still an inferior form of social and political organisation, and despite having an “elite” of sorts, is not an aristocracy in the true sense of the term. The same can be said for other systems such as stratocracy, kritocracy, theocracy, and the like in which elite status is not rooted in genuine superiority of the individuals holding that status.
Genuine aristocratic charactre demonstrates a noblesse oblige toward those of the lower castes, not lording over them tyrannically, but seeking to guide them to the fullness of their potential within their own spheres, entering into bonds of reciprocal loyalty to them as well as expecting it from them. In traditional social systems with a true aristocracy, the nobility utilised a good deal of their wealth creating institutions and infrastructure which benefited whole community – hospitals, roads and bridges, monastic foundations, and the like. They did so because the ideology of their station inculcated into them a sense of these reciprocal loyalties – wealth wasn’t there to simply use to advance yourself. Nobles had a responsibility to those beneath them.
This is the key point to the superiority of feudalism over modern day monergocapitalism – it served the function of a set of interlocking social bonds that maintained and strengthened traditional society. Hanson is wrong in his presumption that aristocrats have always had an “agenda” that was grossly different from that of the lower castes. In a genuinely traditional hierarchical system, each caste contributes in its own way to the holistic totality of society. While each caste may contribute differently, they all helped to create a unitary, holistic social system.
Therein lies the problem with today’s “elite.” Rather than having a commonality with the lower castes within their nations, they have no sense of social unity. Today’s elite “transcend” this and care only about the economic interests of a small transnational plutocracy. As Hanson points out, Mark Zuckerberg has $71 billion in net worth. With that kind of money, you don’t buy yachts and vacation homes, you buy politicians and public policy. Yet, there is no sense – in Zuckerberg’s Facebook or any other massive megacorporation – of the use of this wealth or influence to strength social unity or generate reciprocal loyalty. Indeed, many of the more converged corporations go out of their way to actively harm their customers, as well as their own workers who engage in wrongthink.
However, this is the natural end point of the Westphalian idea of sovereignty in which the holistic totality of ethnos and hierarchy was replaced with state sovereignty and the so-called legal equality of states. This had the practical effect of neutering functional aristocratic organisation at the international level and helped to speed up the rate of social and national leveling that was already in progress. The principle of non-interference that was fleshed out in the 18th century by Emer de Vattel effectively ended the hierarchical nature of international relations which was built upon reciprocating loyalties, paving the way, eventually, for the wars of the 20th century. From Westphalia, it was a not too complicated set of steps to the sort of globalist system based upon the twin pillars of crony commerce and sociopolitical totalitarianism desired by the Left today.
The great irony which has been grasped by many, though certainly not all, commentators in recent years is that today’s crony capitalists and radical Left progressives are not enemies at all, but are in fact on the same side of things. This is because they both represent essentially the same approach vis-á-vis the last remaining vestiges of traditional society – which is a revolutionary hostility to tradition, aristocracy, and genuine holistic social unity. This is why the Left assiduously works to converge and control, rather than simply destroy outright, large corporations. The Left provides the ideological framework while the corporations provide the financial resources and the means for political influence.
The failure to recognise this is one of the single most serious failings of normie “muh capitalism” conservatism. If reaction and neoreaction are to see a rollback of modernity such as we would like, this necessarily must include the subversion of both aspects of modernity – the ideological Puritan/Enlightenment-derived Left and aristocracy-destroying commercialism. If we want order and hierarchy, then we should seek to ensure that this order and hierarchy are grounded in aristocratic principles.