I've been having some right hand, arthritis related, problems lately. Last night, having overdone mousework during the day (I'm trying to integrate more keyboard shortcuts) I decided to try reading some Christopher Lasch--whom many praise. I tried The Culture Of Narcissism: American Life In An Age Of Diminishing Expectations (1973), but found it turgid. So I picked up The Revolt Of The Elites And The Betrayal Of Democracy (1994). That, so far, is much more to my taste and has the advantage--again, so far--of being far more connected to our current situation. I was struck by this passage in the first chapter which, in a partial way, plays into the themes we explored a bit yesterday (The Plight of Privileged Private Education):
Control has become [the Elite's] obsession. In their drive to insulate themselves from risk and contingency--against the unpredictable hazards that afflict human life--the thinking classes have seceded not just from the common world around them but from reality itself.
The culture wars that have convulsed America since the sixties are best understood as a form of class warfare, in which an enlightened elite (as it thinks of itself) seeks not so much to impose its values on the majority (a majority perceived as incorrigibly racist, sexist, provincial, and xenophobic), much less to persuade the majority by means of rational public debate, as to create parallel or "alternative" institutions in which it will no longer be necessary to confront the unenlightened at all. (20-21)
Lasch speaks, even two and a half decades ago, of a growing 'populist' sentiment in America. He describes the Elite's obsession to control not only their own lives but the lives of their children as well--to guarantee their children's place within a type of hereditary or, at the least, ideological elite. That certainly resonates with Bari Weiss's description of the privileged parents, who will tolerate or remain silent about almost anything in order to ensure their own and their children's continuing elite status. Of course the children are insulated from Deplorable America by attending the right Left schools, as the parents are by living in Holmby Hills. Above all, however, these are class markers, and these parents are engaged in a gentrified form of class warfare.
Now, it's true that we're seeing far more aggressive efforts on the part of the Left to coerce the majority. Note that well. The Left is not engaged in what Lasch calls "rational public debate." In fact, "rational public debate"--how surprised would Lasch really be at this development?--is now viewed as an instrument of White Supremacy by the people who run elite schools and most of our public life. They are interested in conditioning, control, coercion--they feel that they have an ascendancy fueled by social media. But at bottom this is still mostly a defensive effort at insulation from the real world, as Lasch says.