November 22, 2017

RICHARD FERNANDEZ: The End of Prestige:

European colonization was in some sense the longest running hit play in history. It was a performance that ended only by a humiliating eviction from the theater by the empire of Japan in 1942. When Yamashita brought the curtain down he ended the suspension of disbelief so critical for the thing to work. Though the British eventually returned victorious to Singapore in 1945 the magic was gone. Prestige had fled away. Ten years after “Lives of a Bengal Lancer” the bugles had ceased to blow.

In the unending exposes of financial, moral and sexual turpitude we are witnessing a similar humiliation of a ruling elite. The critical role played by prestige in upholding the current status quo was no less important for the Western elite than it was for the old District Commissioners. Not so very long ago the elites were accepted as woke, part of the mission civilisatrice; better educated, better looking, better dressed, destined to greater things, the smartest people in the room. They could pronounce on matters of morality, politics and even the climate. What a shock it was to find through the Internet and social media it was all a sham; and these gods of Washington and Hollywood and the media were deeply flawed and despicable people.

Given the lack of quality control and penchant for recruiting rather than expelling the scandalous it’s amazing in retrospect the prestige lasted so long. All the same, now their fallibility has been exposed under the spotlight of technological innovation, the spell is broken. The elites may still rule but the sullen masses no longer flock to their door as they did of old. Perhaps the single most destabilizing political development since the WW2 has been the destruction of ruling class prestige by the Internet.

Related: The Suicide of Expertise.

Plus, David Brooks on our elites: They really do stink.

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