Slaves to stupidity

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich.

— John Kenneth Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty

Last night I saw a very sleek and probably brand-new Bentley pulled up in front of the notorious Underground nightclub across the street from my place of employment.  I remarked in so many words to one of my colleagues that given our ostensible societal economic tribulations, and the concomitant increase in material inequality, driving such a vehicle in a public place accessible to working and poor people should be regarded as a dangerously hubristic act.  However, as I also remarked, our society worships obscene wealth to the degree that placing the words obscene and wealth together in that order is enough to earn one the pejorative label of communist.  When so many of a society’s losers and distant also-rans are so in awe of the ‘winners’– no matter how nakedly unfair the acquisition of the winning hand, and no matter how much the ‘winning’ costs everyone else– then there is good reason for Galbraith’s ‘privileged’ to feel comfortable flaunting their ludicrously obscene excess in front of everyone else.

The practical moral of this anecdote, such that there is one, is that the inevitable increase in suffering that will result from encouraging this trend of increasing inequity will not lead to revolution against the arrogant elite.  There will be few serious cries to ‘eat the rich’.  The process of the middle class turning on the poor began in earnest during the Reagan Revolution and has continued faithfully and inventively without interruption since.  When the poor are pounded into the dirt, and the rich can gain no more from them– a point we have already reached, for all intensive purpose– then the former middle class will explode on the remains of the poor and on itself.  It will do so with previously unspeakable violence.

h/t to Jonathan Schwarz

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