Bending at the Knee

Author Terry Pratchet wrote in his Discworld novel Feet of Clay,

Royalty was like dandelions. No matter how many heads you chopped off, the roots were still there underground, waiting to spring up again.

It seemed to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had written: “Kings. What a good idea.” Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.

In 2005 when former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan published her column “A Separate Peace” (which inspired my post Tough History Coming), she was pilloried for her seemingly fawning dependence on “elites” to get us out of the mess we were in (and still are.) Specifically this passage:

Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they’re living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they’re going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley’s off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, “I got mine, you get yours.”

Just the other day Ms. Noonan penned another column along the same lines, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen“. An excerpt:

Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.

I don’t think that’s it at all, really. The surprising thing is that for a couple of hundred years the “elite” did feel that way. The peasants never meant much to the Ruling Class until it became apparent that the peasants could object and make their objections hurt. Then and only then did the hoi polloi gain any real political power, and as Mao observed, that political power grew out of the barrel of a gun.  That “grounded respect” came from the only place that matters to those with power.  (See my 2004 essay Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them.)

The thing I found most interesting in comparing these two articles was the subtitles.  The subtitle to “A Separate Peace” was:

America is in trouble–and our elites are merely resigned.
The subtitle to “Global Elites” was:

Those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage.
After ten years she’s made some progress in figuring out the issue. Our elites disdain us at best, hate us at worst. But she’s far behind Mark Steyn who observed as far back as 2005:

My favourite headline last week was in the International Herald Tribune: “EU leaders and voters see paths diverge.” Traditionally in free societies, when the paths of the leaders and the voters “diverge”, it’s the leaders who depart the scene. But apparently in the EU this is too vulgar and “Anglo-Saxon”, and so the great permanent Eurocracy decided instead to offer up Euro-variations on Bertolt Brecht’s jest about the need to elect a new people.

The UK’s embrace of Brexit, the Democrat electorate’s embrace of Bernie Sanders, the Republican electorate’s embrace of Donald Trump, et cetera, ad nauseam, just proves to them that the Great Unwashed cannot be let near the levers of power – for our own good, you understand.

We should all bend a knee. And LIKE it.


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