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Give Me My Yellow Vest

'Stop The Racket' -- Yellow Vests protesters in Paris (Birdog Vasile-Radu/Shutterstock)

A reader who is, shall we say, intimately familiar with elite prep schools in the imperial capital, draws my attention to this web page for the “Colloquium for the Common Good,” a day of activism education at St. Stephen’s St. Agnes, an Episcopal school in Alexandria, Va. Here’s the current tuition rate:

So, what kind of activism does the Ruling Class consider it proper for its children to embrace? What initiatives count as working for the “common good,” according to the Ruling Class? Check out the very revealing Colloquium. It is like reading a menu at Social Justice Warrior Day Camp. Here are some screenshots that give you a sense of the whole. Mind you, they are almost all like this:

Read the whole thing. This is a snapshot of the elites in the capital of the American empire furrowing their collective brow at the problems they wish their children to solve. It’s a a glimpse of what the ruling class believes are the issues involved in fighting for the common good. The entire Episcopal school program — 38 workshops, by my count — is almost entirely about identity politics, protest, and global warming.

“Common good.” I wonder what a jobless coal miner in Appalachia would have to say about that program. I wonder what the 700 paper mill workers in my part of the world who are about to lose their jobs would say. I wonder what the public high school guidance counselor in the Rust Belt who sees kids in her school falling victim to heroin addiction would say.

I know what I say: “Give me my Yellow Vest.” 

You know that this is where Trump comes from, right? Trump is failing, for reasons that are specific to Trump’s personal faults, but the forces that produced Trump are not going away. They only await another, more disciplined and effective advocate. The ruling class sees people like me, and tens of millions of Americans who are not so much like me, as part of the common bad — as those who must be marginalized, stigmatized, and defeated for the sake of the common good. It’s why the K-8 Sheridan School in DC (annual tuition: $35,000-$38,000) is proudly announcing that it refuses to play Immanuel Christian School’s teams, because the Evangelical private school (where Karen Pence teaches) is a bigot factory.

When graduates of these schools take power within the US establishment — corporate power, cultural power, media power, and political power — they will use it against us, and call it Social Justice. They’ll call it Working For The Common Good. If you object, they’ll call you “fragile,” and do their best to roll right over you without their halo falling off.

Like I said: “Give me my Yellow Vest.” In the meantime, orthodox Christians had better start taking seriously the Benedict Option, to form themselves and their children in the Resistance. The ruling class is doing this with its children in places like St. Stephen’s St. Agnes. Why aren’t you?

UPDATE: A reader comments:

I grew up in DC in the 90s (graduated from St. Albans), and it’s like that throughout most of the local institutions now. I was one of the few who took my alma mater’s motto seriously (Pro Ecclesia et Pro Patria) so ran off to adventure and spent my 20s in the Middle East rather than at Goldman, making me something of a black sheep/class traitor among my family and old friends. I return to DC occasionally and am taken aback at the brazen openness of the radicalism on show. DC denizens have always seen themselves as the masters in their relationship with the rest of their countrymen, and apparently they feel secure enough in their grip on things to express that sentiment openly now. Take it from a defector from the capital, you won’t find any peaceful coexistence with them.

UPDATE.2: Another reader:

This stuff is indicative of how D.C. has changed in the past 20 to 30 years. Washington has always had these elite schools and a social stratum of rich white weirdos, but what kept them in check until the early 2000s was that the majority of the city was black and poor. Going to the permit office, the police station, or the dysfunctional DMV in Marion Barry’s Washington was humbling, even intimidating, for these people.

Now, though, the black population of D.C. is less than 50 percent, roughly equal with the white population. A real-estate boom from young people who want to live in a city has made D.C. a playground for wealthy white people. City services are better, and whole neighborhoods that looked like postnuclear wastelands in 1995 are now rebuilt and thriving. White folks in the city no longer get daily reminders that they don’t run and rule everything, and culturally this has emanated out to suburbs like Bethesda and Alexandria.

So there’s now a much larger stratum of these sheltered rich kids. They’re going to be our overlords in a few years, but they’ll graduate from college with little firsthand experience of people who aren’t like themselves. They’re too busy taking classes and attending enrichment camps and landing internships at prestigious-sounding places, so almost none of them hold jobs where they’re bussing tables, stocking shelves, or assembling burritos next to someone who makes minimum wage. They encounter the poor only when they go do résumé-building “service” trips to some Caribbean island. The pragmatic middle class is foreign to them. After college, grad school, or law school, they’ll go into business, politics, or activism without ever having been, even for a brief time, the secretary, the receptionist, the mailroom guy, the file clerk, or the janitor. They probably won’t know anyone who’s started a business, run a family business, or done low-level work for a big company.

I knew a group of D.C. teens who self-published a book about how to fix U.S. foreign policy. They had never worked, not even mowing a lawn for pocket change, but by gosh, they knew how to fix and run the world—and presumed to lecture adults about it. One of the kids told me he loved to watch reruns of “The Office.” Of course he did! Working in a sad corporate office where you hate your life was an ironic fantasy to him and to his cohort, not the grinding reality it is for the less privileged.

I don’t blame these kids; I blame their parents for keeping them sheltered and giving them a really skewed idea of who their fellow citizens are. Our present social situation and culture war make more sense when we understand their weirdly skewed priorities. But since they mostly control the culture, we’re not seeing the satires, parodies, and criticism of them that they deserve, even though they’re a rich subject for ridicule. The Trump crowd really doesn’t have a clear or accurate picture of this elite, which is why most criticisms lobbed from the right don’t do damage, i.e. the lame “Georgetown cocktail parties” accusation. But at some point, a movie, TV show, or news story may give the rest of the public a “condensed symbol” for this high-achieving class of people who feel entitled to power. Only then might there be a real yellow-vest moment in the U.S.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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