Home/Rod Dreher/‘The Yellow Vests Noticed ‘

‘The Yellow Vests Noticed ‘

Reader Annie posted a great comment under the St. Stephen’s St. Agnes DC elite prep school post, titled “Give Me My Yellow Vest.” Below, she calls it “St. Alban’s” — an elite boy’s school in DC; Jesse Jackson’s sons Jesse Jr. and Yusef attended there — but she’s also talking about SSSA. I know “Annie” personally, and can vouch that she really did work for the one percent in Washington:

As others have said, there’s been some great posts here recently, but this is the one that strikes me as the most important because it’s what the powerful least want to talk about: there is no workshop called “How St. Alban’s, followed by the Ivy League, secures your lasting and permanent privilege to manage the masses.”

Redbrick points out how much worse it is than pre-1789. He’s right. They teach contempt for the people repairing the bridges when it’s icing or salting the roads at 3 am. We have articles from the big outlets about robot bigotry, cataloging attacks on robots around the country. Silence on the men, women, and families suffering in the 24/7 economy, manning the gas station in exhaustion under lurid lights at 3 am. The entire economy and culture is a destruction of the ability of the majority of people to grow roots, be stewards, have some say over their lives, and build some kind of stability. It is this way because we have never been good at managing input/output. We take from one area and when that dries up the wealthy go take from somewhere else. Silence on the people living in the ruins.

Silence on how the H-1B visas transformed the field of IT, the field that was sold to Americans as a chance to have a middle-class lifestyle as manufacturing plants were shut down. What happened? Nearly 30 years of the H-1B program being used to avoid hiring American workers, crush the wages of the Americans they were employing, the virtual hostage-taking of their American workers by threatening them with unemployment if they protested against the 80-90 hour work weeks demanded of them, and then told they were racists not standing in solidarity with their immigrant co-workers if they had any complaints.

This ruling class is engaged in one of the greatest farces any elite has ever attempted: they preach the saving religion of intersectional self-examination of privilege while being the biggest benefactors of a privilege they zealously guard: the privilege of credentialism. For all their stated concerns about the poor and minorities they preserve a system where monetary wealth and a public platform are beyond the reach of the working and welfare classes. It’s a system where the middle-class door-knockers who attempt access are, more often than not, punished with a lifetime of debt. It’s a system where all the talk of access and free schooling are a joke to make their conscience a little clearer in order to avoid the elephant in the room: not everyone can be the HR manager of Procter & Gamble. Not every little girl will grow up to run for President. The empowerment of the few to live without limits comes at the cost of the many being able to live at all. They have no intention of leveling the playing field. They speak about compassion for the immigrant but have no desire to change economic policy to stop pillaging the immigrant’s country of origin. It is all pitting people against one another in the hopes no one will notice that their child will get the best. And DC is the number one living monument to this willful cognitive dissonance.

I, like a few other commenters here, am from DC. For a time I occupied the strange position of working in places just like St. Alban’s; of being friendly with the parents of people who sent their kids to such places, of being close to people who, if they have children, will send their kids to such places (or purchase 1.3 million dollar house, the Cape Cod-ers once built for returning WWII veterans, in the best public school districts). Their children grow up hearing, quite sincerely, a religious worldview in which the Democrats are liberating people from oppression, where college will one day be free, where manual labor will magically disappear, where Republicans are literal-actual-Nazis, where small towns worried about opioid deaths deserve to die because someone there watches Fox News, and where it’s okay to pay your Peruvian nanny under the table, deny her health insurance, ask her to work 75 hours a week, and be annoyed if she wants to take a flight back to Peru once a year to visit her grandchildren. And while I’m focusing on the convenient myopia of the progressives, largely because they overwhelmingly dominate the Big Ed/Big Gov’t/Big Business trinity, please don’t think I missed Trump’s gross nepotism with all its parallels in the Republican party. This is what the elite do: reproduce their privilege. The system of meritocracy and credentialism is allowing them to consolidate it at a simply astonishing speed.

I hope their children see the dissonance. There are some actual good workshops at St. Alban’s that other commenters share, but do any of them make the jump to how we actually live and what we can actually do to address that privilege? Or is self-examination something we like in theory but only want practiced by those less materially fortunate than ourselves? I pray the children see that this system of eternal self-examination of privilege has one main beneficiary: their class of credentialed upper middle class technocrats and their 1% rulers. I hope they connect that the woman working overnight at the 24-hour Giant isn’t sending her kids to Yale. I hope they realize that the sexual liberation preached by the universities, the liberation their parents had the money to flirt with but ultimately protect themselves from by marrying late, is one of the things which has robbed the children of the poor of the stability absolutely necessary to thrive. I hope they see the disconnect between the stranglehold on credentialism from Big Business, Big Education, and Big Government, and how that is the privilege which keeps millions in debt bondage and tied to a system of waste and destruction that extracts wealth and concentrates it in a few cities and a few neighborhoods.

There’s a massive amount of time, money, and energy directed at getting us not to notice. The yellow vests noticed. The question is, will they notice enough to reexamine the self-serving myths which created this system, or will they seek only a bit of tweaking to help those myths serve themselves a little better for a few years? In the end, what can’t go on won’t go on. The mines are not bottomless, the top soil can be eroded. We can make the world a desert. Will we?

Reader Annie is a treasure.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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