In 2021, we are experiencing a similar disjunction, between an elite that seeks to alter the conditions of American life — everything from folkways to the administrative and legal rules that structure our society — and a wide variety of folks (plural peoples) who are victims of this new governing elite.
The corresponding reaction to these innovations and abuses is causing a raucous struggle to find leaders (elites) who can give voice, direction, and guidance to the inevitable resistance to our own imperial elite.
Today, we have a very different elite than America did as recently as the 1980s in terms of their nature, goals, ambitions, style, and ways of exercising power. The deepest fact of our time is that America has a bad elite, a mendacious one whose skills, values, goals, tastes, and types of knowledge are hostile to our nation’s inherited cultures and plural people.
The new elite that has emerged in the last generation or two has no interest in preserving anything but perhaps their own power. They lack historical knowledge and vision, which they supplant by, or exchange for, the powers of transformation and change. Intoxicated by the power possible with emerging technologies, inspired by visions that only a deracinated globalist perspective could make attractive, this elite thinks of creative destruction as applied to culture.
As winners in what they imagine to be a meritocratic struggle, they can see nothing of an inherited world worth preserving for their very success. The peculiar characteristics of their evolving power have given to our new elite the soul of adolescent art applied to a global canvas. They lack any experiential or historical ballast to weigh them down, to slow them in remaking everything according to their desires. For them, streamlining power is key to creation and the annoying obstacles to their new creations are not really checks to prevent tyranny but, rather, limitations — unnecessary friction in the headlong rush to transform.
For this new elite, for instance, the good of free speech has become invisible because, for them, free speech is simply friction, resistance to their goals. The elimination of hate speech is the goal, the unimpeachable good, that the openness of free speech prevents. In half a generation, the work of centuries is undone and the levers of tyranny put in place.
Like the British elite of the late 18th century, America’s early 21st-century elite is imperial and has no respect for liberty, inherited folkways, or cultural forms. Similarly, they seek to centralize, control, and eventually obliterate (which is the real meaning of transformation) all cultures and peoples who do not fit their vision of the good. …
No society lives without elites, and so the task ahead of us is the elimination of one elite and the cultivation of another. …
This is the problem we have today: a longing for intellectual command of an unruly reality encourages us to use a very restrictive vocabulary that forces all the phenomena of our lives into a few conceptual containers, producing a sense of order and control. As a result, we operate with a distorted view of our world, and this has serious consequences.
Once our world is ordered this way by a narrow vocabulary, truths that don’t fit that vocabulary are invisible to us — and thus a great deal of our lives are controlled by things invisible. …
The answer will require political turmoil. We must now endure dramatic, painful, institutional battles outside of the federal government: in universities, non-profits, medias, arts, and the array of mediating institutions that constitute the sinews of a self-ruling folk.