July 3, 2016

"The people who consider themselves 'cosmopolitan' in today’s West... are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity..."

"... by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call 'global citizens,'" writes Ross Douthat (in the NYT).
Genuine cosmopolitanism is a rare thing. It requires comfort with real difference, with forms of life that are truly exotic relative to one’s own. It takes its cue from a Roman playwright’s line that “nothing human is alien to me,” and goes outward ready to be transformed by what it finds....

[I]t’s a problem that our tribe of self-styled cosmopolitans doesn’t see itself clearly as a tribe... They can’t see that their vision of history’s arc bending inexorably away from tribe and creed and nation-state looks to outsiders like something familiar from eras past: A powerful caste’s self-serving explanation for why it alone deserves to rule the world.

54 comments:

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Maybe somebody can explain to me, in a nutshell, what Mr. Douthat is trying to say.

I am not reading that a third time.

Humperdink said...

Douthat: "They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions ..."

Those of us who are Christians w/Christ have recognized this for a long time. They do not follow Christ's teachings of sin and redemption. They do not want to go there. Sin? Not them. Why they are close to perfect.

Quayle said...

Well, as I always say, at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of what are the facts, of meaning of being right and wrong, of the universe and who else exists in it with you, and of the mystery of human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

PB said...

Never mistake "comfort with real difference" with indifference and believing you are above it all. What good came from cosmopolitianism?

Quayle said...
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Quayle said...

"Maybe somebody can explain to me, in a nutshell, what Mr. Douthat is trying to say."

A verbal rehashing of the famous New Yorker cover "A view of the world from 9th Avenue."

Bob Boyd said...

The main gain of modern man has been the weakening of governments. Unfortunately, that process is now reversed, not only in Europe, but also in America. There is a constant accession of government authority and power. It works inevitably toward the disadvantage of the only sort of man who is really worth hell room, to wit, the man who practices some useful trade in a competent manner, makes a decent living at it, pays his own way, and asks only to be let alone. He is now a pariah in all so-called civilized countries.
- H L Mencken, Minority Report, 1956

dreams said...

The elite are out of touch, they lack true understanding as a result of their bubble.

rhhardin said...

This week's Radio Derb

When you're young and carefree and not very serious about anything, a cosmopolitan city is a fun place to live. As you get older, more settled, and wiser, the heartland pulls you back — unless, like Roger Cohen, you never knew it in the first place.

Brits voted to leave the EU because they saw their heartland disappearing, swamped by strangers. It dawned on them that the transnational elites who run the world hate heartlands and want to destroy them. They want everywhere — every town, every village, every street — to be just like a big cosmopolitan city.

The elites are uniformitarians. They know what they like, and they insist everyone else like it too. Well, sorry, but a lot of us don't like it. Some of us never liked it. Some of us liked it in our twenties but don't like it any more. Is this so hard to understand?

Birkel said...

Progressives believe in the perfectability of Man.

That alone is highly mockable.

Amadeus 48 said...
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Anglelyne said...

The elites are uniformitarians. They know what they like, and they insist everyone else like it too. Well, sorry, but a lot of us don't like it. Some of us never liked it. Some of us liked it in our twenties but don't like it any more. Is this so hard to understand??

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
Uniformity is Diversity

Amadeus 48 said...

"They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ)..."

Joseph Bottum wrote a really interesting book on this topic called An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. His thesis is that the mainline Protestant denominations collapsed in the last third of the 20th century leaving a void where the moral center of the country was from 1620 onward. The evangelical Christians and the theologically resurgent Catholics tried to fill the void in an uneasy alliance that ultimately fell apart, finally collapsing in the 2012 presidential election.

In 2016 we are left with a country drawing down the moral capital banked by 350 years of Protestant ascendancy. The mainstream Protestant denominations (excluding evangelical churches like the Southern Baptists) have collapsed in membership, money, and influence, leaving a large group of citizens who are unchurched but still retain the cultural confidence of the Protestant tradition in America and the habits of the protestant conscience: anxiety about one's ultimate salvation and daily inspection of one's conscience. Result: new secular religions without God or Christ, such as environmentalism, food fanaticism, anti-racism, a passion for social justice (BLM, Occupy Wall Street, income inequality concerns, etc.)

The obvious dilemma is the one presented by the parable of the house. Is the post-Protestant ethic founded on sand or rock?

By the way, Bottum cites our hostess approvingly on page 24.

Highly recommended.

Humperdink said...

"War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
Uniformity is Diversity"

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

M Jordan said...

Thanks, Amadeus, for the book tip. It's one I'll relish reading.

Paco Wové said...

Hmmm... Douthat used the word "cosmopolitan"... which is 50%, fully one-half, of the term "rootless cosmopolitan", which, of course, is anti-semitic code for THE JEWS!!1!! And then seals the deal, by calling these "[rootless] cosmopolitans" part of ... wait for it... part of "A TRIBE"!! "TRIBE"?!?!? "[[ROOTLESS] COSMOPOLITAINS?!?!? Do I have to DRAW a fucking MAP, PEOPLE? He might as well have written the whole screed inside a big yellow SIX POINTED STAR.

Sebastian said...

NYT commenters: we're not a tribe! we don't see the world as black and white! only those crude non-cosmopolitans do! QED

Bob Matthews said...

There has always been a division between America's natural aristocracy and everyone else (globalists and nativists, to use the currently fashionable terms). And, perhaps the aristocracy always had contempt for those of us in "fly-over" country. The difference today, I think, is how little compunction that the globalists have to displaying open contempt for the nativists.

Fifty years ago, the aristocracy at least had to pretend allegiance to the values of the rest of the country to maintain their positions. Today, they seem to expect to be rewarded for belittling the majority. Our modern aristocracy behaves more like a clerical class than a landed elite.

n.n said...

The cosmopolitans have a confused order. One set for themselves, and another for others. Perhaps they should stop seeing [class] differences in people and just recognize the full spectrum of merit in each individual.

whswhs said...

The comparison that occurs to me is "mandarinate." The Chinese have spent millennia taking young people from across China—but characteristically from wealthy, privileged family—and training them to pass examinations that qualify them for admission to an administrative elite. The West seems to have reinvented the practice.

Michael K said...

"Our modern aristocracy behaves more like a clerical class than a landed elite."

Yes, they are the heirs of the mandarins.

As I understand it, the mandarin class was based on education alone.

For around 1,300 years, from 605 to 1905, mandarins were selected by merit through the extremely rigorous imperial examination.

China has had civil servants since at least the Zhou Dynasty. However, most high ranking positions were filled by relatives of the sovereign and the nobility. It was not until the Tang Dynasty when the final form of the mandarin was completed with the replacement of the nine-rank system. The mandarins were the founders and core of the Chinese gentry.


There were equivalent military ranks but mandarins did not serve in the military and wre solely determined by education and examination.

In early American and British history, the landed class was the source of elites and education was second. In China, the peasants were the farmers and there was no connection between mandarins and the land.

The same applies to the present ruling class and explains quite a bit. They think food comes from "Whole Foods" and would starve if all of them closed.

n.n said...
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Amadeus 48 said...

Bob Matthews--

To be fair, the contempt runs both ways, with the majority in fly-over country not even trying to hide their low opinion of those who hold themselves to be a cut above because of where they went to school, where they live, and their middle-brow pretensions of higher culture. The tradition of the sly countryman taking advantage of the effete city dude runs way back in America. Listen to the Grand Ole Opry or to the lyrics played over two consecutive hours on a country and western playlist to get in the proper mood.

There are parallel streams flowing in American culture, as there always have been. Having spent my life in the upper Midwest, I am acutely aware how little my friends care about what they think in New York, Boston, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Washington is a bit different because it is the Capital of Panem, but we all get to send our representatives there to show 'em. How well that is working right now open to debate.

In any case, living freely the way you want to is the best revenge.

Christopher said...

"NYT commenters: we're not a tribe! we don't see the world as black and white! only those crude non-cosmopolitans do! QED"


You know I thought you were oversimplifying it so I decided to check the comments.

Yeah, you were pretty damn spot on with that description.

David Carlson said...

you should of posted this next to the Greenhouse kerfuffle post.

it would be an altposition

But what pictures would you use?

mockturtle said...

@Humperdink Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

And to continue the verse from Isaiah: 'Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.'

virgil xenophon said...

Amadeus48 @ 8:06/

Good points about "Christianity without Christ" "...leaving....citizens who are unchurched but still retain the cultural confidence of the Protestant tradition in America and the habits of the protestant conscious..." The problem is that this "retention" grows weaker with each succeeding generation as the role of Religion and the ethics and morality it brings in its train play a smaller and smaller part in American life. In this case our situation is akin to that of an ICBM fired into space. At first it rises upward powered by its rocket engines, then when the engines are turned off it still yet rises on momentum alone, then, when it has reached its apogee, it runs out of "steam" and begins its fall back toward Earth. I would contend we've been in the "momentum" stage for quite a while now and have probably hit our cultural apogee sometime back and society is now on the return trip down.

Happy Landings..

virgil xenophon said...

All one needs to know about this topic is contained within Thomas Sowells book "The Vision of the Anointed."

Amadeus 48 said...

Virgil X--
I'll take your comment as a vote for the post-Protestant ethic having its foundation built on sand.

Hagar said...

Los Tres Amigos
and the Eurocrats.

Hagar said...

The View from 8th Avenue?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Be sure to click through the link on the words "their own outgroups"-- it leads to one of the best essays you'll read anywhere.

TheThinMan said...

How convenient that we get such a good example of the elite tribalism pointed out in this article by simply scrolling down a bit and reading another Times reporter sneer at the readers of this blog. As a royal princess of her tribe, she is used to being fawned over, not corrected. The only defense for this pretend lawyer when caught by a real lawyer of making up her own facts is to say, in effect, "Oh yeah? Well, my tribe is better than your tribe. So there!"

LarsPorsena said...

I for one, welcome my new mandarin overlords.

buwaya puti said...

The Sowell rec is on point.
The article is correct, and very much what Ive been saying for many years, that US education in particular is remarkably parochial and obtuse about culture, multiculturalism, and what difference really is. These people are clueless about anything truly foreign, even of the corresponding meritocracies elsewhere. How they are going to survive the Chinese I dont know.

Michael K said...

The NY Daily News guy with the AR 15 PTSD is a hilarious example of the difference between the elites (self described) and the rest of us.

"Pajama Boy" was last year's example.

Hagar said...

BTW, mandarin comes from a Portuguese verb meaning "to command."

khesanh0802 said...

@Quayle thanks for bringing up the name of the New Yorker cover I was referring to in a comment yesterday. I will archive it because it is so perfect.

virgil xenophon said...

OH, I forgot to credit mockturtle for that quite succinct quote from Isaiah: "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." Describes those who believe themselves to hold the "Vision of the Anointed" EXACTLY.

mikee said...

Were the current elite meritocratic, with inclusion or exclusion based upon actual competence rather than adherence to an inflexible, corrupt ideology, there might be less anger towards our current elites.

As I recall, the Chinese student protests in Tienanmen Square were precipitated by the appointment of Communist Party members' offspring to highly desirable business and political posts, despite their lower scores and grades, when there were many, many much more highly qualified graduates applying for the same positions.

Corruptocracy among an "elite" group is not elite, it is just corrupt. And people worldwide know it when they experience it.

virgil xenophon said...

@khesanh0802/

Age occasionally does have its advantages. I'm old enough to have bought that New Yorker cover (recognizing it for the classic that it was and now have it framed, hanging in my study/library. The one that got away, however (my gut said to buy it at the time, but alas I didn't) was a B& W (in those days) Enquirer headline from the National Enquirer circa summer 1969 that screamed: "She cut his heart out and stomped on it!" GOT to be the ALL-TIME great Nat Inquirer headline!

Comanche Voter said...

Well our "elite" do form a sort of clerisy. In one sense the word means a class of literate well educated people. In another sense it refers to the clergy (who at least in 18th century America were the literate and educated class. Harvard started as a divinity school after all.)

But when the clergy becomes overbearing and all powerful they are either stripped of their estates and property---see Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, or there is Protestant Reformation--see Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Ross Douthat is a clerisy wannabe, hanger on. I agree with the fellow from the upper Midwest where they don't give a tinker's toot about what the modern bicoastal clerisy thinks.

If this current nonsense keeps up either the USA will fail--or the simple folk in flyover country will rise up and throw the current clerisy out on its ear. I'm leaning towards the fail option as the most probable outcome. The clerisy and their sclerotic bureaucracy are choking the lifeblood out of the nation.

khesanh0802 said...

@ VirgilX Will read. Really enjoy Sowell's pov.

Michael K said...

the appointment of Communist Party members' offspring to highly desirable business and political posts, despite their lower scores and grades, when there were many, many much more highly qualified graduates applying for the same positions.

Sounds like the Ivy League, doesn't it ?

The BLM student protestors are the opposite of the Tiananmen Square protestors because they got the spots the better qualified should have gotten and now they are failing even the fake "Studies" courses.

Amadeus 48 said...

Virgil X--
There was a C&W song with the refrain, "You stepped on my heart/ And mashed that sucker flat."

mccullough said...

W, Obama, and Hillary. Is the problem with elitism or with the incompetent fools that think they are elite.

Ted Cruz went to Princeton and Yale. Is he elite? No he's not.

Are Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi elite? Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell? Petraeus?

No. The best and brightest aren't running government or other institutions

HT said...

I liked it.

Humperdink said...

Amadeus 48 said: "To be fair, the contempt runs both ways, with the majority in fly-over country not even trying to hide their low opinion of those who hold themselves to be a cut above because of where they went to school, where they live, and their middle-brow pretensions of higher culture. The tradition of the sly countryman taking advantage of the effete city dude runs way back in America."

The difference is the cosmopolitans are now running the government head-to-toe, top-to-bottom, east-to-west, front-to-back, side-to-side. Forget flyover state governments running their own show. The libs just scout for a friendly like-minded federal judge and that's that. And they are legion (ha).

n.n said...

It's unfortunate that "genuine" cosmopolitans have adopted [class] diversity schemes in order to manage their urban jungles.

Jupiter said...

"They can’t see that paeans to multicultural openness can sound like self-serving cant coming from open-borders Londoners who love Afghan restaurants but would never live near an immigrant housing project, or American liberals who hail the end of whiteness while doing everything possible to keep their kids out of majority-minority schools."

I don't think he intended to, but Douthat has torn the scab off here. What he is saying is that, if you didn't know better, like he does, you might suppose this "meritocratic elite" is actually just a bunch of hustlers, reciting the pious lies they learned from their Communist professors while they feather their own nests at the expense of their betters.

David Begley said...

Translation. Once we get the right kids we want into the Ivy League then we own their minds. We keep our crew employed and exclude the wrong people. Heaven forbid if you went to Michigan, Wisconsin, NYU or any Jesuit school except Georgetown. You will never be in our tribe even if you read the NYT daily.

Hillary just continues the Harvard-Yale duopoly. Ethics is not a subject taught at either school.

Char Char Binks said...

I knew someone who actually, unironically, called himself part of the "cultural elite" back when that term was in vogue.

rcocean said...

In order to have a cultural elite, you need a culture. Which the USA doesn't have.

Martha said...

Ted Cruz went to Princeton and Harvard Law School—not Yale Law School.
Elite institutions for the "elite".