1.8.16

ANTICIPATING A REFORMATION?

Where is the secular Martin Luther?  It's interesting, just from a day looking at some of my usual sources, to see a theme of elite decay emerging.  Start with an observation from Matt Reed.  His column is notionally about the scholarship-funding potential of Stanford's endowment, but toward the end is an observation that generalizes.  "Stanford is beautiful, preposterously well-funded, and entirely separate from the realities that the community college people live. To the extent that elite policymakers hail from there and places like it, I can see why they keep getting the basics wrong." I want to take that observation in a different direction.  Dean Dad and I are in accord on the importance of the community colleges and the regional comprehensives and the mid-majors doing their job as well as the institutions that buy rankings in U.S. News, and on the irrelevance of the virtue-signallers at the ranked institutions to what goes on in the lives of most collegians.

But it is to the antics of the virtue-signallers that I will ultimately turn.  Those antics, dear reader, are evidence that our universities are being run by stupid people.

I must first, however, contemplate the generalization, as offered by W. R. Mead.
Having a political class who subsist on exploiting the character weaknesses and insatiable narcissism of dilettante plutocrats isn’t the best way to cultivate an ethos of responsibility and patriotism at the highest levels of government.

The fatheaded stupidity of rich liberals is the subtext of the hacked emails: how easily they are exploited, how gullible their vanity makes them, how pathetically eager they are for the hollow satisfaction of a seat next to the powerful. In one sense it’s refreshing: great wealth does not in fact make a nincompoop powerful. Also, it suggests that the real problem with our republic is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous…

The sense that people like this—a mix of knaves and fools—are running both parties has a lot to do with the anger that fueled both the Sanders and the Trump campaigns. There’s a spiritual disease at work in this, and over time it has the ability to wreck not just individual souls, but our free institutions and the rule of law itself.
Wreck? Perhaps, if the likes of Mr Trump or Mr Sanders are the best we get as reformers.  It might be, however, that we are still in the early stages of the reformation, and that secular Martin Luther has not yet emerged.

Here is Max Boot, thinking along similar lines.
Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.
No, here I have to pivot back to Matt Reed.

The elite keep getting the basics wrong.  

And where the academic-entertainment-media complex use their entrenched positions to mock a bourgeois movement (the Tea Party) and to turn an honorable man like Mitt Romney into a caricature, does it come as a surprise if the populist anger doesn't take a nastier form?

Thus Kurt Schlichter, explaining to the Republican establishment what went wrong.
Maybe that many of us are snobs. There's a lot of class warfare going on here, a lot of backroom snark, with a lot of conservatives who want to believe that the only people who could ever support Donald Trump are knuckle-dragging morons who can't cut it when it comes to anything besides digging ditches. Too many of us choose cultural solidarity with the liberals we live among over political solidarity with the people we expected to vote with us.

“Gosh,” we tell ourselves. “These people can’t even see what’s in their own best interest.” Except maybe they don’t like what they see. Maybe it’s because they decided we aren’t worth listening to. Maybe they don’t like us conservatives. And maybe we better figure out how to fix that instead of whining.
The elite keep getting the basics wrong.

And thus Mr Sanders and Mr Trump.  But perhaps, not yet, the secular Martin Luther.

What's the significance of Martin Luther?  Note, from two weeks ago, that he was an advocate of universal education long before the common school movement.  And with the availability of Gutenberg Bibles, the literate worshipper could read and understand and respond to Scripture without the intercession of the priests.  That was a subversive notion for the Establishment of the era.  Received cosmology posited the Great Chain of Being, with God above the choirs of angels above the orders of humanity above animals, plants, and matter.  And in such a status hierarchy, it's easy enough to stratify the orders of humanity in order that the Pope, as Vicar of Christ, and the Cardinals and Bishops determine what is to be rendered unto the Lord.  Likewise, it is easy enough to set up a parallel status hierarchy in which the King rules by Divine Providence and the Lords and Magistrates determine what is to be rendered unto Caesar (Kaiser, Tsar, after all.)  Read more here and here.

Present the farmers and herders with the opportunity to read and understand Scripture.  Now they can respond in an informed way to what they see and don't like.  Or respond in a partly-informed way, but they can see, or be shown, that there is plenty not to like.

The elites keep getting the basics wrong.

And thus the parallels to the Reformation: at heart the existing social order is incompetent, rigged, and corrupt.

In the fifteenth century, the Great Chain of Being codified and the church blessed the status hierarchy, with the establishment of a new order of mendicant monks or the sale of indulgences available for the remission of sins.

It was a corrupt system, and it stinketh, and there had to be discontent before there was Martin Luther.

The elites kept getting the basics wrong.

In the early twenty-first century, the U.S. News ranked institutions codify and the New York Times wedding announcements bless the status hierarchy, with the establishment of a new diversity initiative or the sale of carbon offsets available for the remission of sins.

It is a corrupt system, and it stinketh, and there is discontent, perhaps, not yet with a reformer of the stature of Martin Luther before us.

But the elites keep getting the basics wrong.

And the emergence of social media and self-publishing enable the people to see, and to respond, in an improving way, to that which is not to like.

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