The People, Reconsidered

[continued from below]

My argument is this:  Politics is the art of maintaining the level of individuals in a given society.  Find out who the individuals are in any given group.  See how they buy in, or don’t, to the leader’s vision.  And there you have it — the rise and fall of a people.

My definition of “individual” is: A person whose preferences actually matter in a given system.  That is, someone with sufficient power that his preferences influence events.  Crudely reductive theories (if that isn’t redundant) like Marxism assign all the individuals to broad social classes — the bourgeoisie, the capitalists — but we all know that in any given group, only a select few people set the tone.  These are the individuals, as I’m using the term.

Even in the so-called “Deep State,” for instance, it’s guys like Peter Strzok calling the tune — James Comey will end up taking a bigger fall if there’s ever a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the 2016 coup attempt, but we all know that Comey’s too dumb and weak to have actually done anything on his own.  Had Strzok been a huge MAGA man, “Comey’s” FBI would’ve been MAGA-fied too.

Or consider a less contentious example: Teenagers.  I’ve written before that I’ve never met an honest-to-God SJW among the studentry, even though I’ve taught gazillions of college kids.  I’ve had a whole bunch of literal blue-haired nose-ringers drift through my classes over the years, but as I said, the key word in the phrase “college kid” is “kid.”  The blue hair and the nose rings are just fashion.  Yeah yeah, I’m sure they’d check all the SJW boxes if you gave them a social survey, but they’d take the survey in the exact same spirit — and with the exact same level of effort — as they take midterm exams:  That is, not at all.  Everyone knows the lines you’re supposed to parrot when it comes to stuff like global warming, LGBTQwhatever, etc., just like everyone knows what the professor wants to hear on the midterm exam.  Put the required words in the required order, everyone gets an A, and now we can all go get blackout drunk on Wednesday night.

Those kids, then, weren’t individuals in my sense, despite the blue hair and the nose rings.  But here’s the rub: I wasn’t an individual either.

I’m blissfully retired now, praise Buddha, but I can assure you that if an honest-to-god SJW had ever shown up in one of my classes, the entire experience would’ve changed.  Instead of teaching “the students,” I’d now be “teaching” Trigglypuff exclusively.  The reason for this is simple:  You can’t beat Trigglypuff.  I have other responsibilities; Trigglypuff doesn’t.  Hell, I have to sleep sometime; Trigglypuff — who by definition has access to powerful prescription psychotropics — doesn’t.  Trigglypuff can and will chain herself to the radiator outside the Dean’s office until I either recant or get fired, so I’ll either recant or get fired — either way, problem solved.  My preferences, such as they were, made no difference at all.

Finding the individuals, then, can be tricky.  Indeed, that’s where you see your major historical ruptures — your civil wars and whatnot.  Charles I, for instance, thought the bluebloods were the individuals in his society.  He figured that he had the Duke of This and the Earl of That and the Bishop of the Other Thing in his pocket, so his throne was secure.  But the Duke of This and the Earl of That hadn’t mattered for a hundred years or more, because they were landed gentry in a money economy.  This was brought home in dramatic fashion when the Dukes and Earls, and King Charles himself, marched out to settle the Covenanters, only to find half the army unwilling to fight and the other half actively joining the rebels.

In Charles’s society, the individuals were the merchants and “hot gospelers.”  That’s how Parliament could get an army together in the blink of an eye.  And not just any army, but a ruthlessly effective one, despite almost all the military training and experience being on the other side.  Mano-a-mano and in a vacuum, Prince Rupert might’ve been the equal of any Parliamentary general, but modern wars aren’t fought mano-a-mano or in vacuums.  Modern armies need support staffs — quartermasters, paymasters, pen-pushers of all kinds — and all those guys were fighting for Parliament.  At bottom, the Cavaliers were trying to fight a medieval war with modern armies, which is why they lost.  The locus of individuality, if you want to put it pretentiously (but accurately!), had shifted.

To be continued….

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