December 16, 2010
Middle-Class HypocritesBy Larrey Anderson
The most dangerous of hypocrites come from the middle class. These are the middle-class "intellectuals" who openly despise other members of the bourgeoisie. They are ubiquitous in academia, the arts, and in much of the mainstream media. They are smugly satisfied to bite the cultural hand that feeds them -- a hand that rarely retaliates.
The Tea Parties have begun the arduous process of taking back one portion of our society, the state, from the pseudo-intellectuals who have overwhelmed our political ranks. If Western culture is to survive, however, the middle class must also recapture the educational systems, the media, and the entertainment industries that produce and promote these parasitic "elites." We can, and we must, challenge these wannabe bluestockings at the cultural, as well as the political, level.
I have explained elsewhere the dangers that bourgeois "intellectuals" pose for Western culture. In this article, I want to focus on some examples of the dissimulation of these evangelists for the beau monde. Understanding the forms of their hypocrisy is a vital step in saving our culture.
Attacking the aristocracy and the priestly class (as opposed to the "bourgeois church") is suddenly so 18th century. Today, we are "tolerant" of religion, and nobody cares much about an almost nonexistent aristocracy (instead, we gossip about middle-class millionaires like Angelina Jolie or Brett Favre). Middle-class culture and "bourgeois institutions" have ended up as the whipping boys for the intellectual snobs.
Mauling the middle class is a relatively new phenomenon in the West. Historically speaking, it is brand-new in the United States. Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, claimed, "Americans ... do not naturally apply the term 'bourgeois' to themselves, or to anyone else for that matter." Most of us didn't think of ourselves as "bourgeois" in 1987, when Bloom's book was written. Some of us still don't. But the middle-class glitterati get away with defining everyone else as "bourgeois" -- and they do it with impunity.
Real contempt for the middle class started to percolate through America in the late 1960s. Here is an excerpt (note the date: 1970) from a workshop on the rights of children, conducted at -- here it comes -- Berkeley:[i]
This statement was controversial in 1970. Today, however, it could be taken straight from the syllabus of a typical college class in what remains of the "humanities." Offered at a nearby campus: Gender Studies, Queer Theory (again, notice the dates in that link), Black Studies, Transgender Studies, and, surging through most of the remaining areas in the humanities and nudging into the hard sciences, Deconstructionism [ii].
The people who ran the Berkeley workshop and who teach these college courses are products of the middle class. They live comfortable bourgeois lives. Their salaries are paid by the members of the middle class they abhor. Hypocrisy and self-loathing are, necessarily, part and parcel of the psyches of these intellectual elites.
The potential of phony intellectualism always haunts the university. Bashing the bourgeoisie is now academically chic -- but in the real world, not so much.
The theories of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D Laing, for example, might have influenced the silliness that emerged from the Berkeley workshop [iii]. But Dr. Laing went further. Laing pegged the middle class as the cause of many forms of mental illness. In The Politics of the Family, published in 1969, Laing made the outrageous assertion that the "bourgeois" institutions of "families, schools, [and] churches are the slaughter houses [sic] of our children." He claimed to have proof. He offered purported cures for those members of the middle class stricken with "ontological insecurity," i.e., a mental illness resulting from simply being middle-class.
Fortunately, Laing's "anti-psychiatry" psychiatry (seriously, some therapists tried to put Laing's "theories" into practice) faced two bourgeois hurdles: peer review of the research and medical malpractice lawsuits. "Laingian" therapists were soon exposed in the scientific literature as the charlatans they were. Those who insisted on the anti-treatment treatment of their hapless patients lost their (middle-class) jobs.
Outright "dissing" of the middle class doesn't cut it in the real world, where the bourgeoisie hold most economic and political power [iv]. In some cases, a little "tact" is necessary. Let's look at cinema and politics -- two quick examples of the hypocrisy of the cultural elites whose job is to pander to the middle class.
Movies that make money almost always indulge the bourgeoisie. Middle-class audiences screen major movies before they are distributed. "Alternative" endings are shown to those who preview the film. Financially successful movies are released with a "happy ending" -- or the ending with the most appeal to the bourgeoisie.
In the age of DVDs, such pandering in cinema is impossible to deny. We have access to the "director's cut" and to alternate versions of the film. The need for the filmmakers to accommodate a "mass market" (the middle class) is there for all to see.
Hollywood knows this. There are films, even a sub-genre of cinema, which satirize the predicament. Some examples from American cinema: The Deal and The Player; from France, the subtler Day for Night. Hollywood's hypocrisy is blatant.
When it comes to politics, affectation addressed to the middle class has been the rhetorical standard for politicians since Pericles' funeral oration in ancient Athens. It is all but impossible to find a politician who doesn't eulogize the bourgeoisie at every opportunity.
"Pandering" is not a strong enough word to describe the current political rhetoric. Every major piece of proposed legislation is written, or so the politicians tell us, to "aid the middle class." Sure it is.
Universal (except for Congress) health care, increases in the minimum wage, and extension upon extension of unemployment benefits -- all are sold as bourgeois subventions. It is, to say the least, questionable that the middle class has benefited from such egalitarian efforts. The costs of health care and health insurance have skyrocketed. Entry-level jobs are harder and harder to find. Unemployment is reaching depression-era levels.
Political rhetoric in America has evolved into a layered, almost recursive hypocrisy. The middle class needs to hear this political speech for what it is -- specious bombast.
We live in an age of hypocrisy, from politics to the "Piss Christ," from the lavish lifestyles of the eco-warriors James Cameron and Al Gore to Queer Studies (but no prayer) in the classroom. We cannot begin to understand American elitism until we grasp its hypocrisy -- and the contempt it holds for the middle class.
Larrey Anderson is a writer, philosopher, and Senior Editor for American Thinker. He is the author of the award-winning novel The Order of the Beloved and the memoir Underground. He is working on a new book, entitled The Death of Culture.
[ii] See, especially, the article by Randy Laist, "The Self-Deconstructing Canon." Laist manages to be both whiny and pontificating as he "proves" that there is no such thing as great literature.
[iii] Similar nonsensical theories about the middle class and mental health ran rampant: Foucault, (Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique, 1961), Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness, 1961, and Ideology and Insanity, 1970), David Copper (The Death of the Family, 1974), and Esterson (The Leaves of Spring, 1970). Esterson coauthored several articles and books with Laing, e.g., Sanity, Madness, and the Family, 1964.