Elite Panic: why rich people think all people are monsters

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140 Responses to “Elite Panic: why rich people think all people are monsters”

  1. anon0mouse says:

    IT’S A TRAP!

    • badweatherrr says:

       Civilization is a trap…

      Three things:

         1. money
         2. property
         3. lending money at interest

      End result, earth will be a vending machine floating around the sun.

      • Origami_Isopod says:

        Civilization is what protects a lot of us from a lot of other people, plus nature. Takes a fair amount of privilege to sneer at it.

        Oh, wait, your comments indicate that you’re a manarchist. It figures.

        • badweatherrr says:

          My government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world ~ MLK

          I sneer at “civilization” from the position of dirty fucking hippie anarchist, bisexual, feminist, dirt fucking poor, with cystic fibrosis killing me, and you can take your judgmental garbage somewhere else troll.

  2. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Would Louis XIV being careful to build is fancy palace well away from Paris, thanks at least in part to how fun he didn’t think the Fronde was, count as an example even before the 19th century?

  3. Gary Gibson says:

    This reminds me of a book I read not too long ago called Mad Mobs & Englishmen, by Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott, which made the point that rather than being unruly masses of people on the rampage, the recent riots throughout the UK were in certain respects conscious attempts to address local grievances. In other words, at its heart was the potential for actual urban insurrection – one of those opportunities for valid social change. 

    Another book worth checking out that I think can offer a huge and very important perspective on the differing worldviews of those with power can be found in The Authoritarians, an amazing psychological analyis of power by Dr Bob Altemeyer, a former Professor of psychology. 

  4. theophrastvs says:

    Looks like a good thesis.  But an even simpler factor seems to be overlooked (perhaps it’s in the colophon), that of numbers.  If one is a rich elite, then not only are you (almost by definition) a tiny …1%… as compared to the large population on “the other side”; but you’ve engineered spacious dwellings with large surrounds to add to your feeling of all by your lonely.s.   So, in addition to being suspicious of the “lower classes” (because you’re a greasy bastard and surely they are too) you’re facing the vast zombie hordes by yourself (with your private security force)

    • austinhamman says:

       let’s not forget though, that private security force and all those servants are also of the “lower class” and thus cannot be trusted

  5. liquidself says:

    Find this very interesting and relevant right now.  Have to read it now -  ideas sound very relevant to an anarchic perspective.

    • The link to anarchist philosophy is made explicit in (the most boring, most ignorable) parts of Solnit’s book. She’s an anarcho-socialist, and thinks that what disaster sociologists have proven about the first long weekend after a disaster proves that we don’t need any kind of government. The thing is, she mentions but mostly glosses over the evidence that contradicts her thesis: after about the 3 day mark, when people aren’t as focused on life-saving and survival, if there isn’t a restoration of something that people recognize as normal, legitimate authority, then the odds go up rapidly day after day that you’ll get an even bigger disaster: exactly the kind of looting and rioting that elites expect. That mass uprising isn’t driven by disaster conditions, it’s driven by anger at being neglected by government … which rather plainly suggests to me that the anarchists, who (like lib-cons) want to make that neglect permanent, are deranged.

      But even then, it can take some time. In Venkatesh’s excellent book on ghetto economics, /Off the Books,/ there’s a chapter where he interviews the oldest people in the ghetto about the history of the local economy, and they point out that the particular neighborhood he’s studying is where the jobs were back before WW2, that that’s why people live there in the first place. But when we re-tooled the country around automobiles in the late ’40s, early ’50s all of the jobs and all of the banks, and nearly all of the stores and nearly all of the cops and nearly all of the government services like hospitals and fire protection, went searching for neighborhoods with better parking — new neighborhoods that happened to be whites-only. Apply disaster sociology to this and you see that it took fifteen or twenty YEARS for lawless violence to become entrenched, that the neighborhood survived without cops or jobs from around the early 1950s to the late ’60s or early ’70s. If you look at Venketesh’s description of how people survive, economically, in a post-economic ungoverned territory, and squint a little bit, the coping system that they cooked up looks remarkably like anarcho-socialism. But the result was not something that anybody would choose on purpose.

      • Slartibartfatsdomino says:

        As an anarchist-socialist myself, I would suggest that your example rather suggests the utility of our perspective, considering it took fifteen to twenty years for violence to become entrenched in the midst of a society that does all it can to prevent the type of self-organization that anarchists advocate 

        It really is not the case that anarchists (with the exception of the primitivist types such as John Zerzan, but I mostly ignore him) advocate for no organization. Instead, we advocate for no hierarchical power. We have all sorts of evidence of what happens when poor and marginalized communities are subjected to government in that case and it doesn’t take a decade or two for the “lawless violence” to set in, it’s there from the start and it is couched in the rhetoric of law and order, the persons of the cops and the bankers, and the consequent physical and economic violence. 

        • badweatherrr says:

           Funny handle.

          Excellent point.

          Here’s my favorite quote from “A Paradise Built In Hell” which Solnit brings it all down with:

          Pg. 90

          Anarchists are idealists, believing human beings do not need
          authorities and the threat of violence to govern them but are instead
          capable of governing themselves by cooperation, negotiation, and mutual
          aid. They stand on one side of a profound debate about human nature and
          human possibility. On the other side, the authoritarian pessimists
          believe that order comes only at the point of a gun or a society stacked
          with prisons, guards, judges, and punishments. They believe that
          somehow despite the claimed vileness of the many, the few whom they wish
          to endow with power will use it justly and prudently, though the
          evidence for this could most politely be called uneven. The cases drawn
          from disaster largely contradict this belief. It is often the few in
          power rather than the many without who behave viciously in disaster, and
          those few do so often exactly because they subscribe to the fearful
          beliefs of Huxley, Le Bon, and others.We don’t say things will be perfect, but we can certainly get a whole lot closer to egalitarian society than the crumbling police states the west has produced to date.

          • I regard myself as an (edge-case) anarchist but i dont agree with Solnit’s definition,

            ‘Anarchists believe humans are incapable of
            governing themselves fairly’

            i take the old saying of ‘democracy is the worst form of government invented; excepting all others which have been tried’ not as an inditment of democracy but as a call for us to experiment.

          • Scurra says:

            The thing is though that there really aren’t all that many alternatives left to try after six thousand years of experiments.  Even the anarchosocialist attempts only last for a generation before there are enough people who believe that they “deserve” to be in charge. 
            The case for democracy is that it does at least give those people something to worry about.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

             @boingboing-f474573a89a8f1da580cbfd9b0fecd33:disqus

            And it’s pretty disingenuous of anarchists to refer very undemocratic systems as “democracies”. See the U.S.

          • Marc Mielke says:

            Le Bon? I know who you mean, but I do like the idea of all these rich elites deriving their paranoid worldview from the works of Duran Duran. 

          • Peter Zanon says:

            > They stand on one side of a profound debate about human nature and human possibility.

            As an anarchist, I disagree with Solnit on this, unless I misunderstand what she is trying to say. She seems to be making an “idealist” argument for anarchism, which I think is a very weak argument for anarchism, or any type of socialism in general.

            What’s important to realize is that the socialist argument does not need to stand on any side of the “profound debate about human nature.” Typically the “profound debate” could be expressed as “Are humans naturally good or evil? Selfish or unselfish?” etc. Such statements are really useless: Unless the “right of increase” (ie, absentee property and usury, or property based on social constructs other than occupancy and use) is somehow genetically encoded in the human brain, then humans are not naturally “pro-capitalist society” (or “pro-anarchist society” for that matter). The appeal to human nature implies an objective knowledge about human nature, that human behavior within a society is independent of that society to the extent to determine something as sophisticated a system of property (capitalism/the state) as “naturally” arising or “naturally” beneficial. And even if people did have the right of increase or Hobbesian violent self-interest written in their hearts, that is hardly a strike against libertarian socialism: even if there are many intrinsically “evil people”, why should we give them power over others? (ie, state, capitalism, racism, and all other axis of oppression constitute enable such people to do the maximum harm to society)

      •  Anarcho-socialist is redundant.  All anarchists are socialists.

        http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secA1.html#seca14

        • Preston Sturges says:

          In hell, Marxists and Anarchists must listen to each other explain their philosophies, forever.

          • Peter Zanon says:

            )) ((

            the communist theory goes back and forth

            forever

          • badweatherrr says:

             you know, at the core, anarchism is about consensus.

            Consensus is either superior to democracy, or a form of it so evolved from the majoritarian ‘democracy” practiced by the hyper-competitive Greeks who didn’t mind peasantry rioting frequently, that you don’t recognize it.

  6. peregrinus says:

    I’m sure there will be urban insurrection.  It just might not be pitchforks and torches.  Looking around the hollowing centre of London, I imagine we’re going to get serious squatting action.

    On my way home the other day, I rode my motorbike fast and noisily around Belgravia, which the Evening Standard reported as being a wealthy ghetto.  When I first moved to London, it was expensive, but populated by a diverse mob of people.  Now, just rich, who are hardly there.

    The only people paying any attention to me were …. well, no-one.  There was no-one.

  7. so our choices in elites are white man’s burden or gated community paranoids?

    awesome.

  8. entireleaves says:

    Every time some elitist snob makes a says the words “class warfare” when there is talk about raising taxes on the wealthy I pray that a poor angry mob climbs over the fences in his gated community, drags his family out of his McMansion, and eats them.

    THEN he can cry about class warfare.

    • Eike says:

       Instead of trying to deny that there is class warfare, it should be acknowledged. The rich are fighting a war against us, and it seems that they are winning.

      • doggo says:

        The rich are winning the class war ’cause we’re not fighting back.

        • Robert Weaver says:

          Bingo, y’all. You don’t get to choose if there’s a class war; you only get to choose which side you’re on. And people whining about class war are just concerned one side might start defending themselves against the already well-established hostilities.

          …err, which you just said.

        • gtronsistem says:

          the root of the problem.  in Canada there are SO many issues to be fucked off about, daily, but VERY little is ever done. it drives me nuts (I grew up in a place where the people actually did stand up and there was a change) . In Canada, the de facto response is: “suck it up” – and this is stated by the fellow sufferers, not the elites. 
          The elites just keep making more money and dredging the tar sands and charging too much for tv and internet service and run pipelines through sacred/protected areas and persecuting the native peoples and watching the native peoples persecute themselves and watching municipal and provincial governments fuck things up and the federal government actually change the National psyche – with the aid of the National broadcaster. If there’s no social revolution here, and I bet there won’t be, the Canada that was so respected only a few years ago will soon be worthy of defecting from for anyone with a conscience.

    • Preston Sturges says:

      You got to remember who promised to save the Fatheland from “class struggle.”  What was his name? Alonso?….Aaron?…..Addison? ……Adrian? …..Alan?….Arnold?

      “….. Bolshevist class struggle that wants to make everyone the same. That we want to oppose by every means……He who spreads such ideas does not want a hard-working community, but rather wants to spread bitter views of class conflict…that could result from envious and critical sentiments……..”-Joseph Goebbels  (1943)http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/rsi52.htm.
      “……….He who opposes class struggle and fraternal murder, who is looking for the way out of chaos and confusion, this man will vote for Adolf Hitler…..”-Joseph Goebbels  (1932)http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/angrif12.htm
      “……….The enemy was Marxism. Our goal was its annihilation. Our propaganda had to shake the foundations of the core of the Marxist idea in the minds and hearts of the masses, the theory of class struggle……”- Schulze-Wechsungen  (1934)http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/polprop.htm
      “………Marxist agitation for class struggle has torn the people apart, and set one against another……”:- Nazi campaign pamphlethttp://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/stuerzt-das-system2.htm
      “………..The means to realize Marxist doctrine was class struggle,- Anti-Marxist propaganda……”http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/anti-bolshevism.htm
      “…….They (the Jews)  mobilized the so-called proletariat to class struggle by ruthlessly exploiting real or imagined problems….” -Joseph Goebbels  (1941)http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb18.htm
      “…….the Jew saw his goal as setting social groups and classes against each other, of inciting nations to class struggle and class hatred, thus destroying each other through civil war…..That is why the Jew alone is the father of class struggle….”-by Robert Ley (1944)http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/pesthauch.htm

  9. I’m glad to see you plugging this book! Just the other day I was asked for a short list of non-fiction books that I wish everyone had read, and this one made my list.

    The way I summarize it: we are better people than we give each other credit for, ESPECIALLY in the first 2 to 3 days after any kind of a major disaster: terrorist attack, natural disaster, whatever, anything that shuts down the economy and either shuts down or diverts law enforcement. In that first 2 to 3 days, the crime rate goes way, way down and happiness levels go way, way up, because people are too busy saving each other to hate, to hurt, or to steal. After the 3 day mark, if normal law and order isn’t restored and basic services aren’t restored, it’s touch-and-go, and can get bad quickly, as resentment builds up over the fact that rescue hasn’t arrived yet, but until then, you’re safer in the middle of a disaster zone than you are in your normal, western, life. And generally, by late in the 3rd day, normal order has been restored.

    And this mistake,  this lie, that once the cops are all distracted or busy that most of us turn into brutal, thieving, rapacious savages is a lie that has horrific consequences: it is this mistaken belief that is why rich people, and their private security forces, and sometimes military units, are so unnecessarily brutal and deadly inside a disaster zone; they mistakenly think they’re about to be over-run by savages. They tell their security details, and they persuade at least half of the military officer corps, that the first thing the crowd will do is rush to kill all the rich men, rape all the rich women, and steal all the rich people’s stuff — three things that have NEVER happened, in all of the recorded history of disasters, at least during that first 2 to 3 days.

    And this lie has consequences even outside of disasters. We know from her own account that Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Newtown shooter, hoarded guns and ammunition specifically because she believed that “any day now” the economy was going to collapse, and that as soon as it did, her wealthy neighborhood was going to be over-run by murderous looters. Nancy Lanza thought that she was at greater risk from hypothetical people that (disaster experts know) have never existed than from the homicidal, suicidal son she shared a house with. If Nancy Lanza had read /A Paradise Made in Hell/ a year ago, she would have made different decisions about how many guns to own, what kinds of guns to own, and what to do with her guns when she found out she was living with someone who was homicidal and suicidal … and the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School would still be alive.

    Please, please read Rebecca Solnit’s /A Paradise Made in Hell./ And persuade everyone you know to read it. If everybody knew what disaster sociologists know, fewer people would die in disaster zones. And fewer people would die outside of disaster zones, too.

    • uptil I saw the receipt of $5893, I did not believe that…my… neighbours mother actually erning money part-time on their laptop.. there neighbor has been doing this for under 10 months and resantly cleared the mortgage on there condo and bought themselves a GMC. go to, …… ZOO80.ℂom

    • badweatherrr says:

      This book is so good.

      It made me mad as hell, because of the way the police search and rescue in Katrina was turned within two days to shooting “looters” and marching people in the hot sun at gunpoint…

      at the same time, there is (within the book) pretty solid proof that humanity is actually capable of self-governance and that the bulk of the bad decisions come from above, at gun point, and structurally, everyday as Charles Fritz said. So it gives me hope in many ways.

      My favorite quote from the book I think is this point she makes regarding which side of the line you may find yourself on in this debate:

      Pg. 90

      Anarchists are idealists, believing human beings do not need authorities and the threat of violence to govern them but are instead capable of governing themselves by cooperation, negotiation, and mutual aid. They stand on one side of a profound debate about human nature and human possibility. On the other side, the authoritarian pessimists believe that order comes only at the point of a gun or a society stacked with prisons, guards, judges, and punishments. They believe that somehow despite the claimed vileness of the many, the few whom they wish to endow with power will use it justly and prudently, though the evidence for this could most politely be called uneven. The cases drawn from disaster largely contradict this belief. It is often the few in power rather than the many without who behave viciously in disaster, and those few do so often exactly because they subscribe to the fearful beliefs of Huxley, Le Bon, and others.

    • Bethany Anne says:

      What was the rest of your list, if you don’t mind?

      • badweatherrr says:

        I highly recommend David Graebers book “Debt: The First 5000 Years”

        from which I pulled this gem:

        Even our ancestor Adam is no longer figured as a creditor, but as transgressor, and therefore a debtor, who passes on to us his burden of Original Sin:

        Finally, with the impossibility of discharging the debt, people also come up with the notion that it is impossible to remove the penance, the idea that it cannot be paid off (“eternal punishment”) … until all of a sudden we confront the paradoxical and horrifying expedient with which a martyred humanity found temporary relief, that stroke of genius of Christianity: God sacrificing himself for the guilt of human beings, God paying himself back with himself, God as the only one who can redeem a man from what for human beings has become impossible to redeem – the creditor sacrificing himself for the debtor, out of love (can people believe that?), out of love for his debtor!

        It all makes such perfect sense if you start from Nietzsche’s initial premise. The problem is that the premise is insane.

        There is also every reason to believe that Nietzsche knew the premise was insane; in fact, that this was the entire point. What Nietzsche is doing here is starting out from the standard, common-sense assumption about the nature of human beings prevalent in his day (and to a large extent, still present) – that we are rational calculating machines, that commercial self-interest comes before society, that “society” itself is just a way of putting a kind of temporary lid on the resulting conflict. That is, he is starting out from ordinary bourgeois assumptions and driving them to a place where they can only shock a bourgeois audience.

        It is a worthy game and no one has ever played it better; but it’s a game played entirely within the boundaries of bourgeois thought. It has nothing to say to anything that lies beyond that. The best response to anyone who wants to take seriously Nietzsche’s fantasies about savage hunters chopping pieces off each other’s bodies for failure to remit are the words of an actual hunter-gatherer an Inuit from Greenland made famous in the Danish writer Peter Freuchen’s Book of the Eskimo. Freuchen tells how one day, after coming home hungry from an unsuccessful walrus-hunting expedition, he found one of the successful hunters dropping off several hundred pounds of meat. He thanked him profusely. The man objected indignantly:

        “Up in our country we are human!” said the hunter. “And since we are human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs.”

        The last line is something of an anthropological classic, and the similar statements about the refusal to calculate credits and debits can be found through the anthropological literature on egalitarian hunting societies. Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began “comparing power with power, measuring, calculating” and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.

      • Rather cross-post, do you mind if I link you to the Reddit comment thread where I listed them? http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1bujne/avid_readers_of_reddit_what_is_a_must_read_book/c9adnhh

    • Preston Sturges says:

      And in the event of a general social breakdown, the wealthy are not going to fare very well surrounded by paramilitary types with guns.  By the end of the week, the owner will have been tossed in the river and the security force will be grilling Omaha steaks on the terrace and drinking some very nice wine.

  10. Ian Wood says:

    There’s a human nature?

    Oh.

  11. 10xor01 says:

    It’s easier to behave like a sociopath when the unwashed masses are crazed  beasts who will stop at nothing to get your hands on your loot.  If they’re just people, one might experience empathy.  And that’s when they’ll get you.

  12. Andrew Moody says:

    Now we just need a book to remind us that we are all rich on a global scale.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      That’s not true. Many people in the First World are homeless, have no health care and go hungry regularly.

      • TWX says:

        Even those most destitute in the First World are more likely to live better scavenging off of the discards of the poor and the middle class than those destitute in third-world countries, where they may have few if any discards at all.  Additionally, since our medical system, by and large, mandates that hospitals take anyone for emergency services regardless of their ability to pay, those afflicted with something medically acute and immediate may actually be able to receive life-saving treatment.

        I’m not going to say that homelessness and hunger aren’t problems in the United States, but they aren’t nearly the problems that someone living in a refugee camp in Africa faces.  Those of us born in the First World or able to move to the First World are extremely lucky people.

        That said, wealth inequality is the most dangerous problem that society faces.  Revolutions have happened because the rich got so rich relative to everyone else that they manipulated the very rules of the market, and their machinations affected people that should have been largely unaffected.  In my opinion, Capital Gains taxes should be higher than labor income taxes, not lower, once income has reached certain high brackets that need to be defined.  To an extent I don’t care how much “work” someone puts into managing their money for using it to invest to make more money, if it’s not a salary or wage for their work then once it tops a couple-million a year it should be taxed at ever-increasing rates.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still make money, that’s not something to stop, but since they’re benefiting off of society, I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to return some of that money back into maintaining a healthy society.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          I’m not going to say that homelessness and hunger aren’t problems in the
          United States, but they aren’t nearly the problems that someone living
          in a refugee camp in Africa faces.

          Why would you compare them to a refugee camp instead of one of the many other first world countries that have much less wealth inequality and higher standards of living than the U.S.?

          • TWX says:

            Because frankly, there are a whole lot of people living worse than us than there living better than us, which was my point in contrast to Antinous.

            A friend of mine was almost destitute, his work had cut him back to less than 10 hours a week, he had very little in the way of property to sell to make himself solvent, and his landlord essentially allowed him to keep his residence on an IOU basis in part because the house is so ramshackle that no one else would rent it. He managed to get free stuff on freecycle and craigslist to keep his bicycles working and shopped at the dented can store so he’d have something to eat. He made it in large part because of the option to scrounge, much moreso than the help his friends could provide.

            In a poorer society he probably wouldn’t have made it.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            In a more equitable society (of which we have real examples) he’d have been in much better shape. The “but Africa!” thing is a dishonest neoliberal narrative that’s trotted out over and over again. The purpose is to try to minimize and excuse real poverty and suffering in the “first” world.

          • novium says:

             Well, I figure that has to do with the fact that we were discussing the narratives the wealthiest use to justify pushing the security state etc etc. And by applying it on a global scale, and remembering that as part of the 1st world, most of us fall into the category of ‘wealthiest’, it invites you to compare the mindsets and policies of our elite with our (as a nation)’s actions on the world stage, and the narratives we tell about impoverished countries, and how we justify our interventions there. I thought it was a good point.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

             It’s a common neoliberal narrative, so common it’s a cliche.

      • wysinwyg says:

        In the US we throw out half our food.  There was a This American Life episode with a feature about two homeless slam poets in NYC who said “If you’re going hungry in the city you ain’t tryin’” or something to that effect.

        There’s a real question about whether eating food out of trash bins represents a breach of dignity to which we should not subject the most vulnerable among us.  There’s an even more real question about the risks of eating tainted food from trash bins.

        But at the same time there’s not a doubt in my mind that somewhere between a billion and two billion human beings alive on this earth right now would do some depraved shit for the chance to rummage through a NYC trash bin.

        I don’t want to make light of these problems because they are serious problems but at the same time I do want to recognize that there’s a lot of people in the world who would view our homeless as being lucky.

        I also want to say that I think it’s disgusting when people use this “rich compared to the global poor” point as a dismissive, defeatist “argument” for the status quo.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      Why, when there are countless annoying Libertarians, think tanks, and other paid (and unpaid) lap dogs for the wealthy that do it constantly?

  13. anansi133 says:

    Gosh, do you think any of that pessimism makes it into our laws, our jobs, our institutions? That sure would explain a lot .

    I have a related theory about the children of rich people:  You don’t make it to the top by being present for your family, you get there by pulling ridiculous hours.  Grow up neglected (and rich)  like that, and childrearing concerns just don’t seem that important, it’s keeping the money that matters. Repeat this cycle for several generations, and the people you least want to make decisions about schools and jobs and families – they are the ones making all such decisions. Which would also explain a lot about how bad things have gotten.Fortunately, it’s usually not necessary to murder the extremely rich, it’s more practical to stop giving (and taking) their money.

    • jhoosier says:

      ” You don’t make it to the top by being present for your family, you get there by pulling ridiculous hours.”

      You can make money by pulling long hours and live comfortably, but the REALLY rich know that you make money by knowing the right people and making connections.  It’s all about gaming the system so it works in your favor.  That’s how you get rich.

    • fakefighter says:

       I hate to say it, but as a rich kid who *does* put in the long hours, I’ve seen a lot of my peers mooch off their parents’ resources as much as possible and becoming really successful by doing so. Mentally, they stay at the same state I had when when I was fifteen or so.

    • “You don’t make it to the top by being present for your family, you get there by pulling ridiculous hours.”

      If you have to work long hours to get anywhere you are by definition not at the top.

      The truly wealthy own the companies that other people put long hours into and they keep a significant portion of the fruits of those worker’s labor. 

    • welcomeabored says:

      Matt Taibbi wrote an article about Dan Loeb that seems to fit in to this discussion.

      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/dan-loeb-simultaneously-solicits-betrays-pension-funds-20130411

      Case in point?

  14. badweatherrr says:

    This is a great book.

  15. Scott Bieser says:

    It is not only the elites who fear an urban insurrection. A lot of middle-class people (small business owners especially) fear a social breakdown and mob violence. The elites can insulate themselves to some extent. The middle-class are right there on the front lines.

    • jetfx says:

      You just explained in a nutshell why so many middle class and small business owners are so right wing. These feelings are what the fascists in 30s preyed on to gain support.

      • Scott Bieser says:

        Actually, the reason so many small business owners are so right-wing is that to make their businesses run they have to work crazy hours, and have their life savings invested in their businesses. Which they’re willing to do in part because the love their work — but they don’t love the paperwork and reporting requirements and fees and taxes and contradictory rules laid on them by the government bureaucracies. Those things make it harder for their businesses to survive and thrive, and time spent dealing with that takes them away from the fun aspects of the business.

        But yeah, fear of lower-class envy manifesting violently is one of the many fears politicians prey upon to gain power.

        • TWX says:

          I’ve worked for a lot of small businesses.  Basically each and every one that was privately owned with the owner on-site would break any and every rule that said owner thought he could break and get away with.  Rules like safe workplaces, overtime pay, tax reporting, age-related shift durations, providing safety equipment and training, and many other similar rules.  The only small business owner that seemed to not blow it completely is the one that went bankrupt.

          It wasn’t until I started working for a large, large organization where I saw how the rules were supposed to work, in part because the large employer had already faced peril for violations in the past and faced real threat from regulations, and in part because the large organization had lawyers to advise on how to follow proper practices to avoid further gross violations.

          I do not have a lot of respect for small businesses, and that lack of respect has been earned the hard way.

          • Large businesses have economics of scale on their side so they can afford to treat workers better.

            Workers favoring small business over large multinationals are shooting themselves in the foot.

          • Paul Cooke says:

             also large businesses can also help draft the very regulations that keep their smaller competition in check with red tape that they themselves can afford as they have scale on their side

        • Preston Sturges says:

          Fighting “envy” was also Fascist theme in WW2.

          Of course, they were all about have a society of rigid classes, including literal slaves.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          Those things make it harder for their businesses to survive and thrive,
          and time spent dealing with that takes them away from the fun aspects of
          the business.

          Funny that progressive/left countries have higher rates of small business ownership and entrepreneurship than us here in the U.S. Funny thing about progressive taxation, strong safety nets etc.  They make the pressure and risks of trying to start a business much less great.

          lower-class envy

          Cartoonish.

  16. Preston Sturges says:

    A few months ago I was looking for the breathless articles about NOLA residents shooting at Coast Guard helicopters after Katrina, and those stories have been scrubbed from the internet to a remarkable degree.  nevertheless, it is conventional wisdom that these things happened.  Few people know that it was the cops on a killing spree, and a half dozen have been sent to prison. Also, white residents have been interviewed bragging about shooting blacks walking towards official evacuation points, but I don’t know of any prosecutions.

    If I were black, I would be very concerned about living next to any preppers, because a squirrel in the transformer down the block might send him on shooting spree, convinced he is about to overwhelmed by a human wave of looter/cannibal/rapists the moment the lights flicker.

    • ChickieD says:

      Try this: http://www.spike.com/video-clips/uf2siv/a-survivors-story

      Singer Charmaine Neville is a New Orleans institution. To watch her in this state  was so disturbing. Her manager was friends with one of my best friends; I saw Charmaine perform many times. To see this woman who on stage is so poised, eloquent, and commanding in a state of shock was unbelieveable. She talks about people in her neighborhood shooting in order to try to flag the helicopters down to come and help them.

      • Preston Sturges says:

        The way it was reported was that NOLA residents were shooting AT the helicopters (not sure why they would) and the universal response seemed to be “Kill them all.”  Instead of asking how they could help, people across the country were cheering for the survivors to be shot on sight.

  17. timquinn says:

    My observation is that we pretty much all hate each other. Only the wealthy can do anything about it.

    • Andrew Moody says:

      well said

    • Succinct wisdom.
      Humans are inherently tribal. Whether by race, creed, language, socioeconomic background or even traits as mundane as sports team allegiance, people self identify to a tribe and look at those ‘others’ outside their tribe with suspicion and contempt.

      One need only read half the replies to this article for validation.

    • June Gorman says:

      Funny, that was Rebecca’s Solnit’s exact point about the belief of the wealthy in order to justify the protection of their inhumanity and greed, that started this whole conversation.

      How much more effective for those very rich, that after all is said and done and read, you come to the exact conclusion they do — thus justifying their paranoia and rationalization and making it easy for them to continue exactly that way.

  18. jhertzli says:

    There are elites other than “the rich.” I doubt it reporters (even for major news outlets) are in the top 1%  but they still are too quick to assume that the absence of government means chaos. You’re getting close but still haven’t arrived at libertarianism yet.

  19. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    I wonder if they feel that they got to where they are by being cynical, miserable people who’d do anything for money and so they assume that everyone else must be the same.  Like Sauron in the Lord of the Rings who can’t imagine someone choosing to destroy the ring instead of use it like he would.

  20. anon0mouse says:

    Kudos on this thread so far.  No personal attacks yet.  Bravo!

  21. drokhole says:

    “When you do not trust people, people will become untrustworthy.”

    - Tao Te Ching

    • Kimmo says:

      Great rule of thumb, but junkies throw a spanner in the works…

      • wysinwyg says:

         Trust creates an unstable equilibrium.  Everyone trusting each other works great but creates a niche for untrustworthy people.  Junkies aren’t special here except that they have an external motivation to take advantage.  I’m more worried about the people who take advantage without external motivation.

      • Cynical says:

         Also, junkies are inherently untrusted; if the prevailing logic wasn’t to punish their addictions (as it wasn’t when heroin was still the preserve of the upper classes) but instead to provide prescription, medical-grade heroin and treatment for addiction, you can bet they would be a lot less untrustworthy.

        Of course, that’s not going to happen because they’re “untrustworthy junky scum” and can’t be trusted to manage their own choices, so we have to punish them, and in doing so ensure that their dependency on the black market to feed their addictions will perpetuate the anti-social behaviour for which we marginalise them…

  22. Robert Weaver says:

    It’s a good book, though her occasional lengthy philosophical digressions can tire. I also would have liked a more definitive examination of whether post-disaster altruism is a product of such events (Solnit seems to lean in that direction) or just another example of more generally innate human altruism.

    Her recounting of the history of various disasters is brilliant though.

  23. Sean Breakey says:

    The fact we haven’t had a revolution should be proof enough that the masses aren’t that bad.  The taxes of the rich have gone down while the taxes of the poor have gone up.  The rich destroyed the world’s economy, and keep flagging about how many jobs we’ve regained, COMPLETELY ignoring the wage discrepancy of the jobs lost versus the jobs gained.  They want us to keep buying the things we used to buy, to keep the economy running, without actually paying us enough money to afford them.  They’ve replaced our food with processed sugar, corn starch, and MSG, then complain about having to pay the health plans of the people who can only afford to eat this “food.”  Worse, the rich have dieticians, personal chefs, personal trainers, time set asides during work to workout, where a lot of the poor are too poor and tired to be able to go to gyms.  They want us to pay for parking for the privilege of going to work, and then fire people as soon as they are up for a pay-rise.  Despite the fact that a 40-hour work week was implemented because it made people the most productive, they’ve started to look at it as quaint, (which means they are really only doing it to torture us).

    AND WE STILL HAVEN’T REVOLTED.

    There will always be assholes, we just shouldn’t incentivize them to be assholes.

    • TWX says:

      Things would have to get pretty bad before the have-nots specifically start seeking out the haves to kill them en masse.

      The conditions France and Russia saw in their revolutions, for example.

      That said, we’re on course for that.  We’re not there yet, but the wealthy seem to do a good job of pushing us in that direction.  Romney and his $10,000 bet comes to mind, I would expect that nearly half of Americans don’t have $10,000 in liquid accounts.

      • As long as they can get 10.000 in credit card debt, they will THINK that they have 10.000 in liquid assets and FEEL that they are “haves”.

      • retepslluerb says:

        As long as they can 10.000 in credit card debt, they will THINK that they have 10.000 in liquid assets and FEEL that they are “haves”.(Sorry for double post, I finally killed the secondary account.  I hope.)

    • Kimmo says:

      The fact we haven’t had a revolution should be proof enough that the masses aren’t that bad.  The taxes of the rich have gone down while the taxes of the poor have gone up.  The rich destroyed the world’s economy, and keep flagging about how many jobs we’ve regained, COMPLETELY ignoring the wage discrepancy of the jobs lost versus the jobs gained.  They want us to keep buying the things we used to buy, to keep the economy running, without actually paying us enough money to afford them.  They’ve replaced our food with processed sugar, corn starch, and MSG, then complain about having to pay the health plans of the people who can only afford to eat this “food.”  Worse, the rich have dieticians, personal chefs, personal trainers, time set asides during work to workout, where a lot of the poor are too poor and tired to be able to go to gyms.  They want us to pay for parking for the privilege of going to work, and then fire people as soon as they are up for a pay-rise.  Despite the fact that a 40-hour work week was implemented because it made people the most productive, they’ve started to look at it as quaint, (which means they are really only doing it to torture us).

      AND WE STILL HAVEN’T REVOLTED.

      There will always be assholes, we just shouldn’t incentivize them to be assholes.

      QFT, liked*1000

      • Preston Sturges says:

        In 1984, O’Brien is torture Winston, and he explains that real power is not from obedience, but in making people suffer.

        God forbid you be competent and enjoy your work, the boss only gets to enjoy their power by making your job an act of suffering.

    • welcomeabored says:

      ‘Worse, the rich have dieticians, personal chefs, personal trainers, time set aside during work to workout, where a lot of the poor are too poor and tired to be able to go to gyms.’

      I read your comment while spooning up my high protein breakfast (at least 50 gr.).  A daily breakfast based on a suggestion from a book touted here on BB, that I paid $25 for, and that has proven effective, when all the resources you’ve listed failed me.  For me this illustrates, that just because one has access to certain resources (I’ve blown thousands and thousands of dollars), doesn’t mean those allegedly learned people have any answers… and libraries are still available for borrowing books.  Wealth (or even middle class) does equal smart choices and success.

      Why is this point important to me and in this discussion, you may wonder?  Because not eating is a habit I picked up from my depression era parents, who followed their parents, whose roots of poverty are so deep and dark I can’t imagine what their lives were like.  A half dozen medical professionals told me to eat a high protein breakfast within an hour of waking up, but not one could or would explain why, so I didn’t… allied by the ghosts of my family’s eating habits.  In my sock drawer alone, I have enough money to buy the ‘advise’ of most any professional in the U. S. on the subject of diet and nutrition, but entirely too much stubborness and emotional/physiological baggage to have listened and applied that information to advantage.

      Whatever their indoctrination, I tend to think of uber-wealthy as not too different from the lower classes, except in their influence on the writing of laws and policy.  Who can we blame for that, without also pointing at ourselves?

      • wysinwyg says:

         

        and libraries are still available for borrowing books.

        Don’t worry, they’re working on that one too.

  24. Jonathan Badger says:

    I think the author kind of loses it when she brings Timothy Garton Ash, the confident of Václav Havel,  and who risked his own life in pursuit of the liberation of millions, into the picture. As far as I can tell, he only mentioned Katrina once, and his point was not to blame the people there but to remind Europeans that they had no moral ground to criticize. Here was the article in question: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/08/hurricanekatrina.usa6

    • al1020 says:

      I reckon too. The fear of an inhuman horde coming to strip you of your wealth and the fear that they could turn you into one of them.

    • ChickieD says:

      I’m pretty sure “zombie uprising” is code for ” black uprising” in the tea party community.

  25. I highly recommend this short essay of hers: 

    Hope in the Darkhttp://www.amazon.com/Hope-Dark-Untold-Histories-Possibilities/dp/1560258284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366003122&sr=8-1&keywords=%22hope+in+the+dark%22

  26. Karen Churchill says:

    Is this really an elite phenomenon? I thought it was more a conservative thing. My parents exhibit these same behaviors, and they are the struggling lower middle-class. They are, however, as conservative Republican as possible.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      American conservatives have made a science of getting working class people to violently support their own oppressors by convincing them that communists/ socialists are coming to steal their meager possessions. And possibly make their children into gay sexbots.

    • Preston Sturges says:

      It’s not a new observation that people who fall below the middle class tend to be more conservative. It’s because they are so afraid that any form of change will cause them to lose what little they have.

      It’s in subsistence communities that you see witch hunts that crush any nonconformists. 

      It was in the American South during Reconstruction that the KKK flourished.  White sharecroppers were willing to live in poverty and kill their neighbors rather than “risk” change.

  27. tw1515tw says:

    Fear of loss – losing something you have (or think you might be getting soon) – is one of the greatest psychological motivators. Advertisers use it and the Daily Mail are masters of it. If you’re in the elite you’ve got more to lose, and I suspect are more agitated about this more of the time. Perhaps it’s why some revolutions are initiated by the Bourgeoisie – the middle classes that had something and then lost it.

    There also the concept of “otherness” – that a certain group of people are seen as unlike like you and me. It’s another technique used by the Daily Mail. Mrs Thatcher once said “There’s no such thing as society”, and sadly many people believed her.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      The Mail is really on a roll this week. I anticipate an article claiming a conspiracy to steal Thatcher’s corpse any moment now. The Mail can now reveal… sources have stated… someone close to Number 10 has confirmed…

    • Thatcher couldn’t possibly have believed 99.99% of the things she ever said or wrote if she literally believed “There is no such thing as society”. She used the word “society” very frequently in her writing and speeches, and obviously believed in its existence. 

      She was criticizing a specific definition of society, as described in the context from which that quote is taken, not asserting the non-existence of all possible kinds of society.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      Sadly that so called non-existent society will be paying the £10m bill for much of her funeral. Even in death rich hypocrites get one over on the rest of us.

  28. Arduenn says:

    I, for one, welcome our new monster mob overlords.

  29. ctaylor2013 says:

    There has long been a theory within the American “gun culture” that is similar to this:  One reason hopolophobes want to ban guns because they fear that the average person has as little self-control and self-discipline as they do.  If someone knows that they are hot-headed and irresponsible then it is a smart thing for them to avoid having a gun around them all the time, lest they fly off the handle and shoot somone.  But if you think that  is universal, rather than admit it is some weakness in yourself then it also makes sense you wouldn’t trust anyone else to have a gun either. 

    For example, the city mayors that belong to Nanny Bloomberg’s mayors against guns group have a criminal conviction rate vastly higher than the average American:  http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2010/02/a-criminal-perspective.html   Though as an admittedly possible weakness in that datapoint I haven’t seen any calculations on how much more likely politicians in general are to be criminals.  :)  Also, almost every time a state in the U.S. would enact a concealed carry law various anti-technology groups would make dire predictions that the streets would run red with blood if ordinary people were allowed to carry guns legally as common arguments and car accidents would frequently escalate to shoot-outs at the OK corral.  Almost all states have such laws now and in none of them did the predicted epidimics of poor-self control happen, but if the few holdouts like IL try to enact one you can be sure the same people would just be sure of what the bloody result would be.  Is that projection?

  30. That_Anonymous_Coward says:

    “why rich people think all people are monsters”
    Because they look in the mirror and know all of the monsterous things they have done to reach their position and hold onto it at all costs.

  31. ctaylor2013 says:

    There has long been a theory within the American “gun culture” that is similar to this: One reason hopolophobes want to ban guns because they fear that the average person has as little self-control and self-discipline as they do. If someone knows that they are hot-headed and irresponsible then it is a smart thing for them to avoid having a gun around them all the time, lest they fly off the handle and shoot somone. But if you think that is universal, rather than admit it is some weakness in yourself then it also makes sense you wouldn’t trust anyone else to have a gun either.

    For example, the city mayors that belong to Nanny Bloomberg’s mayors against guns group have a criminal conviction rate vastly higher than the average American: http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2010/02/a-criminal-perspective.html Though as an admittedly possible weakness in that datapoint I haven’t seen any calculations on how much more likely politicians in general are to be criminals. :) Also, almost every time a state in the U.S. would enact a concealed carry law various anti-technology groups would make dire predictions that the streets would run red with blood if ordinary people were allowed to carry guns legally as common arguments and car accidents would frequently escalate to shoot-outs at the OK corral. Almost all states have such laws now and in none of them did the predicted epidimics of poor-self control happen, but if the few holdouts like IL try to enact one you can be sure the same people would just be sure of what the bloody result would be. Is that projection?

  32. Brad Bell says:

    The tendency that appears as ‘elite panic’ is also present throughout our culture. People believe in religion as a constraint on amoral, animalistic behaviour. I grew up very religious and it was rather late in my life, that I realised you could have morality outside Biblical constraints. And it now seems the essence of morality is innate, in the sense that there is no anthropological evidence of any tribe without a taboo on murder within the tribe, for example. Wasn’t it Baudrillard who wrote, “prisons are there to hide that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral”.

  33. welcomeabored says:

    Us vs. them mentality.

  34. Transcript of this debate:

    ANARCHOSOCIALIST: Everyone is like THIS.
    OTHER GUY: No, no, you’re wrong! Everyone is like THAT!
    ANARCHOSOCIALIST: Nope, I’m right: they’re like THIS.
    OTHER GUY: Didn’t you hear what I just said? Obviously they’re like THAT.
    (fade to oblivion).

    One great advantage of our corrupt electoral democracies is at least our leaders get an education in the fact that people have diverse attitudes, opinions, moralities, etc. No elected politician would ever dare assume that they should spout the same message to the entire population. Instead, they learn to target their message (i.e. promise different things depending on who might be listening).

    The elite[s] don’t believe EVERYONE else is venal and untrustworthy. They believe people vary in their reliability. Some want “freedom to…” and we all benefit from them having that freedom, some need “freedom from…” because they are effectively helpless, some are just a pain in the neck and need to be locked up. And so society is necessarily a patchwork of semi-overlapping domains in which there is an approximately appropriate level of regulation. e.g. in prison, it’s the opposite of anarchy, your whole day is predetermined. Elsewhere you’re given a certain amount of liberty to shoot yourself in the foot with.

    • wysinwyg says:

       

      e.g. in prison, it’s the opposite of anarchy, your whole day is predetermined.

      Ideally, but from what I understand life in prison is actually a little more complicated than that.  For example, according to the “regs” guards never accept bribes to look the other way while someone gets shivved.  In the real world some probably do.  I suspect life in prison isn’t nearly so predictable as you make it out to be.  (I suspect you don’t have a lot of first-hand experience from which to work, either.)

  35. TheOven says:

    That which we resist, persists. 

  36. Navin_Johnson says:

     If this is your view then there’s no point in trying to evolve or better society in any kind of way.  Why bother…

    I thought I was cynical…

    • Andrew Moody says:

      I don’t think we need take it as counsel of despair.

      The value of the observation is to remind us that we too are subject to the same demonising and generalising tendency that is highlighted by the book. Rich people like damning whole groups? Sure, probably, but let’s at least try to keep the irony level down in the way *we* speak about this vaguely defined “other” tribe of plutocratic evildoers.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Sure, probably, but let’s at least try to keep the irony level down in the way *we* speak about this vaguely defined “other” tribe of plutocratic evildoers.

        I’d rather impale them.

  37. wysinwyg says:

    Fascinating discussion.  Kinda makes me want to buy the book.

  38. Kristin Reed says:

    “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as exploited Proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

     (John Steinbeck – eloquently paraphrased)
    I have to agree with this one.

  39. June Gorman says:

    Funny, that was Rebecca’s Solnit’s exact point about the belief of the wealthy in order to justify the protection of their inhumanity and greed, that started this whole conversation.How much more effective for those very rich, that after all is said and done and read, you come to the exact conclusion they do — thus justifying their paranoia and rationalization and making it easy for them to continue exactly that way.Not much learned there, it seems. :-)

  40. timquinn says:

    Acquired Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

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