Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Peoples: What the Better People Owe to the Other People

A great theme of the 19th century was to persuade the bourgeoisie to care about the working class. In Marx, of course, this theme extended to revolution: the bourgeoisie would be made to care with the help of a revolutionary avant-garde cadre and the working class as a magnificent revolutionary army.

But the broader culture centered on helping the working class with beneficial legislation in the form of the right to vote, wage-and-hour laws, social insurance, elimination of child labor and funding of child education. To fund this, the bourgeoisie agreed to be taxed. It wasn't just practical; it was experienced as the right thing to do.

In my reductive Three Peoples theory, this means that the People of the Responsible Self agree that they ought to help the People of the Subordinate Self. The reason to do this would be partly because it is the right and responsible thing to do, and partly because it keeps the working class out of the street where they might harm the middle class. But also it involves a recognition of the Other. We People of the Responsible Self may want a society that honors and rewards people that go to work, obey the law, and follow the rules, but we accept that other people do not think as we do. The People of the Subordinate Self look to a powerful patron, economic or political, for protection, and they have a right to do so. It is, after all, the only way to live, as far as they know.

Enough of what the People of the Responsible Self and what they owe to the People of the Subordinate Self. What about the People of the Creative Self?  What should they owe to the People of the Responsible Self? Should they treat the People of the Responsible Self in the avuncular way that they expect the People of the Responsible Self to act towards the People of the Subordinate Self? Or should they regard the People of the Responsible Self as racists, sexists, homophobes, and general all-round religious bigots that should be made to care about the much superior culture of the People of the Creative Self?

The answer of the People of the Creative Self make to this question is unequivocal. The creative people are the bosses and the People of the Responsible Self had better kow-tow to the creative gods or the creative people will know the reason why. This started, on the view of Deirdre McCloskey in her Bourgeois Equality, no later than 1848 when the "clerisy" came out for nationalism, socialism, labor-unions, and economic regulation as a four-front war against the bourgeoisie and everything it stood for.

Of course, while the People of the Responsible Self are to bow the knee to their betters in the creative class and follow every latest rule promulgated by the executive committee of the People of the Creative Self or else, the People of the Creative Self can have no restriction on their behavior and life projects. Because creativity.

I was reminded of this an an excellent show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture. It is a celebration of creativity for creativity's sake, "documenting the emergence and evolution of a mode of creativity that has grown to become the dominant form of cultural production in the early 21st century." All the great artists of the last 100 years are celebrated above all for their creativity and their breaking down of barriers to artistic freedom.

A central part of the creative culture has been to √©pater la bourgeoisie by sneering and trashing the bourgeoisie and its responsibility culture.

I'm here to say that this is wrong. I hold that the immortal words of the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell at the turn of the 20th century still apply: Do anything you want, but don't frighten the horses in the street.

Of course in those days the advice was practical rather than moral. The creative culture was still strictly elite and small; it needed to be careful lest its creative freedom unleashed a backlash against the culture of creativity.

The measure of a man is made not when he behaves because he is afraid of getting caught. It is when he has the power to crush and humiliate others and enjoy the lamentation of their women, and he stays the coup de mort.

I am here to say that it is cruel and unjust for today's cultural elite to force their culture on the ordinary middle class of Bible-believing middle-class Christians and ordinary middle-class businessmen. I take this attitude from the work of new-age philosopher Ken Wilber. His central idea is a developmental model of human consciousness taken from the developmental psychologists.

But he issues a caution to enthusiasts. When you construct a multi-level consciousness system you become aware that the people that live in the higher levels tend to look down on the lower orders as fools and bigots. The people in the lower levels tend to think of the people in the upper levels as mad and bad. It is a recipe for discord and chaos.

You can see that there is only one way to avoid chaos and violence. The people in the upper levels need to put themselves in the place of the Other and recognize that the Other will never understand them. So it makes sense to act with compassion towards those less evolved and educated than oneself. And it is also right to take Mrs. Patrick Campbell's advice and not frighten the horses in the street.

Unfortunately I do not think that our liberal friends, the People of the Creative Self, have the wisdom or the compassion to see this truth and act upon it. Certainly in the Obama years they are engaged in a full-frontal offensive against the People of the Responsible Self, humiliating them, and driving them from the public square.

This culture of cultural aggression is cruel, it is unjust, and it is wrong. But I do not see any chance of a peace process on the horizon.

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