Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Status & self-inflicted decline

You might have heard of the website Stuff White People Like. It's a site which cleverly catalogues the group preferences of trendier upper-class whites.

The man responsible is Christian Lander (a white Canadian living in the US). Why did he undertake the project? According to a column in the LA Times:

One irony-deficient reader complained that the blog was less about white people than it was about yuppies. And without knowing it, she was cutting to the heart of the joke. Lander is gently making fun of the many progressive, educated, upper-middle-class whites who think they are beyond ethnicity or collectively shared tastes, styles or outlook. He's essentially reminding them that they too are part of a group ...

Lander is less concerned with cross-ethnic and racial relations than he is with how whites treat each other. As a onetime graduate student in the Midwest, he got tired of coastal condescension of the fly-over states and the glib assumption that "red staters are evil and stupid."

"Too many white people don't like to be reminded that they're white. They like to think that white people are those evil corporate right-wingers or the uneducated masses who vote the wrong way. But 'enlightened whites' are white people too and have just as much of a group mentality as they think the red staters have."

Which raises the question of why these progressive, upper-middle-class, educated whites would fail to identify positively with their own coethnics. Why the condescension toward other white Americans?

One part of the problem is the excessive emphasis on individual autonomy within liberal politics. Liberal autonomy theory suggests that we can be more or less human depending on how self-determining we are. If we accept the theory, then we are likely to reject an ethnic identity, as this is inherited rather than self-determined. It will be thought "superior" to be a non-ethnic, self-created individual, rather than someone who is richly connected to an ongoing ethnic tradition.

But the political theory is not all that holds the current attitudes in place. I know from the educated liberal whites I mix with, that status seeking also plays a role. It's not uncommon to have a conversation in which such whites compare their own sophisticated lifestyle and morally superior political views with those of the "rednecks" living in the suburbs or countryside.

It's to be expected that the upper classes will try to find ways to claim distinction. In the past, the upper classes did so by claiming superiority in their manners, taste, pedigree, honour and reputation.

The current way of asserting status is especially flawed. I am supposed to be superior as a white person if I place myself outside my own ethnic group by denigrating the mass of those who still positively identify as white as being backward, morally inferior "rednecks".

It's an irrational form of status seeking for the following reasons:

1) Anyone can potentially do it at any time, so it's difficult to see how it confers a true distinction. The traditional forms of distinction did, at least, have to be cultivated over time. The modern one merely requires us to hold to a certain political position. It's too easy.

2) It involves a logical inconsistency in which we simultaneously denigrate our own ethnic tradition whilst celebrating the traditions of others.

3) It requires us to undermine our own legitimate interests, to act against ourselves. We are supposed to gain a sense of superiority by pushing the interests of other groups against those of our own, even though this will ultimately lead to a loss of position, to a greater inferiority in the real world, for ourselves and our descendents.

4) The aim is a superior self-image, but the effect is to diminish our self-identity by cutting us away from our own communal traditions. An important aspect of the human experience is lost to us.

We would do much better if we adopted different forms of status seeking. Personally, I'd like the emphasis to be on developing character, or else achieving at a high level in some field of endeavour. But even a refinement of taste and manners would be preferable in conferring distinction to what we have now.


  1. This post reminds me a lot of that Keating letter that I referred to earlier.

    It's very much true that these types are part of a group. And while they think they are the most includive because they oppose mandatory detention of assylum-seekers, support multiculturalism and enforce political correctness, they are in fact the most exclsuive. Hence why they cannot tolerate the culture wars or the Bolts and Albrechtsens of the world being published in the nation's newspapers.

    What I think also needs mentioning is the importance of wealth as a status-symbol in the wider society. Forgive me for saying this, but I find this to also be a flawed way of determining social status. I also believe that this is harmful, because it encourages people to puit money above human relationships. Hence why you get ppl trying to screw each other in commerce, and why families often break up over inheritence.

  2. The thing is, many don't really celebrate those other cultures either. They just pretend to.

    I think it was Noel Pearson who said that some leftists treat aboriginals like a form of rare fauna.

    This is how they see other ethnic groups too, as lesser beings with cute traditions.

    And when other "whites" don't treat other ethnic groups like cute animals to be protected and looked after, the leftists accuse them of being nasty and evil ("racist").

    This helps feeds the leftists' selfish need to be "special" and "superior".

  3. How does a group get up the idea to celebrate and respect the uniqueness of other groups when they have failed to assign these considerations to their own kind? Or, rather, left those considerations behind? This seems to me a sort of substitute or projected group identity or self identity that is the logical result of sustained cultural self-loathing. Maybe it is the only sensible outcome besides self-destruction, which appears to be on the menu also.