Friday, January 15, 2016

Merit you say?

Funny the way some news items appear together. Yesterday, the Daily Mail ran a story about a viral video that mocks white men for succeeding at university on unearned privilege. On the same day a news story broke that the Australian National University has launched an enquiry into an essay farm selling completed assignments to Chinese students.

It's a reminder that white men, if anything, have had to succeed more on their own merit than is the case for most other groups in most other cultures. There has been less of a culture of cheating in Australia than elsewhere; nepotism is not as strong as elsewhere; and middle-class white males do not benefit at all from affirmative action policies. (White males here in Victoria are also very much underrepresented in select entry and high performing state schools.)

The one advantage a small number of white men do have (though other ethnicities have this as well) is a class one. There is still some advantage to belonging to the upper middle-class and having a private school education. It's possible that family connections might help a small number of such men into professional positions.

I don't think it's such a bad thing for a society to have an upper middle-class with a settled way of life (i.e. in which the children are raised to aspire to a high level of education, well-paid professional careers and so on). Why? Because such a situation does give the opportunity for a certain kind of culture to develop, one in which individuals are encouraged toward intellectual pursuits; the fine arts; moral leadership and so on.

The problem today is that status is being decreasingly linked to such things. Instead, people imagine themselves to be distinguished by more superficial attainments (e.g. holding politically correct views; trendiness).

The ideal, it seems to me, is one in which a stable upper middle-class culture does exist; which is oriented to being genuinely cultured and which can provide healthy leadership in society; but which is also open to those with talent and energy.


  1. Hi Mark, I just want to diverge slightly from your post.

    You talk about the advantages of the upper middle-class, with its private education, pursuit of excellence in education and profession, etc. Plus you mention fine arts, intellectual pursuits, etc.

    Reading those attributes you list, they are certainly goals my wife and I want to lay down for our kids, but I would emphatically deny being upper middle-class. We would be, probably, lower middle-class at best. However, what we are, are Bible believing Christians who feel it is our God-given responsibility to properly parent our children. It is our faith that is our impetus, not our social status, to raise well our children. (I don’t doubt that our social status has afforded us the knowledge to grow and live out our faith).

    I could filibuster forever on this, but suffice to say, where much of the fine arts are concerned, I feel they are outputs of Christendom at its best, and that engaging with them is to bring a richness, depth, and robustness (rooted in history) to our children’s lives that the pop culture cannot satisfy. (Pop culture is the equivalent of junk food – it doesn’t truly nourish and is basically consumerist). More importantly I see it as my responsibility as a father to impart moral, philosophical and theology teachings upon my children that they may grow up to be young adults of strong principle and strong character. In fact, I see character building as a first principle, and success (education and career), as a second principle.

    In a nutshell, I think it is the parental moral foundation which is more important than social status in laying a foundation for our children’s successes in life – regardless of how you measure success. I think it is no secret that it is this moral foundation of family (and structural too) which has been sorely hindered by the Cultural Revolution.

    I think one way (albeit glacial) to regain a conservative culture, is through the immediate family, by groups, such a bible believing Christians, instilling counter-cultural values and morals in our children. Clearly it is no guarantee, but I think you need to start small. At least, in theory, if our kids can be moral beacons in our communities, they may draw people to them like moths to a flame. I already think (unsubstantiated) adults of my generation, Gen X, are less liberal than my parent’s generation: the Baby Boomers. It’s the Millennials we need to be influencing.

    All the Cultural Revolutionaries understood the value of brainwashing kids. We just need to brainwash them with something better - the truth.

  2. History and culture are made top down and not bottom up. In order to have a flourishing culture and intellectual life, a country must have not just an upper middle class but an aristocracy. The pursuit and financing of intellectual and artistic development requires both wealth and leisure. The aristocracy finance the arts and have the leisure to pursue them.

    Culture and artistic achievement at the highest level came from Aristocratic Europe. The USA, Canada and Australia have produced no higher culture. They attempt to copy the culture of Europe but at an inferior level.

    Regarding nepotism, this is rife in Europe and indeed essential to the preservation of family business and high standards. Meritocracy leads to mediocrity. It permits the infiltration of subversives and destroys the social order. All the best family businesses were built upon nepotism.

    1. I don't know if you can realistically have an old-style aristocracy. But there are some things that could certainly be achieved. First, we could start to reverse the trend by which upper class men with professional jobs have the smallest amount of leisure time of any group. That's not helpful at all.

      Second, there are institutions that do have the potential to produce aristocratic type values, e.g. boys schools, cadets, some men's sporting groups etc. We could, in other words, allow the more serious and masculine type of men to form the kinds of associations that encourage aristocratic type values.

    2. There is an old style Aristocracy in Europe and Asia, weakened and relatively impoverished, but still there. It can be recovered. In Australia and the USA it is, as you say, impossible as it never existed and cannot be created. Aristocracy is rooted in blood and soil. It is based upon hereditary bloodlines and ownership of lands from which titles are derived .

      The only institution which can produce aristocratic values is the aristocratic family. Values and traditions are hereditary and passed exclusively from generation to generation. Middle class social clubs, sports clubs and schools cannot "produce Aristocratic type value" because they are middle class institutions based upon interests and not hereditary bloodline families with territorial representation. They are also run my middle class people whose attempts to re create themselves as "aristocrats" would be extreme liberal delusions.

      Professional men have always worked long hours. They need to earn and build careers. It is the people who do not have to work and think of money and careers who have the luxury of time to consider the finer things of life and the money and connections to finance them.

      Societies without Aristocracy are ruled by Oligarchy which has no attachment to land, nationality, race or culture and is strongly motivated to destroy these goods in order to increase its own control.

    3. Anon, you're too dogmatic in some of this. For instance, you write "professional men have always worked long hours". That's not my understanding. I've read accounts of the working life of professional men here in Melbourne in the late 1800s. Didn't sound nearly as onerous as the lifestyle I have now. They spent time during the day in clubs; had staff at home to take care of the domestic side of things. They certainly did not work as long hours as working men did (hence the title "working men"). The situation now is often reversed - those on welfare work the least hours; blue collar workers with strong unions are next best off; then white collar workers; then the more demanding professions. Even if you go right back to the Middle Ages, I've read accounts of the lifestyle of the mercantile class and it seems that some of them would "take care of business" for only part of the day (say, the afternoon).

      Another thing to consider: the aristocracy did not always produce traditional values. The grandees in England, for instance, were often Whigs.

      Something else. I attended a private boys school. I have to tell you that such schools do go some way toward developing traditional values, even if the formal ideology is not a traditional one. Why? Because they are steeped in history; because they are masculine environments; because there is a sense of loyalty to a school tradition; because there is a culture of competitive team sport that brings out a sense of the traditional in young men and so on.

  3. Mark, rather than accuse others of being "dogmatic" when they differ from your viewpoint, I suggest you seek evidence of the past from relatives and ancestors rather than reading works of fiction. There are many people to this day who sit in clubs and many of them work and do business deals in these clubs. Much of the work of the mercantile class, is negotiating deals which is done out of the office. However the bulk of the professional people, do not spend their time in clubs and never have done. Physicians and lawyers have always worked long hours and much of their overtime,unlike that of the working man, goes unpaid. Most physicians work longer hours than any blue of white collar worker and that has always been the case. The same goes for successful lawyers. The main issue today is the devaluation of the currency. The money does not buy the same lifestyle.

    The grandees who were Whigs were not aristocrats. The Whigs have always been the party of the merchants and industrialists, some of whom acquired minor titles and have been largely republican. Aristocrats are Tories and Royalist. Aristocrats do not support the political parties which seek to abolish them or weaken their status.

    The essential and primary store of values is the family home. Schools can assist is this development only when the school has a homogeneous population of pupils. In the past private schools accepted pupils from upper middle class professional homes which were all of the same ethnic and religious background and held shared values which the school could emphasise. This is no longer the case. Many private schools have been forced to accept the children of Third World immigrants, non Christians and large numbers of Muslims and Hindus. The schools can no longer impart the traditional middle class values they once held because large numbers of their pupils do not have these values and actively resist them. Sports create competition but not tradition. There is no tradition in football and most sports in the world today.

    Liberalism has destroyed the traditional values imparted to children by the destruction of the family, the social order and the presence of non white no Christian people in the institutions of the West.

    1. The grandees who were Whigs were not aristocrats. The Whigs have always been the party of the merchants and industrialists, some of whom acquired minor titles and have been largely republican. Aristocrats are Tories and Royalist. Aristocrats do not support the political parties which seek to abolish them or weaken their status.

      The bottom line is that there were many members of the English aristocracy who were Whigs rather than Tories in their political affiliation. There was a tendency for the grandees to be Whigs (and to be allied with mercantile and urban interests) and for the landed gentry to be Tories, but still the division remained - if it had not, then England would not have been such a liberal country over the past few centuries. The royal family itself was allied with the Whig faction in the early 1700s.

  4. "The bottom line is that there were many members of the English aristocracy who were Whigs rather than Tories in their political affiliation"

    Please name some members of the aristocracy who were Whigs.

    The aristocracy is almost universally Tory. However they are a minority of the population and the liberal rise was due to the extension of democracy and the industrial revolution which allowed businessmen and industrialists to gain wealth rapidly and challenge the aristocratic power base which preserved the traditional social order.

    The Grandees were Army Officers who supported Oliver Cromwell.

    1. William Cavendish. 4th Duke of Devonshire; William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne; William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke Portland; Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham; George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer.

  5. Melbourne is an Irish Peer and the rest, with the exception of the Spencer family, are post reformation created titles and not part of the original aristocracy which can trace its bloodlines back four hundred years longer.
    The Spencer family are an aberration.