Those stupid Americans as seen in the eyes of our superiors

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: Our elites display their arrogance and belief in their own superiority. A moment’s thought reveals that this is politically foolish – and wrong in several ways.

From the New Yorker, by Will McPhail.

This cartoon by Will McPhail from The New Yorker was endless reposted and tweeted after Trump’s election. The unstated message was Those stupid Americans – spurning our leadership! It is a statement by and for our elites (and their proud servants, the intelligentsia) about their superior fitness to rule over the people of America. Imagine the feeling of superiority they feel when reading it. But while flattering to our professional class, it is a daft exaggeration.

On another level, this displays the moronic politics of our elites that helped put Trump in the White House.  As Hillary discovered after calling Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables” {transcript here}, mocking people does not build support.

There is a third level of meaning to this cartoon.

Another perspective

“Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.”
— George Santayana (1863–1952), Spanish-American novelist, essayist and poet. From Little Essays Drawn from the Writings of George Santayana, edited by Logan Pearsall Smith (1920).

Contraria Sunt Complementa {opposites are complementary}.
— The motto physicist Niels Bohr chose for his coat of arms when granted the Order of the Elephant by Denmark in 1947.

“It is the hallmark of any deep truth that its negation is also a deep truth.”
— By Niels Bohr, from Max Delbrück’s Mind from Matter (1986).

Politics in America consists largely of Left and Right exchanging aphorisms. They are often correct, but both sides are oblivious to the larger truth: simple-minded aphorisms are useful only for teaching children – or provoking thought about complex situations. Paired aphorisms nicely show this.

  • Birds of a feather flock together. Opposites attract.
  • The early bird gets the worm. Haste makes waste.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt. Home is where the heart is. 
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • He who hesitates is lost. Look before you leap. 
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

What is the opposite truth to be paired with that cartoon, the rest of the story about the West’s experts, especially intellectuals? The twentieth century is noteworthy for their great experiments confidently conducted on a vast scale, with entire peoples used as lab rats. They devised and implemented communism, destroying nations (e.g., Russia has yet to fully recover). Urban experts remolded cities, destroying communities – leaving behind the wreckage of today’s inner cities.

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Intellectuals In Action

Now they are conducting even larger experiments. Bolder experiments. Such as radical changes to gender roles, a foundational stone to our society. Opening borders to people from drastically different cultures, driving massive demographic change. Both campaigns are being conducted at fantastic speed, guided by nothing but ideology.

This has, along with their other projects, increased the skepticism of intellectuals already well-rooted in America (see Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life). This was best expressed when the modern era of social engineering began.

“I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University.”
— Conservative intellectual William Buckley on “Meet the Press”, 17 October 1965.

Knowledge is important, but so is common sense. If our experts are the “pilots” of America, perhaps it is time that the passengers revolt and set their own course. Experts are valuable resources, but not necessarily the best leaders or pilots of society.

Where to from here?

Here we see another example of our national decay. It shows the rise of tribalism, our alienation from America’s institutions – and our loss of social cohesion. The arrogance of our elites is met by the growing distrust of them by the public. Unless reversed soon, this won’t end well for us.