Usually we felt guilty and frightened, because there was something wrong with us, and we didn’t know what it was…
–Denis Johnson, “Jesus’ Son”
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need for “takers” to stop taking so much and start showing more gratitude towards the Galtian “makers” who keep our economy humming. When people write this, it’s clear that they see themselves as makers rather than takers, that they believe that churning out predictable conventional wisdom, curating glibertaria and (admittedly excellent) joke videos for a “neocon guy’s” money-losing vanity project, and doing whatever it is that the guys at OTB and League of Ordinary Gentlemen do for work (they have day jobs, right?) are all highly productive activities that benefit our society. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with professional pride. But it’s strange that they’re so sure everyone would agree with them about this, that Real Murka will never condemn them as moochers and looters and send them off to reeducation camps in the Yukon (something that I think may happen to me eventually).
The image of a young buck buying T-bone steaks with food stamps is the most potent image in modern American politics. Its brilliance is that it turns the embarrassment of having to use food stamps at a grocery store into the revenge of the non-white underclass. When I’m in line and the person in front me uses food stamps, it slows things down, some people roll their eyes and I think to myself “I’m glad I can pay for groceries with a credit card.” When I read about an African-American woman being kicked out of a hotel lobby for no reason, I think “that could happen to me too”.
I say this not because I’m especially empathetic or because I’ve ever suffered any terrible injustice in my life, but because based on my experiences with human beings, as well as what I’ve read about them on Wikipedia, I think that they often make illogical value judgements about each other and then use these value judgements to justify humiliation and cruelty, if not slaughter and imprisonment.
Do some people honestly believe that their high place in our awesome meritocracy is so secure and so well-deserved that they have no reason to fear and no reason to feel guilty about their privileges? What on earth could have gone on in their lives to make them feel this way? Would we all be much happier if we thought the same way they do?