A remark by Richard Brookhiser in April in a syndicated column in the New York Post about “how we”re all WASPs now” made me realize that Brookhiser’s statement taken in context does not prove what he thinks he’s saying. A journeyman author, long associated with NR, Brookhiser, to all appearances, is an upper-class WASP endowed with all the proper manners and tics. Nonetheless, for decades he’s been in the employ of the neocons, people who would hardly qualify as bon gratin.
A scene involving one of their leaders, John Podhoretz, sticks vividly in my mind. While in the employ of the Washington Times, where Arnaud de Borchgrave entertained him lavishly as a favor to his parents, the present editor of Commentary was known for his crude table manners and general loutishness. I recall seeing him in Borchgrave’s office slouched over his chair and (dare I be so frank) picking his nose while in conversation with the apparent boss. (Actually it was Norm and Midge who called the shots at the WT then.) But people like John Podhoretz are precisely the ones whom Brookhiser and other WASPs, and particularly those at The New Criterion, have been kissing up to for years.
This subordinate position certainly does not demonstrate the assertion that “we”re all WASP patricians now.” The fact is members of our onetime dominant ethnicity and its onetime social elite are down on their luck. They”ve been reduced to menials serving at the beck and call of other groups, and in the journalistic and media world, this means working for Jewish liberals and Jewish neocons.
Such a situation should distress the new class of menials (perhaps it does!), but as I”ve indicated in more scholarly venues, their fate is entirely deserved. Elites that melt into spasms of guilt or niceness and which fail to continue to produce figures of the caliber of George Kennan, the Tafts, Robert E. Lee, Henry Adams, etc are not going to continue to be around as social, political, and cultural leaders. In doing research for my book on multiculturalism, I encountered statistical information that showed the decline of WASPdom since the middle of the last century in just about every area of human endeavor. The exception here (and it’s nothing to be proud of) is the disproportionate white Protestant representation at the public trough, and particularly in the ranks of the GOP. The last significant WASP patrician in public service was our recent, unmissed president, George W. Bush, someone whose ancestry is almost as noteworthy as the evidence of his verbal ineptitude. Needless to say, W took orders, whether or not he understood them, from neocon control-persons.
Clearly we”re not all WASPs now; and in my book Encounters I described in detail how differently the WASP gentry behaved when I was at Yale in the 1960s as compared to the Jews and even Irish Catholics. The WASP gentry were noticeable for their lack of Ã©lan and for their overpowering desire to be non-controversial. The Jews, by contrast, were conspicuously nasty. They had chips on their shoulders, and profoundly loathed the group they were destined to replace. Once they took over academic and journalistic posts these parvenus left no doubt who was in charge. They behaved with an ideological and sociological intolerance that was truly breath-taking.
Even that over-the-top critic of Jewish power, Kevin MacDonald, has hardly scratched the surface in delineating the nastiness with which the children and grandchildren of Eastern European Jewish immigrants clawed their way to the top of the academic-media industry, on the backs of those they often despised. And all the while they appealed with brilliant success to a guilty WASP conscience.
This tactic worked like a charm because of the ruthlessness and hypocrisy of those doing the climbing and because of the mentality of those they supplanted. Apparently WASPs suffer from an onerous sense of guilt toward others whom their ancestors excluded or were alleged to have discriminated against. Other groups, particularly Jews, blacks, Irish Catholics, and Latinos, consider themselves to have been the victims of discrimination, and they therefore happily associate with the Democratic Party, as an in gathering of victimized ethnicities.
One may attribute the WASP’s far deeper sense of social guilt to any number of causes, but his ancestors were hardly worse than those of the groups whom he now worships as designated victims. Did African blacks treat their slaves better than did American slave-owners? What about the Muslims who dragged captured blacks eastward, to Arab countries, well into the twentieth century, when they weren”t enslaving European Christians, whom they captured in naval raids? When one of my students, who himself is predictably WASP, noted in class that his ethnic group lost influence in the US “because they practiced discrimination against other people,” I asked somewhat impatiently: “How the hell did everyone else get into the country?”
Certainly many other groups have been more oppressive than American WASPs. Human history is full of them. But no other group, except for their pathological German cousins, seems to enjoy quite as much as WASPs the ecstasy of wallowing in guilt. And no other group seems quite as easily swayed to engage in moral crusades, perhaps to atone for their past sins as racists, sexists, or whatever. Unfortunately these crusades show our WASP population at their worst, trying to save the rest of the world with confected “human rights” after laying waste to their countries. If there’s anything WASPs should feel inexpressibly guilty about, it is this Jacobin fervor that causes them to unleash wars on other societies in order to bring them the gift of American democracy. But for some reason my Republican WASP neighbors think such devastation is alright and may be redemptive for its victims. After all, blowing up non-democrats is not reprehensible in the same way as refusing to let other ethnicities into WASP country clubs or being against affirmative action for Australoid transvestites.
Although I”ve loads of respect for their Protestant antecedents, I can”t say that I like or respect this present generation of WASPs. And least of all can I understand why their elites, by the time I was in my teens and early twenties, began to feel guilt toward those who hated their guts. As a great Italian thinker Pareto pointed out about a hundred years ago, ruling classes fall not so much because of opposition from below as they do from disintegration from above. Or as the Russians put it, the fish rots from the head on down.
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