217. Articulating Failure

It is often said that the path to sta­ble gov­er­nance lies in offer­ing the able a way to suc­ceed. Block­ing the ambi­tions of the most capa­ble, or per­haps the most ruth­less peo­ple is surely an invi­ta­tion to civil unrest. Yet dis­con­tent is con­tain­able if it is leav­ened by hope. The great­est dis­con­tent must surely be that of the major­ity, not the A-list win­ners, but that vast mass or ordi­nary peo­ple who can never hope to claw to the top of what­ever greasy power struc­ture their cul­ture offers at the moment. Keep­ing them quiet is a major under­tak­ing. Repres­sion and ter­ror is an option, but it is an unsta­ble solu­tion with fatal defects. Dis­tract­ing failed ambi­tion with sport and reli­gion is viable, though not with­out dan­gers of extrem­ism. Both are age old tools of social man­age­ment in the West­ern tra­di­tion, and recently redis­cov­ered as opi­ates by the Chi­nese rul­ing class. A more recent Amer­i­can inven­tion, seda­tion of the larger pop­u­la­tion by junk food, junk enter­tain­ment, junk edu­ca­tion and junk news, seems des­tined in the medium term to destroy the state rather than pre­serve the elites. Appar­ently, for the elites to keep their priv­i­leges, there have to be trade-offs for the mass of also-rans: between hope (how­ever delu­sional) and sur­viv­ing the daily humil­i­a­tion of being nobody in an avari­cious world.

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