The Strange Failure of the Educated Elite

The chief accomplishment of the current educated elite is that it has produced a bipartisan revolt against itself.

.. A narrative is emerging. It is that the new meritocratic aristocracy has come to look like every other aristocracy. The members of the educated class use their intellectual, financial and social advantages to pass down privilege to their children, creating a hereditary elite that is ever more insulated from the rest of society. We need to build a meritocracy that is true to its values, truly open to all.

.. The real problem with the modern meritocracy can be found in the ideology of meritocracy itself. Meritocracy is a system built on the maximization of individual talent, and that system unwittingly encourages several ruinous beliefs:

.. Exaggerated faith in intelligence. Today’s educated establishment is still basically selected on the basis of I.Q. High I.Q. correlates with career success but is not the crucial quality required for civic leadership. Many of the great failures of the last 50 years, from Vietnam to Watergate to the financial crisis, were caused by extremely intelligent people who didn’t care about the civic consequences of their actions.

.. If you build a society upon this metaphor you will wind up with a society high in narcissism and low in social connection. Life is not really an individual journey. Life is more like settling a sequence of villages.

.. Misplaced notion of the self. Instead of seeing the self as the seat of the soul, the meritocracy sees the self as a vessel of human capital, a series of talents to be cultivated and accomplishments to be celebrated. If you base a society on a conception of self that is about achievement, not character, you will wind up with a society that is demoralized; that puts little emphasis on the sorts of moral systems that create harmony within people, harmony between people and harmony between people and their ultimate purpose.

.. Inability to think institutionally. Previous elites poured themselves into institutions and were pretty good at maintaining existing institutions, like the U.S. Congress, and building new ones, like the postwar global order. The current generation sees institutions as things they pass through on the way to individual success.

.. Some institutions, like Congress and the political parties, have decayed to the point of uselessness, while others, like corporations, lose their generational consciousness and become obsessed with the short term.

.. Diversity for its own sake, without a common telos, is infinitely centrifugal, and leads to social fragmentation.

.. The essential point is this: Those dimwitted, stuck up blue bloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self.

After Studying the Lives of 724 Men for 79 Years, Harvard Reveals the 1 Biggest Secret to Success and Happiness

.. researchers concluded that close relationships are what make men happy, and that social ties shield people from life challenges while improving mental and physical health.

.. It turns out that flourishing in life is a function of close ties with family, friends, and community. It had nothing to do with fame, wealth, social class, IQ, genes, etc.

.. Social connections are good for us; loneliness really kills.

While calling loneliness toxic, Waldinger said social connections made people happier and physically healthier. It made them live longer too.

On the other hand, he also said:

“People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely. And the sad fact is that at any given time, more than one in five Americans will report that they’re lonely.”

How Mark Zuckerberg Can Save Facebook — and Us

“The first inning’s prevailing ethos was that any technology that makes the world more open by connecting us or makes us more equal by empowering us individually must, in and of itself, be a force for good,” Seidman began. “But, in inning two, we are coming to grips with the reality that the power to make the world more open and equal is not in the technologies themselves. It all depends on how the tools are designed and how we choose to use them. The same amazing tech that enables people to forge deeper relationships, foster closer communities and give everyone a voice can also breed isolation, embolden racists, and empower digital bullies and nefarious actors.”

.. “The world is fused. So there no place anymore to stand to the side and claim neutrality — to say, ‘I am just a businessperson’ or ‘I am just running a platform.’ ”
.. In the fused world, Seidman said, “the business of business is no longer just business. The business of business is now society. And, therefore, how you take or don’t take responsibility for what your technology enables or for what happens on your platforms is inescapable.
.. “Software solutions can increase our confidence that we can stay a step ahead of the bad guys. But, fundamentally, it will take more ‘moralware’ to regain our trust. Only one kind of leadership can respond to this kind of problem — moral leadership.”
.. What does moral leadership look like here?

“Moral leadership means truly putting people first and making whatever sacrifices that entails,”

.. “That means not always competing on shallow things and quantity — on how much time people spend on your platform — but on quality and depth. It means seeing and treating people not just as ‘users’ or ‘clicks,’ but as ‘citizens,’ who are worthy of being accurately informed to make their best choices. It means not just trying to shift people from one click to another, from one video to another, but instead trying to elevate them in ways that deepen our connections and enrich our conversations.”

.. It means, Seidman continued, being “fully transparent about how you operate, and make decisions that affect them — all the ways in which you’re monetizing their data. It means having the courage to publish explicit standards of quality and expectations of conduct, and fighting to maintain them however inconvenient. It means having the humility to ask for help even from your critics. It means promoting civility and decency, making the opposite unwelcome.

.. At the height of the Cold War, when the world was threatened by spreading Communism and rising walls, President John F. Kennedy vowed to “pay any price and bear any burden” to ensure the success of liberty.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Kinship with All Life

The conventional notion of the self with which we have been raised and to which we have been conditioned by mainstream culture is being undermined. What Alan Watts [1915-1973] called “the skin-encapsulated ego” . . . is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest—by what philosopher Arne Naess [1912-2009] termed the ecological self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I like to call “the greening of the self.” . . .

Among those who are shedding these old constructs of self . . . is John Seed, director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia. One day . . . I asked him: “You talk about the struggle against the lumber companies and politicians to save the remaining rain forests. How do you deal with the despair?”

He replied, “I try to remember that it’s not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rain forest. Rather, I am part of the rain forest protecting itself. I am that part of the rain forest recently emerged into human thinking.” This is what I mean by the greening of the self. It involves a combining of the mystical with the pragmatic, transcending separateness, alienation, and fragmentation. It is . . . “a spiritual change,” generating a sense of profound interconnectedness with all life. . . .

.. By expanding our self-interest to include other beings in the body of the Earth, the ecological self also widens our window on time. It enlarges our temporal context, freeing us from identifying our goals and rewards solely in terms of our present lifetime. The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars.

.. We were present in the primal flaring forth, and in the rains that streamed down on this still-molten planet, and in the primordial seas. In our mother’s womb we remembered that journey, wearing vestigial gills and tail and fins for hands.

.. Beneath the outer layer of our neocortex and what we learned in school, that story is in us—the story of a deep kinship with all life, bringing strengths that we never imagined. When we claim this story as our innermost sense of who we are, a gladness comes that will help us to survive.