Monday, February 24, 2014

They Revel in Their Wickedness

From the Hannah Arendt Center, an article on "The Irony of the Elite" discussing why the Washington and Wall Street elite are willing to not only recognize their own debauchery and corruption, but seem to revel in it.
What is more important than the decadence on display is the self-satisfied irony. The elites in Washington and Wall Street seem not to care about their decadence and even take joy in the revealing of their decadence. It is as if a burden has been lifted, that we all in the outside world can now know what they have borne in secret. With the secret out, they can enjoy themselves without guilt.

This embrace of the revelation of decadence recalls the cultural milieu of Weimar Germany, and especially the reception of Berthold Brecht’s classic satire the “Threepenny Opera.” ...

Arendt has little hope for the mob or the bourgeoisie, but she is clearly cut to the quick by the ease with which the elite felt “genuine delight” in watching the bourgeoisie and the mob “destroy respectability.” As Arendt explained, the “members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it.” Because the elite had largely rejected their belief in the justice and meaningfulness of the moral and common values that had supported the edifice of civilization, they found more joy in the ironic skewering of those values than they felt fear at what the loss of common values might come to mean.

... What we see in the irony of the elites—let alone the decadence of the bourgeoisie and the power brokers—is the superior feeling of freedom that proceeds from the belief in the comic dissolution of the moral, political and economic values that have for two centuries animated the American imagination of itself as a exceptional experiment in free and democratic self-government.
The reason the elite can do so is because they feel no shame; and they feel no shame because they lack both morals and respect. That is, they lack morals because they no longer possess a sense of right or wrong, but, at best, what is legal or illegal, or perhaps more realistically, "what can I get away with and what can I not." In addition, they lack respect. Instead, they possess a sense of entitlement to their money and power. The elite do not honor the institutions and people of this great nation, nor do they fear them, but hold us and our culture in undisguised contempt.

(H/t Instapundit)

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