It is a trending thought these days that the everyday struggling millennial are not the struggling working class, or struggling middle class, rather they are just temporarily embarrassed Silicon Valley geniuses that will soon ‘hit it big’, and they too will be the next special guest on NPR.
With the ever increasing appeal to limitless globalism and ‘for the greater good’ arguments made by neoliberalism, we see less sympathy for the struggling and more callousness in a blend with ‘ivory tower’ pretentiousness. The increasing nomadic spirit, the increasing cosmopolitan spirit, has less and less connection with ‘rooted’ vertical quality. Instead it praises absolute quantification, that is, every detail of a person’s existence reduced to commodity and number. Horizontalism is the highest virtue, those attributes that include solely praising economic value and flattening the world into a commodified corporate ‘monoculture’. It smugly and self-assuredly mocks the vertical; that which appreciates what should not and cannot be monetized, as well as deeper connections regarding heritage and family and culture. This nomadic and cosmopolitan thinking is an infection that simultaneously claims ‘this will help us all’ while self-righteously sneering at those whom express care for the struggling and the local. Amongst the multiple political fringes that contain hatred, from white supremacy to antisemitism to cop killing, nothing can compare to the moral bankruptcy and self-deception this trend incarnates.
There comes a point where one must realize the struggles of fellow citizens seen everyday, in everyday life, matters far more than the fanciful academic flights of the pretentious and worldly. Wether it be caring for loved ones due to health problems, working men barely making it despite sweating blood in earnest, or inner city living day to day dodging murder and crime. No hopes of increasing global markets and corporate saintliness with claims it will help even the lowest common worker in America will suffice nor deliver on its promise. If there is no care for the common man even amongst those who struggle themselves, then there will be even less possibility that investing in neoliberal pipedreams of a flat world will render anything different. As the expression goes, one does not ask the fox to guard the henhouse, or worse yet, believe the fox is the only hope of the hens being saved.
This doesn’t require adoption of Marxism, or any such ‘eat the rich’ mentality. I firmly believe hierarchy of multiple kinds exists naturally and that this is a positive thing, though unfortunately too often abused and exploited. I do not believe one must abandon the market altogether and seek out the ideal state which will allocate perfectly. What I do believe must be an absolute priority, an absolute commitment held within ones own heart with fervor, is that ones fellow citizens and loved ones must come first and foremost. That their struggles, financially and otherwise, must not be callously dismissed in the name of the ‘higher economic theory’ or ‘the greater good’, when often the exact opposite is delivered despite the supposed good intentions…if genuine good intentions are there at all.
If one calls this populism, nationalism, or working class solidarity, these labels are merely labels that do not convey the heart of the matter. That heart of the matter being, whether it is a struggling family in the rural with ancestors tied to the land or a struggling inner city family whom are first or second generation, they are a citizen and their pains are nothing to be dismissed or scoffed at. No cosmopolitan ‘citizen of the world’ grandstanding and adoration of a ‘neoliberal’ status quo is going to relieve this, acknowledge this, and is likely ultimately only going to worsen this situation. The callousness is implicit in the cosmopolitan mindstate in that again it reduces existence down to tangible quantification and commodification, immediately dismissing the vertical intangible meaning and content that makes a people and culture worth saving to begin with. It will of course deny this, claim it values these things, while simultaneously dismissing it as ‘ignorant uneducated rubbish’ and again claiming it has the ‘higher ground’ for the ‘sake of the greater good for all’. No matter how self-assured a fox may feel in its ‘goodness’, it is still a fox.
No doubt this is a symptom of the times. Zygmunt Bauman refers to it as the ‘Liquid Age’, and René Guénon referred to it as the ‘Reign of Quantity’. However it can be described in language, in philosophical words, it pales in comparison to how awful it truly is and has become. Not only have the working class and middle class suffered, losing what little control they once had, whole regions have begun to lose as much control. Both on the micro and macro, victims of much larger global economic forces that not only may destroy it economically, but ravage the vertical qualities it contains, leaving it a desolate shell of what it once was culturally and in spirit. The nation itself cannot protect its own from what Bauman calls ‘negative globalization’. In the too idealistic aspiration to globalization, the positive falls far short and the negative is far too profound to be controlled or contained. There is no sign that this is lessening, and with the ever increasing cosmopolitan trend and mindstate, one can only predict that things will continue to get worse or simply continue as is.
From the individual person in daily life to the international realm, the infection that propels one to quantification and horizontalism is not ceasing. What was once a genuine desire for a better world has worn off or simply passed, revealing that beneath that veneer there is a sneering dismissal of the struggling and a pompous self-assuredness in its own ‘greater good’ mission, no matter the cost nor destruction. The heart is lacking, and appreciation for the verticle intangible becomes rare. I don’t have an optimistic conclusion or prediction. Only that people must return to the heart of the everyday mundane, the everyday struggle, to the meaning of family and heritage, to the vertical rather than the horizontal.