Three Ladders and Three Minds, or Estates Far Too General

Dearest Friends,

I am convinced that a clergyman ought to be three things. Well-read, well-bred, and well-breaded.


Because he’s a friar.

And such men are creatures of the church!

Speaking of church, let’s talk about Church. No, not the concept of the Church. That’ll have to wait for another time. I mean Michael Church, or more specifically, Michael Church’s musings on class.

To be honest, for the longest time, I didn’t really like it. I thought that his division of gentry and elite was mostly a way for him to divide the world into good folk (‘gentry’) and bad folk (‘elite’), and that he arbitrarily divided the professional class between the gentry and the elite so as to put himself on the right side.

But as I got older, I realized that such distortions are informationally valuable in-and-of-themselves, since they reveal the thought patterns and preferences of their holders. A lie reveals more truths than a fact. The Chinese learned this a long, long time ago, and that’s why they play poker with their cards face up. A submarine can be detected by the absence of sound. A mystery can be solved by the dog not barking in the nighttime.

And Church’s choices are informative indeed. They illustrate an important point – differences in perception. When you come up from the bottom, coming up hard, your viewpoints are far different from someone born into the upper middle class. Now, he claims to be a native G2, but he certainly has quite a lot of vitriol towards bluebloods. So if he is, that’s quite a lot of loathing towards himself. Probably a majority of his peers are bluebloods in the truest sense – descent from historical reigning aristocracies. The values of his profession can be traced directly back to Ancien Regime and its values. That someone like this would have more in common with a teacher than an investment banker is *absurd*. Both the investment banker and presumably Church went to elite colleges. Teachers do not, in any meaningful sense, ever work up to or promote into being professionals. They’re teachers. They teach until they become admins or get pensioned out. It’s a stable enough life, but it’s no meaningful sense on the same ladder as a professional. He is of a social rank roughly equivalent to the Oscar Meyer heir. Yeah, the hot dog guy. By no means is this top, but to suggest this is the realm of mere mortals like schoolteachers is absurd.

Let’s look at another group that often comes up hard: conservative talking heads. Or, as they are often called, Cuckservatives. One reaction to one’s new environs is hatred and distancing, as Church does. And we’ll return to that later. But another is to hate one’s origins in order to ingratiate one’s self with one new peers. To do that, one slanders the working and middle classes as brutish, unsophisticated, disgusting flyovers. One places all sorts of follies and ills at their feet. This also serves an important psychic purpose for the class migrant. By making the origin the image of evil, he can convince himself of his worthiness to join his new class, since he’s good and not evil like the rest of the unwashed. And then, having made his new home class the font of goodness, he can adopt its norms to an extent unnatural for any native. Speaking of many of these NGO people… their ties are far, far too straight. Or, to use a conservative example, Buckley is the very image of the platonic WASP precisely because he is not one. Of course, their new peers never truly accept them. To the native elite, the newcomer is gauche, a perpetual outsider. His oddities become emblematic of his crude origins. That exaggerated pose of eliteness? It’s the exaggeration of a clown. They’re considered nothing more than talking apes. Orwell despised these people, and for good reason. They sell out their kin, their honesty, and ultimately even their dignity… for the scraps off their master’s table. Cuckservative indeed.

Anyways, back to Church. The idea that teachers and him are both gentry is ridiculous. But I will admit a similarity. And the similarity lies in where Church places his gentry. In the middle. It is his middle class. And the fracture between his gentry and his elite is real. His self-identification with the middle is driven by another phenomena I’ve noted on this blog. The screeching masses of the middle are society’s conscience. And so too is Mr. Church.

Who does Church put atop his gentry? The media. And that’s because the media are the high priests of the Cathedral, our modern civic religion. And Church, as an ideological professional, is one of its priests, spreading the mores of what some may call good taste, but what I call closed-minded dogma. Teachers are the little lay pastors.

We can this moralizing in what he calls the oppression of engineers. Namely, that they are subject to micromanagement and having to report to bosses and that they paper this over by imagining themselves little owners of capital. But… they are little owners of capital. A millionaire is a little owner of capital. It’s by no means false consciousness. And the business with reports and annoying obligations to bosses and others is nothing more than my great-great-grandfather and uncle had to deal with, and millions lived and died by the word (for a very brief amount of time). That is about as high as you can go, and you’re still saddled with the bullshit. Similarly, when he discusses fascism, he calls it freedom from competition. In fascism, the ruling elite free themselves from competition and force the masses to fight. This has the advantage of being a neat explanation, and thus pleasing to the typical autistic mind of an elite. The problem is that this consistent definition defines out what most people consider actual fascism. Nazi Germany was many things, and it is a regime that I have very few fond feelings for, but it was certainly not a great place to be elite. Many an old family was ruined in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. And those who held on were subjected to Hitler’s ridiculous parallel org charts where duplicated responsibilities led to constant infighting and competition. Now, one could say that Der Fuhrer himself was free from competition. The problem with that is that the remnants of the old aristocracy tried to assassinate him. Constantly. They even made a movie about one attempt. And the far-right of Old China as they transitioned into Taiwan? No, that was a terrible place, full of purges and terror and replacement. The place where my ancestors were free of competition and could live stably and peacefully? America. The America of the working class settlement and class truce. The America of socialist democracy. So yeah, I guess that would be fascism. Right.

Here’s the issue. The things he points out as problems are nothing more than the demands of reality. Sure, being jerked around sucks. But everyone is jerked around, even CEOs. Being both a worker and a capital-holding business owner, I can assure you that both involve lots of micromanagement and bullshittery. That’s just how life is. And competition? EVERYONE wants to be free of competition, not just corrupt elites. Perfect competition is hell. It’s great for consumers – except every consumer is also a producer. And all those producers want some power to determine their own prices and fight their own wars. The corruption of the elite in seeking to end their competition is nothing more than what everyone wants. Workers want to end their competition too. Everyone does. Everyone wants everyone else to compete. But we can’t have that, so life is a constant struggle for monopoly power. Nobody wins forever. The positive is also the negative. There is no utopian state that combines the upside of both. Most work is boring not because of the greed of employers, but because life is honestly kinda boring and not some aspirational, self-actualizing funtime joyride for smiling aristocrats. Socialists like him? What they seek to overthrow is not the government regime but the regime of reality. It is doomed to fail.

These ideologies are nothing more than civic religions. What they seek is not reform, but salvation.

He calls it an issue that corporations would prefer to keep their employees politically bland! As they say, that’s not a bug – that’s a feature! Cuius regio, eius religio. What protects the corporation from his liberal proselytizing is also what keeps out the acolytes of what he considers a detestable little fascist, Donald Trump. The four century truce, as fragile and torn as it is now, is the only thing saving corporate from constant bloodbaths and bickering over civic religions. Sure, he thinks that the masses are tricked into following a false idol… all of the evangelists think that! And allowing that in corporate turns the infrastructure of our world into tools to punish unbelievers. Down that road is either theocracy or civil war. The Thirty Years War was one of the most destructive, in relative terms, in human history. When true believers are fighting for their religion, they tend not to back down. The result is villages reduced to ashes and bones, mothers eating their children, and sons slaying their fathers.

The crux of the Church issue is that his name is fitting indeed. He’s not a baron… he’s a bishop. And while I’m sure he’s a competent, caring man who wants only the best – the intertwining of temporal and spiritual authority makes for a sick society.

But who knows? Maybe I’m just one of the bullies.

Cruelly yours,
Monsieur le Baron

P.S. Parasitic bluebloods? A neoliberal future where the poor are forced to cycle to create power to serve themselves ads and prolefeed? Look, I will readily admit many evil things about Hillary Clinton, but she doesn’t want to strap you into exercise bikes Matrix-style so you can watch MORE YOUTUBE LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE NOW. To my readers, please do read Haidt. Ordinary people understand fanatics, but fanatics cannot comprehend ordinary people. To borrow one of Z Man’s images, everyone outside the walls is evil. They do evil things for evil reasons because they’re evil. Come the fuck on. Everyone in the top level elite is evil? Most of them believe the same things he does! They’re just even more psychopathic, autistic, and bubbled off than even regular elites. Zuck isn’t a lizard or Satan, he’s just a megasperg.


Hermemes Trismegistus, or The Occult as Decentralized Command and Control

Dearest friends,

A friend of mine is literally dismantling history. No, it’s not an overwrought metaphor for the collapse of Western civilization and its traditions. It’s an old building that the local government is unwilling to pony up the cash to maintain. So down it goes, as do all unloved relics. What matters about this old building is that it is a lodge of a secret society. In short, I am considering buying up one of the old murals so that an all-seeing Illuminati eye can watch me masturbate while I wear a funny hat. Glorious.

Now, most blogging about the occult talks about… well, the occult practices. I’m not going to do that. For one, others do it far better than me. For two, I don’t believe the actual occult practices do a damn thing. If Satan-magic worked, why’d Hillary get her ass beat so badly?

No, I’m going to talk about the occult as power mechanism.

In most organizations, you have the distinction between formal and informal power. Formal power is the power of process, meetings, procedure, and regulations. Informal power is the power of connections, backroom deals, and quid pro quos sealed by handshake. These processes are different. And the informal? The informal is where the real power lies. Anyone who has worked in a corporate workplace knows there is a formal process to getting a promotion, usually involving plodding forward giving your best work and putting in the time. People don’t get promoted this way.

No, you have to work the mechanisms of informal power. To get ahead, you have to do something sociologists would call reproducing the symbols and habitus of the dominant class. You have to find the dominant in-group, and make like how they do. We all know where the real loci of power lie.

What is the most basic meaning of occult?


The occult is the hidden. Informal power is occult power. The occult rulers are the hidden rulers. This isn’t just a language game I’m playing. In order to gate the informal, it must have memes to gatekeep it. It must operate memetically because it lacks the formal gatekeeping mechanisms of formal power.

Male societies are fundamentally LARPs. A LARP allows a man to propose a transcendent ideal to strive to, and because it is human, it can only be role-played, not truly lived. It is in reaching towards the transcendent we ground our moral codes. The Soros boys are a LARP of Star Wars, the Mafia and Yakuza LARP feudal chivalry, and the Triads ape the Taoist divine. One creates mysteries to serve as informal markers of authority – those who keep a certain level of mystery have a certain level of implied authority. Mysteries cannot be faked by the regime’s mens or aspirants. The older the society, the more complex the LARP. Since the idea is to remain hidden, each layer must become more obscure than the last. A LARP that fails to continually increase in complexity has all its layers probed and exposed by outsiders.

What happens when a secret society takes over? Well, r/the_donald is more or less a /pol/ony. You will see flashes of the controller memes pass by unheeded. Thus, one sees occult imagery all the time. Suppose I became rich and powerful (alas, alas, I am but a small fry right now). I’d commission a big statue of Leviathan. Secret Clintonians would start to network with me. It’s a powerful signal. But nothing about it is actually supernatural. Nor is the base signal, the statue, actually hidden. Much like a Secret Police, it cannot be truly secret, or it would fail to serve as an invitation to other members of the sect. People wonder why Satanic symbols are everywhere – wouldn’t effective worship demand it all remain hidden? Sure, but it’s a coordinating mechanism. It’s not actually mygikal power. Suppose 4chan took over the world. Kekkian frog magic would not be the cause! These memes serve as keys to govern a self-managing cell-based secret society. In fact, the base level memes of many an occult society are probably shitty jokes or half-remembered profundities like many 4chan memes. The genius of literary analysis is the ability to backfill and deepen complexities. The occult structure is inherently extremely resilient, at the price of rarely being able to mobilize its full force. Thus, we naturally see secret societies form across the world.

And occult memes do not necessarily have to correspond with any agenda. They might. But first and foremost, they serve as keys. The Triads captured such luminaries as Chang Kai-Shek and Sun Yat-Sen. If China was the imperial Republic of China, I have no doubt it would be littered with Taoist symbology, with the common Chinese puzzling over the sinister symbols of a Taoist mystery religion behind the professed Christianity of the rulers. But that wouldn’t be the agenda. The agenda of Triads was imperial restoration (of a sort), not any Taoist occult purification of man.

Or maybe I’m covering for masked and hooded brothers with a suitably materialist explanation. Who knows?

Crushed between Boaz and Jachin,
Monsieur le Baron

Spiritual Tradition, or the Value of Human Rites

Dearest friends,

It is clear to me that when a man waits in line for his breakfast, he must contemplate the spiritual. After all, to look at a menu is a deeply transcendental experience, as a man confronting a multitude of meal choices must also confront the multitude of choices we, as free individuals, must face every day in a modern technological society. The menu, with its dizzying variety, is a reflection of society in miniature.

It is easy to get lost in choice. When people are forced to make their own choices, they often find themselves making choices that they later come to regret, but have no way of reversing. And then they’re stuck. The world is littered with the detritus of shattered lives. People, lacking guidance, bury themselves in debt to chase dreams that they don’t really have, but that they think they should have. One way to mediate the problem of choice is to provide a life script. You establish certain rites of passage and markers of adulthood such that the transition is guided by respected authority figures and possesses a clear checklist of things to do. It structures life. And, based on my surveys of the great prole wilderness, I do believe the average American is in need of structure.

This sort of thing requires a lot of cultural infrastructure. A lifescript has to have buy-in at every stage of life to retain a sense of weight and resonance. It must have the weight of legitimacy. Tradition. Things must be done this way because this is the way things are done (lifescripts being essentially arbitrary things).

And unfortunately, there are no rites and rituals for picking a delicious breakfast. So that wouldn’t help me with my particular predicament.

But such a problem does make me think of something. Kashrut laws. The Jews who keep kosher have significantly reduced the size of their decision space. Is it true that they may have sealed off some tasty foods? Sure. But at least the mental energy needed to make a food decision is reduced. In fact, any such food tradition can serve this goal. If you always eat Chinese food on Christmas, you don’t need to use any mental energy thinking about it. Your life has been simplified.

It all comes down to the question of “Why do the Goyim X?”

“Why do the Goyim X?” Which does remind me of something. Goyim. Usually, people think of inviting refugees and other unsorted undesirable immigrants as an act of xenophilia. But if that were the case, why are elite communities free of them? The normal answer is hypocrisy. I don’t think that’s a complete explanation. I think that it’s an act of xenophobia. Elite communities are beautiful ethnic (ethnicity: Aristocrat) and cultural (culture: Aristocratic) monocultures, and they like it that way. But outside is a vast reservoir of filthy, unwashed, impoverished foreigners, who, terrifyingly enough, even kinda look like you. How do we stop their incursion? Undermine their shitty little communities, because, conveniently, we rule them. I’m a xenophile – I’m open to class mixing and making gross half-breed babies and listening to the weird ideas of the unwashed.

But that’s a thought for another day.

Why do the Goyim X? In that case, it was “why do people care so much about arbitrary rules and taboos over moral principles?” Reform Judaism nixed a lot of the rules such that Reform Jews are basically Episcopalians in funny hats, but it’s dying. The churches that thrive have an abundance of arbitrary rules and rites. People seem to need to crave them. And when it comes to everybody’s favorite prole church, Evangelicalism, a big unifying moral factor for their base seems to be abortion. And this, of course, seems absurd. Abortion is only necessary because these proles are already living lives of grievous sin. If you’re convinced otherwise, go spend some time in a typical American small town. It’s basically Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s not some sort of moral principle they’re upholding, because they don’t uphold moral principles. It’s a holiness signal. And the fact that not aborting ruins their life (what little there is to ruin) is all the better – the more you sacrifice to show your conspicuous holiness, the more holy you appear. At least prole virtue signaling only leads to self-destruction, unlike elite virtue signaling. To paraphrase Mr. Card, only one man actually asked us to be holy, and so we killed him for it.

This leaves us with the question of why the Goyim are so in love with moral rites. One could bring up that previous example of pro-life as virtue signaling, but you can just as easily virtue signal with moral principles. Why is “Why do the Goyim X” such a fertile question? And it is a fertile question, because otherwise it wouldn’t keep being brought up in my circle as conversation fodder. It’s such a fertile question because the commonsense practices of the goys often have some underlying logic governing them. But, goys being goys, they are unaware of what is. So you know there’s some reason why the memes exist in the way they do, but you are free to disentangle what is. And when you do, you look very clever and gain a lot of social status.

So why the fixation on moral rites? I thought about it, which is rather a pain, since my mental capabilities are rather limited and therefore I try to stay away from thinking, and I came up with a few categories of moral regulation.

Moral principle:
This one is pretty straightforward. You have a big moral idea, like egalitarianism, and what is holy is that which advances the cause of egalitarianism. Being a principle, it is easily extensible to novel problems, which is pretty good. And it doesn’t ask for any wasted use of effort. You’re not holy if you burn meat on a firepit, you’re holy if you advance egalitarianism. Seems pretty good, right? Well. No, not really. The problem with principle is that it’s very vulnerable to leftism. If leftism is the extension of societal principles towards their natural (but stupid) conclusions for the sake of power and social status, then any principle is totally open to it. It’s also easy to subvert, since any fuck can make a plausible sounding argument that your shoes need to be his shoes because equality.

Moral legalism:
Let’s move one level down. Moral law! Holiness lies in following the law. This is basically what Jews do. Thou shalt not eat unclean foods. Thou shalt not get abortions (I do assume there is some kind of moral principle behind this, but given that it’s a belief held by proles, it’s damned hard to figure out what it might be). They have a whole bunch of moral laws. By inscribing the law and not the principle, you basically shift the burden of leftism. Now, any attempt to move leftwards must first involve moral lawyers using various legal tricks to make a good argument that what the law really means is something else. This requires a lot of g, which screens off the attempts of any random prole. But aristocrats will still be able to manage, and moreover, they have a strong incentive to do so. Still, it at least puts one gate, even if it’s just a child-safe gate (Personal experience: these fuckers can be hard to open. Get a child gate, keeps kids in and landlords out.) And it provides a natural defense against leftism – you’re trying to twist the law to serve your own ends. If an aristocrat was so inclined, and they had allies, they could mount a credible defense of a moral law. And in the future, a moral law provides a natural Schelling point for reaction. Let’s just return to the letter of the law. Done deal. But we can get even more rigid than this.

There’s a set of things to do, and you better fucking do them. If kashrut law did away with clean and unclean and just said that you better not eat pork because God will rape your butt if you do, then that would be a rite. If you are to stack boxes in the northeast corner every morning and unstack them every evening, that’s a rite. There’s no logic beyond “God said so, now shut up”. And that’s the brilliance of it. You can’t push it through leftism because there’s nothing to extend. There’s no principle or logic to it. Holiness lies in not eating pork, full stop. You can’t holiness spiral. A holiness spiral here consists in perfect adherence to the rite, and you can’t get more holy than that. You can keep kosher perfectly, but you can’t keep superkosher.

So we’ve defeated leftism. What’s the problem?

Leftism is death, sure. But leftism is also life. Leftism is mutation. The drive to gain more status drives new arguments, and these arguments allow society to change. Unfortunately for society, most mutations are bad. And eventually a society implodes under the weight of its own memetic load. But what’s the alternative? Stagnation and death. The modern leftism we know so well is rooted in WASP and Christian ideals. It’s an ultra-Calvinism. Why do Jews have such a strong rabbinical tradition, such a strong mutation engine? Because the rigidity of only having so many moral laws and needing to get on in a novel and hostile world demanded a significant rate of mutation. It demanded the ability to come up with novel moral solutions to novel moral problems. And what of China? Confucius dwelled heavily on the subject of rites. Human rites brought out an essential humanness. And I think that this vindicates his views, because a focus on rites allows for memetic stability. But China itself had significant memetic stagnation. The practices of the elite remained largely intact over the course of millennia, from Han to Qing. And one day, some big nosed people in a boat came and knocked it all over.

But wait, you say. You’re forgetting something. And indeed I am. There’s another possibility out there. The charismatic. The spiritual. Morality rooted in feels. If it feels holy, it is holy. This tends to be a creature of the lower classes, and for good reason. It has all the downsides of moral principle, because it can be perfectly pushed and subverted. I can push leftier than you because I’m even more of a sobbing, blubbering vagina of a concerned mom. Hooray! But it has none of the upsides. Because there’s nothing there but feels, it can’t give rise to new arguments, newly mutated memes. It can corrode, but it can’t build up. So the charismatic Christianities, the Evangelicals, these are prole. And deeply prole. When they are adapted by non-proles, they begin to shed the prole characteristics and to accrue theology in their place.

And what happens when you shear Evangelicals of even the fig leaf of moral structure bequeathed to it by Christianity? You get the Spiritual but Not Religious, which tend to be converts from prole Christianity. And boy are they prole. Spiritual but Not Religious is basically all the feel good holiness without any of the possible judgment by an angry Sky Daddy (Proles being proles, their conception of God is often just an angry Dad in the sky. Now, he is the Heavenly Father, but that doesn’t make him literally your dad.). It’s pretty easy to suss out a bravetheist of prole origins, because they rail against God-as-sky-daddy, which tends to earn them bemused smirks in the company of their betters. Higher class bravetheists have better arguments. I don’t agree with them, obviously, but I can find merit in some of what they say. Now, people who want to feel good but don’t want to be judged, even if those judgments are trying to steer them in the right direction are probably low FTO and low rationality. And people who can’t be arsed to do the rituals of church are probably low conscientiousness too. So this is already a population selected from the left tail of Evangelicals. But I suspect that the loss of moral structure also plays a role in making them even worse than what they would normally be. It’s a double whammy of adverse selection and adverse effects. The result? A predominately white ethno-religious group that performs about as economically well as the National Baptist Convention or the Church of God in Christ, aka black Protestant churches. That’s like an accomplishment, but in the opposite direction. It’s an un-achievement.

Or maybe this is all bullshit, and I’m upset I didn’t get the lox bagel instead. See, that’s a problem that kashrut fixes. C’est la vie!

Suffering a case of moral indigestion,
Monsieur le Baron

Guest Post: Ethnography of the SWPL, pt. 2

yo its me dog


Note: today we have a guest post, courtesy of Monsieur le Baron. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome back. I’m happy to be here with another guest post.

Last time, we discussed the strange creature known as the Bobo. But not all SWPLs are rich. Many are, in fact, quite poor. What of these… SWProles? Today, we’ll be covering the Theory of the Aspirational Class, walking through some musings, and making some conclusions.

First, to explain terms. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s analysis. They have a tendency to lump both Bobo and SWProle together into one homogeneous SWPL group, which they call “elite” or the Aspirational Class. I don’t think this is necessarily a valid leap – while it does capture some essential cultural similarities, the defining aspect of the SWProle WITH RELATION TO their more affluent brethren is their total lack of power…

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The Cargo Cult of the SWProle, or the Curious Case of the DINK in the Nighttime

Dearest friends,

The cold season is upon me, and snowflakes descend like falling ash from distant burning woods. When I look up, I half-expect the skies to be a murky black, filled with dark, churning clouds spreading like goopy oil slicks, the air rich with a stench half-way between a Vegas gambling den and a gaping incinerator.

But… it’s not.

The bugs are gone, for now. Fly away, little bugs. Perhaps I ought to decamp to warmer climes myself? Maikäfer flieg!

But I won’t.

Instead, like rather less majestic insects, I will hunker down in my little hole, digging deep for warmth. And once ensconced, I will sup on defrosted lamb and all this Brisk Iced Tea (Brisk, goes down smooth and fast! A real thirst quencher!) I got for real fire sale prices.

It is a certain kind of bliss, I suppose.

Speaking of groceries, it reminds of that strange little box, Whole Foods. I don’t shop there, and I never have. Too rich for my blood. Well, I suppose that’s not completely true. When I was in school, I had a friend who liked to buy a particular brand of yogurt from Whole Foods. These trips were always brief, lest the Eye of Mackey gaze deep into our wallets and dispatch his legion of crustwraiths after our shekels. Would we, one day, be white enough to shop their hallowed halls without shame? Probably not, though he now is getting close. The day we graduated, we went and bought bottles of VOSS water and drank them. To be honest… it didn’t really taste that great. But that didn’t matter – it was the excess of it, the conspicuous consumption, the sheer audacious whiteness – it might as well been, no, indeed it was… the nectar of the gods. The culmination of years of effort, struggle, and pain. It was over, it was done. At long last, a deathly silence had settled over our lives, for the guns had stopped. And all was stillness on the Western Front.

We had won. We had won and we were drinking fucking VOSS water and we were reveling in it because, goddamnit, we deserved it. We were the fucking Masters of the Universe. Born to be kings! Princes of the Universe! That water was the ecstasy of gold in pure, bottled form. It was JUST. FUCKING. WATER. And that was the beauty of it, that was what we exulted in, that pinnacle of white-being. Water, this thing which was free, we had just bought and drank at great expense.

VOSS wasn’t water, it was liquid status.

After that, I didn’t give Whole Foods any more mind.

Until now.

A friend of mine showed me ad for Brandless, which appears to be a store selling organic generics. Its claim to fame is that it’s cheaper than Whole Foods.

Yeah, no fucking shit. Having fresh fish flown to me from goddamn Alaska and pairing with caviar was literally cheaper than Whole Foods. It doesn’t make it cheap! What the hell!

Under my feet, seemingly overnight, had grown an entire class of people buying and doing lots of fancy shit. There were a few possibilities. One was that, while I was looking at the lint gathering in my navel, the rest of the country had become astoundingly rich and left me behind. Now, a trip to the national income percentile statistics strongly suggests this was indeed not the case, but there was always the chance that everyone but me is evading, like, a shit-ton of taxes.

The other possibility, which I strongly believe is true, is that the modern middle class spends lots and lots of money on ostentatious luxury goods. Literally speaking, groceries purchased from Whole Foods are food. But the price tag is not because of the specialness of the food you buy. Rather, fancy organic SWPL food exists as a *positional* good that elevates your status above others. When I wear my crappy suits, they serve as a visual statement that I am inferior to The Management in their crisp new Brooks Brothers. Similarly, when my peers at college shopped at Whole Foods, it was a statement of power and prestige – they were so king dick that they could eat shopping carts full of quinoa harvested by weeping Chilean babies in mist-shrouded mystic highlands, and treat it like no big deal. “Why yes, my father does happen to be close to the Philippine Department of Agriculture, now that you mention it,” as they take another bite of oven-roasted kale.

Meanwhile, I take another swig of tea-flavored high fructose corn syrup, that marvelous beverage, Brisk, a perfectly frugal choice for the modern shopper.

I call these creatures SWProles. That the SWProles so often live so luxuriously often places me in the unfortunate position of envying their lifestyle. With the ordinary proles, while I may shake my head when they buy a massive TV, ultimately, I don’t need or want such a thing. Not so with the SWProles, who often live lives that make me blush with furious envy. Casual Eurotrips, degrees in subjects so outrageously useless and expensive that they almost approach the platonic ideal of Veblen good, the kind of thing you’d be shocked to see outside of Lynndegarden, funny jobs making artisanal pottery and hipstercraft cereal, and the nicest not-nice clothing a thrift store can offer.

These days, I am more likely to identify one of my peers by their relative lack of ornamentation and luxury. So what has brought about such a state of affairs? The SWProle has come to believe that the luxury goods purchased by the overclass are not a signal of their prosperity, but instead are the cause. In short, a cargo cult. I’m not sure how this started precisely, but many SWProles blame their parents or society or their parents AND society. Apparently, there was a widespread narrative that these things were the road to wealth. Go to college and get an English degree and you’ll get a good job, probably. Did you know there are around four thousand 4-year schools in the US? I didn’t, and the figure horrifies me. As far as I knew, the USNews top 200 was *it*, all the schools in the US. It’s like finding out your map of the world only covers California. Or better yet, art school! Go to the city and slum around the fashionable parts of town, because that’s where the work is. A gap year is a great resume builder! It is a Frankensteinian pastiche of luxury status signalling and middle class earnest conscientiousness. People who go on vacation to Europe because… that’s just what is done. A too small apartment in Manhattan with a Studies Studies degree and a barista job (or some menial white collar position they cheerfully dub “professional”), that’s the way to do it. It’s like the industry that’s sprung up selling canned answers to prestige firm interviews – the point of the interview is to demonstrate your authentic UMC habitus, not to recite certain correct answers like this is a goddamn exam at a two-bit school.

Just as yesteryear saw the emergence of Class X, that fusion of bohemian tastes and bourgeois wealth, and that new creature of “BoBo” came to dominate the UMC, so too do we see conspicuous consumption wedded to MC conscientiousness, SWPL tastes and prole incomes. Behold, the New Soviet Coastal Man, the SWProle, rising from the sea foam.


My life doesn’t go smoothly because I have the right taste in burlap (I don’t, which is why I have a Kinkade on my wall). It goes smoothly because I can collect some six thousand dollars of passive income from my investments every month, despite being in my early 20s. They pay me a reasonable amount precisely because it’s *not* an aspirational, fulfilling job. As my coworkers say, if we were having fun, we’d have to pay them. The professional work of the “creative class” may be more like fun, but it’s still WORK. It’s sitting in a cube and bathing your face in the eerie midmire blue light, day in and day out. I do this not because I love it, but because I have needs and wants that my passive income alone cannot satisfy. Like my Camry, which, foolishly, I bought at sticker price. Meanwhile, on various comment threads, I repeatedly see the insistence that more expensive Tesla’s Model 3 is a mass market car. Wha… what? What? No, it’s not!

When I buy my fucking VOSS water for $TOO MUCH, it’s not because it’s helping me be a good worker bee in the modern gig/information/UberEATS (gig-a-bite?) economy or whatever the fuck. I’M BEING AN ASSHOLE!

Good golly, my blood pressure is rising. Better take a crisp and refreshing gulp of Brisk, as sweet and airy as a summer day.

You can’t get rich through conspicuous consumption. You can’t! You just can’t! It doesn’t make any goddamn sense and it makes wonder if the whole fucking world has gone crazy. You get rich by refraining from spending. When I suggest such a thing, I am scoffed out. “You think I can afford a house by not buying avocado toast?” Har har har. That is EXACTLY how you can afford a house. That is EXACTLY how you get rich. You act like a SWPL to flaunt your affluence and social status. These SWProles have everything precisely backwards!

Of course, all that goes up must come down. Because these people are not, in fact, spectacularly rich, and they don’t actually know the COO of Kraftwerkgill, the Food/Electronica conglomerate, they must fund such a lifestyle through debt. Lots and lots and lots of consumer debt. Run up those student loans to go to a crappy state school (Yet another case of apparent conventional MC wisdom being totally bass-ackwards, since they often say more prestigious schools would be too expensive. 96% of Harvard students graduate debt-free. Even at my comparatively shitty tier 2 consolation school, the median student graduates without taking a single penny of student loans.). Get a payday loan to go on vacation (that this concept exists appalls). Work as a cabbie to chase your dreams (the Uber ads also appall me).

So we reach the next inevitable step in our downward spiral. White trash goods rebranded to have hipster/SWPL cred. We return to Brandless. Or, as my friend put it, store generics “but for hipsters.” Is Brandless actually that cheap? Their shtick is meant to suggest such – everything only $3! But I went ahead and compared their prices to Kirkland and Walmart generics. Kirkland generic products are actually of quite high quality. For instance, Kirkland wine is pretty much the same wine as the high class stuff, just put through less quality control and refinement. And I have been assured that, if you take the effort to properly age it in your own wine cellar, it really turns out top notch. Much like brewing your own booze, this seems to be a lot of effort to me, but if you already have the setup, might as well. The Brandless stuff was almost always significantly more expensive, except for chips, naturally. The SWProle is still a prole at heart.

Shorn of his wealth, with no income potential, and teetering towards bankruptcy, the SWProle must abandon Whole Foods for generics. But even there, his generics have to signal SWPL status with their elegant unbranded branding and design. And he will have to pay extra for that status.

Similarly, with no hope of affording a house on their own the proper way, the SWProle turns to a small movable abode placed on land, bought or rented, and makes do. They call them Tiny Houses. They’re trailers with hipster cred. The idea isn’t new at all, it’s just a rebranding of something poor people already do.

And we revisit Fishtown, Murray’s byword for poor America. Only now, it is being hailed as a symbol of revitalization, as artsy young white people flood in to provide artisanal services in a quirky, homey environment. Gentrification! Affluence! The only problem is that the median income isn’t budging. Brandless isn’t unbranding, despite its name. Brandless itself constitutes a brand, and thus, the act is an act of *rebranding*, not unbranding. So too, the new Fishtown isn’t an end to poverty.

Merely a rebranding.


And so, we arrive at the curious case of the DINK in the nighttime. Much as the life script dictated, they went to college, a sensible state school which would minimize their student loans, got professional white collar jobs, and waited until getting financial stability to have kids.

Only their school didn’t give them a leg up, their jobs were professional in MC minds only and didn’t pay worth a damn, and by the time they were financially secure, a truly grueling ordeal, they found out that the Obamas had to get IVF. Which they can’t afford.

DINK, but not by choice.

Even with all their decadence, I cannot truly envy the SWProle. It ends in tragedy.

Perhaps I can comfort myself with the idea that it was always so. There are some letters from the reign of Louis XIV where a lady of the court ventured to see the humble villagers, only to find a village woman in a dress that would cost about $40,000 in today’s money, and herself in rags by comparison.

In the end, will it all end by guillotine?

Dramatic in my thirst,
Monsieur le Baron