The New Elite

Who are the New Elite? First, read my earlier post

In it I said that Class has always been identifiable by three things; Choice, Mobility and Influence. I said that most of us consider ourselves to be Middle Class but that there was a New Elite who have replaced tired cliches about the landed gentry.

The old elite, the landed gentry and the aristocracy wield little influence these days. 200 years ago they effectively owned Members of Parliament but now there is a tiny remnant left in the Upper House and the trend is down. Societal Elites have always comprised bandits or the sons of bandits. You only have to look at our own history to see this. I define bandit as anyone who can take money from others and kill them if necessary and get away with it. Getting away with it is key. Elton John is not the New Elite. He can get a table at The Ivy without too much trouble and can probably get through immigration quicker than I can. He could afford to have someone killed, but he could not get away with it. Elton, and Becks and Simon and Piers are not the New Elite, they are minor cogs in the engine of Capitalism. They are merely, for the purposes of our definition, high value consumers and spenders. Elton could probably buy a small country, but he does not have the resources or the power to control it. Most of the media glitterati, the A listers, can keep a story out of the news and many do. But that is a function of having money, not influence. Max Clifford has influence, but only because he is involved in a mutual back-scratching racket with the press. Should the fourth estate grow a set of cojones and some imagination, Clifford would be selling timeshares.

So I have said that the New Elite is not the landed gentry and neither is it the raft of celebs who we all adore.

Thirdly, it is not an international conspiracy. For the New Elite is not one homogenous group, it comprises a set of sub-groups who, like feudal barons, are motivated primarily by self-interest. They will only coalesce for reasons of self-preservation, forming ad hoc alliances with other Elites.

We have this week seen the toppling of one of its members, the President of Tunisia. His case is a true paradigm of what I am talking about. Mr Ben Ali is apparently now in Saudi Arabia, after fleeing his country amid a wave of protests and riots about the dire state of the Tunisian economy and its repressive regime. It is interesting that he headed for Saudi but quite predictable because he would by no means be the first despot to be given comfort and succour there. Elites understand the value of allies in the event of a nuclear option. Should North Korea's Kim Jong-il be deposed he will flee to China and enjoy a quiet, superannuated retirement. No country wants to take on people who frankly are an embarrassment but they have a by the Grace of God strategy that has as its underlying theme the idea that one day it might be them waiting on the tarmac as the soldiers barricade the Aiport. It is the same reason that the Russians fete Spies who have their cover blown. Effectively useless, the promise of a pension and a medal means that the blown spy can be an ecouragement to others. Rival gangs may hate each other and rub each other out but, until recently the code of omerta was solid. This is the self-preservation society in action.

Modern banditry among the New Elites is characterised by global interference and sacking of the economy, murder, repression interference with democractic controls and control of the media. Tunisia's President did all of these things. His mistake was merely to be so far removed from the populace that he failed to stop the banditry before it was too late. cf King Charles I, Saddam Hussein, Ceaucescu et al.

So although there is a cap on what the New Elite can do, within this they operate with impugnity. Political Elites are one thing, Economic Elites are wholly other. Some individuals can affect the global economy significantly. A global raider will typically have no fixed abode, money everywhere and in everything and one or two tame despots he can run to. In some ways he is above the political despot because he is pan national. Though not above the law, it is unlikely he will come to grief unless other elites wish it so and his power is predicated on the will of world markets which are largely also impervious to political and social control. So in effect he is an anarchist.

How do you become a member? See Tony Blair. He has successfully gone down the road of merely privileged, public school, Oxford and Parliament. Since leaving office he has consolidated his power far above that of his successor and can now be considered to be one of the New Elite. (Just check out the criteria).

How does it all effect me? Well it does, and to such a degree that we should be appalled. If you live somewhere like Tunisia or Italy it affects you more than it does here, in terms of your standard of living and your freedom. Calbria was described in a diplomatic message to the effect that it would be a failed state were it not part of Italy. Calabria is a lawless region run by the Mafia who are an Elite sub-group who live in symbiotic relations to the political sub-group of Berlusconi. In Italy you have a sublime kind of opression that manages to mix Olive Oil cut with Duckhams 20/50 and Prada, and so far has managed to keep the lid on popular disaffection.

The fact is that every time I buy petrol, when I pay my taxes, when I try and move around, to some extent I am directly or indirectly controlled by the will of the New Elite. And really, they are just the old elite with a bit more technology.


Jim Baxter said...

Consider what infuence might be.

Yes, some people live in criminal states, some live in criminal cities, and their lives are blighted by criminality which they cannot control, and which would surely have them killed if they tried, as many do, as many did in Germany in the thirties and forties. Who remembers their names? It doesn't matter that we don't. They would not expect us to. They did what they did becuase of truth, not to be remembered.

Is this criminality an inevitable thing, that moves around the map liks an ineradicable cancer because it changes shape and changes position?

I think it is. But there are other influences. there are dedicated teachers, dedidcated doctors, dedicated parents, people dedicated to kindness. That is influence too. And it is those that matter, infinitely more than theft or the price of fuel.

RMcGeddon said...

It was interesting that the former Tunisian President Mr Ali first headed to France before going on to Saudi. I expect Ali was shocked when Sarkozi said 'Non Merci'.
This tends to indicate that Ali assumed he was doing what the West wanted. Keeping Tunisia under the cosh for the greater good of the West. I expect he felt cheated by France after decades of simpering words of encouragement for his brutal regime. Ali obviously isn't strong on history which is littered with accounts of former colonial powers stabbing despots in the back when the going gets tough.
I understand that the Prime Minister of Tunisia who assumed power has now stepped down. I suspect he'll head straight for Jeddah rather than Paris.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Absolutely true Jim, and an essential part of the discourse, and it was going to be the subject of another post in the series.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

RMc: the elites are essentially venal and self-serving. The erstwhile President is a worthless commodity to the French.

Jim Baxter said...

WW, this is very interesting. WW at his best. You said the other day that you wondered if your blog was losing its way. As I have tried to make crystal clear I think you have been guilty of some dud thinking in some of your recent posts. But we are all guilty of dud thinking sometimes.

Even me. Joke. Joke OK. I know I talk crap some of the time. Some of the time?!! Yes, some of the time. Just like the rest of you.

With this, you're on form again. I look forward to reading more.

Brian said...

I have realised through bitter experience that I am neither hoi oligoi nor hoi polloi but Mr Cellophane. Why did I struggle to build my self-confidence to express an opinion when every conversation is a dialogue of the deaf among impenetrable cliques?

Jim Baxter said...

Those of us who regularly talk to each other on this corner of the internet, I don't mean to exclude anybody but I'm thinking particulary of WW, Richard, and Brian - Hamish too - oh, we know who we are - have very different views on some matters that could turn out to be bloody important, and not the less so because we probably won't still be here when the shit really hits the fan idf the shit is going to hit the fan.

I wonder though if because those of us in our fifties have become a little too world-weary that we focus too much on what is wrong and not enough on what is great.

I work with a lot of clever young people and their attitude is overwhelmgly positive, caring, and unselfish. They are not some celebrity or X factor generation. They want to work hard, they are giving of their time, and they want to work to help us all to enjoy life, whatever our age, to life to the full. And they are not materialistic, unlike some of us old fools.

So while we old gits are complaining that we might have to fork out a few more quid like a few more quid mattered one piece of jack shit as long as we still have roofs and food we should remember them and their attitude.

Wrinkled Weasel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wrinkled Weasel said...

Without getting into too much navel gazing, what I am trying to do it to start a new kind of blogging, one that involves discourse. It would be fair to say that as I write, on my shoulder is one of my old college tutors who is telling me, "set out your stall, define your terms, give me examples, references, etc." This post, by its nature is an article and not an essay or even a monograph and therefore there is a lot to be said that has been left out, as Jim has said. It is also a blog post, and I am still wary of turning it into something that only Roger Scruton will read.

I hope that as this series continues it will cover more of the salient issues. In the meantime, it looks as though my commenters are doing a pretty good job on that score.

WV brail - the blind leading the blind?

Jim Baxter said...

Hear hear. Say what you're going to say, say it, then say what you've said.

Sonata form. Exposition, development, recapitulation. It's like that for a reason.

On top of that, it's interesting.

Foxy Brown said...

I'm surprised that Monsieur le President Sarkozy said "Non", to Mr. Ali, as I had the impression that the Loire Valley was littered with former despots from the Francophone world. Jean-Bedel Bokassa "Baby Doc" Duvalier were welcomed with open arms by Giscard d'Estaing and Mitterand.

Odin's Raven said...

Perhaps the President was not sufficiently subservient to American interests?
Aangirfan suspects that those who control America want to increase the influence of American corporations in Tunisia, end it's prosperity and use it as a staging post to the oil of it's neighbours.

Twig said...

Is it possible for the hoi polloi to buy Duckhams 20/50 nowadays. If so, where and how much does it cost?

Dave said...

I think you could add Lord Mandlebum to the list along with Bliar.

The world is changing before our eyes. Multi national companies now stick two fingers up to any country that dares to ask them for tax. I enjoyed reading Naomi Klein's book "No Logo" but that's out of date now.

The people who used to rule the world still do so. The ancient banking families, the people who work behind the scenes pulling the politician's strings are still there. Governments can no longer make a difference. They no longer even try to be distinctive. In the UK the main difference between the main parties is in the colour of the rosette. Whatever the rhetoric and promises at election time, the incoming government are sat down and told what to do.

Bliar and Mandlebum played the game and have been suitably rewarded, but i doubt if they have joined the elite. The elite won't let the servants (and that is all Bliar was)upstairs.

I have a picture of the last days of the US occupation in Vietnam. As the enemy neared the city there was a desperate struggle to get on a helicopter and fly to safety.
I see the actions of Bliar and Mandlebum, and certain lesser players like Kinnock and Two-jags as no more than trying to curry enough favour with the rulers of the world so as to be allowed a seat on the last chopper to leave (or at least to hang on to the undercarriage)

As Jarvis Cocker so famously sings "c*nts still rule the world"