According to legend, St George, a Roman knight, freed a Libyan town from the cruel attentions of a sea-dragon by killing it. It’s a metaphor, of course. And any politician who has since dared face down fierce vested interests or kill off harmful prevailing orthodoxies has similarly been branded a dragon slayer. So in honour of England’s patron saint, we’ve asked our contributors to slip into some chain mail this week and nominate the contemporary tyranny they would put to the sword.
We’ve heard a lot in recent years about “the global village”. This often gives rise to a peaceful, happy place where neighbours trade and get along with one another. The truth, however, is that the village, at least those parts in the West, is under attack from a vicious dragon. That dragon is Global Elite Condescension.
The propensity of intellectual, political, and business elites to think of themselves as “citizens of the world” is well recognised. The annual Davos World Economic Forum is akin to a pilgrimage for the self-annointed global elite, a ‘journey’ during which they can worship their god and network at the same time. Such transnational bonds are not uncommon. The world’s great religions all engender such feelings and loyalties. So, too, have the great ideologies of past and present. Liberals and socialists alike continue to gather in international conclaves to celebrate something that unites them across national borders.
But Global Elite Condescension differs in that it sees itself as superior to the nation state and to non-believers. If global trade causes some people within a nation state to suffer, those claims for redress are dismissed as the yelps of the uneducated. If global migration causes tight communities to unravel, and places some citizens in economic competitions they cannot win, opposition is dismissed heatedly as racist in nature. If political leaders gain support for explicitly nationalist or traditionalist goals, they are frequently derided as authoritarian, fascist, or simply anti-democratic.
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It is telling that these labels are levied even though anti-globalist or traditionalist leaders obtain the support of their fellow citizens in free and fair elections. “Democracy” for those suffering from Global Elite Condescension does not mean the rule of the people. It means, instead, that the people consent to the rule of their betters, whose judgments alone can prevail. When the people reject those judgments, the squeals can be deafening, as anyone in the United Kingdom or United States can attest to.
Worse, those under the influence of GEC often call for re-runs of the elections they lost or refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of their defeat. That’s what “not my president,” calls for a second Brexit referendum, and efforts to punish or ostracise Eastern European nations such as Hungary or Poland are about.
This tendency is fatal to the liberal democratic capitalist regimes in which we live. Liberal democratic capitalism can only survive if it is widely understood that all men are created equal. That means acknowledging that your views can lose elections justly. It means recognising that one can disagree without disparaging the underlying humanity of the person with whom you disagree. Those beliefs are what gave rise to a uniquely Western idea of “the loyal opposition”: to disagree on policies does not mean one is sundered from the nation.
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Global Elite Condescension implicitly, and increasingly explicitly, rejects that concept. If those with whom you disagree are deemed incapable of exercising mature judgment, motivated by race or other hatreds, or viewed as inherently tyrannical, then their opposition cannot be loyal. Their opposition must be dangerous and fatal to the order the elites favour, and thus can never be allowed to win. Extended to its logical conclusion, this means recreating a modern version of the aristocracies that liberalism and social democracy overthrew in the name of human equality over a century ago.
GEC sufferers would laugh at such a characterisation, but that does not mean it is untrue. When Hillary Clinton denigrates President Trump and his backers as “deplorables” and notes that she won the economically vibrant and forward-looking regions of the country, she essentially argues that she won the votes of the people whose votes deserve to be won.
When Brexit and Trump opponents argue that Russian-sponsored “fake news” swung the tides against them in both elections, they again implicitly argue that the election result was obtained illegitimately through votes from people whose judgments should have no weight. These arguments are identical in nature to those of 18th and 19th Century aristocrats who opposed both social reforms and universal enfranchisement on the grounds that the average person was incapable of ruling themselves, much less the state.
GEC causes the delusion that one is entitled to rule without interference from below because of some gift or other. But it would defy what we know about human nature to think the rule of a global intellectual and financial elite would end any better for those allegedly less gifted than it has in any previous despotic regime.
The idea of human equality has made the West the historical paradise it is. Jesus’ call to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and its secular counterparts have made the West a uniquely humane set of nations. Only here has slavery been abolished, both de jure and de facto. Only here has great wealth been created and relatively fairly shared for an extended period of time. Only here can people who radically disagree with one another on how to live share cities and towns without killing or enslaving each other.
This system can only survive if the idea of human equality is nurtured within our bosoms as if it were our civil religion. We need a St George, and fast. The dragon that is Global Elite Condescension cannot be allowed to burn our villages to the ground.