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Middling

TED always seemed to me an AA meeting for people drunk on The Latest.

“…Talks are not just directed at TEDsters in attendance but a far larger shadow audience that will one day view them online. The Vancouver Convention Center holds 1500 people, packed in the custom-built David Rockwell-designed theatre and lounging around in dozens of “simulcast” areas where talks are live-streamed. …(But) only live attendees (and 650 people attending the TEDActive remote viewing party at the Whistler ski resort) get the total immersion package, which includes over 30 hours of talks over four days. …Believe it or not, when adulterers say to their betrayed spouses It’s not about you, they’re telling the truth. Oh, and here’s a guy who landed a spaceship on an asteroid.” [Backchannel]

awrebnqaerAnd there’s the other thing about it. TED is a very definite, very public establishment of hierarchy. Those 650 who can afford to be those 650, or send their best representatives, are its elite. This will be aristocracy of whatever world is emerging right now. This will be a pecking order measured by capacity for inspiration, energy, and talent. It will be an ‘-ocracy’ of ideas.

But with all that high-powered meeting of the minds you’d think they’d already have come up with ideas – or at least formed groups to search for them – on how to save our disappearing middle class. That demographic is solely the one that traditionally has prevented this country from plunging into constant civil war and grand-scale bloodletting so much the hallmark of other countries. It isn’t our wealth or luxury items; it isn’t eating an abundance of food others harvest. Those things are relatively new. Our culture of convenience really only dates from the 1950s; my grandmother remembers washing laundry by hand. Not so long ago. But this vast, prosperous peace has lasted centuries. And that’s largely benefit of an enormous middle class.

The middle class is populated by dull people. Their priorities are, in order: family, selves, community. By ‘community’, I don’t mean aggrandizing aggregation or microcosmic self-interest group. No middle-class studies departments will be demanded from local academies; no liberation posses for left-handed gay amputees earning $50K-plus. Community means the guy next door who watches your house when you’re at Disney World – or squeezing into exoatmospheric fringes of TED conclaves, for that matter. It means the local strip mall you shop and attached garage where you vote.

Community isn’t even a voting district. We know our elected representatives are stuffed-shirt jackasses who think of themselves as our ‘leaders’ – as per has-been Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They take their orders from those same elites bathed in presumed media glory at public adoration fairs like TED, or Tri-Lateral Commission, or any one of a host of others. This is the way it’s always been, and we know our political ‘leaders’ are paid-off whores who do bidding of the rich and thereby, influential. Only fools believe ‘power’ is separate from and superior to money; there is no daylight between them and power only is delegated to whichever super-sized ego is next in line.

It’s slowly sinking in, though, that things have changed to this degree: Never have elites in charge been so openly, so irrationally contemptuous of us. Want to see hatred as particularized contagion, removed from even minimal humanity of reaction, from legitimacy as reciprocation for shit done to provoke it?

Read the New York Times.

Even if every quietly desperate soul trudging through, every prisoner of our corrupt credit-rating system, every third-mortgage carrier detects this animosity, there won’t be much hubbub. The middle class doesn’t like things getting ‘out of hand’. They don’t like a racket.

The middle class ignores the poor, true. Every society since there have been human societies ignores its poor. That will not change regardless how many utopias we try to establish, or utopian ideals we try to install.

But the poor benefit, as well, from the middle class; the vast wealth created by calm transfers of power from regime to regime has allowed that bounty. Such poverty is much less grinding than it is in other, more dog-eat-dog societies, which form most of the rest of the world. The poor have become, even, our number-one rhetorical concern. No one tires of telling the rest of us how important it is to help the poor, just in case we have no humanity and have to be pointed in the right direction. Elevating them from their ordeal is a hit-and-miss – and rare – process. No one knows how to end poverty ‘as group’, as condition. No country or even collections of them will, I think.

We buy quiescence of these downtrodden. …Just as Rome did with its tributes to restive tribes just beyond borders of its empire. This process tends to swell poverty’s population until the middle class can no longer afford such freeloaders. Withholding expected dole is defined as injustice by those who’d seize power. If their pipe dream is pretty enough, they can win allegiance of the chronically idle, the addicted and malcontent and guide the snoozy mob to upheaval. …Perhaps ever take control. These ‘revolutions’ always are co-opted by the most greedy and vicious, but also, and this is key, those who have the most money. And in the end, successful ‘grassroots’ rebellions never transfer power to their sod origins. The leech class is first on the ash heap.

This process never occurs where a middle class is functional and healthy. There was nothing all those rich young Jews could do to bring America to its knees in the ’60s. Truth is, that ‘revolution’ was cherry-picked for its fun stuff like sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll – the boring dogma ignored. Same with the Civil Rights movement’s descent to riot and chaos in those colorful times: Blacks burned down their already rundown neighborhoods while America’s super-prosperous middle class jetted to Majorca on their new jet planes.

Horrible? Would a real revolution – with tens of millions dead and cities in rubble – have been better? For who? And all those overseas wars… Did they benefit the middle class? Was that the population segment demanding them? No and no. Postwar prosperity occurred in spite of our foreign adventures, not because of them. We have our elites to thank for those casualties.

Maybe TED has no ideas for saving the middle class. Maybe attendees don’t think it important – the economic tier a mere passing social fancy. However, if our best and brightest don’t consider it important and worth saving, its disappearance is sealed.

- March 25, 2015, 14:30 PST