January 5, 2016


What explains these hypocritical and incoherent attacks on the West? The answer is important because it reminds us not to take too seriously the agendas of 20-something campus critics of white privilege and those protesting against micro-aggressions and demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings.

No civilization in history has been more leisured, affluent, or self-critical than the contemporary United States and Europe, Westernized Asia, and the British Commonwealth of Nations. Globalization has made former millionaires billionaires and near millionaires multimillionaires; among them are those who run universities, the media, foundations, Wall Street, politics, and the arts, whose influence far outweighs their relative small numbers.

At some point, for the Western elite class, the acquisitive dreams of the past become the banalities of the present, as luxury cars, penthouses, and vacation homes only remind the guilty how blessed they are, whether through inheritance, the power of trillion-dollar investments, or the global market of 6 billion people. For many of our elites, trashing their culture and heritage offers a sort of medieval penance that lets them alleviate guilt without sacrificing privilege. George Soros, Al Gore, and Mark Zuckerberg often are critical of the very engines that powered them to zillionaire status. Billionaire George Lucas calls his additional multibillion-dollar buyout from Disney the work of “white slavers.” Is Lucas, then, our version of an indentured Irish immigrant, or a Balkan peasant sent in chains to Istanbul? The 1 percent hope their loud displeasures will help to square the circle of finding redemption without ceasing to satisfy their material appetites. For some, anti-Westernism is the white lace that adds something to their costly but boring outfit.

Meanwhile, James Lileks visits an Arizona shopping mall during his Christmas week reprieve from the brutal cold of Minneapolis and responds “What you see is a miracle. This is the pinnacle of civilization, in its own way:”

I sound like a high schooler criticizing the snobby kids. I get that way in malls. Not in grocery stores, even though I get irritated by food snobs who will only use Madagascar vanilla in their French Toast batter. (Along with cage-free eggs and milk from cows that didn’t take BGH and ate non-gmo clover and were slaughtered with a blade sharpened on diamonds certified to be non-conflict) Grocery stores are a marvel. Daughter accompanied me to Fry’s today — walked! Three miles! Willingly! With her father! Made my day. We had a serious conversation on the way there and an amusing one on the way back. She was impressed by the store, which has everything. And of course I made to make this a Sermon.

What you see is a miracle. This is the pinnacle of civilization, in its own way. No king in the history of mankind had access to riches like this. Look — here. (picks up box of special expensive gourmet crackers) This is someone’s livelihood. Someone got a loan, started a business, hired people, paid someone to design this, because he or she wanted to make a special cracker, and here it is next to all the other special crackers, and this is just the special cracker department in the cheese department. There’s another special cracker section in the cracker aisle. He might fail, he might win, but you can do that here, you can try. And if someone says why do we need so many cracker choices, this is why. Do you want some governing Cracker Bureau to say no, don’t make crackers, make pretzels. But I don’t want to make pretzels. I want to make crackers. Sorry, we have enough crackers. But I have this new taste. SORRY.

Now apply that to everything here! And the other store that has the stuff this one doesn’t! And the other chain that carries a different line of specialty stuff!

Boris Yeltsin had the very same reaction when he visited a Houston supermarket in 1989; he immediately knew the Soviet Union was dead when he saw its shelves stocked to the brim. Bernie Sanders considers this a bad thing — both the abundant selection of the typical supermarket and the fall of the Soviet Union. Or as Lindsey Graham joked in October, Sanders “went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon,” and never came back.

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