Now that America’s “unofficial but nonetheless genuine ruling class” has been destroyed, Joseph Epstein reminisces longingly about the lost and great benefits to society of this untitled aristocracy’s sense of noblesse oblige.
Epstein, however, wrongly suggests America’s “WASP establishment” has been replaced with a “meritocracy—presumably an aristocracy of sheer intelligence, men and women trained in the nation’s most prestigious schools.”
The WASPocracy was replaced by an Idiocracy.
The prevailing wisdom until now has been that the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) “stood for all that was uptight and generally repressive in American culture.” But those who could not wait for their demise are suddenly bewailing it:
… the WASP elite had dignity and an impressive sense of social responsibility. In a 1990 book called “The Way of the Wasp,” Richard Brookhiser held that the chief WASP qualities were “success depending on industry; use giving industry its task; civic-mindedness placing obligations on success, and antisensuality setting limits to the enjoyment of it; conscience watching over everything.”
Under WASP hegemony, corruption, scandal and incompetence in high places weren’t, as now, regular features of public life. Under WASP rule, stability, solidity, gravity and a certain weight and aura of seriousness suffused public life. As a ruling class, today’s new meritocracy has failed to provide the positive qualities that older generations of WASPs provided.
I like this. I’ve always said that IQ is in the math-intense fields of inquiry and study:
Apart from mathematics, which demands a high IQ, and science, which requires a distinct aptitude, the only thing that normal undergraduate schooling prepares a person for is… more schooling. Having been a good student, in other words, means nothing more than that one was good at school: One had the discipline to do as one was told, learned the skill of quick response to oral and written questions, figured out what professors wanted and gave it to them.