It seems many of those who would like to trace a causal line from the COVID affair to wealth inequality, are sadly far out of their depth when discussing "the elites". While we're partly sympathetic to the impulse, we also cannot help but suspect a combination of limited life experience and - once again - the urge to find someone to blame. Someone who is not your neighbor, not your mother-in-law, not your coworker, not the mailman, not your own grimy reflection.
Be not deceived: while there is immense and accelerating wealth inequality in our world, the extremes do not directly correlate to a competence inequality - nor an inequality of willpower, nor an inequality in the ability and willingness to take responsibility for human affairs. The rich are adept at becoming richer: everything else they do is largely just as short-sighted and emotionally limited as the rest of humanity - and with the additional means of avoidance and displacement at their disposal, often even more emotionally limited.
For example, I once worked as a sort of glorified janitor for a Wall Street shark with some big Manhattan properties. He had made his money in derivatives in the pre-2007 days, and was proud of having thieved hundreds of millions from the world. He was paranoid, fragile, pathetically grandiose, and personally impotent - most of his joys came from harassing his tenants and kvetching about minor expenses.
A billionaire is much more likely to obsess about the leaves in the pool he never swims in, than the course of world affairs: he simply does not have the ego strength for anything else. The reality of the life of an obscenely rich man is usually not one of mighty conquest, farsighted ambition, and actualized powerlust: those are extremely rare qualities, limited perhaps to a few political monsters here and there, a gifted corporate climber, and probably just as often occurs in those whose ambitions have nothing to do with money. And even in the case of an exceptional rags-to-riches Horatio Alger type, the success usually undermines precisely their strengths and draws out their latent weakness: the biography of any compelling rockstar demonstrates this amply - Elvis died on the toilet, they say.
A billionaire or a powerful celebrity is typically regressed, childish, impossibly vain and fragile. They live in a gilded cage of yesmen, chauffeurs, and goosedown buffers between themselves and everything uncomfortable. They usually don't manage their own money, much less want to bother with our collective fate. They're not tough-minded, realistic, nor even really prepared to think in the long-term: they avoid reality because they avoid confrontation with who and what they really are. Most people upon realizing a high degree of success and wealth immediately begin a program of regression, indulgence, and denial. At most, among the older money you find a practiced cynicism, apathy, and class hatred that borders on realism, but not much more.
Most of "the elites" obtained their position through dumb luck, and nothing else. Most of them are vaguely aware of this - especially the newer Silicon Valley type - and seek to hide it from themselves through many distractions and pretenses to mastery: actually confronting the unthinkable complexity of our world and the manifold difficulties of accomplishing anything that money cannot buy, would be far too much to ask.
One more story I cannot help telling: I knew another very rich Manhattan landlord, and amidst the oddities of this modern life I once found myself in the position of witnessing him play Scrabble alongside his 8 year-old granddaughter - she was very sharp, and with a brilliant move it appeared briefly that she might actually surpass his score. Can you guess what this greedy merchant did - this man who owns the homes of hundreds if not thousands of people, who can afford an 80 foot yacht, who hoards treasures? He panicked, dug in, and found some technical fault with her word - he couldn't let her win: he lacked the ego strength to allow a bright little girl to feel good about herself... That's how much inner poverty these types hoard: they carry shantytowns of poverty, a bottomless pit of poverty, an endless hunger of poverty.
Or did you imagine that your consumerist greed somehow threatened them? That your squelched life of obedience and economic drudgery is somehow inconvenient to the superrich? Do you imagine that if and when peak oil drives food price inflation, that it will be the billionaires who suffer? If a cheeseburger cost $1000 tomorrow, they would hardly notice - and it would only taste all the more delicious. A billionaire lives surrounded by slaves and countless means of escape: they don't wade through the masses in airports and traffic jams and the DMV - look up once in a while: that's what those private jets and helicopters are for.
They don't need you to stop traveling to beautiful places: they loiter on islands you've never heard of, they linger on yachts in international waters, they step on your heads as you line up like cattle for products you don't need... In fact, they revel in the grotesque numbers of humanity, because it makes them feel that much more important. Without your squirming numbers and your desperate faces glimpsed from tinted windows, they might begin to feel their actual spiritual poverty.
The elites have no need of depopulation - in fact most of them are pathetically lonely, and this secret alone would be enough to unconsciously steer them away from any such plan... It is we suckers near the bottom of the first world who would benefit from depopulation! Thus our fixation on the problem...
Only a few very sharp characters deep in the NSA or MI6 or whatnot, would have the kind of willpower and patience necessary to have done anything significant relative to the COVID affair: and I don't rule this out. I'm quite sure that more than one covert operation took the opportunity to test out a few pandemic scenarios, and probably more than one CIA analyst feels very gratified to see his predictions play out... And probably there have been many coverups, many competing agendas, many silent wars of intrigue going on in the background - as is always the case in politics. And perhaps after all, this virus was leaked intentionally. And perhaps the Wuhan lab was only framed. And perhaps someone really did have a depopulation scheme in mind when COVID was engineered and leaked - who knows. There's not much point in these speculations, and the important thing is not to indulge them, but to observe in oneself how much you want it to be true: you wanted a deadly pandemic, you wanted to see the world burn, you wanted something vital and serious to snap the monotony and diseased ease of your manchild life in half, so that you may set yourself free to become something worthy of the human ancestry - a survivor, a warrior, a real woman with a fearless heart and a real man who can shape his spirit into a quivering blade.
Let's pause here and note something I just said about the likelihood of competing agendas: no doubt, within the belly of most intelligence agencies there are covert groups which compete with one another - without knowing it. There's probably a CIA legend about two guys with adjoining offices fighting each other for years without ever realizing who the enemy was. And what's probably even more likely, given ape-nature, is that they know very well and are all the more rivalrous. The comedy of errors did not achieve its place among the arts for no reason...
Of course, a deep appreciation of accelerating wealth inequality is all part of the healthy breakfast of any decent 21st century philosophy - but such an appreciation should not devolve into magical thinking regarding some vague Illuminati pantheon. The human world is greedy, opportunistic, extremely efficient in its exploitation of power niches: what Foucault names "une microphysique du pouvoir"... Like most complexities, it operates most efficiently through emergent bottomup dynamics, not topdown guidance: attractors exist as inevitable expressions of underlying constants, but imagining that the conscious plans and conspiracies of any one human agency do anything more than exploit opportunities is to be hopelessly ignorant of the history of war, intrigue, and politics.
The sobering truth about the presently increasing wealth inequality on this planet, is that it most likely represents a course correction from the brief aberration of 20th century wealth distribution: though you'll frequently hear of trade unions and the lack of foreign competition for American and European industries as the causes for this aberration, I believe a more important underlying reason lies in the socioeconomic consequences of cheap fossil fuels. The period between 1945 and 1970 was probably the easiest time to thrive in the first world - thus the insufferable babyboomer attitude. The only graph you really need from economics, is the one which maps wage against inflation: it flattens sometime in the 70s - but somehow the American underclass has been cajoled into believing firstly that they are the middle class, and that $35k/year is still a living wage for a family man like it was in 1980, despite the fact that a house costs an order of magnitude more than it did 40 years ago.
When I speak of "first world misery", urban passivity, and "ill-defined lives of restless recreation and protracted procrastination", some of you don't know what I mean. Some of you don't think your life is "cushy". Perhaps you've worked minimum wage, perhaps you've dirtied your soft hands a few times, perhaps you've been broke.
We're working from different definitions. If these conditions are met:
- You live in the first world.
- You speak fluent English.
- You have a basic education.
- You're not in danger of contracting malaria, nor tuberculosis, nor any other of the major diseases that actually affect human health.
- You have the time for nonessential activities on the Internet.
Then your life is cushioned.
We are surrounded by forms of wealth it's effortless to overlook: serviced roads, a reliable electric grid, sufficiently safe cities, a stable currency, and access to clean water. Most of you actually shit in potable water - something considered a capital offense in some places. The metaphorical value of this fact should resonate...
For me this realization is of cardinal importance in learning to take command of one's life. Not to instigate more guilt - but to be unashamedly grateful for the wealth your grandfathers gave you, and take responsibility for navigating this world they made to the best of your ability and advantage.
... die Ungleichheit der Rechte ist erst die Bedingung dafür, dass es überhaupt Rechte gibt. — Ein Recht ist ein Vorrecht.
... the inequality of rights is the prerequisite to the existence of rights. Every right is a privilege.
Nietzsche, Der Antichrist, 57
Can you internalize this insight, without resorting either to a pretense of leftist moral outrage nor a rightist disingenuous belligerence? Our birthright is also a burden.
In other words, we are the elites. But every freedom is merely virtual and in danger of extinction, until it is utilized.
As I keep laboring to point out, indulging in conspiracy theory, blaming governmental manipulation, or worst of all just shrugging about "policy error", defers confrontation with the reality of what you already know and control: the small sphere of your life, the small circle of your influence, where you put your body in space and time. Indulging in theories about which you can do nothing, and which even if remotely true are not even harmed by your wild speculations but largely helped - nothing helps a real conspiracy like a crowd of wild-eyed morons missing the point and generating red herrings - is all trivial compared to confronting what you can do today, in your life. And what's unjustly overlooked amidst all this noise, are the quiet stories of that kind of confrontation: many of you left your jobs, allowed yourself to be fired, moved to another state or country, ended bad relationships, and resolved to live a better life... Wasn't it encouraging, for example, how many nurses had the guts to refuse the mRNA dose and lost their jobs as a result? To confront the reality of who and what people are around you - who can and cannot be trusted, how fragile our way of life is, how precariously preserved our freedoms are - that is our task.