When people decide they want to pay attention to themselves more than reality, an occurrence which inevitably follows any population bloom, they begin a long slow progress like becoming obese. A candy bar here, an extra beer there, and each year a few pounds are added. Suddenly at 40 the slim 18-year-old is a marshmallow of 300 lbs.
This slow attack is hard to detect because people like to hide behind what is not immediately visible. If you claim that doom awaits, but in 50 years, only the 1% of the population with the brains and character to think ahead are going to care about what you’re talking about. The 99% are going to change the channel.
Liberal ideology holds that those 99% are in fact blameless paragons of virtue and they are in a subordinate position only by chance or oppression. As the slow attack gains momentum, what was initially an excuse (I didn’t perform well because I was oppressed because I was not treated equally) becomes a cause of action, namely the elimination of all inequality.
But that too goes through layers of interpretation. At first it is innocent, a cry for meritocracy. Then it becomes a crusade against those who violate it. Finally it becomes a demand for subsidies for all of those who did not make it to the bar labeled “equal.” Eventually, society consumes itself like a dog chasing its tail, forever self-critical of its inability to be totally equal.
An important part of this myth is the idea that some people are born The Beautiful People and enjoy a life of luxury, happiness, plenty and ease that the rest of us are denied. It’s not that we don’t have it; it’s that someone else has it, and since we’re all equal, the only way it can be that we do not have this is that someone denied it to us, oppressed us or otherwise used inequality as a weapon against us. In order to sustain this fantasy, we have to assume that all people are born with a “blank slate,” or equal abilities and potential, depending only on “nurture” or the circumstances of their upbringing. This illusion allows us to demand equality so that every person has an equal shot at becoming whatever they want to be.
Thus this illusion requires constant warfare against The Beautiful People. If they have more than us, that’s excess that should be re-distributed. In fact, if we divide everything up equally, there will be no strife and happiness can reign forever. That is called “progress.” And yet what is really happening, slowly at first but accelerating in the second century, is the replacement of the former The Beautiful People with a new group of favored ones. We can call this new group BPs, for Beautiful People, because such acronyms fit with the atmosphere of governments, non-profits and academics who most vigorously champion this idea, speaking over their wineglasses from their own gated communities.
The BPs are a new group that doesn’t resemble the golden Beautiful People of the 1950s or more. To be part of the BPs, you can’t be born with any kind of advantage. In fact, the more degraded your origins, the better. BPs are hipsters and immigrants from impoverished countries, the homeless and the lowly, those who have experimented with being in pornography and taking hard drugs, those who may be criminal but have artistic visions, those who are anonymous but think themselves superstars. These are the new beautiful people, replacing those A students on the football team of classic American lore.
Our mass-culture emphasizes these BPs. Whether it’s the Puerto Rican street gang from West Side Story or the “downtown man” of Uptown Girl, the point is that that which is born privileged is giving way to that which is not. The flower girl in My Fair Lady deserves an upper-crust man, and their love must be true, because it crosses those ugly unequal lines. When a prince marries a Kate Middleton, despite her family having forged their fortune through dubious means and her sister being essentially a prostitute, we all get that little glow inside of us. Inequality is banished, now pacifism and brotherhood can wipe away all those dark thoughts and unsettling realities. We can live in peace and prosperity together.
This is the impetus behind the creation of the BPs. We don’t want the beautiful people; we want the ugly, so they can be lifted up. We want the poor, so they can be gifted with wealth. We want the foreign, the alien, and the dangerous, so we can extend to them the privilege of our birthright. The purpose is to make ourselves feel good, not to care about them; they are the means to the end of our happiness, our uplifting moments, and our sense of well-being through altruism. And yet, when morning comes and the hangover passes, we see that even our well-intentioned acts have consequences and that perhaps those are more grave than a transient feeling.