The Logic of the Meat Grinder
Perhaps you too are devastated by this week’s crushing news—Meghan Markle’s Netflix show has been canceled.The show, of course, a one-word title by the name of “Pearl,” is about an oppressed young woman who deigned to overcome obstacles such as someone not validating her every whim, not affirming nor flattering her every thought. I wrote this before bothering to Google the name and premise of the now regrettably canceled show—unremarkably, my assumptions were faultless. Meghan would only commission a show based on her and her own lived experience. Of course, the protagonist would resemble Meghan and would task herself with overcoming the contrived problems of which Meghan and her wife Harry place before themselves to elicit meaning and something to talk about.
Narcissists, as Christopher Lasch contended, see the world as a mirror, as a reflection of their fears and desires.“Like many girls her age, our heroine Pearl is on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to overcome life’s daily challenges,” said Meghan, or the word Sherpa who scribes such bumf.Quite what daily challenges a modern 12-year-old contends with are beyond both my comprehension and concern. My daily challenge back then was to convince adults to slip into the offie and buy me ten Lambert and Butler without skanking both the fags and the change from my lunch money.On our journey of self-discovery, my fellow hoodlums and I spun in circles while attaching our mouths to a flagon of White Lightning—a fearsome lunatic soup and unofficial sponsor of teenaged pregnancy, anti-social behavior disorders, “problem drinkers,” and gentlemen of the swig.
We young offenders christened the 8.4 percent hooch, a white cider containing not even the core of a real apple, “Quite Frightening.” The media called it “tramp juice.” At just £2 per three-liter bottle, White Lightning reliably sozzled three participants for the price of pocket money.
Alas, the prigs at the Society for the Prevention of Fun soon legislated White Lightning out of existence. Now today’s young people skip such developmental milestones. Instead, they’re raised on screens and safetyism.
Our epidemic of narcissism burrowed itself within my generation—the Millennials. We grew up sitting in circles, telling everyone in the circle how special and great we all were. Naturally, we ended up delusional.Now we bend reality to reflect that of ourselves. If it does not bend, we go mental and protest, fume and fulminate, demand those in power change the mirror to one of our liking.The problem is that millions of people have their own mirror. To demand the mirror satisfy all is to demand winter follow spring.We grew up in the land of make-believe, one in which half went to college and one in which everyone was a genius in their own way.Reality had other ideas. The fantasy of everyone’s a winner dissolved into the reality of winner takes all.Sending half of young people to university will prove to be the biggest social catastrophe since TikTok and “Love Island.”A historian agrees. Peter Turchin’s theory of “elite overproduction” contends that societies which produce more potential elites than they can absorb invite social instability and strife.
We’ve created—and continue to create—vast numbers of graduates waving expensive certificates with too few high-status jobs for them to walk into. Understandably, those kids aren’t impressed with this state of affairs. We’ve promised too much to the poets and professors who’d make better plumbers and police officers.The most desirable professions—law, medicine, academia, and media—have cratered. The result? Millions of aggrieved young people fighting millions of other aggrieved young people for fewer and fewer places at the table.Now they serve macchiatos and mung bean salads to those who did exactly what they did. Meanwhile, greedhead landlords suck one-third of their shrinking wages in rent for houses they’ll never call homes.Yes, it’s easy to say, “They shouldn’t have gone to college.” But if everyone you meet tells you, “It’s raining,” do you first conduct a thorough meteorological investigation, or do you tend to take their word for it?Arthur Miller wrote that an era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.
After decades of affirmations, self-help, self-care, empowerment, equality, quotas, and special days in which both men and women celebrate their genitalia, our basic illusions are too exhausted.After seven decades of meritocracy, a poor kid has as much chance of making the Ivy League as he did in the 1950s. At Princeton and Yale, more students hail from the top one percent than from the bottom 60 percent. Two-thirds of all Ivy League students come from families in the top 20 percent. By the time they start school, lower class kids are already two years behind their more fortunate peers.For those who work real jobs, wages haven’t climbed since the 1970s; buying a home is nigh on impossible, and attaining what was once ordinary is now extraordinary.Now the generation which did everything it was told to do is keen on burning down the very culture which sold them a lie.A recent poll in Morning Consult found that Millennials are the most supportive of that modern animation of Salem—cancel culture.This is not complicated. For younger generations, “capitalism” is a euphemism for a game rigged by and for the financial class. Everyone else drives an Uber.For Millennials, cancel culture is what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called in his work, The Gulag Archipelago, the “faultless logic of the meat grinder.”
Describing the murderous infancy of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn said the Blue Caps, those state agents of social terror, relished the culture of denunciation in which desperate citizens ratted on their friends and family. The result was a murder game in which the bodies of the denounced formed a human pyramid to the top of which the predators would ascend.This too is the faultless logic of cancel culture.After all, to join the closed ranks of the progressive ruling class requires one parrot the luxury beliefs of the ruling class.The more nonsensical such beliefs the better, for the elites nor their aspirants believe such piffle. The beauty lies within compelling others to recite what is patent nonsense whilst never noticing what is beyond one’s nose—the ruling class sold everyone but themselves into corporate servitude.In the summer of 2020, burning down businesses and killing people in “mostly peaceful” protests were quasi-legal pursuits. A disproportionate slice of those activists on the streets were Millennials with postgraduate degrees pocketing over $100,000 a year.
Many of those Millennials form part of a political tribe called “Progressive Activists.” They’re young, urban, educated, woke, and angry.Despite their lamentations of whiteness, their tribe is the whitest, richest, most credentialled, and most censorious of tribes. On issues such as white privilege and structural racism, virtually every member of the tribe shares the same conviction. Curiously, those convictions align perfectly with the founding beliefs of the ruling class.For all their publicized concern for minorities and the downtrodden, elites and their aspirants play social colonialism, extracting emotional and social profit from those they lavish with their compassion.Such compassion falls far short of any measure which may help too much. Rather than raise wages or recover good jobs from overseas, rather than build more affordable housing, or improve schools for poor kids, the ruling class offers hashtags.Their subjects, if you bother to ask them, don’t want their help. Perhaps they’ve noticed decades of such help haven’t helped at all.The poor, as they say, will always be with us. That’s because the poor, as they say, are a goldmine.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Oxford Sour. Subscribe to Christopher Gage’s Substack here.