“You will not give, I’ll take!”
Joey Zasa, The Godfather, Part III (1990)
In Part I of this piece, we reviewed the pre-selection factors that limit entry into the Elite Undergraduate and Graduate Programs, from which the non-inherited Ruling Elite are drawn.
The not quite top-level but high elite positions draw from a comparatively lesser, but still highly pre-selected pool of Programs. For example, the US State Department and those gathered around it heavily select from George Washington University, while Silicon Valley heavily recruits from some otherwise minor education institutions. While those programs are not as tightly pre-selected as the likes of the Ivy League and the Top 12 Law Schools, they are still heavily selected. Again, there is no practical way for someone outside at least the respective local elite to get into these schools without the active and dedicated support of their home educational institution.
Enter the PRONies, PROspective Near Elites. They are born, usually middle to upper middle class, into what by historical standards is immense cultural capital, unlimited access to the modern assemblage of historical knowledge, offered all sorts of fame, money, power, women, or whatever fortune they desire, all of it as easy as showing up to do “The Right Thing”. It is entirely possible for PRONies to get good grades in school, follow the applicable rules, not get caught doing anything stupid, and yet run afoul of some local educator. The author has heard stories of students losing out on recommendation letters for daring to confront a bully. Without the support of the local institutions, our hypothetical PRONy may go to a local public university, get good grades, pass a background check, show aptitude, but may get a position that really doesn’t suit them.
Perhaps they end up in one of the great USG seats of power, working at a regulatory agency, or working at a biotech firm. Perhaps they go to lesser seats of power, working for the local large company or government. One of the ugly parts about USG pre-selection is that it is final. There is no admission to a “higher track” if one has been in lesser organizations or positions, the official reason usually being some variant of “won’t be a good fit”, the unofficial reason being that a prior organization passed you over, so there must be a reason you’re damaged goods (1).
And what do our PRONies think at this point? Speaking realistically, they are stuck. The people above them either are in place until retirement, or the “upper ranks” would be replaced by people who had their profession’s “golden ring”. Corporate Law departments, for example, are heavily dominated at the top by people who come from the White Shoe firms. One very large manufacturer selects many of it’s new managers from one department, whom in turn are recruited from a fairly limited number of institutions.
Outside of work, they are limited to social circles who also weren’t selected for better things. They must keep to a narrow list of interests, or face expulsion from those circles, and/or removal at work. Since they are rule-abiding, they are at an automatic disadvantage to compete for women outside their social circle. Since they must work for a living, they are taxed to pay for benefits for their own social competition. They don’t have a way to construct a stable family for their children, or sufficient status to protect their own children in increasingly unstable and status-driven educational Institutions.
You see several ways of dealing with this situation. Depending on the field, they may leave their organizations to build their own, with or without connections. They may travel the world, try to become successful expatiates, write books. Some come to the realization that the system, even when they behavied, studied, followed the rules, did everything as they were told, no matter what they did, it would still not reward them. To paraphrase the works of my fellow blogger, Giovanni Dannato, they realize the system “Lost the Mandate of Heaven”.
Let us look at this from a game theory perspective. Our PRONies have more than enough skill, talent, and education to get positions inside the system(s), and to keep those positions. They cannot be removed without disruptive internal witch-hunts. The system will not reward them as they’d like, or they wouldn’t be thinking about these things. Presumably, they aren’t getting money, power, or the women that they want. They aren’t getting a family under the current regime. In short, they have little to lose.
And what greater game could be played, and for what grander reward, than paying back those who made them in their own coin? If you have nothing to lose, and a chance at gaining everything, it actually becomes a logical decision to defect, to turn against the system. However, our hypothetical PRONies didn’t get this far by being reckless. To topple a ruling faction takes time and skill. Careful, and deniable, signaling will take time to find allies. Their enemies seem almost invincible and must be weakened from the shadows. A war of a million paper cuts must be waged in the shadows, with few friends other than a bottle of Scotch.
How would we see these people? We’d see it in blogs, written by people who got close enough to power but not allowed to possess it, who strike at the very core of our society and point out how destructive it is, how it rewards “Chads, not Dads”, that “Beta Bucks” are what finance the regime, that felons get more status than taxpayers. We’d see it in men traveling the world, creating an alternative eco-sphere of heterodox ideas. We’d see it in writers who bring attention to the system’s abuses in our daily lives. We’d see it in individuals building resilient organizations, both online and offline. We’d see people chiseling at weak spots in the system, one tiny rock applied at a time (2). No single one of these acts would be definitely against the regime by themselves, but collectively, they are the foundation from which dissidents now have an opening to take what they have long desired.
Many of the modern alternative factions have their origins in the PRONies. From a young teenage child of government employees in suburban DC in the late 90s, to international expats and bloggers in 2009, to the leaders of emergent political factions in 2016, we see the rise of the PRONies. If it seems too much to think that disgruntled PRONies can create so much of an opening, remember the following:
One disenchanted member of the Elite felt he wasn’t given the proper respect to join a dance club in 1970s, and nursed a grudge for decades against the Manhattan elite.
That man is now President of the United States of America.
(1) You see denial of this theme on blogs written by people who entered the workforce in the 70s and 80s. The factors that drive the modern environment were not as strong back then, and there’s also a considerable survivor bias in some of those stories.
(2) Some individuals have been combined for this section.