If you read the traditional and the alternative media, you certainly have been impressed by the very contrasted opinions and articles about the World Elite, be they politicians or business people.
Do we need Elite? Are there good and bad Elites, and why? This is what this Letter is all about.
DEB IMGART FIN IMGART
Elites, should they exist?
Equality was one of the three key slogans of the French Revolution, and no less in the various communist movements. Generations have dreamed of a society where people are more or less equal. Unfortunately, the dreams remained dreams, ending up in the USSR collapse in 1991 after decades of stagnation and frustration for the vast majority of the Soviet population. Who was to blame for that? Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev? Was the US responsible, having sabotaged the Soviet economy for years?
Honestly I believe that equality is simply not in the DNA of humans. In all situations across the known history of the human being, some type of hierarchy is always there, with a smaller group of the population (the one I call the Elite) accessing to a higher status, be it material or spiritual. It starts at the level of smaller human groups, like the tribe and its chief or Guru, the knight and his family in the Medieval society and so on. Even the Soviet society included a number of high ranking people who enjoyed privileges that nobody could imagine.
Looking back in history, all societies have different groups of members. However the consequences sometimes look very acceptable, while in some cases, the differences become unbearable and have a negative influence on the evolution or even the existence of those societies.
Let me dig a bit further in that direction and start with a period that lasted ten centuries in Europe, this is the Medieval society. It developed and culminated at a time when literacy was indeed the privilege of very few, mostly monks, and started after the end of the Western Roman Empire, whose kings repetitively refused to pay armies to control large migration flows from the East, leading to the dissolution of the Roman Society or what was left of it after a long agony.
The vast majority of people were then peasants, part of small communities headed by the local Lord or Knight. Peasants' aspirations in life were of course limited, and the main criteria for "a good life" was to have enough to eat everyday, and to be protected from invading armies that generally ransacked the regions they captured, killing most of the inhabitants. Peasants worked for the local Lord, eventually paid some taxes, but remained calm and "happy", lawful to the Lord. Of course they did not have the education required to think much further than next day's lunch, but the Lord - the Elite at that time - also protected them from invasions, taking them inside the fortress during wars, and dying with them if the invaders won.
In that respect, the Medieval Elites contributed to the overall survival and well being of the peasants. They shared their destiny in case of disasters and also had a life style that was of course by far much better than the peasants, but shared with them the high death rate of infants, and a bad hygiene (in fact peasants at least bathed in rivers in summer!). As always, some Lords were better then others, but the overall picture brought enough stability for the Medieval society to last over a long period of time, promoting virtues of loyalty, courage, and honor. Religion was also a cement and a stability contributor, imposing obedience to peasants. However, Religion also plaid a role on most of the Elite, imposing on them values of humanity and compassion. You may laugh reading that, but I believe this aspect of Christianity plaid a real role in the stability of Societies until it became far less central in the mind of people. As always, reality is never black and white, and some "religious" Lord behaved like bandits and murderers, but what really counts is the average impact of tendencies, knowing that exceptions always exist, often the most visible part of the iceberg.
From the 15th Century, a new area started, bringing a number of changes that mark the beginning of Modern Age. The main ones are the development of sciences, the invention of Printing that lead to a growing level of education, the dissemination of new ideas (like Protestantism), and ultimately to a strong reduction of the influence of Religion, especially in England and France, were the two first Revolutions took place. Looking closer at France, the evolution of the Elites before the 1789 Revolution is interesting. First a growing number of people in a bourgeoisie that developed fast in the cities, made enough money to be able to "buy" a nobility title, making the number of nobility's elite much larger. The new Nobility was not linked to the population, mostly lived in cities far away from their local lordship and had no role in protecting the populations in case of conflict. The creation of professional armies and the use of mercenaries made it possible for the old and new Nobility to avoid the risks of leadership that was included in the Medieval "loyalty, courage, and honor" slogan. The new members of the Nobility not only benefited from many traditional tax exemptions, but collected a lot of taxes from the population, some of them to be transferred to the King, although many avoided to do that, indeed running a 400 or 300 years old tax evasion scheme. The life of peasants became more difficult, especially at a period when a few cold winters and hot summers initiated several famines in the country. The great famine in 1788 played a key role in the general revolt in the country.
The result was an increasing gap between the Elite and the population. Peasants were more than ever ready to revolt because of hunger periods (they did not have the education level to perceive much more than that), while the emerging educated bourgeoisie realized that the Nobility Elite was for most of them living at the cost of the Nation, like parasites, spending money on useless wars (like supporting the American rebellion against England), or spending enormous amounts of money to support the large court of the King in Versailles. The French Revolution united unhappy and frustrated citizens, and initially even part of the old Nobility. Like all Revolution, it ended-up in a new split of powers and at the end in the rise of a new Elite.
The decline of Elites
I would like to stop at this point, and suggest a concept for the assessment of the Elites. Between the early Medieval period and the French Revolution, we see an evolution of the Elite, from a "loyalty, courage, and honor" based Nobility, towards a distant and arrogant Nobility, based on wealth and connections (today we call it lobbying). I propose to refer to the first Elite category as "legitimate", the second as "parasite". Here is what I mean with that.
A Legitimate Elite is a group of people living on standards above the average population, but who in their behavior, deeds and virtues, are accepted by the majority as legitimate leaders in the society. Those Elites are contributors to the well being of the populations, be it in very different ways. They can be entrepreneurs creating local wealth, jobs and products, they can be intellectual contributors or artists, they can be political leaders protecting the Nation from the outside or from any other threat, or politicians taking measures to increase the level of Education across all levels in the Society, they can be spiritual leaders. Such Elites respect a set of moral values, no less than the rest of the people.
On the contrary, I call the second type of Elites "parasite" because they behave in the opposite way as the Legitimate Elites, getting very rich from activities that either do not support the living standards of the Nation, or even degrade that living standard, they do not contribute to the spiritual or education level of the populations, they do not respect the rules they want to impose to other groups. In short, they live in a cocoon outside of the real Nation, indifferent to it, and prefer greed to social stability.
Again, there is no black and white picture in society, and Elites in a given Nation are not all Legitimate nor all Parasites, but what counts is the dominant trend, making a leadership (be it political or economical) sustainable or not.
The word Nation was used several times in the lines above, and I want to emphasize that the term Nation is used here mostly in its meaning of the 20th century countries, where a Nation includes people with a common historical and cultural background, and presenting a reasonable level of life style and wealth consistency. Yes, this is the term used by Souvereinists, and I endorse it, as I believe this is the only available entity today that makes a real sense for the majority of people. The concept of a united world population is on my views totally unreal and shall remain so, unless the level of education and wealth becomes consistent across all parts of the world - and we are very far from there!
Coming back the concept of Legitimate vs. Parasite Elites, we can have a look at many episodes in world history. The situation in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century has a lot in common with the situation of the Nobility in pre-revolutionary France. The end of the Roman Empire also shows such traces of Parasite Elites, more interested in their own destiny than in stopping invasions coming from the East.
Now if we consider today's picture and the 0.1% or 1% of world Elite that became the object of lots of articles and reflexion since the 2008 financial disaster, I think we have to agree that most of them (again nothing black or white) can be characterized as Parasites. Under the ruling of the present neo-liberal Elites, populations have seen their overall living standard decreasing, their hope to see new generations doing better than themselves vanishing, their job exported to placed they never heard about. They have seen politicians selling the interest of the Nations to the God of globalization and his Priests the banks and multinational groups, they have seen the level of Education in schools going down. They have seen public infrastructures falling apart, or sold to multinational groups and then falling apart.
They have seen politicians claiming they shall fix the financial markets and punish the bankers, and then save them with public money. They have seen Greece strangled by Northern European countries to save the Euro and the banks. They have seen many politicians increasing taxes, asking for populations' effort, and the same guys caught red-handed with off-shore bank accounts, then running free. They have seen public money used to run remote wars and bombings that regularly ended up in disaster and ruins for the targeted countries, while shareholders of weapon manufacturers got skyrocketing profits. They have seen the results of those wars as a flow of migrants, without any serious governmental action to control it.
Where is the "loyalty, courage, and honor" of the old Nobility?
Today's Elites, even with the support of the media that they own since may years, are losing grip. Populations are frustrated, and often tend to fall in the arms of extreme parties and groups using xenophobia as a marketing tool. But those seeds of racism are planted in a soil that was fertilized and prepared long ago by main stream parties. People frustrated by the rise of the extreme right should think about that as well, and assume the fact that they voted for the ones supporting policies sacrificing the Nation and its members, while bailing out bankers.
The quality of its Elites defines the quality and the viability of any society. The fact that Elites are richer than average should not be the issue, and total equality is a fiction. The present Elites have however managed, thanks to the bubble of electronic trading and globalization, to appropriate an unprecedented % of global wealth, something that makes their lack of legitimacy even worst. Looking at my criteria for being legitimate, it is easy to understand that 1,000 millionaires can largely benefit to the surrounding people, while 1 single billionaire with money electronically managed around the globe by wealth managers can hardly benefit anybody!
In a few conclusion words, Elites are a necessary component of Society, but their added-value to Society is what makes them Legitimate or Parasites. A Legitimate Elite generates by its actions and competencies all the trust, respect and loyalty needed in the other layers of Society to make it stable and dynamic.
Who is Who?
Why not test the assessment on some past and present politicians and business leaders? Below is a list of few names by country. Think about them, and make up your opinion about each. Was he/she a competent, Legitimate Elite member or an arrogant Parasite? I am sure you shall enjoy the exercise, quite tough for some of them! I did not include dictators or warmongers, who sometimes bring their Country to fantastic heights (Napoleon and the Civil Code still in use today, Hitler and the Volkswagen), but later often bring them to total destruction. As a last remark on those dictators, they all came to power a few years after the collapse of a parasite Elite, including Stalin, and this should not make us very comfortable, looking at the collapse taking place right now. Finally, I also did not include emerging politicians like Le Pen, Trump or Farage, as the only way to judge a politician in on what he does when in power, not on what he said before...
Charles de Gaulle