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486. The well (VI)

Scott Adams, the cartoonist, wonders why people have a negative view as regards George Soros—how can they believe that Soros wants to destroy civilisation? How does that benefit him? Now, Adams is not entirely sincere when he makes this complaint. After all, he created Dilbert, a comic strip that is all about how corporate bureaucracies do anything but what the organisation is meant to do—about how office life is fundamentally absurd. Dilbert is only a slight exaggeration: I once sat through a prolonged grievance complaint at a multinational bank about how one executive had moved another executive’s swivel chair. These people were in the upper echelons in the bank, earned around £150,000, and were above average intelligence. Yet they had just spent months—and many man hours, not just their own—over this passive-aggressive dispute about a swivel chair.

This was an entirely Dilbert situation, and everyone knows it is entirely typical. Only the office intern would say: “Irrational! They could be working to improve their department’s performance! They could earn more money and status!” Since people learn how to goof off and be passive aggressive at school, even the intern would not be so naïve. The people in the protracted fight over the office chair represented, pretty much, “our best material”—go lower down the ladder and you will find people who will smash train windows and when asked why will say, “Dunno. What’s your problem?” Humans are just not that great, not that rational—and probably, from a rational rational perspective, the great swivel chair war made sense vis-à-vis the necessary status-jockeying in a competitive environment where bare-knuckle fights are unheard of.

Why do men like Soros “destroy civilisation”? Firstly, man is evil—a fact largely forgotten in a secular age where people no longer hear some black-cloaked priest bash the Bible every Sunday and say, “You’re damned, damned! Ye worthless sots!”; put in a less moralised way, even the smartest humans about are not that smart—evil being synonymous with stupidity.

Secondly, as Adams knows, large bureaucracies create perverse incentives—many things that happen in offices have nothing to do with business. Man is obsessed with status: one way to generate status is to counter-signal common sense. “Problem with Muslim migrants? [Acts ruffled, as if he never heard such a thing] They just want to work; actually, I had a Pakistani Uber driver the other day and he works harder than any British person!” Indeed, if you can make low-status people live with the migrants and suffer the problems that go along with them you have neatly boosted your status. Subtext: “He complains about immigration? He must be very low status, just like that Tommy Robinson, an uneducated moron who can’t insulate himself—he’s the poors; only the low status can’t move away from the migrants and so complain. I’m educated, I’m powerful, I’m a hypocrite; you can tell I’m powerful because I say hypocritical and obtuse things without repercussions.”

Finally, with men like Soros, who is a Jew, there is ressentiment; he does not particularly belong to Western civilisation, nor identify with it—and the Jews did not do particularly well in the West until the French Revolution, being in ghettos, and did not do so well subsequently in the end; the egalitarian dissolution of special rights for Jews eventually led to the holocaust—it created an integration problem. So I suspect there are men who probably derive satisfaction when Europeans suffer due to progressive policies; yet democracy is a machine to generate envy, so this can go both ways—as happened with Hitler.

Adams will not say “George Soros is destroying Western civilisation” because that is a dirty low-status thing to say; it is what whackos like Alex Jones say, whereas Scott Adams is a very smart guy in his imagination—and he is smart, but he also likes to preen that self-image too. So he counter-signals the anti-Soros brigade because he knows better than to be low status.

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