Brett Kavanaugh is the wedge that may definitively split the nation in two. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary explains.
Following the surreal US Senate hearing that put on display the Freudian depths of the minds and metabolisms of two individuals — Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh — Bloomberg offered us a telling hint concerning the real issue: “The battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is driving a wedge deeper into an already wide political chasm between men and women.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
A tool of power that makes the powerful feel more powerful by pushing further and further away any response or even concession to the desires and needs of the unpowerful, until the sheer mass of accumulated frustration of those who have been pushed away explodes in revolt
Bloomberg limits the effect of the wedge to men and women. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, this makes sense. Reaffirming the right of powerful white men to do as they please with women and never feel accountable can only aggravate the pain and increase the pressure for revenge. That does not bode well for future political and cultural stability, but when it comes to partisan politics, the only stability legislators seek is the stability of voting patterns in their districts, which in most cases gerrymandering has already taken care of.
But the hearing revealed another wedge, or rather pair of wedges. The first is the wedge of inequality. The examination of Kavanaugh’s youth paints a picture of a super-privileged white male who, even though he clearly lacks the features and personality of a leader, was predestined to have his place in the ruling elite. Super privilege means access to at least a modest level of wealth and a permanently fruitful association with the elite. Kavanaugh clearly belongs to the 1% and especially has shown himself ready, willing and able to defend their interests on all occasions.
Concerning race, as a privileged white male, Kavanaugh displays most of the traits that can be described as an attitude of indifference to the plight of minorities. Some might call it passive hostility. Though the media have not put this forward as a significant issue, Kavanaugh’s history of rulings demonstrates at the very least his indifference.
The Supreme Court plays a serious symbolic role in guiding the culture of the nation. At a time when the level of anguish over both gender and race relations has been rising, when awareness of the wealth and income gap has never been greater, Kavanaugh looks like the definition of a “wedge.” His confirmed nomination will produce an immediate effect of deep alienation across several fault lines in the culture, and on a major scale. That’s what wedges do. And that cannot be good for the nation’s future.
As soon as the drama began, Republicans would have been wise to back down, revoke Kavanaugh’s candidacy and let the Democrats savor a moral victory, before going on to propose an equally conservative candidate but with a cleaner reputation. But, of course, by definition, Republicans don’t back down. Compromise and concession would be unmanly. With Lindsey Graham sounding the trumpet, the troops are ranged for battle.
Globalization, as it has unfolded over the past four decades, has not just changed the economy. It has changed the culture of those who preside over the world’s wealth and, therefore, over the lives of the billions who make up humanity. We find a curious convergence in the Weltanschauung of Kavanaugh, an example of beer-guzzling, gang-banging American white privilege, and the Asian nouveaux riches, with their preference for champagne and caviar.
Economist and political commentator Umair Haque sums up the worldview of those who, like Kavanaugh, have learned the essential lesson their prep schools and Ivy League university taught them: “The world is only as great as my desires and appetites — and as long as I have fulfilled them, even if it harms people — that doesn’t matter, because it proves they are weak, and they couldn’t maximize their self-interest .”
In its reportage on the “New Majarajas,” Al Jazeera examines the emerging caste of Indian billionaires, revealing the same underlying philosophy — a globalized version of frat boy capitalism. Young entrepreneur Evan Luthra shares his philosophy of life with his friends: “A lot of people do a lot of hard work, labor, but they don’t achieve anything in life. I always say, work smart, play hard. If you want to spend money like we do, you can’t be stupid. Stupid people don’t make money. Stupid people are broke. So, if people have money, they’re probably smart.”
Americans call that “assertiveness” and, along with the global jet set, they see it as the root of philosophy, the foundation of wisdom.
The new global elite have little in common with the tribal, frat boy US culture of Brett Kavanaugh. They are often not white, do not adhere to Puritan values (which the Puritans don’t mind violating “in their youth”) and are not nationalistic. They may even reject the Gordon Gekko credo that “greed is good.” But they share the fundamental idea that wealth is an indication of merit. And somewhere, somehow, the two distinct tribes complement and support each other.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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