When the quietly resentful finally gain the upper hand



Warning: Lots of uninformed armchair theorizing here.

1. In Georgian England, there must have been lots of people who were quietly resentful of the licentious sexual behavior that was so widely tolerated. But the cool people in society had the upper hand, and so they bit their tongues. It wasn’t until the Victorian era when the prudes gained the upper hand. Perhaps this reflected the rise of the middle class, with industrialization.

2. In 19th century America, there were lots of teetotalers who were quietly resentful of the widespread consumption of alcohol. They gained the upper hand during the progressive era of the early 1900s, and this led to Prohibition.

3. During 1980-2015, there must have been lots of Americans who were quietly resentful of the increasing visibility of immigrants in American society. But there was no viable political outlet for their resentment, until Trump. (Pat Buchanan was too early).

4. Comedy clubs are traditionally places where humor is outrageous, transgressive. There must be lots of humorless, literal-minded people who were always resentful of the teasing humor of edgy comedians. But they kept their mouths shut, as the cool people liked this sort of comedy.

Eventually, anti-racism/anti-sexism ideology gave them a lever to fight back against this sort of comedy. Here’s John Cleese:

“But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset.

“I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.” . . .

“That’s a great source of fun and enjoyment, a verbal dual – who can make the best rude remarks all in an atmosphere of affection. It’s a bonding mechanism. It’s positive.

“PC people simply don’t understand this business about context because they tend to be very literal-minded.

Society is full of many different types of people. Sometimes one group gains a dominant position, at other times a very different group is dominant.

Today, my tribe has lost power on both the left and the right. I’m in my years in the wilderness, which I expect will last for the rest of my life. These trends play out over very long periods of time.

Fortunately, I’m almost entirely unaffected by broader societal trends. I’m rich. I live in a bubble. I have my movie channels and my books. I can live in any decade I choose.

HT: Tyler Cowen