Cathy and the Abdication of the American Ruling Class
by Cholly Bilderberger
THOUGHTS in the night: We deplore our pathetic world intellectually by day, but only realize the full horror viscerally in the dark. It is then that the questions come.
Doesn’t any person capable of feeling and perception (sentient, in short) have to be dumbfounded when he looks at Western society? Can he help but ask himself why anyone would go to a film with Barbra Streisand in it, read a book by Truman Capote, look at modern art, watch “Roots” and/or Johnny Carson, live in New York or Washington, put children in racially mixed schools … and so on and on?
If societies are mirrors of the people who live in them, then doesn’t ours mirror us? The image of our society may not fit our more attractive private self-images, but which is actually real: the self-image or the social image? Farmers in Iowa don’t think they are craven fools who support alien values when they watch a Jerry Lewis Telethon, but that’s precisely what they are, aren’t they?
On the other hand, isn’t the self-image of the really sentient person more real (however impotent) than the social image, which is not at all sentient? How can the apparent contradiction be resolved? Is it possible that the number of really sentient people in the United States is quite small? So small, in fact, that these people have no part in the forming of the society and the social image?
I like to think of myself as sentient (don’t we all!), and my mind reels in these night watches with such questions as this one: aren’t all sentient people similarly bombarded? Isn’t it, in fact, a mark of sentience to be so bombarded? Conversely, if you aren’t so bombarded, doesn’t it mean you’re not sentient?
A distinction should be made between sentience and sensitivity. Everyone seems to be “sensitive” today, particularly our official artists and writers — the Updikes, Cheevers, etc. — but they are not sentient. They may be capable of sensitivity to external stimuli, but not of genuine feeling, of caring — about anything, including themselves.
At the end, in the graying end of the night, come the final two questions: How did it happen? What can I, or we, do about it?
Perhaps they are the same question. It seems to me that they are, and I don’t really think anyone can answer the second part without answering the first. He may answer it incorrectly or incompletely (although who is to say what is the correct or complete answer to a riddle of such staggering dimensions?), but he must have a try at it if he is to remain sentient.
In my own case, for what it’s worth, I have been trying to answer it all my life, ever since I first addressed it. I was about fourteen, and at home from boarding school during the Christmas holidays. Home was the family house in Manhattan, an immense brownstone pile, crawling at that time with family, relatives and servants. There must have been seventy or eighty of us under that massive roof, moving in complicated ritual from one to another of the five stories. It’s been torn down for many years, of course, a demolition no one could have dreamed possible at the time.
My father was a lean, immaculate man, much given to business, politics, civic affairs, clubs, art collections, public example, private example … a prototypical capitalist-philanthropist. Both my parents were old New York (from families prominent and rich before the Civil War), and proud of it. They were of a type, as were all their relatives. The only exception, as far as I knew, was my uncle, my father’s brother, with flaming hair and far less acceptance of the world. His pride was of self rather than caste, and he understood perfectly that very few rich people are impressive without their money, a point with which my father had great difficulty. This difference did not cause trouble between my uncle and the rest of the clan, but it was there.
During the holidays, a cousin of mine, a pretty girl in her early twenties whom I shall call Cathy, created a sensation by announcing she was going to marry a Jew. She broke the news by accident during the New Year’s Day lunch, a formal feast of some tradition with at least forty of us around the endless table in the vast dining room, the white-gloved servants coming and going with the interminable courses. Ordinarily the problem would have been handled in a secluded corner of the library or in some den or sitting room, and would never have leaped out of control. I’m sure Cathy would have preferred it that way, too — a quiet confession to her parents, then the discreet conference with a few other adults. That it didn’t happen that way was due to the persistence of my younger brother, an aggressive boy who had seen her arrive that morning.
“Cathy kissed a Jew right out on the street,” he announced calmly in a general lull. “Then he went away.”
The startled Cathy looked up but said nothing.
“Cathy wouldn’t kiss a Jew on the street or anywhere else,” one of my aunts said complacently.
If Cathy had gone on with her meal that would have been the end of it, but her face went hot and she said, “If I did kiss a Jew I wouldn’t be ashamed of it. I’d kiss him on the street or anywhere else.”
“That’s what she did,” my brother said.
“You must be mistaken,” my father said to him soothingly, and a host of other adults said more or less the same thing. The question of Cathy and the Jew could be dealt with later; the problem now was to shut my brother up and get back to innocuous conversation. And so it would have been handled had not Cathy burst in again.
“I did kiss a Jew,” she said firmly. “I kissed him because I’m going to marry him.”
So the lunch went all to pieces. Nearly all the adults were talking at once, trying to put the fire out and only exacerbating it. My uncle, cool and detached, was the exception. Cathy, furious and besieged, retreated into angry silence. Then came the denouement.
Someone asked my brother how the Jew looked — meaning how Jewish — to which he replied, “He looked poor.”
There was a great deal of head-shaking at that, and then Cathy broke her silence to inform the table icily that he was not poor. She gave his name, which was that of one of New York’s princely German-Jewish banking families, and his position in that world, and the whole atmosphere changed immediately. No one actually said, “Oh, why didn’t you say that in the first place?” but it was implicit. My uncle smiled at me sardonically and winked.
I was only a boy and nothing out of the ordinary, but I knew there was something very important in that incident. I had seen something about my family and relatives — about our entire class — that I had never seen before.
After lunch my uncle tracked me down and went briskly to the point. “Lovely lunch,” he said. “So dignified. I don’t know whether you’re interested in my opinion or not, but I suspect you are, the way you were keeping an eye on me. Well, here it is: we think we’re an aristocracy, but we’re not. We’re money-grubbing plutocrats, and behind all our talk of breeding and culture we only believe in money. A Jew without money is out of the question; a Jew with money is admissible. We are equally pliable on all other undesirables if they have enough money.”
He said no more, but he had said enough. I thought about it off and on for the rest of the holidays, but it was not until I was alone on the train going back to school that I came to grips with it. The train was crawling through Harlem, and I was looking out at the dismal tenements, such a contrast to what I had just left, and the scene at lunch and my uncle’s comment came back with irresistible insistence. He was right, it was all money. It was all money everywhere, from Fifth Avenue to Harlem and beyond, everything and everyone were dominated by money. But no one admitted it, except a few mavericks like my uncle. The surface of life — of all lives — was a pretense, a farce. And then the twofold question came: How did it happen? What can I do about it?
I was not so fatuous as to imagine that I was the only boy who ever asked himself such questions. In fact, I assumed that the experience was a common one. And I was not wrong, as I learned later. I also learned that it was equally common to forget the questions in a few years and plunge into the farce for keeps. That did not happen with me; the questions remained paramount, and trying to answer them became by far the most interesting part of my life. I take no pride in that; it seems to me to have been entirely out of my hands. It also seems to me, though, that blind acceptance of any human fashion does indicate a lack of perception; and I suppose I am guilty of assuming myself to be perceptive where others are not. But one can’t delude oneself for the sake of a questionable modesty.
In retrospect, I awoke to certain realities of the world, including the weakness of my own class, the so-called leaders. I am aware that this is a sensitive topic with many awakening members of the Majority — among them the readers of Instauration — who feel that it is detrimental to the Majority cause to criticize the Majority in depth, especially the Majority leadership — better defined, perhaps, as the Majority figureheads. They feel that this deflects attention from the enemy, the unassimilable minorities, and is thus essentially negative rather than positive. My own feeling is that in attacking the unassimilable minorities and ignoring the Majority weaknesses, one is treating the symptoms and not the disease. It is not minority strength but Majority weakness which has brought about collapse, and Majority weakness will not turn into Majority strength by dwelling on the minorities. That can only happen through an understanding and subsequent correction of Majority weakness. (Also, if the Majority argument is that the unassimilable minorities are not equals, then it is a contradiction to devote time to them; one does not argue with one’s inferiors.)
The Majority is sick, and must be treated, individually and collectively, as sick. And the sickest members of the Majority are the leaders. (It is very much to their interest to keep the rest of the Majority busy with the unassimilable minorities, and they are very clever, in a sick way, in doing so.) It is actually not the choice but the obligation of every serious Majority member to turn on his leaders until they pull themselves together or abandon the field to others. Failing that, he should seek alternatives. For what it is worth to those members in making up their minds, I shall go into this problem of Majority leadership in such detail and depth as I can muster from my own experience, putting it in sequence in this and the next few columns rather than spread it out piecemeal.
The first point, so difficult to discuss in a Protestant-capitalist-democratic society, where it lingers as one of the very last taboos, is that this leadership does exist, and that it does set the national tone. The average American can’t admit that democracy is a farce and that he actually lives in a controlled system. He has been taught that the medieval system, in which the Church and the nobility were established and thus accountable, was bad because men weren’t “free.” He is further taught that all this was changed forever by the enlightenments of Protestantism and capitalism and “democracy,” under which he worships and works and lives “freely,” rather than being told what to do in each of those categories; and that his nominal leaders are really his servants. His information is lamentably incorrect. He is actually incapable of worshipping and working and living freely; and has exchanged established and accountable leaders in all fields for disestablished charlatans who don’t have to answer to anyone, and who have finally sold him and his country out to the unassimilable minorities.
This average American can be blamed for the present mess only to the extent that he imagines himself to be so superior to the European peasant stock from which he came. He sees his ancestors as superstitious fools who toiled for bishops and lords, and never sees that behind his chemical clothes and material artifacts he is equally if not more credulous and exploited, and certainly more booted about by the minorities (loosed on him from above). Most important, he does not realize the extent to which he has been turned from a poor but caring peasant into a robot who is indifferent to family, self, country … everything except material artifacts, and even there it is not because he cares but because he is programmed that way. Until he does see what he is (and is not) he won’t be able to see that his leadership not only can but should be held responsible.
The American Majority leaders can be held more specifically accountable. For my own position at the heart of this class, I have to say that most Majority members at the top are aware in some degree that they are betraying themselves, their country and all those whom they “lead.” This awareness varies from vague disquiet to conscious understanding. It is rarely admitted, of course, and then only among equals — and usually denied afterwards. It seems to me that an understanding of this betrayal — abdication might be more accurate — is the first order of business for the readers of Instauration. If it is not understood, the entire Majority-minority struggle — or lack of it — is incomprehensible, and all the sniping at unattractive minorities simply evasive baby-talk.
The present Majority leadership has inherited the problems thrown up by the Civil War. Before that war, America was earnest, agricultural, and colonial. It was also mainly white (slaves didn’t count), Protestant and homogeneous. During and soon after that war it became hypocritical, industrial and worldly. The Protestant white majority of the Majority shrank drastically, and we became a heterogeneous society. (See Henry Adams, Henry James, et al.) If leadership had a choice then, it was this: be dominated by plutocratic production-and-consumption, or control it. It really wasn’t much of a choice — could any leadership have stopped what the people wanted in terms of material goods? Hardly, without the imposition of a ruthlessly repressive system designed to stamp out “progress.” The leaders were as helpless as their followers. And from 1865 until the present, the produce-and-consume system has controlled everyone and everything, pushing the magical GNP ahead each year, and pushing the general esthetic and spiritual wellbeing backwards to the same degree.
Of course, in my father’s day, the results of all our materialism were not yet apparent; and he and his peers could honestly say that things weren’t bad. But from 1945, when the minorities were let loose — and especially since 1960, when the disintegration became obvious — the leadership has had more of a choice and can be held responsible in greater degree. That leadership was quite aware, for example, in 1945 that it was not in the country’s best interest to turn the minorities loose. But it was also aware that to curb the minorities was to run the risk of civil disturbance. And civil disturbance might upset the financial balance and threaten the leadership’s comforts. So the leadership made a perfectly human, perfectly cowardly decision. It would be blackmailed by the minorities in return for financial stability, however temporary. (It was still making the same decision when New York was about to go bankrupt.) Like all blackmailers, of course, the minorities can never get enough, and they have stepped up their demands with each payoff.
And even as complete as their victory seems at present, it is by no means the end. The tottering leadership is not prepared to resist at any point; all it asks is that it be allowed to have a few more years of golf and sun, and it will pay any price for that privilege. It doesn’t matter if it is (or was) called Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Harriman, Rockefeller, Reagan, Wriston, Buckley, or any name on the Supreme Court, in Congress, at the top in Washington at any level, heading any committee on anything anywhere, in the Social Register anywhere, in any leading club, in the inner circle of any university or other educational organization, at the top of any bank, law firm or corporation of any kind, etc., etc. — it has long since broken its sword and bolted. Its position is analogous to that of the final Saigon regime, still trying to extract respite for a bit more partying. Despite having sold out to the enemy long ago, it continues to impose a certain voodoo of rank on the still-obedient, still-credulous, rank-and-file Majority, but its day is done and it knows it. It could hardly be thrown out, spiritually speaking, because it has long since abdicated. There is a heavy, inertial physical presence which will have to be disposed of; but there is no hand at the American tiller today. That fact is the first and most important to keep in mind on the part of anyone alive enough to ask: How did it happen? What can I/we do about it?
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Source: Instauration magazine, May 1979