Yesterday brought this excellent tirade against that wretched class of technocrats that run/ruin everything these days. Writer Mark Crispin Miller focuses on the mismanagement of his employer NYU, along with other downtown schools, but the same essay could have been written about virtually any other college, public or private.
These technocrats are what he calls “neoliberal” and what I call “Boomerist.” Deeply cynical, they have long-ago betrayed every scruple from their liberal 1960s youth and now care purely about money and power — for their institutions, yes, but most of all for themselves. The ones running universities literally could not care less about their students, faculty, or education; the ones running hospitals stopped caring about the patients long ago; political Boomerists such as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush also demonstrate the nihilistic corruption of the NGO and corporate worlds, respectively. The power and size of all of these continues to skyrocket while the supposed targets of their care, especially students and patients, get the worst of it with every passing year.
Now, one does not have to literally be a Baby Boomer to fall into this mentality. Gen-X’er Huma Abedin is just as soulless as her boss, for instance. Similary and just as obviously, not all people born between 1946 and 1964 are like this. Bernie Sanders appears as disgusted by neoliberal abuses as anyone.
But Sander’s generation IS where this deep-seated selfishness, for lack of a better word, came from. Rebelling from the legacy of the Greatest Generation, the Boomers systematically tore asunder all the old mores of Western civilization, which they saw as racist, colonialist and imperialist. Things like civic duty, honor, and paternalism were tossed aside as legacies of the old world. The problem though, was that the Boomers instituted nothing to take their places. At least nothing that stuck, anyway: their former ideals of peace, love and brotherhood were discarded practically by the time they got home from Woodstock.
And in a nation with no social laws left, only that must ultimate law remains: The law of the jungle. Dog eat dog. Winner takes all. Our technocratic elite represents the return to a Hobbesian view of the state of nature.
The administrators of NYU rape and pillage to the benefit of their own personal wealth and power simply because there is nothing holding them back. They have zero sense of shame or guilt, whether from themselves or from their equally corrupted peers. They are completely unburdened by that old-fashioned, totally square ideal we call duty: to their students, to their city, to their faculty, to any higher ideals of the academy.
Like Gilbert and Sullivan, they mock duty for its stuffiness; but the crucial difference is, Gilbert and Sullivan also acknowledged just how deeply fundamental this trait was for the old English character.
You see this with every institution Boomerists touch. Hospitals are now mere profit machines, where patients are “customers” and doctors are salesmen out to fleece their marks for everything they got, and the only winners are the Boomerist MBAs who administer the hospital or sit on its board of directors. NGOs — what a more innocent culture once called “charities,” back when charity was still considered a virtue — similarly exist purely for the power, money and prestige of their bosses, where the annual black-tie gala has become their primary mission. Corporations always are by definition for profit, but the exploding income gap between the boardroom and the stockroom is fueled partly by the complete indifference of the Boomerists in charge towards their workers, an indifference that would have been frankly alien to Henry Ford.
And what’s more: People are sick of these assholes.
THAT is what’s behind much of the surge of Trump and Sanders. Say what you will about these two and their bad hair, and indeed, Trump in particular owes part of his rise to both morons and racists… but there is nothing about either that has the over-scripted, over-focus-grouped, artificial air of the typical Boomerist pol out of central casting. Ours are a people that long for the firebrands like Huey Long, the reassuring grandpa figures like FDR and Reagan, the sober no-bullshit attitudes of Truman and Eisenhower. And there hasn’t been a national politician exhibiting any of the above since Reagan.
Consider: in a hypothetical matchup against Hillary, Trump would pull in 25% support… from African-Americans. A Republican, especially a racist blowhard Republican, getting a previously inconceivable 25% of the black vote tells you blacks are just as sick of Boomerist business-as-usual types as anyone.
But back to NYU. You know what I want out of its neoliberal bosses? A return to values they see as for suckers: good stewardship, civic duty, putting their educational mission first. Naturally, the idea of a NYU trustee giving up one of their summer mansions in return for lower tuition or better education for the students would be greeted by cynical chortling from these Boomerists, but: why can’t they even briefly revisit the ideals they once believed in as youths? Why are they ok with being far worse and far more rapacious than the square, conservative patriarchs they once abhorred?
In the end, fundamentals matter, no matter what our current technocrats believe. Continue to pillage, exploit, and ignore, and your institution will eventually fall before a better, more enlightened competitor. The only reason people pay outrageous tuitions to go to NYU is for the prestige of that name. What happens when there is no prestige left?