Our Pathetic Ruling Class at Play

Kevin Roose spends some time at one of the soirees put on by the Wall Street Masters of the Universe: a passel of the sort pathetic moral dwarfs to whom God, in his providence, guarantees power when a civilization forgets Him.  In the flabby hands of these grasping, puny-minded, and wicked men and women lies the earthly future of our civilization.  These latter-day Neros are exactly the sort of self-indulgent buffoons who bid fair to burn the world down around them for fun and profit and take millions–or billions–of innocent lives with them. It is for their souls and against their sins (which are our sins too) we must pray and work. Somewhere in their chest cavities there still beats the shriveled hearts of human beings.  But they are so cocooned by the deadening effect of pride and avarice that you can’t help but fear for their eternal souls.  May God free them from the prison they live in–and us from the slavery of admiring them and marching to their drums.

May God free Christians–particularly American Christians–from our foolish attempt to figure out a way to serve God and Mammon.  Chesterton has it right:

Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest–if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this–that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, “I respect that man’s rank, although he takes bribes.” But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, “a man of that rank would not take bribes.” For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history.

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  • Andy

    I wish the were trying to serve God and mammon – I think they gave up on God a long time ago.

  • PeonyMoss

    This story reminded me of Chesterton’s “The Queer Feet” — yet more ways Chesterton is The Prophet Chesterton.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    “I never met a boss in a tie who didn’t step on someone to get there.” (Uncle Ben to Peter Parker)

  • dbp

    I can’t decide whether it’s good or bad that my first reaction was, “Man, I was expecting it to be MUCH worse than that.”

    On the one hand, ‘pathetic moral dwarfs’ captures the strange mix of arrogance, pettiness, and lack of basic ethical common sense– and nothing else in this post should be construed as giving them a pass on that.

    On the other hand, the list of things that were NOT on display there, but could have been, is as long as my arm. It wasn’t sexually depraved (the neophytes in drag notwithstanding; horribly tacky and childish, yes), for instance, and wasn’t even as immoderate as I could have imagined (man, who knows; a Dom Perignon dunk tank?). The speeches and ‘entertainment’ showed your basic mammon-worship, yes– morally perilous but hardly unexpected. They showed coarse insensitivity which the author called sexist and homophobic; I’m not going to quibble with that because it’s obviously tasteless and repugnant, but honestly this is the sort of dreck you might find in any stratum of society.

    What we didn’t see in the speeches is the kind of chilling thing the most powerful men in the world COULD be talking about: post-humanist life elongation, eugenics, heck, even the sort of moral philosophizing that tries to systematize falsehood as a new truth.

    “Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus?” If you have to choose a sin, go to it boys; now pardon me while I give a sigh with at least a little relief mixed in.

    • dbp

      Clarification: I meant, “even *just* the sort of moral-philosophizing.” The stuff that’s grown ever-more common in the political and social elite class these days. That, too, is almost not even remarkable– the Hollywood actor who decides that because his movies have made him millions he’s qualified to make pronouncements on what Africa REALLY needs.
      Maybe it’s just me, but your run-of-the-mill rich person being a bit Dickensian in his wealthy transgressions just doesn’t chill me to the bones like a lot of the stuff (on both the right and the left, though more on the left) out there these days…

  • Mike

    “They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.”

    That sums up the case very nicely. That’s the “issue” with being rich and wealth; not that it is in itself bad but that it, in it self, has the power, not unique to it mind you, to corrupt and invade an otherwise healthy host. It is not to be trusted above all else. But we increasingly do put our trust in it for spiritual atrophy has set in, both on the so-called “left” and “right”. The middle the decent people on both “sides” need to stop quibbling with each other and get on with it and it starts with not being DISTRACTED by the circuses all around us and the “free” bread being thrown down at us. Being rich is not sinful but worshiping the golden calf is.

  • jaybird1951

    Tacky and silly, yes, but evil? I think your rhetoric is overwrought. You write so much better about theological and other church related matters but when it comes to the wealthy, all your resentments seem to pour forth.

    • chezami

      Yes. Everything is fine. My criticisms, as with all criticisms of the decadent rich and powerful, are entirely motivated by nothing but envy. Always. Carry on. Nothing to see here.

  • SteveP

    “May God free Christians–particularly American Christians–from our foolish attempt to figure out a way to serve God and Mammon.”
    Amen, Amen, and Amen.

  • AquinasMan

    I know this is going to make people uncomfortable, but several of the “high-ups” in this organization include Al Smith IV, Ken Langone, Peter Georgiopolous, Christopher Quick, Tom Joyce — all of whom (except for Langone) — wait for it — are on the Board of the Al Smith Foundation. You know, the yearly dinner that certain NY cardinals make a show of attending and glad-handing with political and monetary giants — the same cardinals we are taken to task for criticizing with the excuse that they are just “reaching out” and being “collegial” with political elites.

    Pardon my French, but BS. Langone is openly supporting an enemy of the Church in Governor Cuomo, and Cardinal Dolan acknowledged a place of honor (ceremonial or not) to maybe the greatest enemy of the faith we’ve seen on these shores, Barack Obama. Maybe I’m being a little touchy about this, but this dalliance with politics and money needs to stop, and the Church needs to start fulfilling her mission of defending the flock — COME WHAT MAY.

    • Andy

      Not uncomfortable just very sad.

    • thisismattwade

      I think you’re right. Read our Holy Father’s speech he gave to the Bishop’s Congregation late last week. The man’s vision is that he wants the fat (physical, moral, spiritual, emotional) trimmed. It’s a beautiful text, and reminiscent of Ezekiel and Our Lord. I may read it again, just to love the Pope a little more!

      Edited to include link to article about the speech: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-outlines-congregations-focus-in-choosing-bishops/

      • Marthe Lépine

        Thank you. I followed the link, and I particularly like this sentence of Pope Francis: “know that the weeds will never fill the field.” A good image to remember never to lose hope…

  • thisismattwade

    What about someone like me, who works for Rich people? In the investment business (ie Wall Street)? I believe that by tithing and being very generous with my salary, my wife and I are re-distributing a bit of the wealth. However, we’re not delusional in thinking we’re making a significant dent. It’s just the only job I’ve known for over 10 years.

  • Elmwood

    Jesus was born into poverty and died in poverty. He was part of the working class. This to me is wonderful news.

  • You’ve all completely missed what this is. It’s a joke. It’s a century long mocking joke at the fraternity system that’s been ruthlessly put down branch and root everywhere *but* Wall Street because the Wall Streeters have enough money to lift the digitus impudicus at their persecutors year after year and not pay a significant price for it, something that’s not generally true elsewhere. Look at the name of the society, it’s symbology, it’s all a big ha-ha aimed at the respectable greek societies.

    None of this corrective says anything about the society’s moral value or its yearly event. It’s just that your critiques are worthless if you don’t understand what you’re looking at.