Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

It is one of those non-stories that is all over the media, a little titillation for the masses who love to see the beautiful people that we both adore and resent in equal parts getting laid low. Some very wealthy and famous people bribed "elite" universities to get their kids accepted, including a couple of actresses. It is a mostly meaningless story because it doesn't mean anything and doesn't change anything. Actress Lori Loughlin will be forced to pay a fine and maybe do some community service. Her daughter Olivia Jade that spends spring break from USC on the megayacht of a billionaire USC trustee will stay in school long enough to graduate and keep on making inane "beauty" videos and rambling about her life. But nothing will really change and the real lesson of this kerfuffle is going to be lost on most people. More on that in a moment.

Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomena like few others. The upcoming 8th and final season is almost certainly the most anticipated new season of TV ever, amazing because it is on a premium cable channel HBO. The things that is great about the show is not the battle scenes, which are often mediocre (especially in earlier, lower budget seasons). It is when the characters engage in quiet dialogue and you get great lines like Tyrion saying “That’s what I do: I drink and I know things.”. One of the most powerful exchanges is when Littlefinger is speaking to Varys about the lies we tell ourselves. Here is the whole exchange:




The pivotal line is this:

The realm. Do you know what the realm is? It's the thousand blades of Aegon's enemies- a story we agree to tell each other over and over, until we forget that it's a lie.

America is often like that. We live in a world held together by lies we agree to tell each other, lies that preserve the illusion of a Union as it crumbles into rubble around us. People say things like "diversity is our greatest strength" even though no one believes that and the people who say it the most do their utmost to insulate themselves from diversity. But we keep saying it because to say otherwise "Is not who we are" even though it is precisely who we are.

One of those lies is that the "elite" colleges and universities in this country are full of the very best teachers and students. Only the very best get into these schools and therefore the graduates of those schools are also the best. They are the people best suited to govern us because they are smart and wise.

Look at our recent Presidents. George H.W. Bush went to Yale.  Bill Clinton went to Georgetown and then Yale Law. George W. Bush went to Yale and then Harvard Business. Barack Obama went to Columbia and then Harvard Law. Trump graduated from Wharton at Penn. For the last quarter century every President went to an Ivy League school for at least some of their education. They have also been the greatest collection of dimwits and fools to ever govern this nation. They were little men too small for the greatest elected office in the world. Even Trump seems like he is being swallowed up by the Presidency.

The dirty little secret is that there isn't much of a relationship between being smart and having an Ivy degree. We like to think there is and that is the lie we repeat to each other but it isn't true. In our cultural mythology everyone going to Yale is like Rory Gilmore in The Gilmore Girls, a precocious, super eloquent and worldly teen that is just better than everyone else but mostly it seems like the people getting into the Ivy League schools bribed their way in, have some sort of connection that got them in or are an above-average minority accepted so the whole school isn't white, Asian or Jewish. Sure there are some brilliant students at Harvard and Yale but there are plenty of people only there because their daddy wrote a big endowment check or because grandpa was a Dartmouth alum. Yoram Hazony had this to say and I think he is correct:

Ivy League schools are where elites who network with other elites send their kids so they can build elite networks of their own and eventually use that network to get their kids into Ivy League schools. I have seen first hand that the smartest kids don't necessarily go to Ivy schools and kids that do go to Ivy schools are often not the smartest. This bribery scandal is just further proof of what many of us have known for a long time. The elites in our country are elite only because they have created their own circles and convinced us they are better than the rest of us. They cheat and bribe and lie their way into the elite circles and tell us lies that they are there because they are better than us. They are not.

It is time for America and her people to grow up. Time to stop believing the lies and time to stop letting the liars rule over us.

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