Those Who Go to the John

There once was a land where everyone was equal but the people were divided into three rigid and antagonistic classes.  At the top were the Patricians, or Pats; next in line were the Plebeians, or Plebs; and at the bottom were the Morlocks about whom it was universally agreed, the less that was said, the better.  The Pats called the Plebs Upper Morlocks, the Plebs called themselves Lower Pats, and the Morlocks called them both by a name I cannot print here.

As you can see, democracy was strong in this land.

Every Patrician graduated from the older of the land’s two colleges, which had been established many centuries before on the banks of what was then known as Chuck’s Creek.  As Chuck’s Creek was a minor arm of the sea, it was in those days, at low tide and for half of each day, a malodorous mud flat infested by stinging flies.  But engineers in later years contrived to stop the mouth of Chuck’s Creek at the ebbing of the tide, geographers revised the maps with the exalted name River Charles, and the stinking mud and stinging flies were soon forgotten.

This college was founded by a saintly philanthropist named John Hafard, but to Pats it was affectionately known as the John.  Pat children expected to go to the John, and Pleb children dreamed (rather vainly) that they might have the good fortune to go to the John as well.  But, alas, when the long-awaited letters arrived in the spring of their senior year, Pleb children almost always learned that they must go to the other college, which was both newer and much larger, and which lay far to the west of the sparkling River Charles.

This college had been founded by a meat packing tycoon named Cornelius Squat, at a time when the west was still shaded by trees of the primeval forest.  Although these trees had long since been cleared to make room for buffet restaurants, multiplex theaters, and happy ending day spas, the college retained the name Squat in the Woods.

So while young Pats went to the John, young Plebs went to Squat in the Woods.  As for young Morlocks, no one knew just where they went.  But everyone assumed it was somewhere very close to where they lived.

15 thoughts on “Those Who Go to the John

    • Half the people in the States don’t know we have a class system, and the other half won’t admit it. Personally, I would prefer that social rank were more clearly expressed in costume and title. Since I have “a place,” it is best that I know what it is.

      • Everyboby has a class system – even the Danes. As Orwell observed: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

  1. I’m willing to concede we have a class system, but to what extent is it mitigated by what I feel is strong mobility betwixt? In America, by my reckoning, the biggest impediment to social mobility is culture, which can change in one generation, whereas in Britain it might take a few generations to break through the social barrier, and India where it has a distinct ethnic bent that is unbreakable barring a social epiphany on a tremendous scale.

    I might go to squat in the woods, but if I might be able to send my kids to the John is what i’m saying. That renders the class system non prohibitive.

    • America has relatively high social mobility, but it is not so different from other places as many imagine. The paradox is that a short period of high mobility may lead to a very long period of low mobility, because the period of high mobility moves everyone to their genetically appropriate class. This is the idea that Charles Murray has been peddling for years. Under a fairly rigid class system, many smart parents will be stuck in the lower class, and so the working class occasionally pops out a super smart child. Under a purely meritocratic system, the genetic resources of the working class are stripped, and what remains finds it harder to pop out a super smart child.

      • You’re talking on time scales of decades or centuries though, right? There is a natural tendency for societies to stratify, which is normal. The desire to remove the stratifications is deleterious to that society, but so is strictly enforcing those stratifications.

        So the result is this: The natural flow of social stratification happens, and is normal. High mobility allows individuals to move between classes, with effort. This is also normal and good.

        To which I respond with: shrugs? I guess i’m just not grasping your thesis. It sounds like an affirmation of things that are normal, unless i’m missing some key point?

      • The two big changes in Murray’s thesis are (1) the deliberate search for working-class talent with the SAT exam, and (2) ‘assortive mating’ of professionals. The former does a good job of making sure that not many high IQ individuals stay in the working class. The second refers to fact that, once women entered the professions, a doctor was more likely to marry another doctor than he was to marry his nurse. A lawyer was more likely to marry another lawyer than he was to marry his secretary. The children of a doctor and his nurse will be, on average, less intelligent than the children of two doctors. So they are more likely to experience downward mobility. So basically (1) moves more of the good genes to the upper middle class, and (2) ensures that they stay there.

      • How much can be attributed to growing disparity between ‘classes’? I.e. a rising tide might raise all ships, but an anchor is deeper without having moved.

        In trying to grapple with this, i think I see what the issue is that Murray is trying to highlight: prolonged state in this set up drains the intelligence resource from the working class, and intelligence is allocated best (that is, most beneficially for society), when it is sown far and wide. Am I close?

      • The old adage about a rising tide is misleading, the effect of economic growth is not uniform, either between classes or over time. And the fact that the economy is growing will be cold comfort to the minority that is actually sinking and suffering. The answer to your last question depends on what you mean by beneficial for society. If you think GDP is all that counts, then you want to be sure no intelligence is “wasted” in a job (or geographic location) that does not require it. If you have a more wholistic definition of social health, it may be better that there are some smart people “out in the sticks.” Sucking all the talent into big cities may be good for the economy, but isn’t good for society.

  2. “Sucking all the talent into big cities may be good for the economy, but isn’t good for society.”

    There you put your finger on the problem which, more generally expressed, might read:
    “Though ……. may be good for the economy, it may not be good for society.”

    • In the same way, behavior that may be good for my bank account may not be good for my family, my soul, my community, etc. But it is not easy to “drop out of the rat race” when you are surrounded by racing rats. Racing rats bid up the price on everything, so the dropout quickly finds that “genteel poverty” is not very genteel. “Stop and smell the roses” and you will soon find yourself in a place where no roses can be found.

      • Amen! I applaud all of you guys for taking the time to hash this out. I’ll be passing this discussion along; it is one that is near and dear to my heart. Keeping my kids and loved ones grounded and out of the “rat race” is my life’s mission at this point.

      • ‘ “Stop and smell the roses” and you will soon find yourself in a place where no roses can be found. ‘

        Only if you take ‘stop’ as a permanent instruction to ‘proceed no further’. Perhaps: “Pause and smell the roses” might be a more useful way of thinking about it.

  3. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 03/10/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

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