An anecdote is not data. And a portrait doesn’t carry the freight of a photograph. Yet men only part with millions for the former. A phenomenon that will remain an enigma to all bean-based economists. Fortunately, the brief anecdote that follows is going to cost readers substantially less than even the shittiest Renoir.
I was party to an interaction this afternoon between two men, white and black. The white was not the black’s boss, though was in a position that demanded significant courtesy. In a ceteris paribus situation, the expectation of deference resided fully with Mr. Whitefolks. But that wasn’t the behavior template on offer from Don Magic Juan.
He instead regarded Whitefolks with dead disinterest. Scorn escaping around the bare figleaf of civility. Whitefolks, visibly unnerved, offered a cringing rictus of submission. Please, sirs, and thank yous began rushing past his lips like the human tide in a Black Friday Walmart. Don regarded him with heavily lidded eyes absent an iota of respect. The gulf between their interpersonal statures was as vast as the one between their net worths. Making both all the more ironic.
The dialogue concluded with something to the effect of So dis is what you gettin’ din. A statement, not a question. This followed by another torrent of obsequence, along with–and this alone prompted the post–a gesture of servility I’m certain was extemporaneous. Still smiling meekly, Whitefolks dipped his head while tipping up on his toes.
I’d never seen a fucking thing like it. That is before realizing this well-healed professional had actually just curtsied. To an obese dullard his fathers would have barely suffered to shine their shoes.
And while the obvious remark is one on our age of abasement, the greater realization is that societies are never still. And never can be. Civilizations always advance or recede, with interregnums between wax and wane offering only the illusion of stasis.
The West proliferated because this is what confident, capable, or just canny civilizations have always done. It is what others are doing now at our expense. And it is what will continue, regardless of how long we linger to grovel.
Tomorrow will likely offer new vistas of sycophancy hardly imagined today. Bridges rarely span too far, after all. Though I like to think we won’t ultimately join the Etruscans in callous disregard of climate change. There’s too much duty in love…and too much pleasure in hate.