In historian Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism, he describes how “the new ruling class of administrators, bureaucrats, technicians, and experts” that dominates public life possesses neither the old aristocratic virtues of priests and monarchs nor the virtues of natural aristocrats described by Jefferson and Röpke. A “new therapeutic culture of narcissism” instead is at the center of their worldview.
The biggest difference between the old aristocratic cultures and our own is how they raise children. And it’s in the home where the hopes of establishing a new, more virtuous leadership class go to die at a very young age. For today’s elites, guilt has replaced obligation as the organizing principle of family life. Instead of seeing society as “a partnership of the dead, the living, and the unborn,” as Edmund Burke aptly put it, they reject the concept of stewardship all together. Nature and tradition are repressive or at least passé, and children are aided by an army of counselors, consultants, and programs in the hope of a lifetime of self-actualization.
In order to justify such a selfish existence, they attempt to atone for the guilt of their privilege by ritual participation in the new religion of identity politics and its accompanying liturgical feasts. The high holy days of the past have been replaced with festivals and parades honoring various marginalized groups or identities. Anxious city managers and corporate boards offer pinches of incense to the new gods by modifying their branding guidelines and official communications to include the symbols of the new liturgical cult. Families themselves display these symbols from in their yards and on their cars. While their sense of guilt will not go away (there is no such thing as forgiveness for oppressors), they can learn to mitigate its effects and come to terms with their own narcissism so long as they pay lip service to the latest trends in social justice.