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And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.” –“Rent a White Guy,” Mitch Moxley, The Atlantic
My memories of watching Gallagher during my 1980s childhood (Comedy Central was my third parent) were pretty much apolitical—silly props, innocuous puns, and, of course, all the smashing, smashing, smashing. Tonight, we’re expecting much of the same, only older, sadder. We are smug and a little bored. “Gallagher’s gotta be, like, 90 now, right?” I joke. “Because he was, you know…” “Bald?” my friend offers. “In the ’70s?” “Right.” The stage is swathed in thousands of yards of black plastic sheeting. Spray-painted on the back wall is a banner (created, if the internet is any indication, by Gallagher himself before each show) that says: “G-[watermelon]-L-L-[space]-[watermelon]-R-R-R.” It is… sad. We were right about that much. –“Gallagher is a Paranoid, Right-Wing, Watermelon-Smashing Maniac,” Lindy West, The Stranger
I doubt whether there is anyone in a modern society who is entirely free of snobbery of some sort, straight or inverted. After all, everyone needs someone to look down on, and the psychological need is the more urgent the more meritocratic a society becomes. This is because, in a meritocracy, a person’s failure is his own, whether of ability, character or effort. In a society in which roles are ascribed at birth and are more or less unchangeable, failure to rise by one’s own achievement is nothing to be ashamed of. To remain at, or worse still to sink down to, the bottom of the pile is humiliating only where a man can go from log cabin to White House. Of course, no society is a pure meritocracy and none allows of absolutely no means of social ascent either; thus my typology is a very rough one, and is not meant to suggest that there is ever a society in which the socially subordinate are perfectly happy with their lot or are universally discontented with it. But it does help to explain why justice, of the kind according which everyone receives his deserts, might not necessarily conduce to perfect contentment. It is obviously more gratifying to ascribe one’s failure to injustice than to oneself, and so there is an inherent tendency in a meritocracy for men to perceive injustice where none has been done. –“Of Snobbery and Soccer,” Theodore Dalrymple,” New English Review
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”