LET THEM EAT WINE AND CHEESE!
LET THEM EAT WINE AND CHEESE!
For reasons that will be apparent momentarily, we spent an inordinate amount of time over the past couple of days thinking about The Idiot, a genuinely strange but fascinating novel by Dostoevsky. The essential point of the story is to document and describe the impact of a truly good man on society and of society on a truly good man.
The good man is named Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin. He is smart, kind, selfless, direct, empathetic, exceptionally slow to anger, and just as exceptionally willing to forgive and to see the best in people. As the story develops, it becomes clear that many of these characteristics are not merely hindrances in corrupt 19th century Russia, but also quite destructive. Myshkin’s empathy and selflessness are interpreted as naivete – and often produce the same effects as would naivete. Every other character in the story alternatively adores him and laughs at him for his apparent foolishness. Myshkin is “the idiot.” But as Dostoevsky noted in his notebooks, “Myshkin is [also] Christ.” He is a good and beautiful man whose goodness and beauty are hopelessly overmatched by a greedy, self-absorbed society.
Myshkin, we should note, is also a prince, which explains why we’ve been thinking about him and the story. He is an idiot-prince.
Yesterday, you may recall, we discussed a contemporary idiot-prince, although one far different from Prince Myshkin. Today’s idiot-prince, by contrast to Myshkin, is self-centered. Indeed, he is the opposite of Myshkin in almost every way. He is not smart, not especially kind, opaque, quick-tempered, and, at least according to the media, is profoundly willing and able to hold a grudge.
The only way in which Idiot Prince Harry is even remotely similar to Myshkin is in his purported embrace of “empathy.” Like his entire generation, Harry sees empathy as the core virtue of humanity, the key to understanding the universe and overcoming the collective prejudices and sins of humanity’s past.
But there’s a catch. The contemporary woke interpretation of “empathy” is rather different from the more common, lexical definition of it. The woke definition of empathy, it turns out, is not all that empathetic. Consider, for example, what motivated our own idiot-prince to delve into the field of ESG:
Harry and Meghan said they hoped that their involvement would help democratize investing, making people — especially younger people — more deliberate in their choices and conscious of investing in sustainable companies.
That’s interesting, yes? Harry and Meghan want to “make people…more deliberate in their choices,” and want to “make people… conscious of investing in sustainable companies.” It’s not the case that they want to understand or feel others’ feelings, to sense their pain, hope, loves, and desires. Rather, they want to compel (“make”) others to feel their feelings, to sense their pain, hope, loves, and desires. They yearn for a common sentimentality, but one that reflects their values and no one else’s.
That’s NOT empathy. Indeed, it’s the opposite of empathy. It’s narcissism.
For years – decades, even – we’ve argued that the only virtue that matters to the postmodern Left, to the “cultural Marxists” who have set themselves up as the arbiters of societal morality is empathy. Bill Clinton was a lecher, for example, but he felt our pain. And that was enough to make him “good.” The problem is that Clinton didn’t feel our pain. He expected us to feel his. He was and is a narcissist. And because narcissists have a keen understanding of others’ feelings, they can manipulate those feelings to give the appearance of selflessness. But it is merely that, the appearance of selflessness.
Consider, if you will, the contemporary obsession with identity. The identity movement is based on the postmodern notion that reality is subjective, and only those who have a shared history and shared experiences can interpret and understand reality in the same way. While it is undoubtedly true that shared experiences can create a bond among those who lived them, the unqualified demand that others accept that bond as the sole legitimate interpretation of those experiences is what distinguishes identitarian empathy from its more traditionally defined counterpart. Feel our pain, they demand, just don’t pretend to be able to understand it.
Again, that is not empathy. It is narcissism.
The consequences of all of this for society are potentially devastating.
As it turns out, Harry is not the only idiot-prince to be making headlines these days for his narcissism masquerading as empathy. Harry, you see, comes by his idiocy naturally, his father being perhaps the most idiotic prince of our time and one of the chief proponents of increased global human suffering – although he doesn’t quite see it that way.
The other day, Prince Charles, the man who should never be king, told the world that he understands why climate activists are frustrated and demanded that the Western political classes do more to stop climate change. And then he sped off in his sportscar.
The Prince of Wales has told the BBC he understands why campaigners from organisations like Extinction Rebellion take to the streets to demand action on climate change.
In the interview at his home in Balmoral, Prince Charles said action such as blocking roads "isn't helpful".
But he said he totally understood the "frustration" climate campaigners felt.
And he warned of a "catastrophic" impact if more ambitious action isn't taken on climate change.
Speaking in the gardens of his house on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, the prince said it had taken too long for the world to wake up to the risks of climate change.
And he worried that world leaders would "just talk" when they meet in Glasgow in November for a crucial UN climate conference.
While his fellow Britons will suffer this winter through a monumental, MAN-MADE energy crisis and will see their heating bills rise dramatically, Charles, a man without a job and with no concern for money, stood in the “gardens of his house on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire” a preached about how we should all heed his admonitions and do everything within our power to make energy even MORE expensive. “Heating bills are unfordable, you say? First, what is a heating ‘bill?’ And second, can’t mummy just help them out a bit if they’re short on cash?”
Challenged about his own efforts to reduce his carbon footprint, Prince Charles said he had switched the heating of Birkhall to biomass boilers, using wood chips from trees felled in the estate's forest.
He has installed solar panels at Clarence House, his London residence, and on the farm buildings of his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove.
He said he had installed heat pumps at some of his properties and a hydroelectric turbine in the river that runs beside Birkhall.
He was also challenged on his long-standing love of cars, and asked if he was "a bit of a Jeremy Clarkson, a bit of a petrol-head?"
"Well, yes", the prince acknowledged: "But that was before we knew what the problems were."
He said he had converted his favourite vehicle, an Aston Martin he has owned for 51 years, to run on what he described as "surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese process".
His Aston Martin has been modified to run on a fuel called E85 - made up of 85% bioethanol and 15% unleaded petrol.
Bioethanol can be derived from different sources - including in the case of the prince's car - surplus wine and alcohol extracted from fermented whey.
How utterly perfect. “Everyone can do their part, you see. Instead of suffering high heating bills (whatever those are), you just convert your homes to biomass, install countless solar panels, and put a turbine in your river. What’s to know? It’s easy. And if your favorite half-million-pound sportscar is giving you fits of conscience, simply convert it to run on wine and cheese. Actually, that sounds like quite a nice slogan, doesn’t it? ‘Let them drive wine and cheese!’”
Remember yesterday, when we noted Marx’s comment on history and its most prominent figures repeating “the second time as farce?” Idiot-Prince Charles Antoinette would seem to confirm this thesis quite well.
Unfortunately, the world today is filled with idiot-princes, men (and women) of power who are so far removed from reality, so determined that their values should be seen as societal values, and so short-sighted that they are going to cause countless people immeasurable social and economic pain and are never going to feel any sense responsibility for doing so. Indeed, it will never even occur to them that they should feel responsible, that they bear any culpability at all.
Dostoevsky’s idiot-prince was a good man whose faith in his fellow man was his undoing and the cause of his idiocy. Today’s idiot princes – from Harry to Charles to Joe Biden to Boris Johnson – are not good men. And it is their faith in their own righteousness, coupled with their detestation of their fellow man, that will be their undoing.
Unfortunately, it will be our undoing as well.