I guess I'm pleased that Peggy Noonan was put off by the behavior depicted in Kevin Roose's article "I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society" -- but doesn't it seem as if she's more upset by the fact that they're joking about their own greed than she's ever been about the greed itself?
I wonder if the titans of Wall Street understand how they look in this.It's hard not to conclude that Noonan would be fine with Wall Street greed if the greedy would just "carry around a cross of dignity" and stop doing all that self-mocking after a long day of screwing the have-nots.
At least they tried to keep it secret. That was good of them!
They are America's putative great business leaders. They are laughing, singing, drinking, posing in drag and acting out skits. The skits make fun of their greed and cynicism. In doing this they declare and make clear, just in case you had any doubts, that they are greedy and cynical.
All of this is supposed to be merry, high-jinksy, unpretentious, wickedly self-spoofing. But it seems more self-exposing, doesn't it?
And all of it feels so decadent.
No one wants to be the earnest outsider now, no one wants to play the sober steward, no one wants to be the grind, the guy carrying around a cross of dignity. No one wants to be accused of being staid. No one wants to say, "This isn't good for the country, and it isn’t good for our profession."
Noonan seems to think this sort of things is new and modish and trendy. (Later she uses the phrase "increasingly decadent.") She's overlooking the fact that the wealthy elitists of the Bohemian Grove started doing similar self-aggrandizing/self-mocking skits at secret gatherings way back in 1881. Yale's Skull and Bones, which also has ridiculous rituals, predates the Civil War.
What that tells you is that there was no Golden Age when America's elites were pillars of earnestness and rectitude and Judeo-Christian virtue, or whatever the hell it is Noonan believes. The rich and powerful have long thought that their ability to lord it over the rest of us is a real hoot. We just have more pictures now.