Saturday, April 29, 2006


A famous guy once said that one of the clearest symptoms of impending social change is a general transparency in society. His words were something like "all that is concealed shall be revealed".

In a society near collapse, the social lies that hold the society together are suddenly common knowledge. It is axiomatic that in almost every social organization, 80% of the resources are controlled by 20% of the people. The 20% who control things come up with fictions that keep the 80% in their place, but the first sign of social upheaval is that these fictions are unravelling.

People who lack a subtle cast of mind may think that the recurrent outbreaks of apocalyptic and millenial Christianity form a type of refutation of the Gospel (i.e., if people have periodically thought the world was coming to an end for the last twenty centuries, how relevant can that feeling be?) The fact, of course, is that a hundred worlds have come to an end since 33 AD, and that the central messages of Christianity speak to people loudest at moments of social transition. Apocolyptic Christianity is like a fire alarm -- it's rise tells us to expect social change, and we ignore the alarm at our own peril.

It is hard not to see Revelations at work with every new revelation about a famous person that widely circulates the internet. My favorite cartoon on the "Opal affaire" was posted on

Notice that the pwn3d is, of course, 1337 (which, for those who haven't bothered reading the wikipedia articles on internet slang is "leet", a short form of "elite". The reversal of the person feeling superior to the student at the "elite" school is interesting.

Pwn3d is a word from video game language. It means that a new player has been set up and killed in a particularly amusing manner. The ytmnd is saying that a life in video games is better preparation for the new world that is unfolding than a sheltered suburban life.

There are about twelve more layers to the Kayva affair. The sheer complexity of its relationships between insiderdom and outsiderdom, the former Harvard admissions dean being paid 20K to help the first generation immigrant become an insider, but the immediate decision to cut her loose as soon as things went sour. The public's simultaneous pleasure at seeing a Harvard kid "cut down to size" alongside the fact that the social order is reasserting itself (i.e., would this have happened to a DuPont?). So the deepest response to the whole thing is to be sad at the state of our civilization. It's the old American story: immigrant strivers internalizing the codes of their new country too well, and trying to succeed by standards that they don't fully understand.

But, alongside the culture that produced her and James Frey, pentacostalism is looking better and better. As a side note, the acronym "rotfsit" (rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues) doesn't exist anywhere in the entire internet. It seems that people are more interested in rolling on the floor, laughing. What's up with that?