This is the first part of a sequence I'll contribute to irregularly, discussing things most people grok without ever actually knowing. Everything I intend to write in this sequence is something which is so obvious we never even notice it - although, trust me, many of our historical elites -have- noticed these things, which has granted them subtle power over our lives we never even notice.
Do you know the difference between our upper classes and our lower classes? It's not, as one might immediately think, power, or money. These things don't change your station in life. Your station in life is determined by one thing and one thing only: The expectations of other people. This is well-understood in the East, and formed the explicit principles by which Imperial China was governed, in the written teachings of Confucius, but here in the West we tend to try to ignore it. We tend to see things like ritual suicide as honorable but ultimately barbaric practices, not seeing the way these practices tie into civilization itself.
Western media has increasingly tended to portray the enforcement of social rules as a bullying behavior, and we have in recent years begun to strongly discourage this enforcement. I'm a staunch individualist - but I'm also a rationalist, and I recognize a self-destructive attitude when I see one. I also recognize a particularly insidious form of social engineering - a re-stratification of society. Because, you see, classes have always, and everywhere, been divided first and foremost by adherence to social law. The upper classes have -far- more expectations heaped upon them; expectations of dress, behavior, accent and verbal tics, dinner manners, how to stand, how to walk, how to address people - the upper classes have etiquette drilled into them from birth. You think this is an accident of fate? More, you think it is an accident of fate that our upper classes are telling the lower classes that none of these things matter?
Clothing, to pick one example, is -always- a uniform. It -always- tells other people who you are. Who do you think gets the job in an interview - the lower-class person who shows up in jeans and a t-shirt because they think the people who insist that a suit and tie are important are just bullies, or the upper-class child who wears a suit and tie because they've been taught the important of a good uniform since birth? It's not money, nor connections, that guide children from birth to remain in the social standing they began it in - it's knowledge, knowledge that is being carefully and deliberately sabotaged by those -claiming- to be standing up for the disadvantaged even as they make their disadvantage permanent.
The upper classes don't have more freedom - this is an illusion. They have far, far less freedom, because while their station in life theoretically grants them greater privilege, they only enjoy that privilege so long as they do not actually exercise it. Quite a lot like money, actually - the rich man is only rich so long as he doesn't spend his money, after all.
Li is the path to power. Appear the fool, and be treated as one. Appear to be a person to be taken seriously, however, and you will be.
Not that I advise anyone to pursue this course, any more than I would advise others to become misers so that they might become rich, and for precisely the same reasons. However, while I would not advise miserliness, I -would- advise careful consideration of purchases and the establishment of a financial reserve - and likewise I would advise the careful evaluation of social expectations.
Bullies, as anybody who tries to teach social rules is now being labeled, are teachers of a lesson which needs teaching - gone are the days when "bully" referred to the teenager who picked on the elementary school student, now the "bully" is the teen who makes fun of the one teen who doesn't wear deodorant, or who dyes their hair an unnatural color. The question, of course, is which social class is hosting the backlash against "bullies", and why.