Buddhist perspectives on society and culture


Buddhist perspectives on
society and culture

The Appeal of Moral Usurpation to the Elites

Posted in: Politics
This article is part of the series The Destructivists. Articles in the series are:

The following is the third in a series by the writer William Collins, each article being a chapter from his book The Destructivists. In the first article, Our Parlous Society, he introduced the overarching theme of his book, Moral Usurpation, and in the second, Moral Infantilism, he explained how that usurpation is achieved. In the present article (chapter 10 of the book)) he explains why the elites have embraced moral infantilism. Ratnaguna.

Understanding the appeal of Moral Usurpation to the elites is the fourth part of the process.

The great strength of Moral Usurpation as a strategy is that it appeals to the elites – the privileged, the established, the influential, the powerful. Why?

If divide and conquer is the pre-eminent strategy to overcome resistance, perhaps our best counter to it starts with “know thine enemy”. In the description of Moral Usurpation so far, the reader will most likely have identified the enemy as the zealots of infantilism. But it is not so simple.

No, the real enemies are all those who benefit from the imposed Moral Infantilism. Recall chapter 4 in which I emphasised the role that the social morality plays in providing a mechanism for the few to control the many, even when it seems obvious that this is to the disadvantage of the many.1 It is crucial to appreciate that it is not the ideological zealots per se that are the chief problem, but rather the enthusiastic adoption of infantilism by the elites because they can profit by it.

[Please forgive my confusion of the sin with the sinner in the above paragraphs, and indeed throughout. This is largely a matter of avoiding textual clutter. Please reinterpret accordingly].

In addition to the practical matter of obtaining control via moral leverage, there is another powerful incentive for the elites.  Espousing the ostensible moral precepts of infantilism provides atonement for their privileged status. Indeed, it can eliminate the associated guilt entirely and even replace it with a conviction of victimhood. Thus, the obviously privileged can present themselves as champions of correctness, without detriment to themselves.

If you happen to be other than a straight white male then this ideology repackages your privilege as your due desserts. On the other hand, if you are a straight white male then it is even more necessary for you to be vociferous about your ally-ship. Your devotion to the cause must be demonstrated repeatedly in word and deed in order to avoid a double dose of shaming due both to your privilege and to your undeserving innate nature. But best of all, ally-ship allows these sly collaborators to lord it over the supposedly oppressed people they claim to be championing. If you want examples of genuine sexism or racism, look no further than these allies as they treat women and Blacks like children. Few things induce cringe so effectively as a male feminist whose words apparently champion some women’s cause whilst his true underlying sentiment is plainly exposed: he does not believe the little wimmin could possibly manage without the help of a big strong man like himself.

This privilege-obscuration is also why it is the elite universities which have adopted this distorted moral position most ardently. They have more privilege from which to distract attention, and hence this whole faux-moral posturing is even more valuable to them.

For essentially the same reason the judiciary and parliamentarians have also been taken over en masse by the brave new morality. What’s not to like? You can enjoy your privilege free of guilt whilst presenting yourself to the world as a paragon of niceness, and all with minimal inconvenience and at no personal cost. Moral Infantilism is essential to this as it immunises them against perceiving their own hypocrisy. Any moral analysis deeper than the most superficial would expose their pious posturing most cruelly. So they are hardly likely to welcome those of us who do just that.

Thus, Moral Usurpation is the goose that lays the golden eggs as far as the privileged are concerned. It allows well-heeled feminist professors to occupy the moral high ground of victimhood whilst decrying the privilege and toxic masculinity of homeless men (Dej, 2018). This is such a bounteous arrangement that it is no wonder that its adherents react with such venom to silence those who would point out that it is all a fraud. 

That the system of Moral Usurpation acts most strongly on the influential is a massive boost to the process and accounts for this fraudulent morality becoming the obligatory establishment position so quickly. 

It is important to understand that the strategy of Moral Usurpation cannot be defeated by mere presentation of countervailing evidence. The Moral Usurpation strategy is stabilised against rational attack because it insulates both the zealot and the comfortably compliant establishment type against any empirical counterargument because it is morally, and hence emotionally, based.

One may observe that the infantilised are ignorant of important facts which, if known to them, would surely change their minds. But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. The false portrayal of many key issues which emanate from academia is maintained because the story they tell is the story that the elites wish to hear. No arguments, in whatever form they may be presented, will ever dissuade those who have adopted Moral Usurpation out of self-interest and built their reputations upon it. 

Unfortunately, the Moral Usurpation strategy also involves rolling out this distorted and infantilised perspective to the public as a whole, hence manipulating the electorate. This is where its appeal to the elites is so massively beneficial. Its adherents naturally populate centres of influence: the media, education, academia, politics, the judiciary, and the entertainment industry and art world. This is normally attributed to entryism, and so it may be, in part. But the moral approach, suitably corrupted, appeals to these very people because of the opportunity it presents to expiate their privilege-guilt at no cost. Hence, people already with influential positions may be turned thereafter, precisely because the infantilised position is beneficial to them. Once these people are infected by the desired moral reprogramming, they are ideally placed to roll out the contagion to the public.

The public, too, will be susceptible to the lure of an apparently morally based case and will be disinclined (or unable) to do the leg work needed to see through the infantilism. This is the great power of the morally based approach. By conforming to the pre-digested moral script presented to him, Joe Public can feel like a thoroughly nice person without it costing him anything. On the other hand, dissent brings immediate social disapprobation – and worse. The power of shaming and guilt to mould people’s behaviour should not be underestimated. Nor should the belligerents’ power to take away your livelihood.

For this package of Moral Usurpation to function, there does have to be a credible moral core – at least a grain of truth to it – as long as one totally ignores the bigger picture. The falsity of the infantilised view can only be exposed by close examination of details and context, and the seeking of balance. This asymmetry (“the unbearable asymmetry of bullshit”, Earp, 2016) actually helps cement the usurpation strategy. Many have noted that whilst a zealot need only repeat a few well-worn soundbites, to refute them requires a 40 minute lecture preceded by lengthy research. Infantilism is so much simpler than addressing an issue honestly. It is so much easier to refuse to recognise any dilemma, any context, any nuance, any counterargument. And it is so much easier to sway the public with simplistic, one-dimensional, moralistic mantras than with complex truths. The odds seem hopelessly stacked against honesty and true moral principle. Indeed they are, which is why the system of Moral Usurpation and the Destructivism which goes along with it have been so contagious. It requires a staunch resisting force to prevent this phenomenon, a moral anchor – which we have lost.

The take-away message from this chapter should be that Moral Usurpation is the latest mechanism being deployed by the elites to control us all. Nor is it entirely new, as explained in chapter 4, though it has become especially virulent of late due to opposing moral forces having been neutralised.

The appeal of Moral Usurpation to the elites is fundamentally corrupt, adopted for its benefits to the elites themselves rather than for genuine benefits to the purported “oppressed” or to society as a whole.  

Spouting the mantras of Moral Infantilism costs the elites nothing whilst magically absolving them of the vastly harder task of adopting a true moral stance based on personal virtue. Moral Usurpation aids the ambitious. It is good for the elites and its zealots, but bad for the rest of us. It is profoundly divisive. The working class are its natural enemy but they need to be made aware of how they are being used.


Dej, Erin. (2018). When a Man’s Home Isn’t a Castle: Hegemonic Masculinity Among Men Experiencing Homelessness and Mental Illness. In Containing Madness, eds Erin Dej and Jennifer Kilty, Springer, pp 215-239

Earp, Brian. (2016). The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit. Quillette 15 February 2016.


  1. Collins distinguishes between what he calls ‘social morality’ and ‘true morality’. This distinction is similar to the Buddhist categories of ‘conventional morality’ and ‘natural morality’.
Rick Bradford

William Collins is the pen name of Rick Bradford, a semi-retired engineer and theoretical physicist. He is married and has two sons in their mid-30s. He blogs on gender issues on EmpathyGap.uk and published his first book, The Empathy Gap, in 2019. The book and blog address issues of male disadvantage. His second book, The Unweirding, is a quantum mechanics text. His technical web site is RickBradford.co.uk covering maths, physics, engineering and issues of topical interest.

The Destructivists is his third book, from which the article is an extract.

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