I’ve started to think that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the concept of noblesse oblige. By which I mean that I think it is misunderstood both by people who believe that they are displaying it, or that they ought to display it, and by people who are inclined to judge others for it or for its absence.
In particular: I think people believe that it’s about gestures. That if you’re rich or blue-blooded or privileged or whatever, that every so often you have to demonstrate that you’re a decent person with decent human sentiments by reaching out and doing something nice for some poor less-fortunate schlub. Give a whole bunch to a photogenic charity, or leave a really big tip, or some such.
And the thing is that, as a social strategy, that almost never works.
(There are rare exceptions. If the gesture is really big and really costly and really resonant, it can have some real moral impact. This almost certainly requires anteing up something other than money; poor schlubs naturally assume that big-shots possess functionally infinite money anyway, and aren’t impressed by their financial expenditures. The thing where old-money families send their sons off to war, even when it would obviously be easy for them to get out of fighting if they wanted, is a good example. That said – )
Envy can’t be beaten with moral suasion. If people are inclined to resent you for your wealth or your position, you’ve already lost the social game, there’s basically no gesture you can make that will change their minds. It doesn’t matter how nice you are. The hinge of envy is “I think this person has advantages that he doesn’t deserve,” and no one seriously believes that the way you come to deserve advantages is by being nice.
The way you deserve advantages is by playing a necessaryrole.
And that’s what noblesse oblige is really about. It’s about demonstrating that the community relies upon you (whatever “the community” means in context), and thus that your wealth/privilege/etc. is an important aspect of The Way Things Work, rather than simply being a random private benefit. It’s about employing two dozen domestic servants in your giant country manor, or maybe running the factory that employs half the breadwinners in town. It’s about being available as a fair and trustworthy judge for people’s disputes. It’s about serving as a private social safety net of last resort, through some means or other. In a very fundamental sense, of course, it’s about taking up your longsword and your plate mail and protecting your peasants from bandits.
This is a lot harder than it used to be. Rich powerful people aren’t the pillars of small communities anymore; they live in all-rich-and-powerful-person communities of their own. Often, they get their wealth and power through arcane methods that have no obvious direct positive consequences for any specific people. I know.
But if you’ve got privilege and you want to keep it, I’d strongly encourage you to think hard about this. The “I’m just a regular guy like you, except with tons of money and influence” strategy is rapidly ceasing to work at all, and it never worked that well to begin with. Stable aristocracies have something to offer.
Hannah Arendt talks about this – not using the term noblesse oblige, just talking about the dynamic – which is why it comes to mind. As she explains the historical precedents, exploiter classes generally don’t fall to revolutions or reorganizations. Exploitation sucks, but it tends to grow out of a stable productive relationship between the exploiter and exploitee, which provides at least some meaningful benefits to both of them. The upper classes that fall are the ones that no longer have any capacity to exploit anyone, the ones that are identical to the lower classes except for being much richer…
Leo Hufflepuff Moodboard:Although this might seem like a strange sign for Hufflepuffs, Hufflepuff Leos do exist. Many become the prefects of their House when they reach the proper age, for they are good with other people, have a fine sense of initiative, and have the nobility of spirit to see that the right thing gets done at all times. They like to set a good example for others - the phrase “noblesse oblige” probably sums it up well (nobility imposes obligation). Generous to a fault, they will give everything they have (be it money, energy, or loyalty) to anyone who needs it.
“The more you have,” she used to tell us, “the more you owe to others. Be modest, and if you do happen to have any advantages don’t let those who are less favored know it.” Prince Felix Youssoupoff recalling his mother’s teachings in regarding noblesse oblige.
Hufflepuff Leo: “Although this might seem like a strange sign for Hufflepuffs, Hufflepuff Leos do exist. Many become the prefects of their House when they reach the proper age, for they are good with other people, have a fine sense of initiative, and have the nobility of spirit to see that the right thing gets done at all times. They like to set a good example for others - the phrase “noblesse oblige” probably sums it up well (nobility imposes obligation). Generous to a fault, they will give everything they have (be it money, energy, or loyalty) to anyone who needs it.”
It’s been a loooooooong time coming and I’m pleased to announce this blog is finally public! I am the host, mistress, queen, Oni-Kisaki! Here, I will post my various artistic creations, commissions, and opinions throughout the years here; from anime to politics, I’ll try my best to entertain!
ACCEPTING PAID INKED COMMISSIONS!!~~
Your Oni-Kisaki is currently accepting commissions for inked, no-color busts!
My current rates are $35 and an additional $10 per added character. Send me your requests via e-mail at email@example.com and once I am available I will send you an invoice with the fee, after that we will discuss your request to make sure I know what you want.
Please have references ready as they ensure the accuracy of the commission!
I am an anime/manga-style artist!
I am happy to do most things so you’ll have to find out if your commission is something I wont do…
I look forward to striking a deal with you… Noblesse Oblige~
there was gratitude in their faces — loki could see that, but also… also fear. and loki thought: i like that better.
aka a mix all about loki being a little shit and killing people for homovikings
01. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix) 02. IAMX - I Come With Knives (Noblesse Oblige Club Mix) 03. White Stripes - Seven Nation Army (Glitch Mob Remix) 04. The Prodigy - Spitfire 05. Beastie Boys - Sabotage 06. Joan Jett - Bad Reputation 07. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Conscience Killer 08. A Perfect Circle - Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums
People who went to MIT or Harvard don’t come out and say such things. To do so would betray a lack of noblesse oblige for one’s interlocutor and their potential embarrassment. Instead you say that you went to school ~*in Boston*~ and allow the other party to discreetly discern your rank or let it pass unnoticed, as protocol dictates. Whenever someone pulls this on me I am always tempted to reply, “oh, I heard ~*in Boston*~ has a very strong reputation.”