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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Accident of Birth

For centuries, nothing was more meaningful or more defining than whether one was born to a noble family. One’s entire existence was influenced in every single aspect by the accident of birth into a certain social class. 

After WWI, the titles of European nobility started to lose their value. Save for a couple of Windsors or Borbons, the rest of the “nobles” accepted that their titles’ place was on the trash heap of history. I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for the antiquated aristocrats to see how “nobodies” were stripping them of importance but that’s the march of history for you. 

Today the same is happening with citizenship. And people are just as unhappy that the accident of birth that used to give them so much good stuff is becoming meaningless. Like the nobles of 100 years ago, they can’t believe that the lottery win they thought they had gained just by being born in the right place is losing its value. 

Of course, their loss is somebody else’s gain. Just like 100 years ago. 

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10 thoughts on “The Accident of Birth

  1. DWeird on said:

    Interesting thought! I definitely wonder to what extent our political concepts are those of nobility numerically extended.

    Reading about medieval family structures, it apparently turns out that the concept of race (along with a host of different bloodline-tracing concepts that it’s now very difficult to work up the interest to fully understand now that they are no longer relevant) was primarily used to differentiate between extended noble families before it got repurposed as something that makes nations different.

    It also kind of makes one wonder about the speed in which concepts and thought systems become obsolete, and how that’s tied up with the university system. That started out more or less as a way of filling in the blanks for a system that was presumed to be mostly known, then we moved on to something that assumed that steady but persistent progress in the field of knowledge can be made. “We need to throw all our old concepts out every 100 years” is an interesting place to be in, given the speed at which the institution of universities operate.

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  2. Reblogging! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Nobility | basil.CA

  4. Strange…The Accident of Birth has only two comments, but the counter says that there are three.

    Given the number of people who have been deported from the U. S. A. in the past eight years, under two presidents, this seems unlikely. These people are being deported solely because of where they were born, it would seem.

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    • “Strange…The Accident of Birth has only two comments, but the counter says that there are three.”

      • Somebody linked to the post, and a link counts as a comment.

      “Given the number of people who have been deported from the U. S. A. in the past eight years, under two presidents, this seems unlikely. ”

      • The nation-state is getting eroded slowly. And the change starts at the top. I’m sure you have seen recent articles about all those millionaires who are taking out collections of passports from all sorts of countries.

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  5. “people are just as unhappy that the accident of birth that used to give them so much good stuff is becoming meaningless”

    Things don’t change that much. The world is rapidly polarizing into winners (rich and smart) and losers (everybody else) and accidentally getting born into the losers’ camp is going to be a life sentence for the overwhelming majority.

    Elites hate social mobility (more competition from the bottom? the chance of falling?) and tend to do whatever they can to limit it.

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    • “The world is rapidly polarizing into winners (rich and smart) and losers (everybody else) and accidentally getting born into the losers’ camp is going to be a life sentence for the overwhelming majority.”

      • Absolutely. And it’s easy to blame the symbolic Pedro from Oaxaca for this. Because then one can cling to the hope that once said Pedro is removed, one will magically emerge from the losers’ camp. Of course, it’s an illusion but people will fritter their lives away clinging to it.

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      • Speaking of Oaxaca, have you ever been there? It a truly beautiful and fascinating city and general area.

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        • ” Oaxaca, have you ever been there?”

          I know you weren’t asking me, but I was there a few decades ago and loved it (more than San Cristobal which I also visited at that time, and is very interesting in different ways).

          About the closest thing I’ve ever had to a religious experience was in Oaxaca too (and I still carry a little religious picture I bought there in my wallet).

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