That the geeky exports dreamed up by people like Tajiri retain their appeal today is a testament to the passions of their creators. But it’s also a testament to the fact that all of us now spend huge amounts of time the way they did: sitting in front of screens, rummaging through our own pop-culture databases, obsessing over our virtual identities while indulging in our own childlike pleasures.
It’s a part of her personality that Cho understands and recognizes in herself. “I don’t know if it’s an Asian American [thing], that kind of attachment to work...that's the thing about Asian American artists; we're polymaths. We can do everything because we have to do everything in order to even create a space in this entertainment world that's pretty much only black and white, you know?”
“I think it's the no-fear, the lack of self-consciousness. … It's so contagious and keeps your eyes on her. She does not apologize for who she is. She doesn't try to explain away who she is. She doesn't hide who she is,” Chu said. “She speaks the truth. She is who she is. And I think that it's really appealing and really likable. There's not many people in the business or in the world that has that ability.”
But of course, Awkwafina refuses to let herself be satisfied with any of her accomplishments — an instinct born out of fear.
Software doesn’t actually eat anything, of course. The phrase is pure fetishism: relations between people reimagined as relations between things. Somebody is always doing the eating—and somebody is always getting eaten.
The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end.
“When economists like me look at medicine in America—whether we lean left or right politically—we see something that looks an awful lot like a cartel.” Through their influence on the number of slots at medical schools, the availability of residencies, the licensing of foreign-trained doctors, and the role of nurse practitioners, physicians’ organizations can effectively limit the competition their own members face—and that is exactly what they do.
The recency of it all may likewise play a role in our failure to recognize our growing privileges. It has taken less than one lifetime for the (never fully formed) meritocracy to evolve into a (fledgling) aristocracy. Class accretes faster than we think. It’s our awareness that lags, trapping us within the assumptions into which we were born.
We feel in our bones that class works only for itself; that every individual is dispensable; that some of us will be discarded and replaced with fresh blood. This insecurity of privilege only grows as the chasm beneath the privileged class expands. It is the restless engine that drives us to invest still more time and energy in the walls that will keep us safe by keeping others out.