Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy

Anybody who’s a friend of Peter Thiel is not a friend of mine.

Well, not exactly, but what bugged me about the press for this book is that they neglected to point out J.D. Vance’s entrenchment with right wingers, as in this book was seen as an insight into the poor white underbelly of America which voted for Trump and no one pointed out that this was not written by a neutral party, that Vance might have an agenda.

But Steve Martin at APA sent me a copy and I pulled it up and was shocked to find that “Hillbilly Elegy,” despite the political spin, was really closer to Tara Westover’s “Educated.” You’ve probably read that book, as you should, it’ll make your jaw drop, you won’t believe what happens. Similar deal with “Hillbilly Elegy” re Vance’s parents and upbringing, pretty riveting, easy reading.

But what made the biggest impression upon me was the end, where Vance talks about going to Yale Law School and the doors it opened, that’s why you should read this book.

You see it’s a club and you’re not a member.

As for those in Appalachia…reading this book and Vance’s conclusions make you want to double-down on being a member of the elite, the ignorance and contempt of Vance’s world for the elite is so ridiculous that you want to throw your hands up in the air and move on. Then again, I do not agree with Vance’s conclusion that no aid should be given, that money can’t solve the problems of these people. Sure, their mind-set is ingrained, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

And the place to start is opportunity.

Need-blind. Most people have no idea what that term even means. Which is if you ain’t got the money, you can still go to the college. Yup, almost all of the most elite colleges are need-blind, meaning your ability to pay is not taken into their consideration of whether to admit you or not. And if you are admitted, they give you financial aid up to…a full-ride. I knew a bunch of people at Middlebury who were on a full-ride, this is a good thing.

But most people don’t know about it. Even the middle class…I remember telling friends to have their kids apply to the elite colleges, but they said they were too expensive, so their kids ended up not applying, they just couldn’t wrap their head around the concept of need-blind.

Now interestingly, a large number of need-blind college students were need-blind at prep schools. Don’t get me started on prep schools, what they do prepare you for is life, that it’s all about connections, who you know.

And that’s what’s highlighted at the end of “Hillbilly Elegy.”

Vance says the work at Yale Law School wasn’t that hard, but just by getting in you were part of the connection/favor network. Hell, his mentor is Amy Chua, that’s right, the self-professed “Tiger Mom.”

Most people have no idea how the elite world operates. When it comes to institutions, corporations, politics, just about everything but entertainment and sometimes tech, it depends upon who you know to get ahead…

Let’s see, the two-faced Sheryl Sandberg went to Harvard, hooked up with Larry Summers and not only worked for him in the government as his chief of staff when he was Secretary of the Treasury, she was handed the gig at Google which led to her job at Facebook. As for Facebook’s aggressive tactics, their need to survive and thrive at all costs…don’t only blame Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg is complicit.

But she did not work her way up from the bottom, she wasn’t one of the Harvard bros who built Facebook, but she had the CV, and she knew Summers.

Vance says sending resumes is worthless, you’ve got to know someone to get a gig, someone in the elite, who went to school with a person at the institution which is hiring. And if you’re not part of this club…GOOD LUCK!

Read “Hillbilly Elegy” for all this. Not for the politics, but how Vance leverages his Yale status to get a top clerkship that he desires and then how David Frum gets him into the right law firm.

This is how the world works. And this is why we hate it.

Yup, it’s a club, where favors are owed. And you can’t penetrate it if you ain’t got the CV.

And if you’re not a networker, if you don’t know how to use your relationships, trade favors, forget it. We no longer live in a world of lifetime employment. It’s all about hopping from job to job based on your friends/relationships and most people don’t have elite relationships and never will.

Artists are usually not networkers, that’s a different skill, that’s why they need managers, agents and record labels.

Being talented and doing good work is not enough in this world. The corporations, the government, they’re all tied together via an old boy network fostered by the elite institutions.

That’s right, the game is rigged.

And chances are you can’t even see the board, never mind have a piece on it.

This is what the college admissions scandal is all about. It’s not what you learn in college, but who you befriend at the institution, the relationships you can leverage down the line.

Meritocracy, schmeritocracy.

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