Brooklyn, NY | USA

I can’t think of a word for it that fits, so I’m just coining a new one: brezhneviki.

They’re not by and large bad or terrible people – no moreso than average. Rather, they’re a genre of person that enters a social system well after its initial establishment.

They’re real team players. Stand up figures. They check all the boxes: charitable, zero-to-minimal criminal record, peerless education, etc. But essentially none of that was anything they actually cared about. Consider the parents who force their kid into sports and extracurriculars simply because it looks good on a college application. Now simply place that sentiment onto the kid themself, then project this across an entire life, an entire identity. 

They are ideal for promotions on paper. After all, every box is checked, no? But that’s just on paper. They don’t really understand all that much of what they’re doing. They defer the hard work to others and then wear the accolades. They know how to talk to the management, tell them what they want and need to hear – regardless of how real it is or not.

And so they rise through the ranks and end up in oh-so-many prominences.

Some are bureaucrats and politicians, certainly – but they could be of any profession: scientists, engineers, artists, filmmakers, programmers, corporate executives, generals, teachers, activists, salespeople (especially salespeople). They can thrive seemingly anywhere. They are buzzwords incarnate. They’re good at replication and sustainment. They can keep up a momentum. But they don’t know how the machine truly works. They can’t change its course, they can’t adjust, they can’t adapt. Because they have never in their lives dedicated even a moment to insight, imagination, creation –  sure they studied the architecture, they learned the formula, they noted how it flowed up the hierarchy. They know how to climb pyramids. Just don’t ask them to build one.

All they know is the social ladder and the steps necessary to climb it. And not out of malevolence, not at all. You see, they don’t really care to destroy or harm. That’s not their desire. They want something else, something only society – the very people around them – can give. A badge they can flash. A certificate they can frame. Something, anything, that will prove to everyone what a glimmering beacon of majesty and admiration they are. They crave to be the talk of the party, leaving a wake of reverent whispers wherever they roam. They need the social system, and they believe it needs them. But it does not. 

They are a counterfeit of competence, a simulacrum of leadership, a shadow of shrewdness. 

Fear the brezhneviki, for they are the initial, vanguard cancer of a social system. They are the most dangerous, for in their apathy and self-absorption they will lead all around them to ruin. They have no true talents, no true passions, no true convictions, nothing but a desire for social praise and prominence. They will leave all to rot if only for a want of a mote of recognition. 

Strange Matters is a cooperative magazine of new and unconventional thinking in economics, politics, and culture.