Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Lacking a culture in common, cosmopolitans instead invent a series of tokens of identity based on what they do share, which is shopping, media, pop culture, the public arts, and knowledge of fine varieties of food, alcohol, cigars, and other luxuries. They then use these tokens of identity to create a social hierarchy where the people who are “in the know” or “in the in-group” have the latest tokens and everyone else follows them as tastemakers and leaders.
They also use these tokens offensively, equating ignorance of cosmopolitan culture with ignorance in general, and using that to shame people who have not joined the cosmopolitan clique. This enables them to dominate others through social means instead of by actually being natural elites, or those who are in power because of higher ability.