What groups are meant by these lines from "Outpost of Progress"? "And now, released from the fostering care of men with pens behind the ears, or of men with gold lace on the sleeves"

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The two white men in this story have been previously used to the "guidance of their superiors," meaning the imperialists of one stripe or another who run the empire which they help to sustain. At an outpost in the remote African jungle, the men are far removed from the society to which they ostensibly belong, existing almost as "machines" according to the rules laid out by others. They have been "fostered," as it were, or governed, by these men even though they are so distant from them. Men with "pens behind the ears" are intellectuals, those who have plotted the rules and governance of distant societies and worked out the laws of the land despite, in many cases, never having had much practical experience with any of what they write about. These are the philosophers, the writers, the lawmakers. The reference to "gold lace on the sleeves," meanwhile, seems to connote the gold braid which senior ranking military men would wear on the shoulders of their uniforms, indications of rank. Away from the military men who take and hold new lands by force, and away from the intellectuals who govern with the pen, the two men in the story are now for the first time "liberated" from the trappings of their original European society.

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Conrad is referencing some stereotypes of Western society in this line.  The "men with pens behind the ears" alludes to both intellectuals, who spend their life studying and believe, often mistakenly, that they know the human condition and its problems; as well as romantics, the poets who sympathetically connect with the emotions of humanity and often arrogantly assume that they know what others are experiencing.

The "men with gold lace" are the pursuers of materialism and wealth, the imperialistic type, who ignore the human condition and human frailty in their monomaniacal and seflish pursuit of success.

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