The other thing it sounds like you're doing is looking around for a great opportunity rather than zeroing in on a thing you really care about and working on it. Your comment about engineers being a peasant class makes it sound like at least a part of you is more concerned about status than doing the kind of work that you say you're interested in.
Sounds like you need to answer for yourself what you're really looking for, how you would like to spend your days, what you would be proud of looking back on, etc. Rather than looking outward at the state of the industry, the status of developers, phds, MBAs, VCs or execs. If you want to build, start working on a product, figure out a market for it. But also know that at some point products do need to be sold, so eventually, you or a co-founder or your employees are going to have to figure out how to make money.
One of my favorite general pieces of advice is "you can decide what you want but you can't decide what it will cost you." You can decide to be a builder and an engineer but it probably won't come with the adulation you feel for Jamie Zawinski or Alan Kay. And if you talk to most people who are admired and have a lot of adulation, even if it's deserved, it's not something they tend to say they relish. They tend to still relish the work they valued for themselves and feel the adulation is overblown or doesn't actually give them anything of substance.
Excellent quote. Can you give the source of this quote?
Corporate America really is bad enough to warrant correction. If anything, I’d probably suggest learning about people to the OP of the thread. Find out how to spot personality types quickly and how best to work with them - including avoiding the toxic ones. But also temper it with not over analyzing-analysis can become its own damnation.