Wednesday, December 3, 2008


When you sit back and peer at the mess in America today, one can make a fairly good argument that the problem that we are facing is one of snobbery. I know that I have been beating this drum quite a bit lately, but more and more it appears that at the core of all of our problems is the desire to make ourselves something we are not.

I am a mongrel mix of recent immigrant Italian dirt farmers (read here peasants) and a hodgepodge of been-here-a while northern european out of the Arkansas Hollers (read here: white trash). Yeah, I have some upper-crust Jewish roots (my paternal grandmother married a hillbilly for some odd reason), but it is pretty threadbare.

But for some reason, just saying that is considered anathema. We are so married to the lifestyles of the rich and famous that we cannot for a second imagine that there is value and contentment in the simple rhythms of a lower impact lifestyle. Our parents worked as welders and janitors and farmers and factory workers so that we could "better" ourselves. But when we wandered off to college and met the upper crust that are the normal denizens of that weird and wonderful subculture, we threw aside who we were and stated aping the manners of our "betters".

Now this aping of manners and petit-bourgeois similacra of the upper class has permeated the whole society. Houses are outsized and ostentatious as a rule. The house where I grew up is considered a "starter" home, meaning that it isn't good enough for anyone of value. We have allowed the productive jobs of our country to be exported on the mistaken notion that we as a culture were "post-industrial" and thus above work.

So maybe, just maybe, the next time that you are sitting around bitching about everyone else's complicity in this ongoing train wreck, perhaps you might take a look and ponder the near-constant over-reaching that has defined your own life. I think that if you look honestly, you will find that beam that is in your own eye.


treesong said...

Excellent post! As a former snob who sought to leave her roots - part Kentucky hillbilly, part French Canadian immigrants, part Norwegian Immigrants - I can attest to the fact that the words "starter house", "late model car," and "hand-me-downs" were eagerly shed in an attempt to "succeed." To bad too many realize too late the futility, waste and insecurity of their attempts to "belong."

Staying Alive said...

Treesong is is an excellent post. I used to scope out the folks who lived in the McMansions, the guys who drove the BIG pick-up trucks, and the women who drove the really nice cars while doing their shopping. And all I was doing was looking at debt. Debt out the ass. The older car is paid for. The starter home was paid for. The used cloting was paid for, not charged. And some of those poor folks are the finest people you ever could meet. They lived simply and they ate regular. They worked and stayed in shape. They didn't belong to the country club or eat in gourmet restaurants. What a crock of shit this country has been sold! And now we are going to lose it. There are major changes coming to our shores. And we had better be ready for them.