Sunday, February 21, 2016

This Is War


In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray wrote:

Another characteristic of the new upper class — and something new under the American sun — is their easy acceptance of being members of an upper class and their condescension toward ordinary Americans. Try using “redneck” in a conversation with your highly educated friends and see if it triggers any of the nervousness that accompanies other ethnic slurs. Refer to “flyover country” and consider the implications when no one asks, “What does that mean?” Or I can send you to chat with a friend in Washington, D.C., who bought a weekend place in West Virginia. He will tell you about the contempt for his new neighbours that he has encountered in the elite precincts of the nation’s capital.

Writing last week for Bloomberg View, Clive Cook owned up to being the "friend" in Murray's op-ed:

When my wife and I bought some land in West Virginia and built a house there, many friends in Washington asked why we would ever do that. Jokes about guns, banjo music, in-breeding, people without teeth and so forth often followed.

 These Washington friends, in case you were wondering, are good people. They’d be offended by crass, cruel jokes about any other group. They deplore prejudice and keep an eye out for unconscious bias. More than a few object to the term, “illegal immigrant.” Yet somehow, they feel the white working class has it coming.

My neighbours in West Virginia are good people too. Hard to believe, since some work outside and not all have degrees, but trust me on this. They’re aware of how they’re seen by the upper orders. They understand the prevailing view that they’re bigots, too stupid to know what’s good for them, and they see that this contempt is reserved especially for them. The ones I know don’t seem all that angry or bitter — they find it funny more than infuriating — but they sure don’t like being looked down on.

These are the people who are backing Donald Trump. The irony, of course, is that it's Trump --  a card carrying member of the elite, and a man who inherited his wealth, before he put it to work for his own good -- who has tapped into this white working lass anger.

Like Howard Beale in the film, Network,  they're signalling that they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. For decades, conservatives have been accusing progressives of engaging in class warfare. It's time somebody acknowledged that is exactly what Donald Trump is doing.

Former New York Times columnist Chris Hedges has been delivering that message for sometime. And, he writes, the United States is in very dangerous territory.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to link a really excellent piece by former Victoria Times-Colonist editor Paul Wilcocks, on the tax and fee shift from business to the individual over the past decade or so in BC. It would be worth measuring this in other governments, federal and provincial

Owen Gray said...

I'm sorry, Anon. I'm having a tough time bringing that link up. Any suggestions?

theo said...

An excellent read on this is the late Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting with Jesus”.

Owen Gray said...

It looks like a good book, theo. And I confess that -- until today -- I had not heard of it.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's the curse of the wave of populist nationalism sweeping so many countries worldwide these days, Owen. It's a movement absolutely toxic to liberal democracy that often leads to a form of authoritarianism and, with it, violence.

Perhaps it's part of the human condition that nations must cycle through this every century or so. On the other hand it could just be that this is a reversion to our natural state and the post-war era with the rise of international institutions has been the aberration.

I'm not sure the past will be particularly helpful at informing our conscience either. There is no precedent for the conditions facing mankind and the Earth today. The wisdom of Jefferson and others seems so obvious yet it gains so little purchase in today's society.

Owen Gray said...

Jefferson was a wealthy man who knew that wealth could be toxic, Mound. He seems to have few followers these days among the wealthy.

Steve said...

I stop short of predicting a race war. However Blacks will be the next group to feel Trumps demogodery.

Owen Gray said...

Trump has talent for turning particular groups of people into scapegoats, Steve -- whether or not they are Bushes or Mexicans.