Thursday, June 13, 2013

Once In Khaki Suits, Gee We Looked Swell (UPDATE)

Full of that Yankee Doodle Dumb.

In that dim and distant Whig utopia of Long Ago we celebrated stick-to-itiveness, Jesus, the Torah, lunch-pail heroes, and people who got rich by gumption and grit.

Now everybody grubs for money, people wipes their heinies with the Book of Corinthians, the rich behave like assholes and nobody cares.

Nobody except David Brooks.

And at no extra cost to you the customer, Mr. Brooks goes out of his way to describe it all  as drearily and cartographically as possible: social conditions as no more than inlets and mountains that have formed over time by some vast, incomprehensible forces which Mr. Brooks never gets around to mentioning.  Which is actually a little surprising.  Sure, given Mr. Brooks' absolute power-fucking fealty to the elite class into which he has spent his entire life scrambling he is never going to indict the system that put him in his mansion, but before clocking out for the week he usually cares enough to take at least a token potshot at disordered sexy sextime or Dirty Hippies as the reason everything has gone to hell.

But not this time.  

This time we get a bored, before-and-after postcard of a disaster scene.  Something jotted on a napkin and thrown at an intern between more important demands on Mr. Brooks' attention.

Once we had a railroad 
Made it run
Made it race against time
Once we had a railroad 
Now yadda yadda yadda 
and isn't that just a fucking shame

Ah, the good old days...

UPDATE:  This excerpt from an email by reader "Jeff" makes a fine addenda to this post --
The people [Mr. Brooks] knows, those with whom he surrounds himself, are status-seeking and status-displaying. THEY are concerned about the moral strength and especially QUIET dignity of the struggling proletariat. His myopy is complete – Brooks is telling us he thinks HE IS NORMAL. He is telling us that HIS EXPERIENCE is the norm. From what we read here, there is nothing elitist about his position – he is telling us he lives a normal life in the suburbs. He balances his checkbook like everybody else, plans vacations and thinks about the world like a real person does. He, however, is clueless to the basic truth that he is not one of us. That a vast gulf separates his experience, from that of everyone on the planet – except for the small (though certainly thousands of individuals he sees regularly), encapsulated coterie of people that HE experiences as representative. Everywhere he goes, he takes his bubble – and meets other people in their bubbles – and none of them are connected to anything related to what WE recognize is the real world.
No, this does not excuse him.

Opening with a weak anecdote about a relatively unknown person, and missing the point of his own allegory? Really? The ennoblement of manual labor being abandoned in droves by the aspiring? And this, because of something something Jesus?

Frankly, it seems to me that my former students at Elgin Community College waited tables, scrubbed floors, washed dishes and slung beer AND needed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to cover the bills. My high school students do this today. They work to pay bills that mom and dad can’t (not won’t) pay. They work for a bus pass, save for a car, to pay for insurance – for an extra bag of groceries, for part of the internet connection and phone line. When I was the night clerk at an oft-robbed gas station, it paid some bills – but ennobling? Or when I was a minimum-wage janitor hauling biohazard waste to the dumpster? Or carpet cleaner in 90 degree summers? It didn’t make me a better person. It wore me the fuck out before going to class. Just like in a Frank Capra movie? No, wage work is an Upton Sinclair story, not a Wonderful Life.

Minimum wage and entry-level work isn’t ennobling. That’s not the point. It’s money. It’s not life lessons. It’s bills, and food and a few threads of clothes. It’s not character building, it’s survival. On Maslow’s scale, its primary needs. And when those are in question, that is ALL we can see.

An historian who actually writes, in the paper of record, that God chose the Jews? Really? Not that the Jews told a series of stories about the god they chose?


Anonymous said...

As Loius C.K. points out: "There are no limits to what we can accomplish when we are willing to just throw an enormous amount of suffering and death at a project!"
Of course, I somehow doubt Mr. Brook's ancestors were involved in any of that messy least not the suffering and death parts.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Glenn Greenwald today? He addresses your and Rick Perlstein"s concerns. Should we be looking for any apologies and corrections to your June 13th post?

Lumpy Lang said...

Every once in a while Droneglass accidentally bumps into reality.

In particular he points to some structural transformations in the economy since the 1970s that have shattered the conditions of work, family and community as they once were for many working people.

But these changes have also obliterated the image of a rational, far-sighted ruling class to which liberals like Droneglass still cling so desperately.

The rabid, smash&grab mentality now displayed by both wings of the "Property Party" (as the great Gore Vidal used to call it) is not a mistaken (and thus reparable) policy of one party or the other - but a symptom of the senile dementia of the entire ruling class as their system circles the drain.

Anonymous said...

"Minimum wage and entry-level work isn’t ennobling. That’s not the point. It’s money. It’s not life lessons. It’s bills, and food and a few threads of clothes. It’s not character building, it’s survival."

But in David Brooks's bubble, and the bubble in which his compatriots and their children live, it IS ennobling. It IS a path to life lessons. Because basic needs, and a whole lot more, are already taken care of.

You go from your dad's mansion to a minimum-wage job for a month or so, so you can dine out on stories for the next 50 years.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with "Jeff". I think he is projecting far too much innocence upon DFB. I agree with what Jeff says about his carefully protected bubble. However, I entire disagree with the notion that this is somehow an "innocent" miss-perception on Brooks' part. It comes down to "Does David Brooks believe his own bullshit?". It looks like Jeff says "yes". I say "no".

While I think Jeff does accurately summarize DFB's default operating parameters, I think that is only a matter of convenience. I think he does it to fit in. He knows that is what his peers and economic betters think, and so that is what he shovels to appeal to them.

One of your (DG's) commenters made the excellent comment long ago that David Brooks is the psyche of the old, venal class of wealth and privilege muttering sweet nothings to itself in the mirror.

Unlike Jeff, I don't think that is an honest mistake that happened innocently or by accident. I think it was cultivated.


Anonymous said...

Don'tcha just love when Lumpy says "Droneglass"? It's almost as funny as when Rush says "feminazi".

Oh, the mirth.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Don'tcha just love when Lumpy says "Droneglass"

I can't get enough. Fortunately, he seems to be unable to do anything else.