with despondence this amusing satire:
Once upon a time, great writers such as John Steinbeck lionized the poor; once upon a time, talented men like James Agee and Walker Evans paid homage to the faceless, indigent but insuperable masses. And though the average moviegoer may not have envied Tom Joad his plight, he definitely evinced a grudging sense of respect, recognizing that even if Joad did not have much in the way of worldly possessions, he at least had his dignity. And this made the typical moviegoer feel better about himself.
The days when dignity counted for anything on this continent are long gone. A society afflicted by an almost pornographic fascination with the foibles of the idle rich has no time to spend thinking about the poor, and, as a result, the lower classes have largely dropped off the radar screen. The agenda-setting tendencies of the media have had much to do with this. A profession once dominated by tough, streetwise refugees from the working class is now dominated by dainty alumni from our finest schools, people to whom poverty is not only unpleasant and unhygienic but totally uncool.
In a world bristling with such sexy topics as the latest exploits of predatory hedge funds and lupine private equity firms, why would anyone want to write about the poor, who never do anything that is even vaguely exotic? In a world filled with flashy megalomaniacs including Paris Hilton, Mark Cuban, Tom Cruise and Madonna, why would anyone want to read about glamourless screw-ups living in public housing at Cabrini-Green?
The problem with America to Progressives is that it's America. Its
highs are too high to justify its lows. I think Progressives want
everyone to be middle class, which is impossible. I am reconciled to
this state of affairs so long as there is a reasonably open meritocracy
- which is to say that there is a reasonable expectation that
graduating from high school (free) can get you into college (cheap) can
get you a better job (good). But then again, that's just another middle
class standard. What we need is a lower class standard - a way to think about the seething masses appropriate to their reality.
America doesn't do a good job of dealing with or accurately representing its internal third world, that is because TV, radio, newspapers and the internet are all made for middle class people. Poor folks have organic networks in poor communities, and they're never going to crawl up the long tail to the mainstream. Remember the quote about 'quiet desperation'? That was written about the middle but it applies to the bottom too.
The modern day Joads are urbanized, and that's a problem, because cities ain't made for poor folks. And American cities are even more harsh. The difficulty is that poor folks are bought into middle class values, and they have no real alternative. They don't have the skills to be self-sufficient in the parts of America that are suitable for their skills (or lack thereof). Instead they have latched onto an ambition they can't afford, because they don't really have access to the alternative. There should be no such thing as an 'inner-city'. Instead it should be the outskirts. Try to remember the old 'bottom".
There is no Po Folks TV. There is only degenerate middle class TV. How should the communication be established?
I don't have any ideas for the solution here, because I tend to believe that American poor are de-politicized and the difference between working class and poverty is very slim. In fact, I believe that the difference between the urban criminal class and the urban poor is very slim and that our advanced policing, which makes perfect sense in a middle class city, 'criminalizes' that which might otherwise not happpen (or fall under the radar) in rural or small-town communities.
I just think America is running on a middle class grid where one lie on a resume that's 28 years old is enough to trip you up. The only solution for the poor is to be able to get off the grid. That's where the happy poor people are.