It has been a while since I've had a reason to consider my own Peasant Theory, but some of my best ideas come when washing dishes. I am thinking about how it is that the quality of our economy, as brilliant and robust as it is, affects the conduct and opinion-making of the masses. Why indeed do Americans need to follow the news at all? Because we are not under any obligation to inform our opinions. We feel good if our guy wins. We feel bad if our guy loses. And there is this sense of entitlements, call it 'middle class morality' that allows us a fair amount of leeway and signalling in our lives. A better word for this falls into the framework of 'lifestyle', because we can all afford lifestyles and talk about all the subtle social clues we have in our lives for our lifestyles. That is how, after about 70 years, an entire nation can pull opinions out of the idiot box.
If I were a dishwasher for a living, I would not bother to chit chat with the chatting class in the main dining room. Not because I'm less intelligent, but because I know as a dishwasher, it doesn't much matter if my opinion is charming, brilliant, quaint of buffoonish. Such labels don't stick to us in the manual labor departments. So I don't seek them. Small talk is not on my resume. A dishwasher is one of those people who knows his job. We assume, we in the chatting classes, that he also knows his place. But in our expansive economy of bullshit work and opinions informed by television, and the interwebz, there are lots of places for everyone. So knowing one's place is not so constricting as it once was when only 20 million of us had careers of the sort where 'charming, brilliant, quaint or buffoonish' might mark us permanently. In the land of shallow economic opportunity and social mobility, one sticks to one's knitting; there isn't room in a tighter economy to put on airs, whether you are up high or down low.
That is not our case. We have freedom to be impossibly wrong and never get called on it. We can generate not only shallow opinions but we can change them at will according to the fashion. We have no skin in the game, because the game never ends. There is no margin call. In the sprawling economy you can afford to be wrong all year long. In fact, we play that game in our electoral politics, and for the supporters of Trump, orange is the new black. See you in 2020.
The video serves to remind us that we are all very aware about the appeal of having something attractive in our lifestyle. We all know what a burnout is. It's a cool thing you do with a sports car. The appeal is universal, and the failures are predictable. What we all know is that there is car insurance. And so in fact, these failures are not only predictable but profitable. You might even be one of those who cluck disapprovingly at people who are drawn to the lifestyle of fast, flashy cars. Among your friends are no such fools. One man's flash is another man's folly, and who's to judge, eh? We're all humans.
We're all humans in an economy that is so rich that we can buy and sell and trade opinions in an open market. A fair candidacy is what the electorate will bear. A fair cause is what the crowd will chant for. This is the market society and it has a pricing problem.
The American middle class has a great deal of disposable income and disposable time to absorb disposable information. Today it is dissatisfied with the political shopping habits of its next door neighbors. And of course there are knots of us whose social bubbles don't even include people with the nerve to value other notions. We clearly don't shop the same aisles. But I daresay very few of us know who is right, and it's getting more difficult than ever to find them out. There are still those same 20 million whose opinions matter, and perhaps they are getting bubbled away too.
When I look at the car wrecks, I'm sad. Sports cars are such beautiful and magnificent engineering achievements. I'm so very glad that there are those dedicated to continue building them and maintaining them and restoring them. Human beings will always deserve the best, and will always chose the exciting over the dull. But they will always wreck. The trick is to know, if you're going to be a spectator, which side of the road to stand on when they do.
I am drawn, as ever, to those activities which define our lives with purpose. I know that there are disciplines that are ever rewarding. These lead to lives of satisfaction, not lifestyles filled with schadenfruede and complaint.