Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Caste America

A GREAT IRONY is that American liberals today are as incapable as anyone of recognizing, and acknowledging, the caste nature of U.S. society.

Many differences in this country aren't simply differences of circumstance. Our brains are wired differently, according to how we were raised.

For example, I'm unable to listen to National Public Radio. The bloodless, monotone presentation puts me immediately to sleep, as it does to many. I'm convinced that much of the appeal of a Sean Hannity isn't what he says, so much that he looks and sounds like a "regular guy." (No accident that he used to work as a house painter.) This puts him on a level of instant acceptability with much of the public.

Sarah Palin is a classic example of caste. Her homey, twangy presentation bonds her with her fans, at the same time it creates instant, incredible hostility from the Genteel Caste; hostility unaccountable for simply because of her ideas. (Where's comparable hatred of Mitt Romney?) The like or dislike of Palin works on a conscious but also unconscious level. Emotion from below drives the positive or negative reaction-- extremes of sympathy and unsympathy outside the bounds of reason and logic.
Much of my conflict with the established lit world has been because our tastes are radically different. The writing of postmodernists like David Foster Wallace does nothing for me. I see them as fakirs; semi-talented poseurs. On the other hand, the innate snobbery of the Genteel Caste prevents recognition of Jack London and O. Henry as great American authors. Why do those two writers from 100 years ago speak directly to me in ways that many well-hyped authors of now can't? In this case, caste trumps era.
Caste America becomes more noticeable when you examine the underclass. In 2005 I worked as an uncertified substitute teacher in Philly schools, sent to inner city high schools most subs wouldn't touch. An example of financial desperation on my part. Tough places! The thing that hits you quickly enough is that these kids have NO chance in today's America. In the worst schools, of 5,000 kids, perhaps five a year took the SAT exam. Maybe things have improved-- but when you factor in the high dropout rate, the odds of upward mobility for these young people aren't good. The problem isn't confined to schooling. In punctuality, dress, dialect, presentation, these kids are in no way suited for entry into a workworld dominated by the Genteel Caste and its variants. (I'm not sure I was ever suited for it myself!) The advantages higher caste people grow up with are enormous. They're beyond quantification.

In a more challenging caste circumstance is the Hispanic situation. These people are slotted for bottom caste roles. They're not encouraged even to learn the dominant caste's language! Much less be acculturated into the subliminal nuances of those at the top.
Yes, we have the example of President Obama, seemingly shattering caste stereotypes-- until you consider that he was raised by upper-class grandparents, and educated at the top upper-caste universities of Columbia and Harvard.

Caste trumps race also.


Anonymous said...

the Hispanic caste(those that are illegal immigrants) is of higher value than the Black inner city caste, if current trends continue.

Jimmy the Hyena said...

I think a person can hate Palin for being another media product just like Hillary Schwartzenegger or Obama the problem is what's wrong with people that they can't chose someone like Kucinich who isn't trying to con them.