Thursday, January 26, 2006

Got Stupid?

Yup, we gots that.

And I don’t just mean the well-documented IQ deficit of the general populace, which, in both practice and theory, includes all Bush voters who are not (a) wealthy, (b) Generals gathered in Black Masses, or (c) fundies. Nor am I merely writing about the run-of-the-mill idiots that seem so plentiful in certain sections of the country [http:// OR].

No, I’m talking about a species of dolt more familiar to the blogging community – a well-educated, upper-middle class group (UMC) – than outworn hillbilly stereotypes. The stupid are among us, everywhere we go. They walk erect, but affect a certain air, as if they are far removed from the rabble, an unidentifiable sense of being just a little more equal than others. IMHO, these people come in all stripes, liberal and conservative.

Warning: Overgeneralizations and crappy pop sociology follow and for no extra cost possibly workerist rantings.

They don’t go to chain restaurants. After all, they need an elegant place to brunch. Drive an American car? Never!! Don’t even ask about bowling. These are principles, my dear. But we have to hide it from the kiddies, so put on a BIG smile!

What’s interesting is the way in which their casually assumed superiority is based solely on the inherited cultural norms of petit bourgeois-dom. They’ve inherited, through the socialization process, the norms, language, tastes and attitudes of the UMC. As such, they’ve acquired a tasty teat-ful of social capital that, once upon a revolution, was called “class privilege.”

At many a social function, I’ve noticed a small-but-discernable condescension in these chaps and chapettes. “What restaurants do you like?” “Well, sometimes I go to McDonalds, but to my palette, Taco Bell is superior.” Flustered: “Well . . . I just don’t go to chain restaurants.” Then I get a furtive side glance, like the other person, let's call him Bobo, is trying to see Jed Clampett underneath a highly clever disguise.

Admittedly, I sometimes do some of this just to play on other’s class-based (but always hidden) perceptions. But, it’s still a bit odd, insofar as I generally (a) have either much more education than these people or went to a better university; (b) am much more well-read; and (c) could be accused of a Menckensian elitism in certain affairs cultural. In fact, what’s funny about it is the fact that the things upon which these armchair elitists base their condescendere are trivial – where they eat, what they drive, etc. If you talk with them a while, you quickly realize that, despite the privileges of rank, that they’re really not any more intellectually inclined than the average slob in the street. And they’re a helluva a lot less interesting.

Lack of intellect: Lemme see . . . they think CNN is a credible news source; that tripe like The Apprentice or Survivor is a good way to spend an hour; that Celine Dion shouldn’t be forcibly repatriated to Quebec and enjoined from ever entering the country either in person or any reasonable facsimile thereof; have never read Joyce, Dostoyevsky, et al – too busy listening to the next Grisham novel on audio book (which to me is akin to getting to know George Grosz’ work by reading newspaper clippings of art shows – or, in the case of Grisham, getting to know Hagar the Horrible via oral description).

Less Interesting: People in the UMC always have a party piece in place; they don’t want to rock the boat, will be polite, etc. If you try to get in a real debate over real issues, they will either politely brush you off or simply say you’re rude. Rude. That’s the operative insult – rude, uncouth – you don’t play by the rules, dude. People more in the working class don’t do this. They’ll say what’s on their minds. If you don’t like it, too bad. The communication is a lot more honest.

A lot of social class is based on these unconscious assumptions. Of course, the career success and money don't hurt either. Although, to me, career has always been a fancy word for "job."


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