“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world”

I have been thinking more about class, which I think is difficult, in part, because it does so much depend on location, location, location.

I was thinking about how our church used to put together these Christmas packages for folks who were in hard economic straits.  It’d be a turkey and cans of vegetables and stuffing and some kind of dessert and a present for each of the kids, so that no matter how rough a year it was, people could have Christmas dinner and something to open on Christmas day.  The list of people we did this for went beyond people who were “poor” but also included people who were just “having a rough spot.”  So, it wasn’t anything to load up a box that you then delivered to one of your friends.  And maybe this was because this was an old coal mining community with a lot of folks who then worked for Comm Ed or Caterpillar but it was understood that there wasn’t anything shameful about “having a rough spot” because anyone might get injured or laid-off and not be able to work.  There was always a sense of “and next year, you might be handing a similar box to me.”

Did that make us all working class?  I don’t know.  That was the best school system I ever went to and, if I hadn’t gone there for two years of high school, I would have been screwed in college.  As it was, I entered college a bright woman with, basically, two years of high school education.  But I came from parents who’d been to college and at least three of my grandparents attended college.  But I still got to college and felt for sure like being smart wasn’t enough, that I didn’t have fundamental and necessary cultural experiences.  I mean, people, I had never been on a plane until I was twenty-five.  The recalcitrant brother never has.  My international travel is Canada.

Anyway, I was reading this piece over at Inside Higher Ed (which I’m linking to in hopes you don’t have to be a subscriber to see it) which is an interview with Kenneth Oldfield and Richard Greggory Johnson about their new book about queer and working class academics.  And this part rang especially true for me (I’m quoting it at length, because I’m not sure if the link is going to work):

A second illustration involves the unbefitting feeling I get when I hear non-WCAs discussing how as youngsters they vacationed at the beach with their parents, shopped for the right college, or are helping their children increase their odds of being accepted at the right university (i.e. preparing them to get high scores on standardized entrance examinations and building a strong high school resume by participating in formally recognized and so called important extracurricular activities, including, among others, plays, the debate team, the tennis team, and doing volunteer work). Why don’t more university admissions committees extend the same level of recognition and respect to applicants who worked at fast food restaurants or gas stations during high school? In the education game, it helps considerably if your parents know how to “play college.”

A third class bias is one that I only fully appreciated after I finished my doctorate. It involves the information I wasn’t given in all my years of schooling, or received only in passing, as if it were not that important. Most of my formal education about class involved omissions, which still seems the case in too much of higher education. I was never encouraged to appreciate how much America is a class-based society and, therefore, the profound role class and class origins play in determining favorable life outcomes, including recognizing the strong relationship between family income and standardized test scores (ACT and SAT, for example), the number and condition of teeth you carry into adulthood, longevity, whether you smoke cigarettes, how much you travel outside your region or country, how many books your parents made available to you during your youth, whether and where you attended college, and so on, ad nausea.

And that first paragraph especially rang so true to me.  My parents certainly didn’t know how to play college and I certainly had little idea how to or even of the importance of participating in things other than going to school.  Shoot, when I consider that, I about can’t believe I even got in.  And then I feel a little strange because maybe I got in precicely because there was something about my application that said “here’s a bright girl who hasn’t had a lot of opportunities.”  I mean, my parents have done some crappy things, but they worked hard to give us a knowledge of the world, as much of it as they could.

I don’t know.  When I think about the thing I learned from my parents that has affected my life most profoundly is that they taught me, no matter what happens to you, you just have to find a way to take it.  This has, single-handedly, been the most damaging thing they’ve ever taught me, but I know it comes from a place of truth and love–that life is going to be hard and there will be forces beyond your control that line up against you and there won’t be anything you can do about it, and taking a stand will only draw attention to yourself and attention from authorities always goes wrong, so you just have to learn to take it, to find a way to survive and move on in spite of it.

And in my life, a lot of things have happened, both to me and around me, and my first instinct is never to speak up, but to just find a way to take it.  It’s one of the reasons that blogging has been, for me, so important–it allows me to speak up, to practice being the kind of person who doesn’t just take it.  But it means undoing a lot of conditioning.  Ha, not just me, but the seven people in this chair before me (to go back to Oldfield and Johnson).  Taking it is how we got by in the world, how we survived.  It is, frankly, the way of my people.

So, it doesn’t surprise me to see the Ghost of Midwesterners Past advocating that we just figure out a way to take it, with “it” in this case being torture.

What became of it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

With new torture revelations coming by the day, we’re now on that path again. The left will yap about justice. The right will carp about weakening our national security. K Street lawyers will go orgasmic with new heights of billable hours. And in the end, perhaps five or eight years from now, some low-level schmuck will plead out to a few misdemeanors, while the guys who ordered the torture will walk.

You know it’s gonna go this way, because it always goes this way. So can’t we use all that time and money for something more useful, like building some kids a really nice baseball field? I’d be in favor of that.

Don’t get me wrong.  I sympathize with this position with all my heart, or else I wouldn’t recognize it for what it is–that same old Midwestern strategy of just learning how to take it.

But I can’t help feel like we’ve been trained to engage with the world this way not for our own benefit, but to make things easier for the people who have power over us.  And it’s hard to realize that, because it looks like survival, but in the end, it feels like eating other people’s shit and pretending it’s okay.

Eh, I don’t know.  I don’t really have a point, as always with these kinds of posts, but I still want to wrestle with this shit anyway.

29 thoughts on ““Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world”

  1. Thanks for wrestling, B.

    “You know it’s gonna go this way, because it always goes this way.”

    Bullshit. This is cowardice dressed in ill-fitting costume of folk wisdom.

    The Bush administration was very careful to set up their gulags and torture regime so that it would appear to cost us (‘us’ being the Merrkin people) nothing, all the while telling us that the sky would fall and the Evil Sand Niggers would get us in our suburban shopping malls if we didn’t cheer the torturers loudly enough.

    So now we have a chance to hold them accountable, to put some diabolical armchair inquisitors behind bars, and it will cost us nothing. (At least, it will cost us less than it did to chase Bill Clinton’s penis around for a few years.) It will gain us oodles of self-respect and credibility.

    If you tell me that you’re afraid shining daylight on the Bushies’ crimes will make you less safe, at least I can begrudge your being an honest coward. But to tell me that it isn’t worth it to seek justice for these disgusting and inhumane acts? Motherfuck you and the landslide of chickenshit you surfed in on.

    Sorry if I’m a little over the top about this topic, but I just got back from a country that recently spent decades living under honest fascism, and they’re the only ones with a justice system ballsy enough to make the official suggestion that what the Bush administration did was illegal.

    The only empty consolation I have right now is that I didn’t vote for the prick who’s trying to justify sweeping this shit under the rug in the name of keeping ‘state secrets.’ Yeesh.

  2. here’s my two cents on this whole thing re: class — or at least one element that I want to touch on.

    While I was raised solidly middle class, we were brought up that no matter what station in life a person found oneself, there was no excuse to not use manners.

    I mentioned a few times before that I’m doing this part time gig to get rid of credit cards. It has been a very eye opening experience for me to see that the class lines blur when it comes to basic human decency and the way people (and their children) behave in public.

    You would think – if you were judging a book by it’s cover – that the Brentwood mother and her children would be able to leave an establishment the way they found it & at least practice kindness and put forth effort to not treat staff like crap. Not so, in many cases.

    You would think that college age students who are attending Vanderbilt would at least be able to find a garbage can. Wrong again.

    And a person would think that the poorer of people would not tip. They always seem to find the money to leave a little extra in the tip jar.

    Yes, more life lessons, in a place you wouldn’t expect them…

  3. The Brentwood mother and the Vandy students may well be used to having people paid to pick up after them. Of course, one might think that that would also get them used to practicing kindness towards those they pay.

  4. Pingback: Proletarian Values : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  5. Thanks to your post title, that song’s stuck in my head now.

    In defense of your parents’ lesson — it doesn’t have to be either/or (take it/fight) uniformly in your life. Sometimes it’s worth the battle, but a lot of the time, it really isn’t. There are times you can’t win and times when even if you win, you’ve made things worse for yourself. So, you learn to choose your battles. And when you choose to forgo the battle, knowing how to take it (which I see as being able to let go of it) is a damned sight better than festering and obsessing.

  6. I think I resent the people who know how to play college not because of a working class background but because their children are really uninteresting students that I really don’t think will be good bosses to the working class employees of the future.

    I grew up with parents just barely climbing out of working class and they knew it. They groomed us to be good middle managers but with certain social justice ideals. Although they were so worried about slipping back out of the middle class that they seemed to think that the justice work was for other people who could really afford to do it. We had to make sure to be paying the bills and saving for rainy days. I didn’t quite get the message of middle management. But I also didn’t get the courage to risk for greater rewards. So, I am an academic.

    What I see – and I think Aunt B is an excellent example – are that children of teachers and preachers and such are so much more intellectually curious than children of parents who plan for their college careers. Sure they don’t know the game, but that’s okay because their interesting and thoughtful and experimental. Maybe that’s largely due to what Original Lee wrote in that earlier post – that their educational requirements don’t match their pay grades and so they appear to be in a different class than their incomes indicate. I guess that’s why we often talk about socio-economics and not just one or the other.

    Anyhow, some people don’t know how to game the system. They see college as an opportunity toward advancement and security and help children work for it, even if only through good grades. Others see it as absolute requirement for success and respect and they learn to game the system. They groom their children and don’t give them a hope or an option for college, only an expectation. Those students arrive on campus and treat this as high school with more alcohol and sex. The other students are so glad to be here and work to make the best of it. Sadly they don’t always know how, know what opportunities are available. And they too often don’t ask for enough mentoring. And this lack of knowledge hurts the thoroughly working class the most. They don’t even know how to navigate the basics of the classroom, let alone extra opportunities like study abroad or whatever.

    Too often the teachers are too busy or lazy or blind to actually look for and nurture the skills in the curious. I hope that’s the work these books and discussions can do – remind more teachers that knowledge and intelligence aren’t quite the same thing, and that we should be looking for cues other than being well-rounded in ways only money can make possible when singling out students worth a little more of our time and attention, etc.

  7. oh my. shouldn’t type drunk. sorry I seem to really be struggling with getting my “they’re” and “their” correct in the above.

  8. Professor, you are more thoughtful and coherent when drunk than most people would be sober. I was so busy taking in the wisdom that I didn’t notice the “they’re” and “their” there.

  9. Gwen, don’t get me wrong. I see that they exactly they were operating from a place of love. And I’m not trying to single them out and I’m sorry if it came across that way in the post. I was hoping that by showing a similar approach by someone else it was obvious that I was trying to make a broader claim about how coping strategies that make sense in some contexts don’t work in other contexts.

    I think this particular strategy is class based. And I think it’s one of the things that works against lower class kids rising up the class rung (though clearly not the most important part). If you’re taught to never stand out, that is exactly the opposite skill that will let you succeed even to get into college, let alone at college, and in the kinds of jobs a college degree gets you.

  10. Wow, just wow. Now I’m going to spend the rest of the day thinking. You’ve ruined my Friday. (smile)

  11. Good take, B. Same with you, Sam. Though I thought I was operating off a different philosophy pertaining to liberal ideals. It seems the left is in love with noble fights they inevitably lose. There’s a certain martyrdom to their battles, kind of an advanced, more elegant version of what you’d find on victim radio. The Great Uphill Fight for Righteousness. Hence, it often seems they’re more in love with the idea of their own gallantry rather than winning any betterment.

    The torture thing feels like that fight for me. You wanna fight the wealthy and connected in their own courts, with their own lawyers? Have at it. I’d prefer we pick something where we can sneak up behind him and hit him with a crowbar. I’ll be happy to provide the crowbar.

  12. I had a weird childhood in that we were lower middle class until I was about 14 and we started moving slowly into upper middle class as my dad’s law practice took off and my mom went back to teaching school.

    The difference between me–who remembers very well what it was like to be in a long rough spot–and my younger siblings is tangible. For instance I tip very well, my sister (4 years younger) insists that those people are doing the job they’re paid to do and part of that job includes dealing with her cutting disdain. She gets mad when I say “please” and “thank you” to waitstaff.

    We didn’t play college. My parents didn’t have any idea how to do that, really. Even though my dad went to an ivy league law school. There were no test-prep courses, no resume-puffing jobs or volunteer slots. They had met at a small private Christian college and just assumed that all their kids would go there.

    We all did. But by the time we got around to going to the same school they went to it had been transformed into a very elitist, exclusionary Christian University. There are several places that refer to Taylor and Wheaton as “The Ivy League of Christian Universities.”

    Yes, all this is going somewhere…and that somewhere is that in the 26 years between when my parents graduated and I matriculated the school geared itself to attract those who were wealthier and also knew how to “play college”. It jumped the rails from being a good solid education to an elitist bunker for millionaires to shelter their children from frat parties and drugs.

    Playing college is very much a rich man’s sport. I ended up leaving that upper tier college after two years because those kids who play college to get in also know how to play college when they’re there. Credit cards, daddy’s car, etc. I grew up working for what I got and wasn’t about to take on a hundred thousand dollars in debt to keep up with the Joneses while getting a degree.

    So while there is a lot of looking down upon the lower classes and the way they don’t fit into this world the posh have created I also think there is room for the lower classes to wonder some about the folks who have what they have not because they’ve earned it but because they’ve borrowed against the future to have it now.

    You talk about understanding rough spots–that’s how the working classes do it. If we don’t have the money for something, we don’t get that thing.

    That’s why I think the wealthier among us approve of torture more readily. A threat to the future is a threat against the continued cosseting of those wealthy classes. The only currency they have left is the future–that’s the basket they’ve put all their eggs in by living on credit. I don’t think the fear of terrorists is ever “they may kill us” but it almost always “they will wreck our economy.”

  13. Pete, what tickles me so much is that I’m sure you would. Absolutely sure you would.

    Coble, I am not quite sure what to make of the last part of your comment. On the one hand, I agree and I think you’re on to something. But on the other hand, I think that you can get working class people to approve of torture, easily. Not because it “works” which is the lie we tell ourselves, but because, when you’ve got nothing else left, the power to hurt someone is something.

    It’s how it always works with white people, I think. The rich white folks want something done that protects their own interests, but they frame it as being about standing up for good, American values, and teaching [whoever] a lesson, an opportunity for white trash to prove they’re the right kind of white people. Which, of course, never happens, which is why Charles Grainer is sitting in prison and Dick Cheney roams free.

  14. Since Kat has mentioned age, I’ll just add that I think a lot of the “knowing how to get into college with extracurricular activities and the right kind of essays” stuff is a relatively new phenomenon. I’ve mentioned that my high school was middle-class-spanning; about 90% of my 1971 graduating class went to college (in a range from the Ivies through local community colleges), and I don’t remember anyone being advised or counseled about the whole list of things that it is now accepted one must do to get into a good school. I don’t believe that test prep courses even existed then, and while the guidance counselors always told us to remember to put our clubs and such on our college applications, I don’t remember anyone being told that joining clubs was a good thing. We were told that good grades mattered, and that was about it. And I think that at the time it was largely true.

  15. My students — whose parents are a mix of working class and anxious middle class that are taking a hit right now — are to a person ok with the idea of “good terrorism” — like when you kill someone extralegally because you’ve decided that person needs killing to further a really important social cause. (Course example: John Brown). Torture too — they believe that as long as it keeps us safe, our “way of life” (whatever that is…and gee, they hated it when I brought up that the Confederacy covered a lot of ugly stuff by vaguely referring to their way of life) is more significant than some other human’s life or way of life.

    So, I don’t think it’s really just the wealthy that are ok with torture. I think that in general we’re a nation that’s essentially confused about why rule of law is important in a democracy and how the complexities of what is ethical don’t get erased just because you really, really, really want to believe you’re doing good and that your actions will somehow produce justice in the long run. They’re living in a black and white world (because, in part, they’re eighteen) and they can’t deal with nuance.

    Anyhow, that’s getting us kind of far afield from a discussion of class and college maybe.

  16. Wow, I teach a bunch of hillbillies. I mean no insult by that as I come from the same stock. Most don’t bat an eye at torture. They are far from middle class America even if their parents have enough money to fit that mold. But they sure have bought the idea of loyalty and the government and military must be trusted at all cost.

    B. I continue to bristle at my liberal pals who argue that torture never works. You’ve said it again here, calling it a lie to say that it works at times. I just held a forum allowing war veterans to discuss their experience. The headliner was an 88 year old cuss–respect intended–who dropped into Normandy in a glider. A student asked him if he had seen torture. His answer was: “Every soldier in a long war like WWII has seen torture. How the hell did you expect us to find out where German bunkers were without getting shot all to hell.” I asked him further: “Does it work, sir?” His response: “What kind of silly question is that professor, of course it works if you scare the tar out of the boy.”

    No torture does not always elicit false responses and it can work. It has worked since the beginning of war, which means from the beginning of human civilization. The real question here is are we willing to continue accepting it as a practice of the modern U.S.? Does it reflect the values of human rights and fairness that we have been taught are central to our democratic experiment at this point in our history?

    Personally, I think we can get actionable evidence without torture. And I think that the torture we have participated in has helped our enemy to recruit, thus making us less safe.

    It seems to me that the way a “fact” is generated now on blogs is to repeat something, such as torture never works, thousands of times, and at some point it becomes a valid truth. Why not we sit down and look at the myriad of cases throughout history when it did work when in effective hands, and those when it did not. A trained Roman torture detachment–one served with each legion–could elicit actionable evidence on concrete matters such as enemy positions and numbers. The Spanish Inquisition recieved false information because they sought demonic machinations that did not exist.

    Torture can work, but we should not do it as it is one of the best recruitment arguments for our real enemies.

  17. So, let me get this straight. First, you, as a scholar of history, are taking, without question and without complication, a first-hand account at his word? That’s bad enough. But then you’re trying to say to ME that I have to trust the unverified word of a first-hand observer? Come on. You and I both know better than that. “Trust but verify,” right?

    I can come up with five people who would swear, hand to god, that I’m right-handed, because they saw me bat or throw or whatever. Doesn’t make it the truth.

    And then let’s address the real issue here. I can excuse the bragging of an old veteran. But you? I am really, frankly, shocked. I’ve seen you act with such compassion and understanding towards our men and women in uniform and yet here you are advancing–on the word of a man with an agenda–this idea that, as a matter of course, our armed forces torture people.

    What the fuck? I could not be more shocked sitting here reading this.

    You really believe that the things soldiers do in the heat of battle to protect their own lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers from an immediate threat is at all the same thing as capturing a person and shipping him off to a secret prison beyond the reach of the Constitution where you dream up bizarre, degrading, and deadly things to do to him under the guise of questioning him? You honestly can’t tell the difference between desperation and sadism?

    The difference between you breaking into my house with your buddy so I shoot at you to try to get you to tell me how many more of your buddies there might be coming in and me driving to a town I think you might live in, picking up some poor jackasses who knew you in high school and taking them back to my house where I shoot at them while I pretend to give a shit about whether they can tell me any more about you than I already know?

    If you don’t understand that basic distinction, then I don’t know what to say to you.

  18. You wanna fight the wealthy and connected in their own courts, with their own lawyers? Have at it.

    Pete, I could take issue with most of what you wrote, but I think this sequence says enough to me. See, I was under the impression that the courts belong to all of us. I was under the impression that the government is supposed to answer to me as much as answers to Bill Gates or whatever asshole is in charge of GE these days. And I figured that even though those dudes are rolling in gajillions of influential dollars, we common folk have them vastly outnumbered. But then I read one of my fellow common folk not only concede the one thing that is supposed to equalize the rich man in a poor man in our supposedly free society (the courts), but he does so in the context of painting a basic desire for justice as ‘liberal fantasy’ (and shitting on the painting).

    I know it ain’t polite to ask a stranger how much money he makes, Pete, but I’m curious. Whatever you’re earning, it must be worth you so smugly and condescendingly embracing your own indentured servitude. (Just a thought, but if you have to sneak up on justice is it really justice?)

  19. Gee B., I actually said that the old codger was just one example. To truly discuss this, we would have to sit down and discuss the thousands of accounts in history books of torture working.

    And is your taking the idea that torture never works without questioning is somehow more fucking, as you always like to say, rational?

    Did you not also notice that I myself don’t want us to torture captured enemies for both strategic and ethical reasons? My only problem is the way that both liberal and conservatives these days argue emotion and opinion as if they were facts.

    I actually think it is the duty of a soldier to take care of captured enemies. I don’t want to ruin our own young men and women by making them torture people. Especially in situations such as Abu Ghairab were most of the tortured victims were innocent.

    My apologies B. for seeming to support torture. I’m proud of my president for repudiating such tactics and being above the shit our last president did.

    Nor am I criticizing you. It just that I see someone as smart as you putting out the “it never works” argument as if it’s the gospel. Remember that slavery worked really well too. It built the southern United States, but I don’t support it.

  20. I know this is kind of unseemly, but I feel like I am alone in enjoying one of the greatest treats of Tiny Cat Pants, and so I must share and point out that we now have a Chicago fireman talking smack to the editor of the Nashville Scene while I, your lowly host, fight with a Fulbright-ed college professor who’s practically got one foot on the plane to France.

    Every time I hear people dog on blogging and the internet, I think, where would a girl like me have been able to have conversations like this even ten years ago?

  21. Casey, buck up. I’m giving you a hard time because I feel like we’re right on the verge of understanding each other and I don’t want you to hide behind old men to avoid hearing my point. It’s not that we’re at loggerheads over this.

    My point is this–I do think that treating any prisoners of war badly is wrong and I do not want our soldiers to do it, period. I also think, though, that there is a world of difference between–“Holy shit! They’re killing us!” “Hey, here’s one of them!” “Okay, make him tell us where the others are hiding!”–and “Take him off and hand him over to someone who’s whole job is to hurt him.”

    The first one may be wrong but I’d argue that it’s often effective, especially since, once you’re captured, you have this idea that you have a shot at living and so cooperating behooves you. The second one is effective in so much that its point is to torture. Yes, torture does work as a means of torture. But does it give us the right information? The whole information? As the dude on NPR said, even if torture gets you the location of a safe-house, regular interrogation techniques get you whether that safe-house has been booby trapped.

    And I think the criminals in our country who tortured people are counting on and cowering behind our men and women in uniform, who might think “Hey, in the heat of the moment, I may have done something similar.”

    Yeah, but even so, in the heat of the moment is different than a systemic program. And in the heat of the moment can still lead you to serve time. Apparently a systemic program does not.

    The torturers in our country are hiding behind our service people, trying to argue that their techniques are nothing but the usual techniques employed by anyone in the heat of battle. But Guantanamo is not “in the heat of battle.”

    Anyway, I can say that torture doesn’t work because it doesn’t make us safer. That’s demonstrable and you even say so yourself.

  22. I have scattered college experience, but no degree. No one in my family had one (only one parent even finished high school) and it was not prioritized where I came from.

    But I have to say: It is amazing the difference it makes; I would compare it (in the higher classes) to people finding out you are gay. They are talking to you one minute like you are a human being and smart, and after finding out you have no degree, change radically. It is like you are suddenly less human. (And this happens online all the time.)

    Truthfully, I don’t understand this worship of the college degree, since I can’t discern any difference in raw intelligence in those who have degrees and those who don’t, although I certainly can tell who has the degrees by certain words they use, certain arguments they make. Education, like music, is dated, and certain dogmas come into fashion. (You can often spot the various dogmas in what people say, and figure out when and where they went to school.) But smart people come in all styles, all places and all levels of experience, degrees included/excluded. Oddly enough, I don’t think many college-educated people really believe that. They’ve been admitted to an exclusive enclave, and they police it pretty carefully to keep interlopers (like me) out.

    It’s not uncommon for someone to engage my arguments very seriously, arguing at length, then find out I have no degree and simply stop (you know who you are!)… it’s like they found out they were arguing with a 14-year-old or something, and are suddenly embarrassed that they were taken in by me. (“Wow, I thought you were human! Sorry!”)

    Online, where we are only who we say we are, that is the real class marker. Thus, you have the peculiar spectacle of supposed “radicals” complaining about low-level employment, that they “deserve better” because they were “educated” to do such-and-so… (Excuse me, but I’ve been educated to perform dozens of jobs I no longer do, or choose not to do… so? Why are you different? The economy is in the shitter, wake up.)

    When I think about the thing I learned from my parents that has affected my life most profoundly is that they taught me, no matter what happens to you, you just have to find a way to take it.

    I think this may also be an echo of stark Calvinism, part of the idea of predestination. It is very southern and permeates the southern poor. It’s like: this is what God has decreed should be, do not question God. I never grew up thinking it was the fault of GOD! I think that is due to my family’s experience in the labor movement, which was considerable. To “fight back” (think of Mother Jones!) was the fight EARTHLY powers that would usurp the role of God in using authority over another person.

    Professor: I really don’t think will be good bosses to the working class employees of the future.

    Wow… talk about elitism! WHY is it simply “understood” that the college folk will be “the bosses”? IME, lots of them can’t find their asses with both hands…I had to teach one of them how to use a coffee maker the other day…

  23. WHY is it simply “understood” that the college folk will be “the bosses”?

    Amen, Daisy. Fuck the meritocracy.

    B., in a sideways fashion, Casey is correct about torture: it does work. Walk with me for a moment:

    It’s not news that the U.S. has a general cultural problem with brown people, especially foreign ones that we don’t want to understand (we thought we knew our own pretty well until one of them uppitized himself right into the White House). Remember when the federal building in OKC was blown up? After it was determined that the perpetrators were not foreign towelheads but domestic Angry White Men, where was the call for scouring the nation and ferreting out the perpetrators by any means necessary? I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just that I don’t remember it. I don’t recall any suggestion that known right-wing militants be rounded up and held without due process– or even tortured– until the whole network of right-wing mass murderers (foot soldiers, masterminds, National Review subscribers, etc.) was either dead or behind bars.

    My point, as I go far afield again, is that the torture regime built up by the Bushies had nothing to do with national security, at least not in a practical, linear sense.
    It was all about showing everyone from Fallujah to Main Street that we are the YOO-ESS-AYY and we are not to be fucked with. If we get fucked with, we’ll take a very broad swing back at the perpetrators, and if we happen to kill some sand nigger women and children, then so be it (because everyone who watches Hollywood movies and teevee knows there ain’t no such thing as an innocent towelhead; those fuckers pop out of the womb screaming ‘Death to America!’). If we happen to lock up and torture and murder a few dozen or hundred people who never lifted a finger against us, so be it. That’ll show everyone, from those camel jockeys in Buttfuck Arabia to those wine-sipping faggots in Old Europe, that WE ARE NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH.

    Never mind that the above straw rant is not a logical basis for any constructive or even preventive policy. It made the racists and cowards in our population feel like something worthwhile was being done, and it allowed rivers of taxpayer money to flow into places that most Merrkins would never bother to ask, much less complain about. (‘Educating niggers? Not with my tax dollars! What? You said “killing sand niggers”? Spend all ya need, Big Government, my grandkids got more!’)

  24. Well, I’m ready to be wrong, but I think that the Professor is saying is that part of the reason people pay $52,000 a year to attend the university is that they are basically promised that, if they are willing to play the game the “right” way (by paying that money and having the “right” credentials), they will get to be bosses.

    And, frankly, they do. It doesn’t happen for everyone who goes to college, but if you go to this university, your life is going to go ways most folks’ never will. It’s not right, but that’s the truth.

    I took the Professor’s point to be that, though the folks who know the game do get into the university because they have all the right credentials and know the system and how it works, those folks are her least interesting students and the students she worries the most about unleashing onto the world because THEY DON’T GET how disconnected their experiences are from the people they will indeed be put in charge of.

    We’re just talking about privilege here, folks–the ability to wreck havoc on the world without ever having to be aware of it.

    Y’all are arguing with a woman who agrees with you.

    As for your point, Daisy, about the weirdness that comes from folks finding out you don’t have a college education and it changing how they treat you, it’s just assholishness. I was going to try to make excuses for the youngest assholes, but fuck them.

    There’s a point at which you realize it’s a fraud–at least, I felt this way. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know and love a lot of great academics, but I also know a lot of folks in academia who are hiding from the world, who use their big words and their snazzy theories not to help make sense of the world, but to put up stronger barriers between them and the world.

    And I think it’s easy enough to tell the folks who are like “Yeah, this thing so and so said really helped me understand what was going on here” from the folks who are “Oh, well, so and so said… but you wouldn’t understand.”

    Everybody has a vested interest in pretending their shit doesn’t stink, and in the feminist blogosphere, that often means running out the folks who aren’t afraid to say the word “shit.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of both of my degrees. But I’m proud because it meant that I did something I wasn’t sure if I could do and I did it well. I am proud of that.

    But I don’t think that it proves anything about who I am in relation to other people.

    It just proves that it was something I didn’t know if I could do that I did.

    So, yeah, I don’t understand this idea that some feminist folks have that it somehow allows you to rank a person’s potential contribution to the conversation. I mean, it’s not just feminists who do that, obviously, but I’d expect us to know better.

    After all, even 100 years ago, it didn’t matter for shit how smart we were; if we had a cunt, our asses weren’t going to college.

    And now? Now we buy into this nonsense that going to college has something to say about the worth of a woman.

  25. Sorry guys, I was away a few days and couldn’t respond. You’d be surprised to find out that I agree with Daisy 100 percent. Holding a college degree doesn’t put someone above all other folks. In fact, many of the most well read and smartest folks I’ve ever met have been non grads. And I’ve met a pile of dullards with PhDs.

    Moreover, I’ve felt the sting of being looked down upon just as Daisy has, I didn’t graduate until I was 29 for my undergrad degree. Before that I was a room service waiter at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, where I made more money than I do now, but people with degrees wouldn’t talk to me. But even then, I had read thousands of books on history and could have debated degreed historians.

    David Hacket Fisher, a renowned historian, once wrote a book on the 300+ fallacies commited by historians. The one that struck me the most was the “Call to authority” fallacy. In other words, “I have a PhD and you don’t so your opinion is shit.” It is utterly silly. I, myself, only have a masters degree and teach at a community college. So in the world of historians, people still look down on me.

    B., it’s all good. You, without us having ever met in person, are one of my favorite people. Usually when we argue, we are only off in opinion by small degrees. I fully agree with what you’ve said about some of our last leader hiding behind the troops and patriotism. Moreover, I hope we eschew tortuer as there simply must be something that seperates us in world opinion from our enemies.

    P.S. My girl friend doesn’t have a degree of an kind, but is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

  26. Well, I’m ready to be wrong, but I think that the Professor is saying is that part of the reason people pay $52,000 a year to attend the university is that they are basically promised that, if they are willing to play the game the “right” way (by paying that money and having the “right” credentials), they will get to be bosses.

    That’s probably more true at The Professor’s University than it is at other schools.

    I’ve been to a lot of other schools–as a student, as a lurker in the library, as a party guest and as a potential attendee–and most of them are pretty much like “yeah, come here and you’ll get a better job.”

    I’ve only been in person to two schools that actually tell their attendees that by going to that specific school they will be able to become the future Lords And Titans of the Universe. The Professor’s school is one of those. And it’s true. Because that’s who sends their kids there. And you get to know people who know people and you learn secret handshakes, etc.

    Or maybe that’s just what those of us on the outside believe. But I do know that when I was visiting the other school as a potential attendee 21 years ago I was flat-out told all of that and promised that for the low, low price of whatever I, too, could become a world-beater. Which was funny because one of the reasons I didn’t go was because I had absolutely no confidence in my own ability to be any kind of beater of anything except “around the bush”. And I mean that in the masturbatory sense.

  27. Reading all of this has reminded me of a heated discussion, which turned into an argument, I had a while back with a guy whose particular chip-on-the-shoulder was that he didn’t go to college. He nursed that thing and fed it and coddled it into a huge monster that raved about how because I did, indeed, go to college and then to grad school, I didn’t know shit about The Real World and terrorism and our NEED to torture.

    The shame of it was, I told him after a while, was that I liked talking with him and he might like talking with me, if he could just set that thing down for a moment. I might have some particular, personal insight into terrorism and what makes America great. He smiled and said he agreed; we’re both decent people with interesting stories to tell, and that’s always a good time. But eventually that chip came roaring back, and that was the end of it.

    Like a lot of people, my upbringing was all over the socio-economic map, and my adulthood has (so far, at least) has followed the same pattern. I’ve been privileged in a lot of ways, and I’ve been disadvantaged in many others; my story intersects with people’s stories from all over the spectrum of class in America. I think, when you get down to it, that most Americans’ stories are like that. So I can’t seem to fully accept that rich people thought torture was okay, or maybe it was rednecks, or the “working class,” or the “middle class,” or whatthefuckever it was that kept us collectively going for 7 years, not screaming to high heaven that goddamn it, I don’t CARE if it works sometimes! I don’t CARE if it’s “legal” (and I could just bite Condi Rice for peddling that game right now!). It’s WRONG. It is fundamentally wrong, even if it works, even if, God help us, it prevented another 9/11. It is wrong to buy our sense of peace and safety at home with the systematic torture of other people.

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