Sunday, July 25, 2004

Stupid White Men

NDOL: The White Male Problem by William A. Galston

Is Joe Sixpack a distinctively American phenomenon? This isn't a rhetorical question: I'm curious.

Lads are universal: young, lower-class males engage in soccer violence, gang warfare or jihad, until they get killed off or grow up and get tired. But Joe Sixpack is grown up--married with children and socially conservative, a working stiff and good provider, he still honors the Lad cult, detests intellectuals, latte-drinking liberals and wimps, and is convinced that get-toughism will cure all social ills.

Lower class women, even those who misspend their youth boozing with the lads and participating in wet tee-shirt contests, grow up. The whining smarm in women's magazines is on a continuum with the most elevated New Age self-help literature. Almost all adult women participate, however ineptly or incompletely, in elite culture even if they are behind the curve, consuming vegitarian health foods after elite women have moved on to Atkins. They are aspirants. Lower class men are adversaries.

It may be because, at least since the Victorian period, women have had the job of doing culture. Clarence storms into the house, after a day of ruthless capitalism at the office, upsetting the palms Vinnie has rented for her afternoon musicale. Lower class women are usually more educated than their male counterparts: Tony Soprano never went to college but Carmella is a Montclair State drop-out. Lower class women can pass, or at the very least, be accepted. Carmella knows how to pick a good, safe suit when the occasion demands it. At the Cuzimanno's barbeque, even with her accent, she gets on reasonably well with the wives. Tony in the meantime gets patronized and treated as a specimen by the men.

Women are less firmly rooted in class and culture: they take on the status of husbands, sons, and patrons. Shylock's daughter is the Jew's daughter, never the Jewess, and the taint vanishes instantly when she is baptized and married. Poor relations and ladies' companions take on the class of their patrons. Even without the benefit of affiliation, good looks and a safe suit are all a woman needs for a reasonable facsimile of class. No one is checking credentials

For men, credentials--the family and schools, the job and professional resume--are vital. Safe suits are to no avail. No amount of latte-drinking, liberal rhetoric or ecological concern will will make a blue-collar worker acceptable in polite society--if anything, it will only make him more interesting specimen. They can't join us so they do what they can to beat us by turning the scale of values upside down, extoling the goodness of stupidity, ignorance, crudity and brutality--in much the way that good liberals who secretly believe that there is no hope for brown and black people proclaim the virtues of their native cultures. (Of course I, as the mama of The Enlightenment Project, would like to see everyone, regardless of sex, race or class origin, become enlightened and assimilated--something most people nowadays don't think is possible or even desirable)

The only scrap of prestige lower class white males have comes from being white and being male. Any political program that promotes women's rights or racial equality is inimical to their interests. It is a zero sum game that Democrats cannot win unless they abandon support for programs aimed at providing equal opportunity for women and minorities.

Right now Democrats seem keen to appeal to lower class white males. There is no way that they can do that short of sending the message that they will bring back the days when white men had a lock on well-paid blue collar jobs because they were white and were paid more than women simply because they were men. That is what they want. If this is so than maybe the best strategy for Democrats is simply to write them off and frankly direct their efforts toward women, members of minority groups and white men who have more going for them than being white and being male.


John said...

I get the feeling you have never been to a NASCAR auto race.

Go, and bring your notebook.

H. E. said...

I haven't. But I did grow up in Sopranos Country where I was intimately acquainted with Stupid White Men and equally Stupid White Women.

However, I am open to further enlightenment: I may be wrong--and I certainly hope that I am.