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Joe Bageant's Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir

George Victor
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George Victor
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  1. White Underclass Crushed By Economy
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White Underclass Crushed By Economy

I don't know where to start with Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir. It's a book of two sides, two faces even. On the one hand there's Joe's evocative, heartfelt nostalgia for a life destroyed by corporate capital and on the other, his anger and frustrations, rants on occasion.

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RosaL
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I plan to read the book. (I wish they had an e-book version, though.) 


George Victor
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Joe Bageant" - 2 new articles  
  1. Lost in the American Undertow
  2. The Permanent White Underclass
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Lost in the American Undertow

Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America's large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists.


N.Beltov
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George Victor wrote that Joe Bageant wrote:
Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America's large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists.

ahem.

Barbara Ehrenreich - Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America - excerpt

This isn't the only resource by Ehrenreich but it is, perhaps, her most famous.

eta: corrected by George downthread as to the author of the quote.


al-Qa'bong
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One thing that struck me about Ehrenreich's book was a comment made by one of her fellow cleaning ladies, who said she didn't resent the wealth of the rich people for whom she toiled because she hoped to one day be in their position herself.

This articulates the Horatio Alger delusion that allows the acceptance of such huge social and economic inequalities in the Great Old Republic®.


N.Beltov
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That view is far from universal. The rich habitually isolate themselves from the influence of the "not rich". And the super-rich live in a completely different world. If the views of that particular cleaning lady were anywhere near more universal these practices would just be an unnecessary expense.


George Victor
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N.Beltov wrote:

George Victor wrote:
Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America's large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists.

ahem.

Barbara Ehrenreich - Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America - excerpt

This isn't the only resource by Ehrenreich but it is, perhaps, her most famous.

 

Yeah, NB, that was Joe you were quotin', not George.  If you take the time to read his stuff, you'll see that and many more gems to be mined.

And going farther in, you'll see he depends on the historical work of David Hackett Fischer (Albion's Seed) to explain why the Scots/Irish border folk who wound up as mountain people brought with them a certain style (fuedin, pride, etc.) that helps explain redneck culture to liberal progressive folk.


N.Beltov
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ah. It wasn't clear to me that you were quoting Bageant. If I don't quote like this

Quote:
quote by N.Beltov

then I quote like this

"quote by N.Beltov".

Anyway, carry on.


al-Qa'bong
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Quote:
...that helps explain redneck culture to liberal progressive folk.

 

Well, it isn't as if "Rednecks" are like Trobriand Islanders. I have no way of telling how insulated other babblers are from this substantial demographic, but were I interested in conducting an anthropological study of "Rednecks," all I'd have to do is visit with some of my neighbours and people at work.


George Victor
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You are also behind in reading Deer Hunting, the source of concern for liberal progressives.  Bageant reserves a special place for the liberal perspective and their tendency to produce anecdotes from anthropology 101 which do so much for their facility to identify redneck values, take them into account at election time, understand their needs.  Thorstein Veblen used the islanders far more effectively to compare their habits of conspicuous consumption with the barons of finance in Teddy Roosevelt's time.


Fotheringay-Phipps
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If I'd read Joe Bageant when he was published in 2007 I'd have considered him an amusing, angry guide to a peculiarly American pathology. Thanks to george victor's advocacy, I read him last summer and now see how my country has been slipping towards redneck status. In my opinion, DHWJ ought to be required reading for anybody organizing NDP campaigns, not in the sense of "you ought to read this", but in the sense of "Here's a short-answer quiz on that book you were told to read. Oh, and name in order the leading contenders in the Nascar chase this summer and the minor prophets in the Bible."

If you can afford to burn one credit at the NYT, read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/us/16ohio.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=gallipolis+ohio&st=nyt It's a heartbreaking tale from Gallipolis, Ohio, 300 miles west of Winchester W Va, but in the exact same psychic territory,

It's amazing how the slash-taxes, bust-the-unions agenda has gained traction in Ohio, even as its failures become blatant. I find Bageant one of the few reliable exegetists for the poor Republican voter's intentions, and I use the word advisedly: following the twists and turns of the anti-union forces gathering force in the US would cross the eyes of the subtlest Jesuit casuist. Seldom has naked greed been clothed in such fine-spun hypocrisy.

Haven't yet read Rainbow Pie, but I will, I will


Farmpunk
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Hey, Baegeant did a piece for CBC radio's Dispatches.  They're replaying a story he did about Belize in memorium.  Neat to hear his voice.


George Victor
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Neat to hear that CBC offers it. (Wish I had heard it...is it U.S. southern, western, or NY?) When I move up from dialup this fall, I'm going to look up his Australian presentation. He was most popular there, first. Didn't offend the PC. 


Farmpunk
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GV, I think his piece is on the Dispatches website.  It should work on dial-up.  Not sure what you mean by US southern\western.


George Victor
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The colloquial accents of America given to us by Hollywood, or your own discoveries if you've travelled there much. Where would you place him, Virginia or a product of California, polyglot.


Farmpunk
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Ah, I understand now.  

Southerner,  more mid-west than deep.  With some odd Kennedy-ishness.


George Victor
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Joe Bageant" - 1 new article

 

  1. Bageant's Frustration: Extreme Isolation
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Bageant's Frustration: Extreme Isolation

There aren't too many leftnecks in the United States; of that, we can be sure. This was the source of Joe Bageant's frustration: extreme isolation. Because he realized that the U.S. was the greatest snow job of all time.


Slumberjack
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Hey, a GV sighting.  Welcome back George.


George Victor
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From the last chapter of Rainbow Pie, "A Long-Promised Road":

"After he'd built his present house, Clayton (a relative) and his sons used the chicken house as a deer-hunting cabin. Somehow it was fitting that it be a place where the menfolk could butcher deer on the screened-in porch by lamplight, and sit around the woodstove retelling the ancient family fables of the many hunts that took place on this land.

"No more, though. Now, one of his sons, Clay Junior, a construction laborer, lives in the chicken house with his wife Krassie and their three children, after having lost their own home in the national mortgage rip-off. Among America's disposable millions with disposable jobs and disposable lives, and among the grandchildren of those 22 million displaced rural foks (after the Second World War), they were born into a parallel world to the middle class. For them, it was one of life's givens that they would long have been working while others were pursuing higher education. Consequently they are among the 50 million Americans who read at a fourth-grade or fifth-grade level.

"They can be thankful, though, that they are not quite among the 42 million American adults who read even more poorly. Nearly one-third of our nation's population is illiterate or barely literate, and cannot read predatory car loans, mortgage documents, or credit-card agreements. The first to be discarded from the work force, they composed the vanguard and the bulk of property foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. That was before the national mortgage rot began eating into the middle class - people who could read well enough, but apparently could not do the maths, or believed that their job tenure as the Empire's paper-shufflers was vouchsafed by God himself. The Krassies and Clay Juniors at least have the excuse of poor literacy.

"America's semi-literacy, our general inability to read about the workings of government and the outside world, never gets in the way of our self-esteem. Fed on the delusion that all wisdom resides in the common man, and that our opinions and judgement are all to be equally valued, no matter what frothy dreck issues from our mouths and minds, we never doubt ourselves. This 'every man is a natural fountain of wisdom' myth is a sop, of course, and compensates for the obvious disparities and injustices taking place before our very eyes. No matter how bad things get, the rest of the world is worse off, because 'By God, I live in the only free nation in a world of dictators and jealous terorists. I live in an anointed republic where my opinion is just as good as any king's! More so, because I am the common man in a realm where the common man is king, dammit!'

Semi-literacy endows its tribe with the absolute surety and conviction of those who don't know what they don't know, rendering them blustering, happy idiots who haven't the slightest damned notion of anything beyond appearances. Delighting in the simple-minded images and slogans that have come to replace language, they buy the T-shirts of Barack Obama dressed as bin Laden, or sporting a Hitler moustache, and believe that the Democratic Party is setting up death panels for the elderly to save on the national cost of healthcare. Most ominously, they are hostages to political manipulation.

In November 2008, during the last days of the presidential elections, I stopped by to visit Clay, Krassie, and the kids...Stepping into the porch of the chicken house, I found the front door wide open before me, despite the cold, and a wood-pellet stove struggled away at full blast. It crossed my mind that Pap (the late grandfather) would have kicked somebody's ass for wasting heat like that. Visible from the doorway were the three kids on the worn, dirty carpet in a sea of crumbs, eating bright-orange, hyper sweet cakes out of a box. Clay Junior was off somewhere in his truck scouting for deer signs - hunting season opened the next week. Sprawled on the couch in a grungy pink sweat-suit, Krassie, overweight and fast headed for that permanent post-third child white-trash obesity, was immersed in a Fox News program about the elections, now just a couple of days away.

"Somehow, I'd not imagined her having the slightest interest in politics or the elections. As it happened, though, Obama's race had grabbed Krassie's attention. More accurately, America's far right had taken up residence in her vacant political mind. More bluntly, the Republican Party had run its hand up her ass and was now operating her like a puppet, flapping her mouth. After the initial greetings and obligatory Southern small talk, she informed me that, 'If Obama is elected, every white woman will be a slave to some nigger.'

"Even I, a man who listens daily to some of the most ridiculous, ignorant sludge that the American mind has to offer, was floored. This was raw-hate stuff here, and Krassie is by no means a hateful person. Dumb as a sack of goat hair, yes, but hateful, absolutely not.

" 'Where did you learn that?' I asked.

" 'It's right here on the Internet. I'll show you.'

"She sat down at her computer in the kitchen,which was parked beneath a mounted deer head on the wall. We Southerners see no conflict between taxidermy and kitchen decor...It struck me how much my mountain tribe, meat hunters for two-and-a-half centuries in these hills, are truly people of the deer. It also struck me that as a child I had curled up in that very corner where the computer sat, listening to hunting stories, and/or reading library books. In one of those strange, flitting memory images, I recalled finishing up Jim Bishop's classic, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, right there in that corner, right in that spot during one of our Christmas-holiday stays.

"The computer was agonizingly slow. While we waited for it to gnaw its way through to a modem connection, Krassie's oldest daughter, age eleven, offered her opinion. 'I like Obama,' she said. 'He's very smart.' There was no objection on Krassie's part. Remember: our people are believers in and defenders of the right to opinion, even the most ill-informed - probably because we own the majority of them. Looking at the child, I thought, Now there's a little niece who's going to feel very trapped in this wasteland, if she doesn't alrady. The computer ground on and on. Finally, I hedged my way out of the wait with 'I'll take your word for it, Krassie.'


Slumberjack
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I can't seem to muster up the slightest bit of sympathy for any of these people.


al-Qa'bong
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If one believes what John Taylor Gatto says in his article, "SOME LESSONS FROM THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION," having an ignorant underclass has been part of the plan for almost a century.

 

Quote:
"It has come to be desirable that children should not engage in productive labor. On the contrary, all recent thinking ... [is) opposed to their doing so. Both the interests of organized labor and the interests of the nation have set against child labor. "

 

The statement occurs in a section of Public Education called "A New Lengthening of the Period of Dependence," in which Cubberley explains that "the coming of the factory system" has made extended childhood necessary by depriving children of the training and education that farm and village life once gave. With the breakdown of home and village industries, the passing of chores, and the extinction of the apprenticeship system by large-scale production with its extreme division of labor (and the "all conquering march of machinery"), an army of workers has arisen, said Cubberley, who know nothing.
.
.
Furthermore, modern industry needs such workers. Sentimentality could not be allowed to stand in the way of progress. According to Cubberley, with "much ridicule from the public press" the old book-subject curriculum was set aside, replaced by a change in purpose and "a new psychology of instruction which came to us from abroad." That last mysterious reference to a new psychology is to practices of dumbed-down schooling common to England, Germany, and France, the three major world coal-powers (other than the US), each of which had already converted its common population into an industrial proletariat long before.

 

 


George Victor
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Anyone actually reading Bageant's work, and with any knowledge of the U.S.schools systems, understands that schools in the hill country are particularly vulnerable, not just an example of the "dumbed-down schooling common to England, Germany and France." And the political effect on the naive, underschooled, born-again redneck/hillbilly population is seen in every news story out of the U.S.

Bageant explains the Tea Party origins:

"Even knowing where Krassie got this stuff, I had to verify it: 'Where did you learn all this?' I asked Krassie.

" 'On the Townhall website,'

"Along with the Fox Network and the rabidly right-wing website Free Republic, Townhall.com helps make up the information trinity for millions of redneck and underclass whites. America's political elites quite well understand that not only is this class disposable, but so are its handfed truths. Any expedient lie that works can be used, then flushed and replaced with the next one, ad infinitum, even if today's lie contradicts yesterday's lie. THeir memories are less than an inch long, and yesterday's lie is  completely forgotten.

"On the other hand, installing a hot button in their brains is about as easy as it gets. When it comes to the effect of simple repetition on simple minds, you couldn't do better than my native stomping grounds of Virginia and West Virginia, as was demonstrated during packed 'town hall meetings' during President Obama's healthcare reform initiative....In Southwest Virginia's voting district 0, the town hall meetings' sponsoring congressman was Rick Boucher. 'Slick Rick', a 14-termer, is one of those rightist Democrats never examined by our simplistic media, which treat coth parties as if they were completely uniform in their make-up. He is pro the Iraq and Afghan wars, he is bought and paid for by the utilities and communications companies, and he is the tenth most powerful person in Congress.

"A throng of Krassies - those screaming, red-faced white folks so loved by news cameras - turned out to fill his town hall meeting. Ruddy, overweight working people with neck veins bulging and fists shaking, they made gripping footage for the news hour, even with the sound off. In glaring contrast to them was a lone older back woman, there to tell the senator about her Down syndrome grandchild: 'The child can't get the physical and mental care he needs because our family can't afford any kind of healthcare at all...We are just too poor,' she concluded, near tears. Her touching plea was interrupted by a sheer burst of redneck compassion. Yessiree! A young white man jumped up and screamed, 'It's a wonder they didn't abort him!' An angry chorus of mob agreement went up.

"Between that whole sorry assemblage there was not enough combined brainpower to piss, much less ask: Who didn't abort the child? Who are we talking about here? And what in the name of heaven does this have to do with fixing the healthcare system? The implied villains were - who else? - those dirty liberal baby-killers. Instantlty , abortion rights had become the main theme of the meeting. Goodbye to any further discussion of healthcare reform. All it took was one well-inculcated hot-button word: 'abortion'. My redneck people had responded right on cue.

"Few if any of them could be called political types by any stretch. Ordinarily, they would have been home stuffing their pie holes and waiting for that day's winning lottery number on TV. But they had shown up at the behest of local Republican businessmen, the Chamber of  Commerce, and fundamentalist pastors, who in turn were orchestrated by healthcare-industry lobbyists and industry public-relations firms. And, by golly, America was gonna hear the genuine, bona fide, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth, unadulterated opinion of the common man! Just as soon as they were all instructed as to that opinion."

 


Slumberjack
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These people were lost and reported missing from the human collective ages ago.  It's long past time to call off the search parties.  They're better left to the vultures to pick over.


al-Qa'bong
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Quote:

Anyone actually reading Bageant's work, and with any knowledge of the U.S.schools systems, understands that schools in the hill country are particularly vulnerable, not just an example of the "dumbed-down schooling common to England, Germany and France."

The reference to the European school systems signifies that they were a model upon which the US corporatists had their agents design their curricula...almost a century ago.  Some European systems are still quite active in sorting out, at a startling young age, who will become a bus driver and who will be a surgeon.


George Victor
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Returning to Virginia hill country and Bageant's explanation of their politics:

"The sad truth is that the pent-up anger has little to do with feelings about healthcare, but a helluva lot to do with all the shitty breaks, insults, and degradations that come with being an underclass citizen of the Empire. We are conditioned in much the same way as a dog is trained to bite on command. It doesn't matter who gets bitten - the dog gets the satisfaction of biting somebody for a change, and his master looks pleased when he does.

"Healthcare reform had 70 per cent support when it began. After a few weeks of orchestrated slap-downs of its proponents at town hall meetings, and staged citizen revolts, public opinion of healthcare reform was in the toilet. Ordinary, quiet people, who never evendiscuss poltics, started to have doubts when they saw folks like themselves on television rising up in what was touted by blonde meat-puppet anchorpersons and jowly, self-important male pundits as  'a nationwide protest by the common man'. Boucher could now go back to Capitol Hill and give evidence that voters in his white underclass district were vehemently against any kind of insurance-industry reform. They prefer the status quo. They like the fuck-job they are getting. They prefer being without health insurance, and going into medical bankruptcy, rather than enjoying the benefits of affordable healthcare.

"Once again, my people, the great unwashed and unlettered, had been sicced like dogs onto challengers of the status quo. Every time this kind of thing happens, a cheer goes up from American news consumers dining on the spectacle and hyperbole of it all. 'By God Helen! The common citizen, the working guy, the little guy, is standing up to Big Gubbyment. Says he ain't gonna take it anymore!'

"Ideas like that of 'a white woman slave to some nigger' play to our unlettered and uncultured redneck attraction to the extreme and entertaining. I've heard it said again and again that 'Old people will be killed off to save money when the government has to pay for nursing care,' and I've refrained from pointing out that the vast majority of America's elderly are in facilities that are already being paid for by the government. But the notion of government death panels killing dear Grandma is far more entertaining to our imaginations than guaranteed access to chest-screening tests and blood-pressure medicines. Two generations into this national infantilization, it's now the only political life that the underclass knows - the ideological spectacle made real. It serves the few against the many, the rich against the poor, in a last big grab at what dwindling wealth remains. Ideology has uttely triumphed. If reaching right down into Krassie's world, way out here on this ridge, isn't utter triumph, I don't know what is."


Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

For a class analysis of white privilege that doesn't insult the white working class, check out the 6-part piece by Tim Wise on the Pathology of White Privilege.

Part 1


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

I watched that video and it contained no class analysis whatsoever.


al-Qa'bong
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Joined: Feb 27 2003

That post has no place in this thread. 

Rainbow Pie is all about the opposite of "white priveledge."  Bageant anticipates good ol' Maysie, where he says one of the most destructive weapons used against working class "Rednecks" is political correctness.  These people are easily corralled in a 60 million soul-strong underclass in part by the smug attitudes of liberals who dismiss them as ignorant racist yahoos who deserve their station in life.


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

Absolutely, al-Q.  That is the refreshingly relevant -if bitter - message. 


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