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Scots/Irish in America and War
January 26, 2006 12:06 AM   Subscribe

They fight OUR WARS Revenge of The Mutt People", by Joe Bageant is a striking essay about the hopelessness and pride of the impoverished decendants of Scots/Irish stock found in rural America. More information here. -from rigourous intuition-
posted by thedailygrowl (67 comments total)

 
What do you mean by "our" wars, white man?
posted by squirrel at 12:22 AM on January 26, 2006


Wow — intelligence coupled with observation plus common sense, by someone who's actually been there. Should be required reading for just about everyone.
posted by rob511 at 12:39 AM on January 26, 2006


wow seconded.

This was really interesting. Thanks.
posted by lenny70 at 1:08 AM on January 26, 2006


"But liberal refusal to see white people as also being diverse"
That is so true.None can argue that.
posted by highgene at 1:17 AM on January 26, 2006


Bageant is one of my favorite web writers. Part Jim Goad, part de Toqueville. Previously discussed on mefi here.
posted by telstar at 1:26 AM on January 26, 2006


very interesting, cheers. Something I've noticed over the past few years is an attempt by the protestant community in Northern Ireland to romanticise the history of their forefathers who left our shores to move to America and help found the great American nation we see today.

Great to read about what has happened to the descendants. I'm glad my Great Great Grandparents decided to stick it out here. Wouldn't be very good at slaughtering Hogs.
posted by twistedonion at 1:41 AM on January 26, 2006


Socialist opinions below. Skip it if you don't like to read them.

We have affirmative action for black and Hispanic people in the Ivy League becaude no matter how poor and uneducated the 'mutt people' are, historically, those groups have had it worse. Still, they're poorer and have less educational attainment. One in ten black males serves a prison sentence in his lifespan, and redlining is alive and well in the business and residential neighborhoods of this country.

Bageant is entirely correct that these people are being excluded from the elite educational systems, by a combination of elitism and affirmative action. He is also correct that all the Fair Trade coffee, Body Shop, and TIAA-CREF social fund on earth won't do shit to fix it.

The thing is, though, that this massive, working-class white majority maintains (and is encouraged to maintain) a persistent racism and narrow conservatism precisely so they do not make common cause with their fellow cannon-fodder, urban and rural black Americans. And the reverse is also true. Black Americans are encouraged to distrust the 'mutt people.' In terms of long term social impact, the racism promulgated against blacks by white elites is far greater, but the up-front brutality offered them by 'mutt people' still looms large.

Inter-working-class racism is the persistent, brilliantly effective divide and conquer strategy of the elites of this country.

All the solutions are equally fucking impossible within this social framework, because they get blocked by a perfectly balanced system of domination. For example: The first step to a solution is for the white elites, who determine the cultural content of mass media, to systematically eradicate the racism from it. Or, the first step to a solution is a massive redistribution of government wealth out of defence and into healthcare and comprehensive education. Or, the first step to a solution is a massive decriminalization of drugs and rehabilitation for young offenders. Or, the first step to a solution is a reworking of education to aggressively force the religions and even the parents not to teach bigotry to their children.

None of these are possible within the US liberal democracy, which has been a great place (for me) to live. I love the hell out of it, I really do. But I think that it's incapable of addressing the problem, which is that a capitalist elite is structuring the system to make it very cruel and un-free for most of its citizens (mutt people included) and the people of the world. It's not a conspiracy, it's an organically developed, robust, agile system and it's incredibly difficult to change from within. Even Martin Luther King couldn't do it.

We (and I mean white people, and especially white elites, like the majority reading this website) have to get over our caste consciousness first, before anything else can change.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:51 AM on January 26, 2006


And I apologize for posting this. It sounds like a rant and I'm sorry I'm not a better communicator of my views.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:53 AM on January 26, 2006


The thing is, though, that this massive, working-class white majority maintains (and is encouraged to maintain) a persistent racism and narrow conservatism precisely so they do not make common cause with their fellow cannon-fodder, urban and rural black Americans.

That bears repeating on it's own I think. No need to apologize, very insightful comment and and very true. The worst bigots in Northern Ireland are the working class prods. So if my ancestors have grown seperate yet still hold similar beliefs then is it in our genes?
posted by twistedonion at 2:09 AM on January 26, 2006


And these rural, poor mutt people, they have blogs?
posted by johnny novak at 2:37 AM on January 26, 2006


Y'know, in the event, I'd prefer printing this out and tucking it in my wallet to going to the trouble of composing a suicide note.
posted by alumshubby at 3:01 AM on January 26, 2006


Strongly written, but I don't get his main point: he seems to be addressing white middle-class liberals and suggesting they are to blame for his cultural group dying in foreign wars and suffering from a lack of opportunity based on poor educational achievement.

Now I'm British, so excuse my ignorance, but as I understood it US middle-class liberals were anti-war and pro-education: much more so than the hard-right members of his cultural group, including his fellow Scots-Irish currently "running loose in the White House" as he puts it.

It looks to me like he's attacking white middle-class liberals because that's what his cultural group does, rather than because he has a coherent argument. Oh, and I particularly liked:

his stubborn proud people does not whine beg or threaten its way to access to education, employment or anything else.

followed by

America can no longer withstand the political naiveté of this ignored white class. Middle class American liberals cannot have it both ways ... At some point down the road all the Montessori schools and Ivy League degrees in the world are not going to save your children and grandchildren from what our intellectual peasantry, whether born of neglect or purposefully maintained, is capable of supporting politically. We’ve all seen the gritty black and white newsreels from the 1930s.
posted by alasdair at 3:35 AM on January 26, 2006


Oh what a load of elitist crap that was.

(Guess what part of MY ancestry is? And my grandma even had that coalburning stove in the middle of her living room, with chamber pots and no running water inside to boot.)
posted by konolia at 4:53 AM on January 26, 2006


It's sort of interesting that the same kind of sharp division simply doesn't exit in Canada despite having a very similar immigration history.

I've notice this culture gap in the U.S. and also here in England.
posted by srboisvert at 5:13 AM on January 26, 2006


I'm sorry I'm not a better communicator of my views

You're a better communicator of yours than Joe Bageant is of his.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 5:17 AM on January 26, 2006


It's sort of interesting that the same kind of sharp division simply doesn't exit in Canada...

Slavery. It's the cultural gift that keeps on giving.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Part Jim Goad, part de Toqueville.

Part HST.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2006


This was an interesting and entertaining read, for the most part, as it does a very good job describing in a colorful way how one socio-economic/ethnic class could spawn the likes of Audie Murphy on the one hand, and the Ku Klux Klan on the other. Like others, however, I was mystified as to his point. Was it that education is the magic bullet? Or that the elites systematically keep our pit bull class down so that they will do its bidding? Or that the Scots-Irish need their own affirmative action program?

The vagueness of it diminishes the power of his message to the point of incomprehensibility. It reads like a half-baked rant that started out strong, but never really goes anywhere.
posted by psmealey at 7:07 AM on January 26, 2006


alasdair, there's no contradiction in what he's said ... they don't "whine, beg or threaten" ... when they make up their minds they want something, they stand up and fight for it

white middle class liberals and conservatives despise the people that he's talking about and they know it ... one can say, of course, that black people have it worse in this country and in many ways they do ... but they have a political and cultural leadership that is recognized as standing for their interests ... poor white "rednecks" have nothing of the kind, unless one counts pandering right wing politicians who appeal to their religious and political prejudices without actually doing anything to improve their situation

in the early 90s many of them got sick of it and started their own movement ... groups that called themselves militias ... since oklahoma city, these groups are presenting a much lower profile, but the sentiment and the attitudes, not to mention the guns are still around

the only thing that's keeping the lid on is relative prosperity ... and the disturbing self-destruction of many in the meth epidemic

i'm not one of them, but i know them fairly well ... along with their xenophobia and their stringent religious and social beliefs, there's a real sense that the government doesn't give a damn about them ... and in my experience after talking to all kinds of people in my life, they are the people who are mostly likely to say things like, "we need a revolution in this country"

if they ever get around to it, it's not going to be pleasant
posted by pyramid termite at 7:11 AM on January 26, 2006


Why not have affirmative action for Appalachian kids from the Ohio Basin or from the Deep South ... Why don’t we do these things?

Uh, we do, last I heard.

Applicants from rural areas with terrible public schools in counties that haven't sent anyone in 10 years have a leg up at elite university admissions over similarly-qualified applicants from suburbs.

And many top-level state universities have a strong geographic-representation element in their admissions criteria to ensure that not everyone at UNC is from the suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh and not everyone at Michigan is from tony suburbs and not everyone at Virginia is from NoVA, etc, all of which should benefit his "mutt people."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:13 AM on January 26, 2006


I think a lot here are quibbling over the definition of Liberal... The author isn't complaining about the Noam Chomsky set, he is complaining about the people who think Clinton was a-ok.
We do your bidding. Your refusal to admit that we do your dirty work for you, not to mention the international smackdowns and muggings for the republic -- from which you benefit more materially than we ever will -- makes it no less true.


Anyway, it certainly does exist in Canada. It is more subtle, and it is hardly noticeable in Toronto anymore, but it is common if you let yourself see it. Just think about hockey culture, or the way oil money and a small town mindset have met to create the politics of Alberta - Wiebo Ludwig.
posted by Chuckles at 7:29 AM on January 26, 2006


I guess that shouldn't be a capital L...
posted by Chuckles at 7:29 AM on January 26, 2006


This is a discussion on poverty, not on a supposed population of Scotch-Irish who are continually left sitting on the doorsill. If the author removed Scotch-Irish and pointed at impoverished rural individuals, then I'd agree with some of what he had to say.

Frankly, however, the Scotch-Irish in America have done relatively well for themselves. My grandfather grew up on a farm where as a kid, he wanted to stay home and help slaughter hogs instead of go to school, where there was no electricity and he had to cross a stream to use the outhouse. He never went to college, but he found a job that paid well enough to provide a comfortable living. His son, my father, then went on to get an engineering degree and law degree. This story isn't rare in the region of Appalachia where my family came from.

What we don't need in America is one more person attempting to divide us by race or ethnicity. Seperation by class is a much more important issue that needs to be raised and addressed.
posted by Atreides at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2006


Romantic nationalism bullcrap.
posted by stbalbach at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2006


This is related to something I've been thinking over since seeing an old stand-up act by a black comedian on TV. His routine focused on "remember how it was" lines of life when he was a kid--the one that I remember strongly was putting water in the ketchup bottle to stretch it further.

It was a major epiphany for me, listening to this comedian and realizing that all of these things held true for me, growing up as one of Bageant's poor white mutt people. The comedian was casting them as a "black" thing, but I realized that no, they were poor things. And I and my family had more in common with him and his upbringing than I did with middle class whites.

And yet, my family is mostly racist and conservative. One of my earliest memories was my grandfather teaching me racist joke after racist joke.

I sometimes wonder if this division between two groups of extremely poor is deliberate somehow. Because if they were united, I can't imagine what they could accomplish politically. I know I'd vote for a Poverty party, even though I've managed to escape poverty for myself.
posted by JeremyT at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2006


Here is a much bigger chunk on the Wiebo Ludwig story: Saboteurs excerpt - I haven't read it. I was just doing some brief reading on the Social Credit movement because of the election - part economic theory, part right wing populism - It was most popular in Alberta and Quebec. Emphasis on brief! I think it was worth contributing despite my lack of information on the topic.
posted by Chuckles at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2006


The article is blunt because the problem is blunt. It would be nice if there were straightforward, integer-like solutions to these problems, but there aren't. To complain that his article is unfocused is assuming that all real problems have straightforward solutions and that all valuable articles are concise and direct about such problems.

The problems here lie in the arena of the subconscious (irrational views), therefore it makes sense (to me, at least) that a description of them is going to be in the same vein. I believe it was a rather eloquent description of a rather intractable issue, one that can't be figured out with integers or zero-sum statements.
posted by SanitarySewer at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2006




I'll second Atreides on what we don't need.

If y'all insist on continuing the present socioeconomic arrangement you should switch money from your war and police budgets to your educational one, institute class-based (not race-based) affirmative action (especially in Higher Learning), and make sure everybody can get decent health care (by which I don't meant mean boob jobs). A wee bit more democracy would improve a lot of things -- think of Sweden.

This suggestion is a pitiful baby step towards what would REALLY work wonders, but since the opinion polls show that saying things like things like "we need decent health care for all" marks one as a wingnut weirdo I'll hold my tongue on the real solution.

And by the way, somebody should tell Bageant that Gee Dubya Bush is not a "mutt person" but a flunkout from the New England elite who bought himself a nifty accent. Remember his Daddy's vacation complex in Kennebunkport?
posted by davy at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2006


And by the way, somebody should tell Bageant that Gee Dubya Bush is not a "mutt person" but a flunkout from the New England elite who bought himself a nifty accent.

I don't think it's Bageant that needs to understand that. I think the point was that most of the voters who "identify" with Bush for being "of the people" need to understand it.
posted by rollbiz at 8:35 AM on January 26, 2006


Thanks to rough_ashlar, I'm now aware that there's such a thing as a Gini coefficient. I've been pondering for a decade how the US seems to be slowly joining the Third World, but I'd never found any attempts to quantify the growing inequity I'd sensed.
posted by alumshubby at 8:42 AM on January 26, 2006


"And these rural, poor mutt people, they have blogs?"

I once attended a talk by a Social Worker who had internetized his entire practice (he had developed some sort of enterprise software system for social work, and was now selling it instead of doing actual social work), and although I didn't pay much attention to the details, the one thing I took away from it was his big talking point, repeated again and again:

"The digital divide is bullshit. People on welfare have access to the internet, and they use it as much as rich people."

I'm not sure I totally buy into his point--he may have exaggerated to make some sales--but I think he was correct to a certain point.

But the blog in question is by a "Mutt person" that "escaped" (if that's the right word) and is an educated professional writer.

I found the response letter entitled "60s Black Panther says we've got to change" sort of funny, but I'm not sure why.

Anyone know what that dude meant by he was a "Le**-Ne***"?

I'm guessing the Ne*** = Negro, but I can not find an acceptable two letters for Le**. Left? Leet? Lead?
posted by illovich at 9:08 AM on January 26, 2006


"At some point down the road all the Montessori schools and Ivy League degrees in the world are not going to save your children and grandchildren from what our intellectual peasantry, whether born of neglect or purposefully maintained, is capable of supporting politically."

Damn straight.

Great article. The whining in the thread about race vs class is unceccsary. As has been pointed out

1) It's a crime to be Poor in America irrespective of race.

2) Certain self-identified impoverished ethnic groups have been better at pointing out this injustice and sorting out techniques to bootstrap their way out as an ethnic group. As they felt the sting of racism in the past, which contributed to their impoverishment, their pleas have been doubly morally virtuous.


Good screed. People should read it.
posted by lalochezia at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2006


The Gini coefficient is essentially bullshit; it measures inequality not actual wealth or purchasing power. We have greater inequality in the U.S. because we have more wealthy people than other countries, not because the rich are bleeding the poor.

Wealth in and of itself is not a zero-sum game. Steve Jobs does not make money by taking food out of the mouths of the poor. We define poverty in the U.S. as encompassing people who have cable TV, cars, indoor plumbing etc. a lot of comparative luxuries to people in places around the world where poverty actually means starving to death.

Inequality may cause some long term political problems, but the U.S. is hardly "slowly joining the Third World" so let's take the exit of the hyperpole turnpike right now.

Also, Bageant is awful. I appreciate his gusto, but just because the man has been poor and knows how to slaughter a pig AND happens to somehow agree with liberal views on war, wealth and exploitation doesn't mean he's especially insightful.

He certainly doesn't seem to acknowledge that class mobility has been particularly good in America historically as it would undermine what he's saying. But within his lifetime it's been undeniably revolutionary in this country.
posted by Heminator at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2006


"The digital divide is bullshit. People on welfare have access to the internet, and they use it as much as rich people."

A few years ago, I was out in the Kentucky countryside and was amazed by how many signs and billboards I saw for hi-speed internet; this was just a few months after we had gotten it in Louisville.
posted by 235w103 at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2006


Not to belabor this point to death (as I agree that his main points are more about the intractability of poverty from one ethnocentric point of view, and that actual ethnicity is secondary), but there's a fairly long list of prominent Americans of Scots-Irish descent on the Wikipedia. It includes 11 US Presidents.
posted by psmealey at 9:43 AM on January 26, 2006


The Gini coefficient is essentially bullshit; it measures inequality not actual wealth or purchasing power. We have greater inequality in the U.S. because we have more wealthy people than other countries, not because the rich are bleeding the poor.

And yet: For a guy who owned a worldwide “family company,” was a regular on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans and whose personal representative in his will was an eponymous bank that he also owned, it appears that Samuel Curtis Johnson of Racine, Wisconsin died penniless.

According to Carol Mills, the Register in Probate for Racine County, the filing fee for Johnson’s will was $20.

“Apparently he had no assets in his own name. They filed an inventory and paid the minimum fee,” she said. Johnson died on May 5, 2004 and an application for informal probate was submitted to the court on June 6, 2004, along with an “instrument purporting to be the last will and testament dated May 22, 2003.” On May 3, 2005 the inventory was “exhibited” and the $20 filing fee was paid.

You or I could die leaving behind only a pair of old boots, and you can bet the Register in Probate would get more than twenty bucks out of us.


So, do you believe Heminator's claim, or your own lying eyes? Tax law is set up to keep the poor bled, and the rich have loopholes. A bit about H. Ross Perot


Steve Jobs does not make money by taking food out of the mouths of the poor.

Yet Mr. Jobs DOES screw his business partners out of payments and fought paying for his out of wedlock daughter Lisa.

so let's take the exit of the hyperbole turnpike right now.

Yea, right into the Reality Based Community, where there IS a difference between rich and poor.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:03 AM on January 26, 2006




There are a lot of people in this thread who read the essay without really understanding it, it seems.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2006


Actually, I believe that there is affirmitive action for rural white people, at least in the Ivy Leauge. Geographical balance is one of the criteria for admission, particularly for southern rural students. Or so says a friend of mine from rural Georgia who was accepted to every prestigious law school she applied to. (I don't know if she is right - I think she was accepted because she is very very smart. But she says being from Georgia helped.)
posted by jb at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2006


Fun reading, but pretty muddy. GWB plays the role of redneck, but he isn't a redneck. And are the mutt people predisposed to being killers because they are Scotch-Irish, or just because they are poor? Like I said, muddy.

A lot of the signifiers of class and race are quite malleable. Half of class mobility is fronting. If you can't act like an elite you'll probably never get to be one. It's easier to "pass" (pretend to be white if you are a light-skinned black) than it is to hide one's white trashiness. But to go the other way, like GWB pretends to be the common man, is easier.

As to the mutt people lacking their own MLK or Malcolm X: race is a much easier issue. You can't use racism as a hook when those in power are the same race as you. Class consciousness? Man, the revolution didn't happen in those 1930's newsreels Bageant cites, so how could it happen now? Divide and conquer, bread and circuses, recuperation by the spectacle...that stuff works!
posted by bonefish at 11:25 AM on January 26, 2006


By The Grace of God writes "We have affirmative action for black and Hispanic people in the Ivy League becaude no matter how poor and uneducated the 'mutt people' are, historically, [blacks and Hispanics] have had it worse. "




posted by orthogonality at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2006


And are the mutt people predisposed to being killers because they are Scotch-Irish, or just because they are poor?
Historically they had settled the major part of Ulster province in northern Ireland. Most had previously lived in Scotland, usually in the Lowlands and Scottish Border Country. The "Celtic Thesis" of Forrest McDonald and Grady McWhiney holds that they were basically Celtic (as opposed to Anglo-Saxon), and that all Celtic groups (Scots Irish, Scottish, Welsh and others) were warlike herdsmen, in contrast to the peaceful farmers who predominated in England. This could be viewed as oversimplifying the characteristics of these peoples, but this fact has no doubt some relevance when comparing the Ulster-Scots and English settlers of the thirteen colonies.
posted by psmealey at 11:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Heminator: I don't think you understand the essay at all, if you read it. The author probably wouldn't dispute your belief that American society is upwardly mobile and that if one wished, he/she could succeed in school and, later, in business. What he is saying is that these people don't give a shit about working their way up, they don't give a shit about going to school, and they don't give a shit about "other" people. And why? Because the rich in America have said what you are saying: it's your fault that you're poor, work harder and find a place in our society, the opportunities are there. But they aren't hearing you!! And they're saying, fuck you, you elitist asshole, I don't care about your life, but you're not hearing them!! What the author is saying is that until those with power and access decide that it's beneficial to really educate people - to make that a priority and not a burden which requires going into incredible debt - then the mongrels and mutts of the South and Appalachia will keep electing idiots and assholes to public office, and you will keep saying, work harder, idiots!
posted by billysumday at 11:37 AM on January 26, 2006


“I sometimes wonder if this division between two groups of extremely poor is deliberate somehow.”

“Tax law is set up to keep the poor bled, and the rich have loopholes.”

But why would they do that deliberately?

....oh wait, massive wealth, right.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:45 PM on January 26, 2006


Metafilter: fuck you, you elitist asshole
posted by Smedleyman at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2006


What do you mean by "our" wars, white man?

maybe this?
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:48 PM on January 26, 2006


Herminator:

No, US cities are rife with beggars and homeless, just like many parts of the third world. It's not the case that some people in the US aren't just richer than elsewhere, but that so many people are so much poorer than elsewhere too.

But most Americans haven't travelled to countries that don't spurn the weak to die in the gutters, so many think that having a class of people so poor that they beg for food on the street, is normal. It's disgusting.

Perhaps it is "normal" considering how much of the world is genuinely "third world", but considering how the wealth and resources of the USA exceeds that of countries that don't spurn their own society, it's shocking.

The inequality is not merely because Steve Jobs tilts the scale. The problem is real. And the natives are generally blind to it.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:53 PM on January 26, 2006


I also didn't really get his point. I got his complaint, but he seemed to be arguing that white liberals should be trying to make education more widely available, but... last I looked they were trying, they have been for a very long time. Education for all is that thing that liberals believe in, that's why they're called pinko commie niave hand-wringing socialist pie-in-the-sky traitors :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:32 PM on January 26, 2006


We define poverty in the U.S. as encompassing people who have cable TV, cars, indoor plumbing etc. a lot of comparative luxuries to people in places around the world where poverty actually means starving to death.

So because it's worse somewhere else, it's okay to ignore our own poor, and continue to let them suffer without health care, that sort of thing? Gee, since even slavery is better than starving to death, I've got a great idea! Just sell America's poor into slavery, and problem solved!

I hear the sex industry is always in need of new bodies to exploit.

He certainly doesn't seem to acknowledge that class mobility has been particularly good in America historically as it would undermine what he's saying. But within his lifetime it's been undeniably revolutionary in this country.

Please forgive me for not having a link handy, but my recollection is that all indicators are that class mobility in the U.S. has been decreasing in recent decades (and I believe alarmingly so). Is the "revolutionary" part the continuing rapid erosion of the middle class, and the loss of decent blue-collar jobs due to offshoring? Because I might have to agree with you, that is revolutionary. It might even result in the bloody, heads-on-pikes sort, eventually.

Seriously - it is in the interests of the haves to make sure that the situation of the have-nots doesn't get too dire. When you take everything away from someone - job, security, health care, they are left with nothing. Having nothing means they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by upsetting the status quo. Desperate people are eager to listen to demagogues willing to pander to them. And to incite them. To violence. The kind where a lot of the haves get slaughtered out of a sense of vengeance.

A big fat stable middle class is an insurance policy against violent revolution by hungry, desperate masses who have been given the shaft. If you let everyone have a good chance at winning a decent life, they are much more likely to be content to let the rich stay where they are, and quietly dream of someday joining them.

Who am I kidding? The people who need to be persuaded about this are not going to listen. They will probably have to be shown, the hard way, that sharing the wealth and opportunity is good for them in the long run.
posted by beth at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2006


Just to be 100% crystal clear, I do not advocate any sort of violence towards anyone. I just think that the lessons of history are not typically heeded. I'm frightened of what might happen, especially because I think what follows would likely be a lot worse for everyone involved.
posted by beth at 2:00 PM on January 26, 2006


In a totally different vein, I just wanted to share an idea I think might be nifty for combating racism. The problem is, it's very hard to change an adult's opinion on such things. It's something that takes a generation, at least. This is why you must focus on the children.

I envision a summer camp that intentionally brings together poor kids of all sorts, letting them mingle, get to know each other, and become friends. They will learn on a personal level that racism makes no sense. Plus, hey, poor kids don't typically have the opportunity to attend summer camps, so the camp part would be a lot of fun, too.

I would totally be willing to help fund something like this. There may very well already be projects like this, I don't know. Perhaps I'm just a naive idiot and this is stupid idea. But I thought I'd just put it out there.
posted by beth at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2006


I sometimes wonder if this division between two groups of extremely poor is deliberate somehow.

By The Grace of God's summary is very similar to my high school history teacher's summation of antibellum Life in the South: both the slaves and the White Trash thought they were better than each other, so an equilibrium was maintained. Intra-class tribal warfare kept the position of landed gentry of the upper class secure.
posted by Rash at 2:39 PM on January 26, 2006


I'll say this... I spent today working with a kid in what you would call a "redneck" school. The quality of the teaching was crap. The behavioral standards in place were crap. I saw a teacher dismiss openly racist remarks made to a Latino kid. It was the loudest, most chaotic school I've been in since my days in school 20 (!) years ago. The facility itself was a shambles, and the emphasis in every class was to prime these kids to work in factories and other menial service bullshit. I felt like these kids were just put in a pen for seven hours a day for the sheer lack of anything else to do with them, and that someone, somewhere, must consider these kids throwaways.

NC has, by and large, a well-funded school system, but the rural areas suffer greatly in quality. Oh, and I'd say that 90% of the student body appeared to represent Bageant's "mutt people," who have the same brains and the same potential that "non-mutts" have, but because of their location, are made to endure a fate of repetitive cycles, generation after generation. They'll be lucky to join the military (this coming from an avowed pacifist), lucky to have the grades just to get into Vocational School. I know I'm making generalizations, but there is a crisis going on, a silent one for which no one knows the consequences. Bageant does not make a coherent arguement, and there is a twinge of uncomfortable race baiting there. Yet he's on to something (albeit inarticulately) that will eventually matter greatly, and it's riding on the backs of those kids.
posted by moonbird at 2:53 PM on January 26, 2006


The author fails to realize that making an education at Harvard, Yale, or UVa available to more impoverished hillbillies won't make a dent in the pervasive ignorance and poverty of the so-called mutts. Sure, UVa can cherry-pick the best and the brightest out of places like my hometown: the small-town valedictorian, the genius math whiz, and ambitious class president. And once we have our degrees in hand, we get jobs in Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta or Houston, because there are no jobs back home. No jobs, no Starbucks, and no Banana Republic. We go back to Appalachia maybe once or twice a year, because a mutt with a high-class education is just another liberal elitist.

moonbird is right -- the problem is in lower education, and in the pervasive culture of anti-intellectualism that festers there. The rural poor will never have a chance until some administration is willing to go $300trillion into debt funding K-12 education and health care initiatives. Till then, we're all out of luck.
posted by junkbox at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2006


Good screed indeed. I suspect some of you fail to get the point because you've never known any mutt people.

Oh what a load of elitist crap that was.

If you're referring to the linked screed, I find that remark completely incomprehensible. "Elitist crap" might be one way to insult MetaFilter, but I don't see how you can apply it to Joe Bageant.
posted by languagehat at 3:24 PM on January 26, 2006


As a descendant of Eastern Kentucky hillbilly white trash ( we have escaped, somewhat, in a half ass way, to Ohio) I look forward to the day the shit hits the fan.

My mean streak says: Instead of my brethern being sent around the world to kill brown people, howabout killing the upper class elitetist fucks in this country who benefit from the deaths.

Revolution would be so satisfying. Oh well, I can dream. The gods willing it may happen. What we need is a long deep depression and pressure or perceived pressure on our country from without. Prime conditions.

Too harsh? I have been drinking alot, as my kind is wont to do. So pay no attention.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 6:52 PM on January 26, 2006


Revolution would be so satisfying.

Alas, any revolution as you have alluded to will be bloody, with 'the trash' getting the short brown sticky end of the stick.

Look at most revolutions - the aggitators tend to be kicked out of the ruling class low levelers. The revolution ends up being seen by them as their way to become the new boss, same as the old boss.

If you want a revolution, start in your own life. Free yourself as much as you can in as many ways as you can from the power structure. Be debt free for a start. Stop watching televison. Read non-corporate media, like this site where you will get exposed to other ideas/links. The only way the elite have power is what they are allowed by the people under them who support them. If no one was growing food to feed Donald Trump, how long would he last? What could Donald Trump do if he had no staff to serve him, no secertary to filter his calls, no one to take out his trash, no one to fax his papers? You want a revolution, you figure out the way to have the people at the bottom of the pyramid learn how to say "NO".
posted by rough ashlar at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2006


What would a bloody revolution in the USA today even look like? Trolly isn't the only person thinking/talking about it, so I'm curious. What form would it take? Who/what would be targeted In Reality (answers like "the elite" are the Theory, how would the elite be targeted? Roadblocks that let through older model cars and set upon expensive ones? Firebombing surburban houses ala LA riots? What?)

Should this be an AskMefi post? :)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:53 PM on January 26, 2006


Something that bothers me - liberals might not like mutts in person and in politics, but they have been trying to raise mutt benefits, education, minimum wage, etc, and have been prepared to put their money where their mouth is by voting for higher taxes at their higher wage brackets to make these things possible.

The author indicates the liberals are mistakenly considered the enemy by the mutts, and that's a problem - wouldn't a revolution end up being against the liberals, and thus simply make permanent the conditions that the author believes are the cause of the problem?

Wouldn't a revolution, even if successful, especially if successful, just make the mutts worse off?
posted by -harlequin- at 8:09 PM on January 26, 2006


"liberals might not like mutts in person"

I need to work jocks and nerds into this too somehow. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:08 PM on January 26, 2006


What would a bloody revolution in the USA today even look like?

I don't know for sure, but I bet it involves lots of property burned in riots, roundups of citizens based on internet posts, gunplay, an attempt by the state to pacify the masses with free cable TV (to make curfew/marshall law more palatable) and a bunch of rich people shocked, shocked that such a thing could happen because ideas like 'the large difference between rich and poor cause civil strife is bullshit' and shocked at the idea that things like the welfare state kept the poor from rioting.

The new twist would be free cable TV.

Wouldn't a revolution, even if successful, especially if successful, just make the mutts worse off?

All that would change is the owner of the jackboot on the neck. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Or whatever cliche you want that would agree. The destruction of spare capacity in any revolutionary process will make life more difficult for everyone.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:47 PM on January 26, 2006


All that would change is the owner of the jackboot on the neck.

Amen. As an old friend of mine used to say (who grew up in 1980s Poland), "revolutions are nothing but redistributions of the Mercedes-Benzes".
posted by psmealey at 3:49 AM on January 27, 2006


I really don't want revolution. As I read this thread the tone, or part of the tone, struck me as a little funny. So I made a post intended to be a joking, over the top, representation of the dangerous, disgruntled mutt people. I didn't do a good job of indicating it was tongue-in-cheek. It reads straight.

Genuine revolution would not be pretty. Innocents murdered. And I, for one, would most certainly not welcome our new revolutionary overlords. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss indeed.

I am from Ky, but not eastern Kentucky. And I don't feel very trashy. However I would like to see some large changes in this country. As alot of people would. Peaceable change.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 8:05 AM on January 27, 2006


I don't want a revolution either. The question is is it the only method to stop the insidious feedback mechanisms I described above, or not?
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:46 PM on January 27, 2006


By The Grace of God,

Putting the question straight to me. You describe solutions that might be possible for our present situation and then...

None of these are possible within the US liberal democracy, which has been a great place (for me) to live. I love the hell out of it, I really do. But I think that it's incapable of addressing the problem, which is that a capitalist elite is structuring the system to make it very cruel and un-free for most of its citizens (mutt people included) and the people of the world. It's not a conspiracy, it's an organically developed, robust, agile system and it's incredibly difficult to change from within.

It is an organic system! And no I do not believe that a little wealth distribution or aggressive education or easing of drug laws and treatment will amount anything. It will take a cataclysmic event, or events, to even offer the possibility of large change in this structure (country).

However, as the US social structure is an organic being so the world social structure is an organic being. Countries and peoples of the world are jockeying for their place in this world structure. After 911 the US took a even more proactive role than usual in assuring our dominance in the world.

And for the present time this is the key. After 911 whoever was in power, whether Republican or Democrat or other, would have had their clarion call answered with a big YES. The American people felt threatened on a us or them basis and elected a weak candidate because he was in power and appealed to their fear. It would be hard to make any real changes in this country right now because our attention is outward. The external threat is not great enough to cause or offer opportunities great enough for large change internally.

So the war in Iraq drags on. The deaths mount. No clear goal is enunciated except Win the War on Terror. The American people are getting restless about Iraq and our current President. But this is not enough to cause real change. (And real change does not consist of electing Democrats instead of Republicans)

Only severe economic hardships (oil shortage. food shortage, ect.) coupled with external pressure will offer oppurtunities for real change. And real change does not have to be total violent revolution. History offers plenty of examples. The names and some of the issues have changed but the fundemental conditions of change are not different than they were in the past.

What is "real change"? In this country I believe it would be restructuring of the classes. More inclusiveness(to put it very mildy)for all US citizens. Where life is more valued than property. The opposite is true now.

That is the long answer to your question.

The short answer is it depends on the circumstances.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 8:15 PM on January 27, 2006


Trolley:

A friend of mine, observing the US as a matter of interest, said that 9/11 was an additional pity because the USA was right in the middle of taking a good long look at itself, and starting to talk about, if not actually consider some changes that seemed long overdue to start to address some of these things, then 9/11 washed it all away. Things seemed tantalizingly close to the first signs of real change, but now, it seems worse than ever.

Just thought I'd mention that, reading what you wrote :)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:07 PM on January 27, 2006


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