Sarong, it’s been good to know you.
In the comment thread of my My life as a free-rider post I wrote:
“I guess what was on my mind is there’s a sort of self-righteous smugness in this post, or in my cashmere sweater post that’s a not too distant cousin from the self-righteous smugness in posts about heritage turkeys and what not, and I wanted to think about the tendency to draw the frame of reference most flattering to the choices we’re predisposed to make.”
Recently Reihan Salam wrote:
“[W]e are in a sense living through a cultural war in which some who’ve chosen, say, more leisure and prestige are waging a symbolic struggle against those who’ve chosen more income — the object is to devalue the accumulation of material possessions, to characterize it as “greedy,”…
“Naturally, risk-averse people and people who are inclined to embrace the “greed” narrative are more inclined to sort into public sector work while risk-taking people who, say, like the idea of achieving some modicum of economic stability for their families by building their private wealth will be more inclined to sort into lucrative private sector work. But a risk-averse individual may nevertheless be a very privileged one in terms of cultural capital, while a risk-taking individual might be much less so.”
In her introductory post to the Stokology blog my sister wrote this:
“My father hails from Jersey City, 1930s. It was a rough place, from what I can tell. He learned to swim in the Hudson River, jumping off the docks across from New York City. His parents were Irish immigrants, neither of whom had the opportunity to complete high school. But they took raising their boys seriously, and all four became “white collar professionals” with graduate degrees or better. This is to say, they worked hard. They pushed. And each of the four children put himself in a position to have some choice.
“My father’s choice was to surf. Soon as he was able, he ventured west, made certain professional and economic sacrifices, all so that, at day’s end, he could immerse himself in the cold California Pacific to catch waves. Like the surfer-musicians at San Onofre, he put oceanophilia at the center of our family life, and in so doing, adjoined our lives to a particular and burgeoning culture.”
And in my post He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother I wrote:
“[W]hat I found compelling about the editorial stance of Culture11 was the assertion that culture matters; that our society is not merely the sum total of marginal economic effects; that we are not merely amebas responding to stimulus; that we are human beings…
“[and] the conclusion I’ve come to (and laying aside my presume cynicism on the part of its leaders) is that the Conservative Cultural Project, their part in our nations benighted and benighting “culture war” fails, not because it goes to far, but because it doesn’t go far enough; that vast swathes of our heritage, our flintier virtues are conspicuous in their absence from the litany of Conservative Cultural Complaints.”
I take Reihan’s point: income alone doesn’t decide who can, will, or should indulge their appetite for $8/pound turkey, or thrift store sweaters. Petty convictions are a luxury not everyone can afford; and flaunting them is boorish.
But I hope we’re not having (yet) a(nother) culture war. I’m tired of wars.