Sully’s Rosetinted View of Traditional Familial Norms


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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241 Responses

  1. Avatar ty lookwell says:

    I thought this was one of the most surprising posts I’d ever read by Sullivan; it shows a real evolution in his thinking… I’d say more profound than his turn against Bush and the Iraq war. I have no idea how he continues to believe he is a conservative, at least as conservatism exists outside his head.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      In general, people will see themselves as they see themselves and can find all sorts of ways to justify it.

      Sullivan was doing some swipes at liberal’s last week that would make the Palinista’s proud. This was over Timothy Noah’s piece on emotional labor and low-wage labor at The New Republic. He seemed to find Noah’s piece to be typical liberal elitist stuff.

      I would say that Sullivan is basically a Tory of the old-school mode. He seems to have a bit of the pastoralist in him and the ability to see the Shire as what the world should be like. A small, loving, self-sufficient village. I can see him being the kind of Tory who rails against factories as being a “Dark. satanic mill”Report

    • Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

      If Tocqueville is a conservative, this post of Sullivan’s certainly is. It’s just not in ascendancy on the right at this particular moment.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    At least he quotes Daniel Bell, though I suspect that Daniel Bell would come to a radically different point considering Mr. Bell considered himself a socialist in economics until the very end of his life. One of my favorite Bell quotes is when he described himself as a “socialist in economics, liberal in politics, conservative in culture.” The documentary about the New York Intellectuals (Daniel Bell, Kristol the Pater, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Howe) is called Arguing the World and worth a watch.

    I think this is one of those areas where elements of the left and right can often intersect in allign themselves in very strange ways. I have plenty of friends on the left who also dislike how Capitalism destroys certain ways of life. I think these people have pastoral-visions of ideal society whether left or right. They imagine an idealized lifestyle that either resembles Tolkien’s Shire or some kind of largely agricultural self-sufficient cooperative.

    As a city-lover, I agree with all of your upshots. And I am generally not one of a neo-liberal bent either.

    That being said, I wonder how much people really do move in contemporary society. I’ve seen conflicting reports.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      ” I have plenty of friends on the left who also dislike how Capitalism destroys certain ways of life.”

      I just cite research studies. 😉Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      It’s a classic line and I love it. I also think Daniel Bell was full of shit there. The way I read him, he wants nothing more than free market capitalism with a strong welfare state, which he insists on calling ‘socialist.’ Maybe I read that book wrong, but I really didn’t think he’d come to something radically different from Sullivan, although probably more conservative in culture. I do think more people should read the book, even if just to disagree with it. This certainly would be a good time to read it.

      Also, I think your point here is brilliant: “I think this is one of those areas where elements of the left and right can often intersect in align themselves in very strange ways. I have plenty of friends on the left who also dislike how Capitalism destroys certain ways of life. I think these people have pastoral-visions of ideal society whether left or right. They imagine an idealized lifestyle that either resembles Tolkien’s Shire or some kind of largely agricultural self-sufficient cooperative.” Of course, to be fair, I think it’s brilliant because it’s something I’ve been thinking for some time!Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I just know the line from the documentary. I took Daniel Bell’s conservative in culture to mean he is an unrepentant lover of stuff normally labeled “high-brow” and “snobby”. I can sympathize with that to a certain extent says the man who is willing to say that Bergman movies are indeed better than the fantasy-fandom love of the movement. Hunger Games populism be damned.

        Thanks for the compliment. I generally see politics as being more of a circle than a line. The Far Left and Far Right overlap a great deal more than either side imagines.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Yeah, it’s more of a criticism of Bell. That is one of his best lines and certainly is how he described himself; I just think he was wrong about that.
          By the way, I’m increasingly convinced that no other director has reached the level of Bergman. I tried to program a monthly, year-long film series of his movies and was unable to narrow it down to anything less than 20 must-see films, which is pretty staggering.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            It is the same with someone who says something like “I did not leave the Democratic or Republican Party, they left me!”

            The way we see ourselves is unique and probably not true. Bell calling himself a socialist in economics is probably more important to him psychologically than in terms of definitional accuracy. Just like Sully prefers to think of himself as still being a conservative.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I am not sure whether I agree on Bergman or not. He is one of the great’s but he does have equals. Truffaut is my true master.

            My main issue is how so much of culture these days seems to be dominated by spectacle and stuff aimed largely at 12 year olds. The New Republic, The Nation, New York Review of Books, and NY Times seem to be the last places that really cover high and avant-garde culture in the mainstream media. I am rather upset that the liberal site Think Progress only talks about really mainstream and fandom culture: video games, TV, big blokcuster movies that have lots of special effects.

            I often wonder if a consequence of on-line journalism is going to be less coverage for geographic specific and/or high-brow art. Writing for the Internet requires writing about culture that can be seen by everyone.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              Ah, Truffaut! Yeah, that’s a point. He’s got a pretty stellar batting average. Here’s the thing I keep thinking- a lot of these great directors from that era were making really low budget movies. Persona is pretty much two women and a house. Maybe a few other actors, but the main expense was buying film. Jules and Jim is two boys, a girl, and lots of external shooting. With digital video, there ought to be hundreds of directors making things like this now, but they’re not. Even the independent filmmakers are trying to make movies for 12 year olds. I think the real issue with what you call spectacle and stuff and its coverage is that there seems to be a real fear of seriousness to it and with a lot of internet writing as well. I’d actually be happy if we could just have some critics covering the kiddie matinee in a serious way, but they’d be pilloried for it.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          (If you’re not sure whether I’m agreeing with you or not… well, neither am i!)Report

  3. Avatar TommyBoy says:

    I read Sullivan’s post, but am wondering if I read the same thing you did.

    I did not interpret his post as saying “things were so glorious back then” as much as “one of the realities of our modern life, fueled by capitalism, is that mobility and lifestyle changes and employment changes had an effect on how people care for each other.” Nothing more, nothing less – a simple observation on an unexpected consequence.Report

  4. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    For Sullivan’s first quoted passage, I can only cheer. It’s a profoundly good thing that the market is doing away with old, oppressive social structures.

    When most labor was manual, men ruled over women. When labor began to be more intellectual, things became more equal. But it was only specialization, gains from trade, and the consequent development of new technology that made it possible. Feminism is a market phenomenon, and that’s just one of the reasons why I think markets are so excellent.

    But I’ve said these things before, of course.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      But the market (Capitalism) also creates structures (of wealth and power) that then get old, but aren’t necessarily done away with (before some time goes by). Maybe theory has it that there will cycles of churn (band name alert!) that eventually topple all old structures that are not operationally vital and robust to capitalism’s dynamics of change. But those cycles may not in practice (well, really accomplish that, but in any case…) operate on time scales that stop those structures from gaining cultural and social and political valences that allow them to become associated with… capitalism itself. And thus do you get the reality that advocates of capitalism become de facto defenders of existing power structures, which they defend in the name of… Capitalism! (For, to them, ’twas capitalism that created those structures, even if they know this only by word of mouth.) It takes only a couple of generations for an institution to become powerful and venerable enough for people to come to associate the privilege of their circumstances with them, and to fashion their social arguments around the preservation of that privilege. That’s conservatism. But it’s being advanced in the name of capitalism, (even though it’s really a defense of institutions created, and also possibly doomed, by capitalism).

      Sullivan says that the “contradictions” long said to be at the center of capitalism are real, because capitalism ” disrupts traditional ways of life” and changes the very societies in which it is embedded (and which it is presumed to serve?) It’s not clear to me that that is a contradiction and not just an effect that may or may not make capitalism an unsustainable on an indefinite in any given society. But it does seem to me that what I describe above, to the extent it happens, which I do believe we have seen in the older capitalist states (basically America and Britain), is something quite close to a contradiction. Maybe not exactly, because those defending particular institutions in the name of capitalism may be confused about what they are defending. But it does seem to me that if capitalism’s nature is to churn and recycle institutions but also to create them, but also if it can’t so denature society that society stops having the tendency to venerate and cling to existing institutions for stability and a sense of security, then it may be that it will finally exist in some kind of a durable contradictory equilibrium, not smoothly recycling the productive capacities of all societal institutions, but doing so in a fitful way that doesn’t match society’s (humanity’s) lasting desire for stability and security, which may be as fundamental as its desire for material wealth. That’s something; it may not be a contradiction (if capitalism involved true contradictions, it couldn’t really exist for a year, much less two centuries), but I think it involves the interaction of processes and imperatives that reside in different realms (society on the one hand; the productive machine of capitalism on the other) that, if not opposed, are at least not well-fit for each other.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    I think you may have misread Sullivan, Ethan. He’s not celebrating the pre-welfare state or pre-capitalist era; he’s criticizing them. Pre-capitalism was impoverished and cruel. Pre-welfare state was less impoverished but if anything even crueler. His conclusion is that socialism/welfare programs and safety nets are necessary and indispensible to capitalism both on moral and practical grounds. He most assuredly isn’t pining for the paternal protection of “Lord Grantham” heck, even his worry about the present runs right alongside your own: he’s concerned that the economic engine will wreck the environment.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      He harps on the welfare state though as if it’s only needed BECAUSE of capitalism. Redistribution would have made the feudal age better as well though. Inequality was not the singular province of the revolution in free market capitalism.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I guess… though only capitalism gives the individual ownership that makes redistribution and welfare statism possible I guess? What’re the alternatives? Communism just makes the welfare state the only (officially allowed) economic entity. You can’t have redistribution when no one owns anything.Report

  6. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    I think one thing that conservatives (old school) are right about is that in moving from the old caste system to the new capitalism/meritocracy (which we haven’t got rigth yet), we have lost things that used to make people proud and gave them a positive sense of identity.

    Given everything our culture has told me, how can I be proud if I am anything other than a doctor, lawyer, executive, highly successful businessman, professional athlete, or professional/financially successful artist?

    Why can’t I be a proud shoe store employee or proud farm worker or proud assembly line worker? Why shouldn’t these be things that I aspire to as being better or as good as being a doctor or lawyer or engineer or executive.

    I’m glad that we got rid of the Grantham-Crawley style caste system that we used to have, but what we have in its place is psychological shame for those who “failed” to get one of the culturally approved of jobs and constant stress for those who are aiming at them, trying to keep them, or trying to get them for their children.

    Nowadays people aspire to be aristocratic little doctor/lawyer Lord Granthams by “moving up,” but maybe there was something good in not being able to “move up” in that you could be proud of who you were even if you didn’t move up.

    It is as if in getting rid of the caste system that taught us that some people were essentially better than others, we moved too quickly and carelessly, and ended up with a system that told people they were bad if they didn’t succeed in the right way in the capitalist game.

    IMO, all that resentment that comes from small towns and rural areas at liberal elites and change is fueled by a very real attack against the people who live in those towns in our culture that states that people who own a cheap old house in a small town where they work as a Walmart assistant manager are lesser people than those who left the town to become doctors, lawyers, or whatever, who are modern Lord Granthams and better than people who live in small towns.Report

    • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

      Shaz, this is an absolutely awesome comment.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

      In Marxist terms, alienation from the product of our labor has gotten worse for lots of people in modern (post Lord Grantham) capitalism (except the lucky and talented few), even while the social safety net has minimized exploitation to a degree by redistributing a bit of wealth.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I get what you are sort of saying but I am not sure that I completely agree.

      I think we are seeing a resurgence in the idea of finding pride and joy in manual and craft labor especially because those jobs are not very corporate and with the global crash.

      A few years ago there was a book released to some acclaim called “shopcraft as soulcraft” that urged people to reconsider manual labor and craft jobs for income. There also seems to be a movement among a certain subsection of 20-somethings going into creating products of various sorts over bland and boring office work. Most of these tend to be foodie products that you would see on Portlandia. I know some young university-educated people who decided to buy small farms and live the country life.

      The problem is economies of scale and sustainability. There are not many family farms left anymore. Industrialization and population increase has made that an untennable way of life for most people. People who make small-batches of jam and beer and chocolate need to sell it at a higher price to make a profit and this means they need rich people willing to pay those prices.

      As to your last paragraph, I don’t know anyone who really thinks like that. That is the perception but not the reality. If we attack your culture, it is not a small town away of life but various conservative desires to impose your culture on our way of life with DOMA type acts.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        If we attack your culture, it is not a small town away of life but various conservative desires to impose your culture on our way of life with DOMA type acts.

        That just isn’t true, ND. It goes beyond politics. Indeed, it’s not just liberals that paint such pictures. Heck, I find myself having to back away from notions that this place is “lesser” than where I am from. That I should feel sorry for the people who live here. There are certainly political angles, but it is not in any way a polite sort of “we disagree with you on such-and-such, and that’s what this is about.”Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          “That just isn’t true, ND.”

          I might argue that in some ways it kind of is – at least in my experience. And it’s not because Big City People are better than Little Rural Town People. It’s because Little Rural Town People always seem to be aware of what goes on (or that they imagine goes on) in the Big City, but Big City People tend not to think about Little Rural Towns all that much.

          My experience is that the default negative and disrespectful position of LRTP toward BCP is to be openly hostile toward them; the default negative and disrespectful position of BCP toward LRTP is that they forget they exist.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            I should say that I’m not advocating that one is better than the other.Report

          • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

            I agree that there is an asymmetry as far as how much thought each gives towards the other. The question is what sort of attitude is taken when it does come up. I’ve commented before that popular entertainment doesn’t realize that Idaho exists except when they need white supremacists for the plot. Or else a sterling example of not just political backwardness, but cultural as well. When mentions are infrequent, it’s sort of aggravating. Beyond that, when city folks denigrate Walmart shoppers, for instance, the profile they draw up starts to look familiar and the target is a place that is a lifeblood to Idaho towns. Essentially, there are all sorts a class cues we have that put cosmopolitan types up here andrural-types down here.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              I don’t know that I agree.

              Hollywood city-dwellers include witty socialites, but they also include gang members, 1% eliters out to destroy good people and Me-Me-Me yuppie-villains. Rural areas have backwards supremacists and racists, but they also have the long tall cowboyesque heroes, the men of actions not words, the simple but wise elders and the plucky up and comers.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Tod, keep an eye out for mentions of Idaho in popular entertainment. I’m out-and-out excited when I run across one that isn’t a reference to supremacists or backwardness or humdrums. The TV show Numb3rs had one, which stood out to me because it was so unusual. The guy was an FBI agent, not dumb (though a tad anti-intellectual), not a supremacist, not a racist. It was pretty cool.

                (He did turn out to be spying for the Chinese, but I’ll give them a pass on that because spying for the Chinese is not a negative thing associated with Idaho and I don’t think they had that planned when they drafted the character.)

                I actually look for this sort of thing. Not looking for the bad mentions, but the good ones. They come every now and again, but the portrayals are pretty rarely complementary when they do come around. And for Idaho, the number of namechecks that are related to supremacists, racists, or backwards people, comprise of a pretty significant percentage.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                “(He did turn out to be spying for the Chinese, but I’ll give them a pass on that because spying for the Chinese is not a negative thing associated with Idaho and I don’t think they had that planned when they drafted the character.)”

                You do know that for the past thousand years, the traditional invasion route from China to North America has passed through Idaho, don’t you?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                BTW if I want to write a guest post, where should I submit it to?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                New Dealer:

                Go ahead and shoot it to me at: rtodkelly@mac.comReport

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Well I still need to work on it. Right now it is just an idea mulling in my head.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                Do you think Hollywood movies or pop-culture or culture in general sends the message that a good thing to aspire to be is, say, an assistant manager at Walmart who has an inexpensive, modest home? Or does culture teach children that they should aspire to more than that?

                I think, children learn that certain lifestyles are or are perceived to be a failure, and there was a time not long ago when these same lifestyles were perceived to be intrinsically good.

                I get that there are other, anti-intellectual, anti-elite messages, but I think one of the strongest ideas that our culture transmits is that a large percentage of people who aren’t doctors and lawyers are tragic failures who could’ve and should’ve done better in life.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Where do you see this? Because i don’t see it. If there is something there is it any different or any more than the long standing American belief that you want your kids to have more or do better than you did?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Even setting aside the urban/rural thing, the message is definitely sent that one’s success is determined by relatively few parameters. The insistence towards college being an example. The higher ups in the cultural food chain kind of universalize from their own priorities. I’d consider the abstract fixation on college to be an example.

                It’s not just Walmart jobs that are presented in something of a negative light or are disregarded. One of my… things… is how excessively TV shows lean towards flashy or “creative” jobs for their characters. Comparatively few cases like Drew Carey and a number of cases like Chandler on Friends where it was a big plot turn for him to leave regular office work and pursue his dream of going into advertising. Sometimes this makes sense (a character being a lawyer can make for some good scenes) but it is over-relied upon. I think they would actually get more mileage with jobs more people can relate to, but I also think that the show is written by creative types and so that’s where their characters drift.

                To get back to the topic at hand, though, there is a considerable amount of disdain aimed at the suburbs on a lot of shows. Not even the rural, just the not-urban-enough. How I Met Your Mother has done this a couple times, once with Long Island and once with New Jersey. There are, of course, shows that take place in places that seem like suburbs (and are not Suburgatory) without incident, but Hollywood nonetheless promotes a hip/drab dichotomy, in my view. I struggle to think of a show that made a point of comparing the suburbs favorably to the city. The reverse is not uncommon, though. Again, I think it’s a matter of the lens through which the writers see the world. Of course people want to see yet another show about NYC. Of course they will laugh at this episode about how the suburbs are brainwashing Lily and Marshall. Heck, why not build entire sitcoms around this premise? (Which could have been a good premise, and a good show, but wasn’t for a variety of reasons.)

                Anyway, all of this is tangential to Shaz’s main point. Which I, of course, think she’s correct about. For reasons that are usually logical, understandable, and I don’t even think intentional. But I think it’s there.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                CBS is probably the only channel that regularly shows suburban families without contrasting them inferiorly to the city.

                I’ve tried to explain this to my friends… that their liberal northeast urban bubble is reinforced by TV… that middle-America doesn’t all act and look like the “Jeff Foxworthy Show”… that America is more than just LA and NYC. It’s hard to get them to see that.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                My first thought about college was how college football and basketball are megahuge sports. In much of the country is land grant/state colleges that are the obsession of states or regions. Alabama, LSU, FSU, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas,etc. I could go on for a while without bringing in a private school like Notre Dame or BYU that have a religious, and therefore cultural, pull. Many smaller schools or fringe sports are just the same deal. Hockey is huge at North Dakota and Minnesota. Going to college doesn’t always mean going that far from home. It is often part of family tradition and tied to local/state areas.

                This doesn’t disprove what either of you have said but i think its another side to this discussion.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Greg, what you say is true, but in the south there is a disconnect between rooting for a college and actually going there or having gone there. The term is “Walmart fans” because they certainly didn’t get their shirt from the university bookstore.

                I always thought it would be funny The Onion had done a follow-up to this article entitled “The team from the college I wasn’t admitted to is will crush the team from the college you flunked out of”

                Anyway, I’m getting way off-topic now. This is always something that frustrated me. People who go to Florida Atlantic but then consider themselves first and foremost Miami Hurricanes fans.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                “walmart fans” well huh. well that is my factoid for the day.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Anyway, I didn’t completely mean to fail to address your point. You’re absolutely right that you don’t have to go off far to college. I went less than 100 miles.

                Out here, the best and brightest are likely to go somewhere else. I’d imagine that’s especially true in Alaska*. It’s a pretty big issue here. And then, when they graduate, it’s unlikely that the job for them will be in the small town. They’re very likely going somewhere else. Clancy and I have discussed that as a downside of living in a smaller place.

                Now, my own take on this is… I’d want them to go wherever they needed to in order to be all that they can be. Coming from a robust city, it’s not a rejection of my roots, though. I can understand why they would be sensitive to that, even if I disagree with the mindset.

                I actually think that the cities and rural have a decent symbiotic relationship. Both sides often take issue with that, though.

                * – A fun trivia fact: Mom considered going to the University of Alaska – I’m not sure which one, it annoys me that they there is more than one. She was offered a very generous scholarship and it was very, very far away from a turbulent home life.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                The best and brightest will go out of state. That is slowly changing with college becoming much more expensive. Some of that is due to odd state uni politics. The flagship part of U of A is in Fairbanks which is a bit of problem since Fairbanks is a hard place to live. The Anch campus was a glorified community college for years and has slowly been built up to be a decent school.

                Small pop states always struggle with having schools that provide state needs or with providing a good ed for kids to fly away to rest of the world with. There really is a right answer. The slow decline of some small pop rural areas was always inevitable since that is just the way the world works. Doesn’t make it easier for the people left behind though.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

                Two of Texas’ greatest resources are proximity to Louisiana and Oklahoma. They spend all the money educating them, then we give them jobs and they contribute to our economy. It’s an rockin’ arrangement.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                What makes Fairbanks a hard place to live?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Fairbanks gets very cold. They may go weeks without the temp getting above zero with lows down to -30 or -40. The winter is long and dark. Most of alaska has short days during winter. In Anchorage we have about 5 hours of daylight around the solstice. Fairbanks gets around 4 hours if i remember correctly. Winter will start in October and go through April.

                Its a not a big town ( approx 40000 people) without that much to do, but that is not a problem for many people. The people i know who live in Fairbanks love the small town, close knit community feel. It does have a real “authentic” community feeling.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:


                Combine that with fewer than 4 hours of sunlight in winter, and fewer than 4 hours of night in the summer, and you get a rough place to live. Plus, it’s in the middle of friggin’ Alaska.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Summer in the middle of Alaska is HOT. They get up into the 90’s often. Oceans moderate local climate. Fairbanks is far from the ocean. Its not scenic there although Denali NP isn’t all far.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I remember when I thought 90 degrees was hot.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                1. See my comments below about Hollywood/American entertainment always being aspirational. This has been going on since the silents if not before.

                2. One of the reasons so many things are set in the New York/LA world is that is where the American Entertainment Industry was born and still resides. The American Entertainment industry especially Hollywood, Radio, and TV were created by Eastern European Jewish immigrants who were barred from other sources of employment because of their Jewishness. The reason these Jewish immigrants were allowed access to show business is because the protestant majority at the time saw it as being roughly comparable to prostitution. So the exclusion of Jews from normal employment during the early 1900s partially caused what you are complaining about now.

                3. What’s wrong with trying to get as many people to attend college as possible? College provides an education, access to learning about different periods of time and culture, critical thinking and analysis skills, etc. What is wrong is Rick Santorum’s hypocritical comment for calling Obama a snob and misrepresenting his claims. Obama said he wants people to have some form of post-high school education, it could be completely technical/vocational. This is Santorum with a BA, JD, and MBA.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                On TV Shows:

                1. Ed had a NYC lawyer return to his smalltown Ohio roots and run a bowling alley.

                2. Northern Exposure.

                3. The Wonder Years

                4. Growing Pains

                5. Family TiesReport

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                1) Not always, but that’s certainly often the case. And when it is… whose aspirations? The aspirations of the writers, of course. Where creative/artsy work (Chandler quitting his data analyst position to become an ad guy), of course. It makes sense, but I consider it tiresome.

                2) All of that makes sense, but… so? That there are reasons for it doesn’t change what it is. I don’t think it’s happening because the producers and writers are terrible, bigoted people. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there or it’s not relevant (even if it’s not central to what we’re talking about).

                #1 and #2 strike me of addressing complaints about female casting (preference for young actresses, and skinny ones even in roles where they don’t fit) by explaining why Hollywood has a preference for young, dainty women. That there is a reason for it isn’t the issue.

                3) Because college isn’t for everybody. Not everyone wants it. By using it as a metric of success and respectability, we are taking people with other priorities and value systems and applying our own. This isn’t wrong, necessarily, but even setting aside that I consider it questionable advice on a larger scale, telling people that they need to be more like us is going to cause resentment.

                To pick another example, Kazzy has every right to judge world travel as being better than those who just aren’t interested in that sort of thing. But people who aren’t interested in that sort of thing are not likely to respond favorably to being judged by criteria they reject. Just like you don’t and I don’t.

                Anyway, think of it like how you respond when people argue that liberal arts degrees are not the right degrees to get. I tend to favor vocational degrees more than you do, but even I don’t think they are for everybody.

                4) I didn’t say that there were no shows. I even acknowledged acknowledged that there were vaguishly suburban shows (I had family sitcoms in mind when I wrote that, actually). But there is a difference between how suburban family comedies treat the suburbs and the city compared to how HIMYM treats the the distinction. Namely, that family sitcoms rarely go out of their way to portray city life as inferior. The same cannot be said of HIMYM. Or a whole lot of New York shows.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                family guy had an ep or two, at least.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                There are some losers on TV who have bad jobs: see Al Bundy as a loser because he is a shoe salesman (or vice versa).

                There are a couple of shows where a character has a lower-class, non-professional job and is depicted sort of positively. Maybe King of Queens is a good example. But even the George Lopez show made him the plant manager, and the houses depicted in both George Lopez and King of Queens look pretty fancy to me. Maybe Lavernne and Shirley is an example there too.

                The one popular show that seemed to focus on poorer people with low paying jobs (where the characters weren’t lovable losers) in the lower caste that had a degree of realism was, oddly, “Roseanne.” The house in Roseanne looked like a lot of poorish, working classes houses I saw in my rural home town. But every rural person I can think of hated Roseanne because they thought it was cruel or ugly or mean. There’s soemthing to that.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Growing Pains:

                “Growing Pains is an American television sitcom about an affluent family, residing in Huntington, Long Island, New York,[1] with a working mother and a stay-at-home psychiatrist father raising three children together, which aired on ABC from September 24, 1985 to April 25, 1992.”


                Alan Thicke = Lord Grantham

                Family Ties:

                “years of the Reagan administration, Elyse and Steven Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross) are baby boomers, liberals and former Hippies,[2] raising their three children: Alex (Michael J. Fox), Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer (Tina Yothers) in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Married in 1964, Elyse is an independent architect, and Steven is the station manager of WKS, a local public television station.”

                Former hippies who are a low-level executive at a radio station and a frigging architect.

                “Northern Exposure” is absurdism. It was absurd that these weird quirky people would live in boring Alaska. (And the main characters included a NYC doctor, a multimillionaire, a poetic ex con from the city, and a former debutante from Gross Pointe. Only Holling and the natives were really rural characters.)

                I’ll give you “The Wonder Years” but note that it is about how suburban life in the past was good. But it is nostalgia for the suburbs of the past, not rural life. And it is nostalgia, not the idea that such life is good now. But the suburbs are not rural.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I get the simple modesty part and the old John Ford movie stuff but I don’t think he said it was ever good to aspire to a hard knock life.

                Plus movies always had a glamorous aspirational quality. For every How Green was My Valley or Grapes of Wrath, there were dozens of movies about the glamorous and semi-idol rich or people with careers like being a reporter, journalist, etc.

                I know my movie history. The aspirational part was always big in Hollywood. There are probably more movies about the working class now than ever.

                And to your immediate point, Steve Carrell worked as a manager at Best Buy in the 40-Year Old Virgin and most of the cast were his co-workers. Judd Apatow gets a cubicle job at the end of Knocked-Up. It was a horrible movie but Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a working-class character in Won’t Back Down and no comment is made about her career.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Carrell’s character was a lovable loser, and his working at Best Buy at his age was supposed yo signal that he was a loser.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Was he a loser? Or was he someone who simply didn’t grow up? Or are those one in the same?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Probably one and the same.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s not the same, but I think it was meant to be something of a negative character trait. See also Chuck at the Buy More. It was indicative of his lack of ambition prior to his becoming a spy.

                And you know what? When I see someone capable of doing more working at a Buy More, I do kind of make these judgments. Likewise, it has actually taken me a long time to come to terms with the notion that “Huh. So this is their life out here. Huh.” and not think of them with condescension or pity. I think I’ve succeeded on the latter front, but not the former.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I largely concur with Tod’s post.

            I don’t think about about rural America that much because I am not from rural America. And also because I have a million other thoughts going through my head about bills to pay, taking my car in for repairs, work, friends, love, what to read next, etc.Report

          • Avatar Bob2 says:

            People live in their own cloistered circles.

            New York City has been voted and tested to be the politest city in the world, yet you’ll still hear about how rude New Yorkers are.

            I know people from rural towns who have barely been 30 miles away from home their entire lives, but I also know New Yorkers who have barely gone outside the city limits.

            I know a lot of people who moved to the city because their own small town culture rejected them or there were simply a lack of jobs as small towns dry out.

            In this thread, people talk about how people perceive Walmart to be beneath them, but I think you’ll find that there are actually economic reasons working at Walmart isn’t ideal, which is why people pine for small town businesses or try to keep Walmart out of their towns and cities. The original post talks about how capitalism is destabilizing and Walmart towns are a sign of this.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              1) Can you cite some sources on NYC being the politest? I’ve never been apologized to by a taxi driver cutting me (the pedestrian) off in NYC, that’s for sure! (Vancouver. The Canadians are widely known to be polite, even if the Swedes see them as a trifle loud and rambunctious).

              Walmart’s something it’s founder would be embarrassed to have helped built.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:


                Not the most rigorous study admittedly, but it jives with what I’ve encountered in travels around. I mean, it’s a bit unfair to compare Asian and Indian cultures when they simply never had that expectation of courtesy Western cultures have.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Interesting. I’ve got a bit of a bet on where/when they did that study in NYC, and how that changed matters.

                Definitely agree that rating politeness is difficult cross-culturally.

                To anyone and everyone around here — how would you rate politeness?

                It’s almost easier to rate rudeness, isn’t it? The person who jumps queue in front of someone moving slowly (weighed down by a child, say…).Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:


          I agree with Tod’s last paragraph a lot.

          When I hear someone like Palin or any other right-Populist politician talk to feels like open hostility towards anything and everything associated with city life. Especially my two cities (NYC and SF) which seem to be the great punching bags for right-wing populism. Even if Sarah Palin has no problem going on big city shopping sprees for expensive designer clothing.

          The right-wing conservative seems to see big cities as literally being Sodom and Gammorah. I also dislike the disdain shown towards intellectual work for not being hard or manly. My job is hard. Maybe not always physically but mental/intellectual work can produce just as much exhaustion as physical labor.

          Small towns are not heavens of virtue and big cities are not dens of hedonism.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Small towns are not heavens of virtue and big cities are not dens of hedonism.

            To which, I agree! I do not live in rural America because it is my preference. I live in it because of my wife’s career. I am far more city than country, by nature (albeit a different type of city).

            The part I have a problem with is “It’s all them talking about us. We don’t trash them. We only talk about them about our political disagreements. Any offense they have taken is invented.”

            Sarah Palin did not rise in a vacuum. She exploited resentments but did not invent them. The things resented are not uniformly a delusion on the part of rural America. That doesn’t make the Real America nonsense okay. But it’s not unidirectional wherein the city folks have no negative opinions of ruralians apart from political disagreements.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Bringing up The Palin leads me to note that in AK we have one big city, Anchorage with about 300,000+ people. Certainly a city but not a big like any of the other metro areas in the country. Where Palin lived in Wasilla/Mat Su Valley people love to hate on Anchorage. It is Los Anchorage. People say you don’t get to the Real Alaska until you leave Anchorage. Some people are terrified of coming to Anchorage without packing a gun even though there is little violent crime in general and very little that doesn’t invovle family members attacking one another.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                It’s not that different out here. My town has a “rivalry” with a much larger town. I would personally rather live in that other town, but the perceptions of it being some chaotic urban zone are kind of amusing. Of course, the other town pities us folks out here cause we lack their culture.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                What I find interesting is how those lines develop. I live less than an hour from the George Washington Bridge. Most people would consider us to be city folk based on a cursory glance at a map. But the folks where I live think of NYC as a war zone. Many of the women I work with won’t drive in by themselves; they insist their husbands take them.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Just what town do you live in. I grew up in Great Neck on Long Island and loved going into the city. I still love NYC. Possibly more so now that I live 3000 miles away.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I’m up in Orange County. Grew up in Bergen County, NY. People from the city consider everything north of 110th Street to be upstate. People where I am, just a smidge over the Jersey border, think of the city as a vile place from which they escape. It’s really insane, is what it is.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                bergen county? what part? we may be brothers from another mother, geographically speaking. 🙂Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Watch the old Blaxplotaion flick Across 110th street. Great theme song. 110th st was the dividing line between Harlem and the rest of NY (safe Manhattan). Its a good flick if you can dig that kind of thing.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Teaneck. I’m so far north that I consider Newark to be “central Jersey”.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                “Teaneck. I’m so far north that I consider Newark to be “central Jersey”.”

                but newark *is* central jersey. heck, anything south of new brunswick is south jersey. 🙂

                i’m from the hackensack area originally myself.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I know teaneck. Largely because as a Jewish person we would always refer to that as the Conservadox suburb in New Jersey.

                We had family friends who used to live in Mawwah.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Shiiiiiit man, we’re neighbors! But fuck the Comets.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I know that film and have also been far above 110th Street many times. Again, I grew up near and used to live in New York City and Brooklyn.

                The film is from a time when the city was really bad and nearly bankrupt. The city is no longer like this but it is amazing that people still seem to think it is.

                There are violent areas to be sure but it is not even close to being half as bad as it was.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’m originally from Exit 145/ West Orange. Newark is north jersey…get in right. south jersey is down past point pleasent.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Teaneck had a large Jewish population of various sects. I went to more Bar Mitzvah’s than I can count. Whenever I meet Jewish people in the broader area, they often have some connection or another to Teaneck.


                Puhhhhlease. Exit 145? That makes you a Parkway kid. Don’t bring that weak shit up north.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                ND- don’t bring me down by telling me it isn’t as bad as it used to be. I’m still down they cleaned up Times Square into the New York Disney World it is now. (insert smiley face here.)Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Kazzy- You’re either a parkway kid or a turnpike kid…and really is there much difference. All of sudden i’m hungry for a Roy Rogers burger at a Turnpike rest stop. Damn. My parents had friends that lived up in Bergen County. When i was a little kid it felt like we were going on a long trip to the country to visit them.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Heh… but I’m at the point where it ain’t even the turnpike no more. It’s just I-95. Exit 70B.

                You consider Bergen County the country? It’s pretty densely populated.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                When i was a kid Bergen County sure felt like the country since i was a Big Suburb kid from the Oranges.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Ahh… the Oranges. I suppose on where in BC you are talking about, as well.

                I’ve slowly learned that living in the NYC area really warps your perception of urban/suburban/rural. I considered Teaneck to be suburban. But we were a town of 40K located 10 minutes from the GWB and would qualify as “urban” by most standards… just not compared to NYC/Manhattan. You go up to Ramsey and you start to feel like you’re in the country. Further still, to my new hometown of Monroe, and you are in the straight up sticks. Anything beyond that might as well not exist.

                But if you meet people from the other end of the spectrum? Monroe is too developed, Teaneck is the city, and fuck NYC.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Kazzy-Yes very much so. I’ve met more people than i could count who see Anchorage as a Big City…i mean LA, NY big city that scares the pants off them. Even after years here Anchorage is pretty much suburban NJ. This could be just about any part of Union, Essex or Passaic Counties. Hell we are less built up then many of those places.
                You get imprinted early on with what is a city/town/suburb/rural and its hard to lose that.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                You are one of those people. 😉

                I would like to think that there is a middle ground between the old Times Square and the tourist trap it has become.

                I’ve been kicking around this for a while now. Cities need a middle-class but have a horrible time making one. They seem to have settled on a transient middle class of young people who spend their post-college but pre-marriage years in the city. Also people who never marry and/or have kids.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And I think that has some real repercussions, because we often end up having conversations where we aren’t speaking the same language.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                ND- Yes i agree. Start by blowing up Olive Garden. Yes i agree.

                Cities used to have much larger middle classes which was better for cities in general. Now its how you describe at least in the older eastern and mid-western cities. The western cities not so much.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                The western cities not so much.

                This is a subject I’ve been trying to understand. There seem to be a couple of important factors. One of them is that western growth generally occurred so much later. The kinds of industry and other employment that grew in the 60s or 70s was so much different than what spurred growth earlier. The second is a pattern that the federal government established during WWII — put very large job centers out on the outskirts of the metro areas. The one I’m most familiar with is Denver. Denver Ordinance to the SE of the city was jokingly referred to as the “fourth largest city in the state.” The Denver Federal Center on the same site is still, I believe, the largest concentration of federal workers outside of the DC area. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal to the NE. Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant to the NW. Sizable federal laboratories in Boulder (NIST, NOAA). In addition to their own jobs, each created a network of support services and companies. As a result, Denver never developed an urban core on the scale that eastern cities did. But there’s a whole batch of substantial suburbs that, together with Denver, are all smeared together.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Western cities had lots of room to sprawl and spread. They were often built with roads in mind instead of public transpo which is common in the east. Eastern cities, being older, were first developed with walking, horses and then buses/trolleys in mind. A very big thing is that many eastern cities are constrained by rivers in ways most western cities aren’t. NYC is five boroughs ( basically separate cities) cut by rivers. Western cities had plenty of land to keep pushing out without as many geographical limits. ( i don’t’ want to push this point to far, since it doesn’t apply in every situation)Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Are you using Western city to ignore the Pacific Coast?

                San Francisco has the same dynamic going on as New York City, The middle class/professional class stay until they are ready to have children or their children are about to start school; at this point they move to the suburbs in Marin, East Bay, the Penninsula, etc.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                It’s real simple, folks. Places where the city is cheap-ish, keep their middle class. Pittburgh Austin, all that. Sure, the taxes are high, but…


                also, greg, even in the most prissified times in New York City, you could see a bum fighting with a rat for a sammich, or walk through puddles of piss around the markets… Rudy may have decided to gussy up the city… but unlike DC, it only worked halfway.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                But NewDealer, what was wrong with the old Times Square porn shops and jack shacks?

                Half exit 4 turnpike kid, but I was born in New York and lived there for a while as a kid. I’d say the city issue is that people think it’s Manhattan all too often. Lots of people raise kids in New York City. They tend to move to Brooklyn or Queens or rich parts of North Jersey for the schools. If you can’t afford a good private school in NYC, you might be best off with the good public school districts elsewhere.

                What the housing bubble had to do about pricing families out is another issue, but it’s there.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                A lot of people felt justly unsafe in the old Times Square. The new version is annoying for different reasons. Though I suppose every city has tourist only parts.

                I used to live in one of the nice sections of Brooklyn around Smith Street in Boreum Hill/Carroll Gardens. I was a stone’s throw away from the hipster cheese store that dhex mentions.

                I loved the neighborhood.

                My mom was also a teacher and education administrator in the NYC School system. She ended her career in District 26 in Bayside.

                As far as I can tell, the problem with the NYC school system is that there are only a handful of good schools at all levels. My old Brooklyn neighborhood was split between two or three school districts for elementary school. One was considered excellent. The other’s not so much. My real estate agent always pointed out which apartment was in the good school district or not even though I was a 26 year old graduate student with no wife or girlfriend or living alone. She seemed to assume that this would be something I would care about eventually.

                When you get to the middle and high school levels, the number of good schools drops a lot. Many friends attended the various good high schools but some of them had siblings that failed to get in and their parents needed to do a mad dash to find a private school.

                There was an article in the Sunday Styles section yesterday about residents of the new Brooklyn moving to Westchester now that they are in their 30s and 40s and need like good public schools. The article received a lot of sarcasm for the obvious reasons (upper-middle class people move to the suburbs). However, I think it presents a real problem. Cities don’t know how to keep a middle class or upper-middle class except a transient and childfree one. Cities can’t be filled with just the ultra-rich who can afford expensive private school tuition and the very poor who suffer through a chaotic school system with a handful lucky to get into Stuy or Bronx Science.

                Some of the reasons people moved were different and understandable like not wanting to live next to party-hard 20-somethings when you have young children. However, the public school problem is a serious failing.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                somehow I doubt Pittsburgh has tourist only sections…Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:


                Did you ever go to the Brooklyn Inn on, IIRC, Bergen and Hoyt? If so, we have almost certainly drank together.

                I know there are cooler, better bars on Smith street. (Boat Bar was hip, IIRC). But I loved that damn Brooklyn Inn.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                NewDealer: I was clearly joking about Times Square…

                Yes, that’s part of the reason my parents moved away from New York ages ago, even though I likely could’ve gotten into Hunter High School and College.
                We’re not really disagreeing about the public school issue in cities btw. New York City looked the other way on the finance bubble and kept property taxes low so long as income taxes were funding things.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                And I am surprised that they still see NYC as the South Bronx in the 1980s.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Another story (with a point, this time). I waqs substituting at a school in Redstone (small city, 30-50k) and the janitor asked me if I went to school in Redstone. No, I explained, I relocated here from Colosse (large city in the south). You’d have thought that I’d said I was from Tehran, he looked at me so dirtily. Sort of like “What are you doing here, you intruder?”

                When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, to a rather large metropolitan area, people would ask where I was from and I would tell them Colosse. To which more than one person responded “I’m so sorry.” As though my home city just must have been this absolutely terrible place.

                Now, I find it extremely easy to laugh off the janitor. I have no problem shrugging off the whole Jeep/Subaru thing (natives here tend to drive Jeeps, transplants like myself Subaru, so when they talk about Subaru people, they’re talking about me, and not because I actually own a Subaru). Because this place has so little cultural power and influence, I simply have no reason to care.

                On the other hand, when people from more highly-regarded cities trash Colosse, I find it harder to ignore. When a senator from New York, or a governor of Massachusetts, goes out of his way to trash my home city, it matters.

                This is one of the reason I focus considerably more on the slights in one direction than the other. It’s not actually because I live in a small town (I don’t intend to, indefinitely). Rather, it’s because of that imbalance of influence. Ruralia may have the GOP, and country music, but outside of that it’s the cities that have the megaphone and the pillars of cultural influence. So what they say is, to me, more felt. And more significant.

                Agree with that or disagree with that, but I find the notion that this is completely unidirectional to be very much at odds with my experience on both sides of this particular divide.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                A “small CITY” of 30-50K? That ain’t a city, bruh.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Let’s just say, over the last few moves, my views on what constitute an urban center have changed considerably. I look at Fargo and my mouth waters for all that they have there.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                30 k was a fairly big city in they eyes of everyone i knew grewing up.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I understand that rural folk “feel” the slight and feel they have little cultural influence. But as someone who grew up in north NJ, about 12 miles from NYC, i had no cultural influence. Yeah it was much more likely i could turn on the tv and see tv shows set in NY then north dakota which certainly may have torked off the North Dakotans. But that doesn’t mean i had anything to do with it. The belief that big city folk have all this extra influence is off base. If there is anything to it, it is just because there are lots more people in the city.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I think there’s a marketplace aspect to the dichotomy as well.

                There really are some people who live in the big city that decide to move to small rural towns, but there are a hell of a lot more people that move in the opposite direction.

                Or to put it another way: Talking points aside, all the Palins seem to want to move to Hollywood, but no one in Hollywood seems to be lining up to move to Wasilla.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                It might be close to time for me to do the PDX vs. Vancouver post I always put off.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I would absolutely read a PDX v. Vancouver post.

                Then again, I have a strange fascination with Portland. I’ve been once and have some friends from there or who moved there. Portland strikes me as one of the last cities where it is possible to have a Bohemian existence and not be too miserable. And it kind of did remind of some stereotypes of Portlandia as being true (which I am sure you can comment on).

                A woman I knew grew up in the area and she said she is not used to Portland being a cool city. She is used to it being a city with an “inferiority complex”Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Wasilla is now mostly a town you drive through while going to Denali NP.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To me, it’s the sense of which places matter. Being a part of a place that matters. Here, I’m not. Back home, I was (at least moreso).

                That more people live in the city is a part of it, and that they live closer together. Also, economic influence because that’s where the money is. Also, entertainment media influence because that’s where stuff is made and that’s where people who make the stuff live (though this is limited to few cities). Also, news influence because that’s where the major papers are and where national media people live and gravitate towards (this is also limited to a city or two).

                This isn’t some vast left-wing urban conspiracy. It’s something of the natural order of things. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                both la and nyc were and are centers of the creation of american reality and dreams. it’s a pretty ridiculous distortion field.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                There really are some people who live in the big city that decide to move to small rural towns, but there are a hell of a lot more people that move in the opposite direction.

                Not just Hollywood. Seattle. Minneapolis. Denver, San Fransisco, Portland. That the best and brightest leave the state is a big deal around here. Of course, it’s not as though these states are losing population. They are actually getting transplants who are burned out from the city. And retirees. But that’s not the same.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                There’s a real movie industry making “small town movies” (most of the disaster flicks are in the genre).

                This is possibly founded on the idea that those people will be happier seeing a person like themselves onscreen.

                Problem is? all those movies suck.

                And, whoever was talking about Idaho? I can 99% guarantee that the stereotypes and representation of West Virginia is worse.

                Had a casting call in the area — folks were looking for “oddball actors” to play people from the hollers (hollows)… Oh, boy, did that not fly over well.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                IMO (no evidence here, really, just my sense from having lived in very small, rural places), the anti-elite attitude amongst working class people in small towns is a backlash that is largely caused by a message that said all your kids should be doctors or lawyers or executives and leave your small town because the life that you are offering them kind of sucks, compared to what they could have if they abandon the life-style you valued.

                In general, angry narcissism is often caused by a very real attack on the self-worth of the narcissist. “I will tell you that you suck, because I am very worried that I suck or that you think I do, and I don’t want to admit it.”Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Where is that message coming from?

                I honestly have no idea where people think this message is coming from.

                Perhaps you best and brightest leave because they were tired of getting picked on for being bookish, or artistic, or gay, or doubting.

                There have always been people who left small towns for college/university and the bright lights and big city. This goes back to the dawn of humanity.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Part of of it is jobs. Every TV show tells kids they need to become a doctor or lawyer or work in a big business or be an astronaut or an artist.

                We don’t have any of those in my home town. If you want to be one of those things, you have to leave.

                We don’t tell kids they should aspire to be the manager of the local hardware store, or a clerk in the small local bank.

                When my grandparents were young, living in a small town, having a family, working in a store, being a worker on a farm (never mind owning one), being a local sales person, were jobs that you were supposed to aim at and living in the small town was the good life.

                Have you ever lived in a really small town?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                See below and no.

                Eastern European Jewish immigrants did not really make it to small towns. Some did but not many. We tended to stick to cities with other Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Power in numbers and where you can get buy speaking Yiddish. I don’t think any of my great-grandparents ever learned to speak English. My maternal grandfather used to be a translator/navigator for his parents from the time he was a small child.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                more did than you’d think. A good deal of my family wound up in Leechburg.

                Other people had farms down south.

                But Jews were tradesmen, and so they often found places to live in small towns.

                Doing what my family did — selling clothes.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I know a lot of early immigrant Jews were peddlers who went from town to town but my research largely shows that those were Jews who came over pre-Civil War. They were also largely Germanic in origin, not from various parts of the Russian Empire.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Well, if you’re including peddlers, both sides of my family (neither of which were german, and both of which came over after the Civil War) were busy sellin in small towns (well except for the one cowboy).

                I didn’t think that was very odd, myself. But what do I know?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I wonder if we just come from very different cultures and attitudes.

                My great-grandparents came from Eastern Europe and Turkey (Sephardic Jews) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They moved into slum apartments on the Lower East Side and elsewhere in New York and worked in sweatshops. This was not a pleasant or clean life. My maternal grandmother’s mom died in the Great Influenza epidemic and she spent a good chunk of her youth in the Hebrew Orphanage until taken in by a foster family.

                My great-grandparents moved to make a better life for themselves and their children (all born in the United States). Three of my grandparents had some college educations or higher because their parents saw it as a way to a better life. My grandparents also wanted to give their children a more stable-life than they had. As Greginak said above there is nothing more American than wanting your children to have a better life than you did. This is the immigrant story. Obviously ceilings can be hit and the climb gets harder depending on the level of success.

                I guess I just don’t understand the importance of the family business or farm that gets handed down from generation to generation. Or the idea that X career was good for me and it should be good enough for my children and grandchildren.

                There is nothing wrong with being an assistant manager at Wal-mart but I don’t understand being resentful at those who want or strive for more. This could be a difference in worldviews on many, many levels.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Can you see the value of a Job Done Right, no matter how low or mean it is? Of someone taking pride in “I did that” — be it laying a brick or building the Erie Canal (or walking it with a mule)?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No. Hell no. Low and mean jobs are just that — low and mean. In this world, Kim, there are donkeys and there are riders. It is better to be a rider than a donkey, to be paid for what you know and not what you do. It is better to be standing at the side of the trench, looking into it, at those guys down there doing their jobs right, hoisting their spades oh-so-professionally, the lumps of earth arcing gracefully through the air.

                Nonsense. Want a job done right? Pay a specialist. He’ll charge you more and it’s better value for money. And he’ll use a backhoe and not four thousand illiterate Irishmen.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Sure I can see the value in a job done right but that is a very different question than the one presented here.

                Shaz and Will seem to be saying that we should be doing more to keep rural and small-town America alive. To me, they seem to be saying that as a culture we should be telling people “Just be happy where you are, don’t dream of a better life or moving somewhere else. It is better to be a small-town store manager than a scientist even if you really want to be a scientist.” Why is better for someone to be a sixth generation small-town barber than a first generation college and maybe graduate student? Why should someone be encouraged to stay in Idaho instead of moving to Seattle?

                I don’t believe this. There is nothing wrong with being a small-town store manager but I don’t think culture or government has any obligation to keep small towns alive. I don’t believe in that small town, rural Paul Harvey romanticism. Nor do I see it as a problem that Hollywood largely depicts professionals, young people, cities, and inner-ring suburbs.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                We can’t tell everyone to aspire to becoming a lawyer. Some of them got criminal records, and it’s a lot easier to get them busy laying bricks, than spend time and money on folks who aren’t really cut out for the … stable life. (yes, yes, if you want to make them stock brokers — or entrepreneurs, go right ahead).

                And I agree with you about not needing to keep small towns alive. Course I say the same about suburbs and their subsidies.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Shaz and Will seem to be saying that we should be doing more to keep rural and small-town America alive.

                Not at all. I’m saying that people who live in the places left behind don’t like the fact that people are leaving. That this causes resentment. You can say “Oh, well people shouldn’t feel that way” but that’s not how people work. They want their kids to be able to be really successful where they are. Suggestions that they can’t, however true, sting.

                I don’t think there’s anything you can do about this. But it’s there. Some lifestyles are preferred over others by the people whose opinions matter most. I don’t understand how that is a controversial statement.

                You have previously stated that you would have difficulty marrying someone without a college degree. Then you listed the positive attributes you associate with having a higher education. I don’t see anything wrong with any of that, as a matter of personal perspective. But as a societal perspective, it’s nonetheless going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. That by valuing the things they are not, they are being devalued.

                Which is not to say that you should marry someone you are incompatible with for the sake of egalitarianism. That would be ludicrous. We all have a right to our opinions. But people – liberal, conservative, whatever – don’t like feeling like they are being negatively judged or disregarded. This is all inescapable, but it all seems rather understandable to me.

                The best solution – to the extent that there is any solution – is for people to be as respectful to one another (their life choices, their priorities, etc.) as possible. A lot of people are, but a lot of people aren’t.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                There is nothing wrong with being an assistant manager at Wal-mart but I don’t understand being resentful at those who want or strive for more.

                It’s the notion that the other thing they might be doing is “more” that a lot of people don’t like. Whether you intend it to or not, it suggests that what they do is “less.”Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Yeah, well the people who get resentful for that kind of stuff often want to keep people down artificially. What are the people who dream of moving away supposed to do? “Are they suppose to say, well I really want to become a doctor and have the grades to do so but it will really upset my neighbor’s, so I will stick around and become a janitor instead!” That is absolutely daft.

                Here my sympathies are with Shaz’s parents, not her grandparents.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I guarantee you would be singing a different tune if you were talking about a particle physicist wanting to become a financier.

                Perhaps there is some good in having intelligent people in all realms of life?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Truthfully, my perspective is “I want my kids to make the most of their life, wherever that leads them.”

                I would expect that to probably lead them to the city. I would definitely expect that to include college. But this is my hierarchy, my priorities, and my definition as to what constitutes a good life. I can imagine the frustration of people who see what they consider to be a “good life” and yet see it regularly treated (by the people who matter most) as something “less.”

                Our entire language is littered with assumptions about better and worse. Which is “more” and which is “less.” Like I told Kazzy elsewhere, it’s actually taken me a long time not to at least implicitly look at where I live as “less.” It’s not, really. It’s different. It offers things that the city can’t. And if having a “lesser” job is the price to pay for living here, that’s not really being held back.

                The same applies, to some degree, to college. The extent to which we think of someone that didn’t go to college as someone who failed somehow or was cheated. Again, “less.” It actually took me relocating to a place where college was more the exception than a rule to realize “You know what? This is alright, actually.” and mean it in a non-condescending way. I still plan to urge my kid to go to college, though. But that’s a matter of my priorities and my definition of “the good life.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Amen to that, Will. Number One Daughter is old enough to be thinking seriously about potential careers, Number Two Daughter is old enough to be thinking quite casually about them. I try to openly and honestly discuss the ins and outs of each thing they talk about–what it takes to get there, what it’s actually like, what it pays, what kind of life it affords and allows you, etc.

                And I always emphasize that as long as their work is honest and they’re happy, it’s an OK choice.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                My grandparents were European immigrants who had come from class-based cultures, where being involved with agriculture (a farm owner, farm worker, or general store worker, or someone connected to farms, physical labor, one room school teacher, etc.) made you part of a good caste. (Maybe you secretly wished to be noble, but agrarian was good intrinsically and maybe better than noble.)

                Don’t get me wrong. I left my small town and I actively encourage (carefully) others to do so from my friends and family. The future requires change and cities will be and are a better lfie for most people. But there are generations of people who are told that a better life for their children requires the child rejecting the parents’ values.

                IMO, the Jewish immigrant experience is special in cases where the children continue to respect their parent’s religion. Holding the religion gives the parent a sense of self-worth (though society aims shame at religious minorities, of course.) As long as the child holds on to the parent’s religion, the parent feels the goodness of his or her way of life is affirmed, regardless of what job the child has or where they live. (My guess is that older generations of Jews are angry at the secularization of their children, but maybe they don’t blame the same people that my grandparents secretly blame.) Moreover, immigrant Jews faced horrible oppression and the possibility better jobs offered some hope of defense against that oppression, so parents passed down the value of the religion rather than holding such and such a job or activity or living ina. certain area.

                But the agrarian, rural and small town life was as much my grandparents religion as their actual religion in that their belief in their life style gave them a sense of self-worth and identity. In the modern, capitalist economy, people are told not to believe in the agrarian religion, (though there is some sentimentality for it as it dies, in the way that there is sentimentality for all old, dying things) and there is a lot of anger and depression over that loss in places where the agrarian religion was strongest.

                And the agrarian religion was connected to a lot of bad things: a degree of racism and anti-semitism not least among them. It is good that it is dying (IMO) and inevitable, but it needs to be replaced with something that makes people feel intrinsically good about their station in life, even if they don’t get such and such a job. Otherwise everyone will feel constant pain and stress about gettng and keeping certain jobs. That psychic terror that many of us feel constantly simply didn’t exist for many people in agrarian communities, and in some ways it made them happier. (In other ways we are happier.)Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Even more fun when you consider Alaska’s rape rate.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I am going to get a bit What’s a Matter with Kansas here:

              Sarah Palin and her fellow believers of resentment are attacking and blaming the wrong people.

              Upper-middle class, city liberal professionals did not cause the small town economy and well-paying factory jobs to shut down. The causes of that are multiple and complicated but a lot of people in rural and exurban America have been played for suckers on who to blame.

              Upper-middle class liberal people in cities and inner-ring suburbs do not think we are better than small town blue-collar types. What is it about my life and entertainment choices that causes resentment among the Palinistas? Why is it so horrible to them that I like cities, public transportation, fancy coffee, independent restaurants, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music? It is almost like these things are existential threats to the Palin brigade.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                “Upper-middle class liberal people in cities and inner-ring suburbs do not think we are better than small town blue-collar types”

                ahem this is not entirely truthful bro.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Fair enough. But my point was largely that the resentments of the Palin brigade are still largely barking up the wrong tree.

                A Wills and Trusts Lawyer in Dobbs Ferry and her professor husband are not the cause of small town economic woes.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                “Fair enough. But my point was largely that the resentments of the Palin brigade are still largely barking up the wrong tree.

                A Wills and Trusts Lawyer in Dobbs Ferry and her professor husband are not the cause of small town economic woes.”

                i know i’ve said this before but you care too much what these people real or imagined think of your hobbies and predilections. why else live in sodom by the sea if one is not a sodomite in a spiritual if not professional sense? granted some people just want to spend seven bucks on a jar of artisanal mayonnaise (an actual thing) and have three kids named beckett or just live in the neighborhood of their birth but i think my point stands.

                as for the second part, you’re partially right, but it would seem to me that this thrashing about on their part isn’t solely about economic issues, but also cultural ones. this stuff matters to nearly everyone who cares about this stuff (because people are ridiculous).

                for example: swap out wills and trusts lawyer to “religious broadcasting company lawyer and his wife, a professor at liberty university”, and i’d have no problem waving them in front of the jezebelian current as red meat for exactly what’s wrong with america. heck, they’d be blamed for everything from gun deaths to women being raped to etc etc etc and so forth. possibly also global warming.

                and if you can stand the yapping madness for long enough, when you drill down what it comes down to is a fear that the cultural stances of their opposition inevitably lead to both cultural and political downstream movement against their jezebelian interests.

                and the best part? you’d have people saying “but wait a minute, they really are evil and we really are good, so of course their beliefs are evil and will destroy us all” AND decrying the mirror stance we started with without even the barest shred of self-awareness. because people are ridiculous.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                “seven bucks on a jar of artisanal mayonnaise”

                This reminds me. A local deli had Mast Bros. chocolate bars, so we grabbed a few to see what the fuss was about. We’ve only had one of them so far.

                It was pretty good, but maybe not $9 good.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                yeah i mean i am not sold on their product at that price point (as a gift, i am not down with the choco) though their little joint in billyburg back out where it was quite crackety not so long ago is very cute.

                semi-related: i was able to finally track down a good american source for this belgian earl grey/dark chocolate blend from a distributor out in oregon; i’d been unable to find it in the city in even the usual (expensive) suspects. even the hipster cheese joint in carroll gardens let me down.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                Aww, Stink’s let you down.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                I think this goes back to what was said in another thread about potlatch and how the person who had the most to give away had the most status.

                Status is as big a motivating force as money after a certain point, and people who are perceived to have it are going to be resented.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                chocolate is not something it is possible to do well. On the other hand, it makes a surprisingly good preservative for things that it is possible to do well. Like REAL cherry cordials from Germany. mmmm…. brandy…Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How are we defining “better”? There are ways in which I certainly thing that, on the whole, upper-middle class city folk are better than small town blue-collar folk. Not of more value, not of more virtue. But I, personally, think it is better to be more educated than less educated and, on the whole, the former group is going to be more educated than the less. Personally, I think it is better to be exposed to more of the world than less and, on the whole, the former group is going to be exposed to more of the world than the former.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                The value of a college education is where this all starts. My parents wanted to leave to go to college, and I guarantee my grandparents felt betrayed by that and thought: “They mustn’t want to live here in the same lifestyle we did. And someone must have told these kids that there is a better life in college and in the city.”Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I don’t see why it is wrong or horrible for your parents or anyone else to want a different lifestyle than they had while growing up.

                I was very lucky to be born into a nice inner-ring suburb of NYC. Why should I be the only person who gets this lifestyle because of my birth? Why should people choose to stick where they are born?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I suppose the difference here is that Judaism sees educational as a natural and axiomatic good. When Jews moved here, they saw college/university as part of this.

                We are called The People of the Book for a reason.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                natural and axiomatic, sure… but only for boys.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                My maternal grandmother attended college and grad school but generally your point is true.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                My grandparents were into education, but not necessarily going to college. They read deeply and widely on their own and were as educated as anyone with a more formal education.

                Don’t get me wrong. People should want to move to cities. We agree that oife is better there and is better for doctors, lawyers. executives, succesful artists, and other people in jobs that our culture currently deifies. The problem is that people who fail to do well enough in school to move to the city and live a good life, what should they be proud of? You could say they could be proud of helping their kids get out of the small town and to be doctors or lawyers or succesful artists, but what should they think of their kids if their kids don’t do that.

                IMO, the old caste system told people in the lower castes that they were good (with the huge and awful proviso that people of other races and religions were told that they were bad.). We need to find a way to make people who are economic failures (and let us be honest that these people have failed in the modern capitalist system), people who don’t have “good jobs,” feel proud of themselves but without reverting back to the old caste system that made people feel proud for being part of a caste.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Sarah Palin and her fellow believers of resentment are attacking and blaming the wrong people.

                I find the “being played for fools” line to be indicative of what I am talking about. Along the lines of “poor, uneducated, and easy to command.”

                Upper-middle class liberal people in cities and inner-ring suburbs do not think we are better than small town blue-collar types.

                Well, I really don’t know what to say here. I believe that you may harbor no ill-conceptions whatsoever about rural-types except for their political beliefs and their animosity towards you. But no, I really don’t think the perception that this is not true of urbanites as a group is solely the product of delusion and manipulation.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I think that it is perfectly acceptable to be angry at the loss of well paying factory and union-jobs.

                Blaming it on a doctor and graphic designer husband/wife team from Westchester County is misplaced rage.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                They aren’t really assigning blame in accordance to where you think they are.

                That couple in Westchester County was probably in favor of shutting down that mining facility. They are also trying to keep the grey wolf from being hunted, which hurts in a couple of ways. Also, butting heads over water oversight and family farm labor laws on which the Westchester County couple is likely to be on the wrong side.

                None of which is to actually say that you’re wrong, but that it’s more complicated than “they just don’t realize those Republicans are the ones screwing them.”

                I am sure I have mentioned this before, but in case I haven’t to you one of the biggest objections out here on government policy isn’t welfare to the poor, or taxes being too high, or whatever… it was the bailout of the banks. There is a lot of frustration towards corporate America out here (Citizens United was a dirty word last campaign, the Republican was going after the Democrat for his ties to big pharma). For a variety of reasons, the Democrats just can’t tap into it.

                But this isn’t about that, really. Republicans out here believe what Republicans believe about government, taxes, and unionism. But people out here vote Republican more due to the social disconnect. That’s my view, anyway (but then I am predisposed to chalk a lot of politics up to the social).Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I unfortunately think of the bailout of the banks as being a necessary evil.

                That said in my ideal world, I would have jailed a lot of the bankers. I am still rather pissed at HSBC.

                Environmental protection is tricky because I can see how it destroys certain communities but protects the world at the same time. If there was an environmentally protected species in NYC, I would protect it even if NYC considered it a menace.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I go back and forth on how that should have been handled. I mention it primarily to push back against the notion that the people out here don’t blame the rich, or are oddly sympathetic to the rich, by virtue of their political alliances. That really isn’t the case. It’s more complicated than people think it is.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                Necessary evil or not, they could probably have extracted way more in concessions than they did, even if informally. Ugh, Geithner.
                Every time I read about carried interest for hedge funds and PE, my blood boils.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                the people with bumper stickers that say “Drill More Oil”?
                Yup, they’re blaming the wrong people.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I agree that they could have but did not extract more concessions.Report

              • How about blaming it on the people who are benefiting from the new economy that led to the loss of well paying factory and union jobs? I, and I suppose you, find that wrong, but it seems a bit more understandable, at least to me.

                Maybe “blaming” is the wrong word. How about “resenting”? Or “envying”? If we replace “blaming” with one of those words, it becomes to me a little more understandable and empathy-provoking (although still not justifiable).Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I suppose.

                I admit that this class is benefiting from the new economy but they are not benefiting at the expense of the factory and union jobs. The people I am talking about were doing just as well in the factory and union days.

                In my view, the Koch brothers and Venture Capital set are the ones who really benefit at the expense of union jobs. These are the people who closed down factories and moved them abroad. Not a Wills and Trust lawyer or Personal Injury lawyer from Westchester.

                I really do think that the Koch Brother set have been able to redirect the rage at the end of union jobs to the wrong source.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                How do personal injury lawyers manage to Always come off so sleezy? It just seems like really poor advertising, unless you’re hoping to get cheats for clients…Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                My dad is a plaintiff’s lawyer and I am a plaintiff’s lawyer, so I resent the comment that we always come off as sleazy.

                There are some plaintiff’s lawyers who do the stereotypical sleazy advertisements on buses and then we get damned as a class for those people.

                We help real people, with real injuries who deserve compensation.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                *crosses arms* So how do you guys advertise?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Word of mouth, reputation, articles about cases, blogging. And yes some print/newsmagazine advertisements.

                There is nothing inherently wrong with advertisements but it depends on how you do it. You can have a classy one even for personal injury work.Report

              • “Upper-middle class, city liberal professionals did not cause the small town economy and well-paying factory jobs to shut down.”

                One of the answers to “what’s the matter with Kansas” is supposed that Kansans lack class-consciousness. If only they were more class conscious, they’d dislike the upper-middle class, city liberal professionals who benefit so much from the classist society.

                I suspect that the liberalism of the “upper middle class liberal professional” is quite as often an expression of self-interest as it is a “let’s take care of / empower the poorer among us attitude.” I don’t think they’re wrong for supporting their self-interest, nor do I think policies designed to take care of or empower the poorer among us are doomed. But it’s also not as if the upper-middle class liberal professional is 99.44% goodness and some “others” (presumably the x-x class, conservative non-professionals (unless they’re professionals for a super pac or conservative think tank)) are bad. There’s good and bad alloyed throughoutReport

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Actually, some “others” are bad. Classwise, and personally. I count the Kochs in that boat, along with a whole pile of rich bastards.

                Now, if they were smarter, we wouldn’t have no beef. Because smart people know how to look out for Number 1 (like Nixon. he did it well. he was good for America, in the main, because that helped out himself da best).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Maybe that you get public transportation, fancy coffee, and they can’t afford to even think about ’em?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Cities are simply easier and cheaper to fund than rural areas. The density makes this stuff easy.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Depends on the rural area. and the standard of living you wish to accept in the rural area. Pretty sure the Amish are cheaper than cities to fund.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Yes but we are not talking about the Amish here.Report

            • Avatar Bob2 says:

              Sarah Palin is a bit different since she actually desired glamour growing up. Remember here story of putting on makeup and skipping out on work to go see Ivana Trump? She exploited resentments, but she actually desired a good deal of what she rails against.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            The Sarah Palin types really don’t understand how Big Cities work. They’re actually collections of little neighbourhoods. Spend a month in the Big City, it’s surprising how many people you’ll meet, over and over again. Sitting next to you at the diner, at the bar. The jamokes at the bus stop. The checkout clerks at your local grocery emporium. The people you meet going from the elevator to your apartment. The guys walking their dog in the park. Lots of people end up in the city, just so they can be themselves.

            Small towns are worse than big cities. If your great-grandfather didn’t shit in an outhouse in that county, you’re a newcomer.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:


              Exactly. I have lived in cities for most of my adult life and it is easy how often my life began to revolve around the neighborhood I lived in. I would spend time in other sections but most of what I did was a fairly walkable distance from my apartment.

              One of my friends calls San Francisco “the incorporated villages of San Francisco” and she is very much right.Report

      • “I think we are seeing a resurgence in the idea of finding pride and joy in manual and craft labor especially because those jobs are not very corporate and with the global crash.”

        Probably. But we’re not seeing a resurgence of respect for people who have menial service jobs or and who will probably continue to have them for most of the rest of their lives.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          Was there ever respect for people who had menial service jobs?

          I don’t mean this to belittle people who work in menial service jobs, I am just looking for historical accuracy.

          Downton is not a historically accurate view of the service. Most of them worked 16 hour days and could not marry because marriage meant being able to give less than all to the House and the Masters. Downton is the candyland version of the Service.Report

          • Well, my point is more that the trend toward celebrating handmade crafts, etc., is, at least to me, more in line with celebrating doctors, lawyers, and other professionals than it is in line with a new trend of valuing people who don’t happen to make it.

            In that sense, I was thinking more along the lines of what Shazbot was saying when he/she wrote (in the comment you were responding to): “I’m glad that we got rid of the Grantham-Crawley style caste system that we used to have, but what we have in its place is psychological shame for those who “failed” to get one of the culturally approved of jobs and constant stress for those who are aiming at them, trying to keep them, or trying to get them for their children.”

            To say that people are now entering handicrafts free of the corporate taint is not necessarily counter-evidence for the claim Shazbot is offering.

            Of course, as Shazbot said, and as you just also said in your reference to Downton Abbey (which I haven’t seen yet, sadly) is that what we have now is probably better than what they had then. I agree.

            You do make a good point about historical accuracy, and while a historian never says never, I must admit that I don’t know of an era where menial labor was really valued other than as a romanticized symbol of “simplicity,” which others on this thread have roundly and rightly criticized when it comes to ruralia.

            My point isn’t that we need to revolutionize the way people look at others (maybe we need to do that, but I’m not sure it’s practicable, and I wouldn’t want to see what life is like under such a “revolution”). Rather, my point is–and I thought Shazbot’s point was (if I’m not mistaken)–that the new opportunities provided by the freer market and capitalism are better than the faux feudalism of the Downtons (or the real feudalism that preceded it), but that they come with a cost, and that cost can’t be wished away by the fiat of good intentions. (Of course, maybe the “pride and joy in manual and craft labor” that you point out might be one of those opportunities.)

            I think I’m babbling and not making myself fully clear. I was principally addressing a comment you made that seemed, to me, beside the point of what you intended to refute.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

              Great comment.

              Oddly, us liberal hippy folks are trying to bring back some of the good things my grandparents had: making your own food, growing your own food, learning how to build and construct your house and your clothes, making authentic handmade things. But this movement, IMO, has not caught on in small towns, partly because people there have -IMO- become sort of depressed about themselves in a way they werern’t 50 years ago.

              Every time I go back home to my small town, I tell people to take some hobby or craft and try to make an Etsy business out of it. Or I tell the kids to get together and form a club. Or I tell local business owners to paint their place and put a billboard saying “Authentic Western Cowboy Restaurant” on the highway to bring in business.

              They don’t do any of this. The most enterprising people who want to make the town better left a long time ago, and those remaining aren’t miserable, but there is a lot of feelings of defeat and shame and anger at the world having taken away the good town they remember. Thus, they want their past (they say “our country”) back.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Well I guess this is where we split. I consider myself on the left but not the hippy left and have no pastoral version of utopia.

                I love cities. The mass of people from different corners of the world, the restaurants, the options, the culture, the looks, the feel. I am at home on the asphalt.

                I don’t see why culture has a moral responsibility to encourage people to stay in small towns or support the rural life.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                You are a radical hippy anarchist to everyone in my small town.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                That is kind of sad. I am very far from being a radical, hippy, or an anarchist.

                Why would they view me as such and can you justify it as good that they would?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                I was sort of joking.

                But if you’re socially liberal on gay marriage and abortion, you want to save the environment, you are against animal cruelty in the local slaughter house, you think we should worry about conservation a bit more and using land for agriculture a bit less, you think its great that women work and raise kids at the same time, you think its okay to be a single parent (male or female), then you’re a nature loving hippy, a hippy you wants to radically revise gender roles, etc.

                I suspect that you are not a hippy, but this all depends on how you define “hippy.”Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                Eek. Fortunately, it’s not that bad out here.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                I never drank at the Brooklyn Inn but I walked by it many times.

                Got it on the town. Interestingly I am a bit more supportive of large scale farm operations than many liberals. I think they are efficient for feeding 7 billion people. This is not to say I like Montasanto but science has a place in agriculture.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Depends on where you’re at. Elkins, WV had plenty of enterprising folks in it, last I checked… (now, it’s kind-a prosperous, for WV… but that’s because of the people there, just as much as anything natural)Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                “Oddly, us liberal hippy folks are trying to bring back some of the good things my grandparents had: making your own food, growing your own food, learning how to build and construct your house and your clothes, making authentic handmade things. But this movement, IMO, has not caught on in small towns, partly because people there have -IMO- become sort of depressed about themselves in a way they werern’t 50 years ago.”

                I think there’s another thing going on here as well, which is class.

                Most of the things you describe seem to be chic with people in more affluent circles. Going to a class on how to butcher your own pig (very big in the POrtland hipster circles now), say, or learning how to make your own quality non-baked food from scratch, or having raised beds and growing a lot of your own produce is something that most lower middle class families simply don’t have the time or money to do. Even though we tend to think of do-it-yourself stuff such as growing your own tomatoes to can or knitting your own sweater as being cheap, they aren’t. They’re damn expensive, especially when you factor in the time you spend learning how to do them and doing them.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                This is a very good point.

                The other class is aspect is necessity. There is a big difference between someone in West Virginia knowing how to do those things and someone in San Francisco and Portland taking a weekend class in pig butchering or having some chickens in their back yard.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            I think so. I know so. Craftsmen were craftsmen at some point… look at the WPA. People did a DAMN FINE job, doing more than they needed to, putting some ART into their craft, simply because they were proud of what they did.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

            When I was a kid, all the local menial laborers wouldn’t have traded their jobs for being a doctor or lawyer. (The money would have tempted, but they would have said “That’s not for me.” They saw an intrinsic worth in their role as a laborer.

            And IMO there is truth in that the servants in Downtown see themselves as worthwhile because of their (we would say crappy) job. I am good because I am a menial laborer. (This is what all my grandparents and great aunts and uncles felt. But their kids wanted a better life.)

            That’s what we lost with the move to a more egalitarian culture: taking pride in your caste, even if a lower caste. (We also don’t have real financial equality or equality of opportunity yet either, but hopefully we get there soon.)

            I think we need to replace that pride in being lower caste with something else, but am unsure how that will work.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              People should not be forced to stay in the position they were born in. I am glad we moved away from that world of “My grandparent was a valet, my father was a valet, I will be a valet.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                People should not be forced to stay in the position they were born in.

                Agreed. I’d hate having to go through life headfirst on my back.

                But better, perhaps, than my friend who came out breech.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:


                But you know I meant socio-economic-job status position and I think you would agree here.

                Just because someone was born a 9th generation North Dakotan does not mean that they should stay in North Dakota if they want to leave.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Dude, you took me way too seriously.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Probably 🙂Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m totes in agreement with you. Was just going for the cheap joke.

                But as to North Dakotans, I agree that we shouldn’t discriminate against 9th generationers; even 1st generation North Dakotans shouldn’t be allowed to leave the state.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I’m really not seeing this Shaz. Idealizing Small Town life is popular as all hell. The media loves to talk about The Heartland with misty eyes. Tim Russert opined endlessly about his hard working Real American Dad. Who is attacking hard working people who don’t have fancy jobs? If there is much to it, then it comes from the glamorization of fame, money and power that has been around for a while. Is it liberals that fetishize “greed is good” or Galtian Hero’s?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        It’s popular among some. Our country does have a populist streak, culturally speaking. But it’s a populist streak that is responding to what Shaz is referring to (and vice-versa, in a somewhat circular fashion).Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          I’m not sure “populist” is really the correct word. I know we’ve had this discussion before. I don’t see this as a reaction per se. Love of country living, Heartland, Apple Pie, etc is as old as the hills. It has always been there and the movement towards seeing other places as just as American is newer. Cities, going back many decades, were places for immigrants. Rural life was what Americans often aspired to. The outflow from cities in the 50’s was part of a desire to get away from big crowded cities to get a piece of land and have a personal castle/homestead albeit in suburban style.Report

        • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

          By populist, I mean an affinity for the little guy. When small towns are depicted positively in fiction, it’s usually under that framework. The little town versus the big oil company or whatever. And, of course, country music which is often considered conservative but actually has quite a populist streak (mentions of big banks are never positive.)

          But… none of that changes, in my view, that views of the countryffrom the city do nottend ttowards the positive (or the nuanced). As Tod says, there are some asymmetries of thought and influence. When I am talking about where I live to people that have never lived here, there are a lot of negative assumptions and perceptions gloating around. Ones that I think I actually shared before leaving the city. I did not myself spend much time thinking about Idaho until I moved out west, but those thoughts I had were pretty unfavorable and honestly not easy to divorceffrom class.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            When i think of Idaho i think of potatoes, my co-worker who if from Boise, the nice day i had driving through after spending time at Yellowstone and that i would like to go back to do some hiking. And parochialism is a common characteristic of people.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I thought mostly of potatoes. Farmers. Learned about the supremacists from TV. Learned about the Mormons from a friend.

              Anyway, way back when I was a city-dweller, it took a lot of self-peptalking to get me to consider to move out west. I had a lot of negative perceptions it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have had. The biggest issue actually turned out to be the Mormons. Of course, that was actually a small city with a population similar to Fairbanks (I just didn’t think of it as one because I thought of it as a state that was mostly rural). Now I live in sort of what I envisioned then, and a lot of my concerns have been realized. But I have also come to recognize the virtues and why – other than an inability to get out – some great people would choose life here.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Fairbanks….oh you mean Squarebanks…..hahahahahaha….okay maybe thats just me. But really Fairbanks is just squaresville.

                I know i had many preconceptions about Alaska and the West before moving. But the Wife At the Time and i choose to move here so we knew what we were getting into. I’ve put a fair amount of time into traveling to all of the 50 states so i tend to look for similarities between them and remember mostly the high spots i enjoyed in each one.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I think there are plenty of people in big cities with real affinities for the little guy. Small towns don’t have a monopoly on that.

            Just because we live in big cities does not mean we all work for large, global corporations!

            I want to be a plaintiff’s lawyer and represent the little guy. Not a big corporate lawyer!Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I think there are plenty of people in big cities with real affinities for the little guy. Small towns don’t have a monopoly on that.

              Please believe me that I never meant to suggest otherwise. I was referring to people who don’t live in the country but romanticize it. Which I agree with Greg does happen. (Which mostly tells me that the situation could be worse than it is and not that there isn’t a generally negative vibe headed in that direction.)Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Romanticizing people is more “positive” then negative but not really good. If you’ve been to the southwest and the way some people treat Native Americans you’ll probably know what i mean.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Yeah, that’s true. I wanted to say something like that, but couldn’t quite articulate it and the more I thought about it the more I thought, “Well, it’s better than the most likely alternative to romanticizing it.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I don’t have any facts or figures to support this, but I’m tempted to theorize that small towns have fewer “little guys” than big cities, or at least that the disparity is not as large as often believed. When I lived in Manhattan, the only big chain that I frequented regularly was “Duane Reade”, which was still a local one. I bought my groceries at stores that had 4 or 5 locations. Pretty much every restaurant and bar was independently owned. There were no Walmarts, I’m not sure if there was a Target within the city, and the only Home Depot I knew of was too far to really take advantage of, so the local hardware store did the trick (though my home improvement needs were limited). Bed, Bath, and Beyond down the street got some business, but that place tended to be frequented by folks like myself, those lower on the economic ladder.

                Where I live now, you have some Mom&Pop’s, but pretty much everyone takes advantage of the lower prices available at the BJs, the Walmart, the Target, the Home Depot, the Best Buy, the big grocery chain, the CVS, the Domino’s, etc.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                To elaborate, we have a locally owned Benjamin Moore retail store in my town. We are in the process of painting our house and we buy a lot of the paint there. It is considerably pricier than the Behr at Home Depot, but they have some colors we really like that we can’t find elsewhere. And we can afford the extra $20/gallon, which might actually be even less than that since the owner has taken to give us a contractor’s discount since I’m there every other day. That’s a perk we wouldn’t get at HD. But when I’m in there, the ONLY other people I see are contractors and professionals. None of the local folks shop there, at least none that I’ve seen and I’ve been in at least 10 times over the past few months. But HD is always rockin’. We’re probably better off than most of our neighbors (a quick search puts our income at about 60% above the town median), in part because of our “cityness” and we are the ones hitting the Mom&Pop, not the local. It’s interesting.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                You might be surprised. Below a certain population threshold, chains want nothing to do with a place. Even when the population threshold is met, if a place doesn’t have a whole lot of money they will get passed by. So they end up with moms and pops by default. And some enterprising franchisees.

                We have a Safeway here, but the rest is either local of a franchise rather than a chain. Up in Redstone, they have a Walmart and a Staples and got their first Walgreens a couple months ago. Not much else. But Redstone is poor. A wealthier place might do better (or worse, depending on how you look at it).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                This is probably another situation where my “baseline” is showing. I consider where I live to be “small town” and closer to “rural” than “urban” (for the record, there ARE farms just over the mountain). But, again, we’re a town of 40K less than 60 minutes from Manhattan.

                But I bet if you spoke to the people here, they’d express a fondness and preference for “small town America”… for Mom&Pop shops… for all that nostalgia crap. But when push comes to shove, they live a very different lifestyle than the one they espouse.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                *snort* small town is under 3000. And you drive through farms to get to the next small town.

                PA is full of ’em.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Just so long as you don’t pull a stark and do traffic cop duty…
              *shakes head*Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        People will tell you small town life is good. But they will tell you that you need to move away to go to university, and you need to intern or do a professional education, if you want to live the good life. And they will tell you that your kids won’t get exposed to culture and the finer things in life if you live in the middle of nowhere. (nice expression, huh?)

        Note that Tim Russert’s kids didn’t end up being farm workers or clerks at the local bank or ditch diggers or coal miners. He pushed them very hard to live a good life, which he thinks they wouldn’t have had, had they stayed in a small town.

        In short, the overall message from out culture is that a small town is a good place to have been born and maybe to retire to, but it is not a good place to live a good life while you are an adult.Report

  7. Avatar Elias Isquith says:

    I’m no historian; but my sense is that Sully’s potted history of the Welfare state is pretty conventional, no? And I mean conventional in the sense that even actual historians would, after the requisite hemming and hawing, give it the qualified OK? Perhaps this is a consequence of looking too exclusively at the Bismarck example? Because, going by that one, he is right that the welfare state was created more or less to mitigate against the destabilizing effects of capitalism — primarily the way in which social dislocation was leading to political instability.Report

  8. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Capitalism is just a engine. It consumes fuel, it generates torque. For socialism of any sort to exist (for long), the engine of capitalism must do the work.

    If Capitalism and Socialism are now seen to be in opposition, this misperception arises from a facile reading of both Capitalist and Socialist philosophers. Marx was all for capitalism: he understood its power for both good and evil. He was a great student of Ricardo and Adam Smith. What Marx did not foresee was the rise of the welfare state and the trade union and their roles in equalising the torque of capitalism and the load of socialism.

    Sully observes the welfare state emerged in Germany in the 19th century: Bismarck did not create that welfare state out of the goodness of his heart. He correctly perceived the threat posed by Communism and co-opted its arguments.

    Capitalism is disruptive. So was gunpowder. With the rise of gunpowder, castle-based feudalism was doomed. Suddenly, one soldier could take down a fully-armoured knight. Feudalism was hardly a paragon of stability: Europe was an armed camp. Marx has a lot to say about feudalism and how capitalism destroyed it. The first large scale capitalists in Europe arose in the arms industries. JFC Fuller famously said “The musket made the infantryman and the infantryman made the democrat.” First, the musket made the capitalist.

    Confucian ethics are fundamentally a defence of feudalism. It was never a social contract. It was Turtles of Loyalty all the way down and the peasant should be very grateful he wasn’t stepped more brutally than he was.

    So what, capitalism is disruptive. The engine makes a great deal of noise while it’s running. Tradition be damned: our species copes with change pretty well, all things considered. We’re still social animals. We know what unfettered capitalism looks like: it’s ugly. Makes rich people feel bad. They’re not complete heartless bastards, the rich. The American dream features a house with a picket fence around it, not a three meter wall with electrified barbed wire fence around the top of it. I used to live in that house, in Guatemala. Nicest part of Guatemala City, too. We don’t like the look of beggars on our streets.

    Every time things get bad enough, there’s an uprising at the top, some Teddy Roosevelt to bust up the trusts. And capitalism copes beautifully. There’s old John D. Rockefeller out there golfing and his buddies are all moaning and crying about the breakup of Standard Oil. John D. looks up from his putt and says “Buy every share of Standard Oil you can, boys.” No sooner was Standard Oil broken up than the share value tripled.

    Bell is a dunce. Capitalism has destroyed societal structures: two in fact. Feudalism and communism. Beyond that, capitalism exists in a bewildering variety of forms, the engine driving every other form of government. Money is the greatest thing ever invented. It’s never been improved upon. Every society which encounters it gets the point immediately.

    More capitalism for me, folks. All I want out of capitalism is to put a clutch and transmission on it so we can all drive down the road to some modicum of prosperity and not have that engine stall out because some ignorant bureaucrat can’t work out how his bread is buttered. Were capitalism properly engaged, there would be no poverty in the world, none at all. Where capitalism has failed, it has been perverted to the ends of the few and not the many — and that with the connivance of corrupt government. A working man deserves his pay and if the guy who pays him gets rich, well, that’s kinda beside the point. As long as the worker can use the power of labour to counteract the power of capital, we can slowly let out the clutch and chug down the highway together.Report

  9. Avatar Roger says:

    Thanks or the thought provoking OP and the link to Sullivan’s, Ethan.

    I think Sullivan makes some great points. Capitalism is extremely disruptive of traditional family structures and norms. Some for the better, some for the worse. In addition it creates prosperity. The spoils of capitalism can go to the creators of wealth, but they can also be used to fund the safety nets of those that fail to produce or that are harmed by the disruptions of families and norms.

    A related topic pertains to the problem in capitalism of INCUMBENTS. By this term, I simply refer to the fact that change creates winners and losers, and the losers are often current incumbents. Thus it can behoove incumbents to resist change and the creative destruction of capitalism. Part of the modern state includes payments to losing incumbents.

    A current losing incumbent is the moderately skilled American factory worker. These folks lost out in capitalism to the expanded markets as the third world and previously communist countries opened up to capitalism. These incumbents will naturally do whatever it takes to stop the creative destruction process in its tracks. Some of the spoils of capitalism are redistributed to buy off these harmed incumbents.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      There’s a codicil in my will which says the last two words on my tombstone will read “Data First.” But the last sentence out of my mouth will likely be “I have a theory about that…”

      Jobs began to flood out of the USA about the time Communism began to crumble. Japan had built up a nice work force after WW2 and Germany, too. But the disruptions they caused were kinda interesting. Both Germany and Japan worked out how to deal with workers’ rights. Germany by putting workers on boards of directors of large companies. Japan was extremely weird: their trade unions jumped into bed with management immediately, to the consternation of MacArthur who’d instituted trade unions in Japan.

      American workers had grown fat, dumb and happy. American trade unionism had emerged in a bloody war with the owners. It’s hard to overestimate how much bottled-up resentment was inherent in the stability imposed on both by the Wagner Act. Along comes Taft-Hartley and the writing was on the wall: trade unionism had been castrated. The rest you know. The postwar boom came and went, a two-tier society developed, the trade union movement died an unpleasant death — all because the USA never worked out a rational strategy for balancing the needs of labour with those of management.

      And still, the hatred is palpable. We see it everywhere. Any time labour stands up for itself, it’s vilified. Don’t like your working conditions? Quit, then. Go find another job. That’s the standard nostrum for worker discontent. Unions are the tools of Satan, protecting all manner of incompetence and villainy, especially teachers’ unions. Cops and firemen are oddly exempted from this contempt.

      So now the jobs are shipped off to nations with disgusting human rights records, featuring governments so corrupt it’s a miracle these bastards can stand upright and hold a plate of biscuits at the same time without being bribed to do so. We don’t care about those goddamn Chinese and Mexicans and Fili-peeenos taking our jobs. If those workers have no rights, well, neither do our workers any more.

      There’s another way of phrasing that argument about “Don’t like your job? Then quit.” The job didn’t like you. So it left. That job was given to someone more exploitable than you, in a country where trade unions are illegal and organisers are murdered.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        “in a country where trade unions are illegal and organisers are murdered.”

        China’s getting a minimum wage.

        And it ain’t nothing new to see organizers murdered. Labor will get through it, it always does. Labor’s gotta fight, or it’ll have nothing but debt. That’s the way the world works.

        Unless you want to look at it like folks are truly replaceable, and labor only worked for a little while, when it was more efficient to have freemen than slaves. That’s a grim fate, indeed.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    A really good post, Ethan.

    In fact, I have to say that this week’s posts have been pretty outstanding, both on the FP and the subs. And it’s only Tuesday.Report

  11. Avatar Chris says:

    Nostalgia is a white (mostly) male privilege.Report