I must have things spoon-fed to me, I’m just that lazy.

This David Brooks piece in today’s New York Times is fascinating to me, and not at all because of the Donald Trump ‘point’.  As a matter of fact, I reached my limit on Donald Trump ‘points’ some time ago.  He is not a fit subject for parsing.  There is nothing there to parse, only something to be gotten past.

Our nightmare can draw to a close when, on live television, in an orange-tinted, sulphur-scented cloud of smoke, winged minions drag him live to Hell, like the end of Don Giovanni.  A boy can dream.

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Getting Radical About Inequality

David Brooks

JULY 18, 2017

I’m not in the habit of recommending left-wing French intellectuals, but I’m beginning to think that Pierre Bourdieu is helpful reading in the age of Trump. He was born in 1930, the son of a small-town postal worker. By the time he died in 2002, he had become perhaps the world’s most influential sociologist within the academy, and largely unknown outside of it.

His great subject was the struggle for power in society, especially cultural and social power. We all possess, he argued, certain forms of social capital. A person might have academic capital (the right degrees from the right schools), linguistic capital (a facility with words), cultural capital (knowledge of cuisine or music or some such) or symbolic capital (awards or markers of prestige). These are all forms of wealth you bring to the social marketplace.

In addition, and more important, we all possess and live within what Bourdieu called a habitus. A habitus is a body of conscious and tacit knowledge of how to travel through the world, which gives rise to mannerisms, tastes, opinions and conversational style. A habitus is an intuitive feel for the social game. It’s the sort of thing you get inculcated with unconsciously, by growing up in a certain sort of family or by sharing a sensibility with a certain group of friends.

For example, in his surveys of French taste, Bourdieu found that manual laborers liked Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” but didn’t like Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” People who lived in academic communities, on the other hand, liked the latter but not the former.

Your habitus is what enables you to decode cultural artifacts, to feel comfortable in one setting but maybe not in another. Taste overlaps with social position; taste classifies the classified.

Every day, Bourdieu argued, we take our stores of social capital and our habitus and we compete in the symbolic marketplace. We vie as individuals and as members of our class for prestige, distinction and, above all, the power of consecration — the power to define for society what is right, what is “natural,” what is “best.”

The symbolic marketplace is like the commercial marketplace; it’s a billion small bids for distinction, prestige, attention and superiority.

Every minute or hour, in ways we’re not even conscious of, we as individuals and members of our class are competing for dominance and respect. We seek to topple those who have higher standing than us and we seek to wall off those who are down below. Or, we seek to take one form of capital, say linguistic ability, and convert it into another kind of capital, a good job.

Most groups conceal their naked power grabs under a veil of intellectual or aesthetic purity. Bourdieu used the phrase “symbolic violence” to suggest how vicious this competition can get, and he didn’t even live long enough to get a load of Twitter and other social media.

Different groups and individuals use different social strategies, depending on their position in the field.

People at the top, he observed, tend to adopt a reserved and understated personal style that shows they are far above the “assertive, attention-seeking strategies which expose the pretensions of the young pretenders.” People at the bottom of any field, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of accomplishment to wave about, but they can use snark and sarcasm to demonstrate the superior sensibilities.

Sometimes, the loser wins: If you’re setting up a fancy clothing or food shop you go down and adopt organic and peasant styles in order to establish the superior moral prestige that you can then use to make gobs of money.

Bourdieu helps you understand what Donald Trump is all about. Trump is not much of a policy maven, but he’s a genius at the symbolic warfare Bourdieu described. He’s a genius at upending the social rules and hierarchies that the establishment classes (of both right and left) have used to maintain dominance.

Bourdieu didn’t argue that cultural inequality creates economic inequality, but that it widens and it legitimizes it.

That’s true, but as the information economy has become more enveloping, cultural capital and economic capital have become ever more intertwined. Individuals and classes that are good at winning the cultural competitions Bourdieu described tend to dominate the places where economic opportunity is richest; they tend to harmonize with affluent networks and do well financially.

Moreover, Bourdieu reminds us that the drive to create inequality is an endemic social sin. Every hour most of us, unconsciously or not, try to win subtle status points, earn cultural affirmation, develop our tastes, promote our lifestyles and advance our class. All of those microbehaviors open up social distances, which then, by the by, open up geographic and economic gaps.

Bourdieu radicalizes, widens and deepens one’s view of inequality. His work suggests that the responses to it are going to have to be more profound, both on a personal level — resisting the competitive, ego-driven aspects of social networking and display — and on a national one.

Quite a few months ago, someone at Stephen’s store recommended a Netflix offering that ran on Turkish television from 2011 to 2014, called ‘Muhteşem Yüzyıl’ (‘The Magnificent Century’).  Grand title aside, it’s a soap opera.

The series fictionalizes palace intrigue during the reign of ‘Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent’.  The recommendation, as it turns out, was based on ‘you must see the costumes’ and not much more.  And yet…

Now, whereas I contend — and can never be persuaded otherwise — that male beauty in every aspect reached its zenith in John F. Kennedy, Jr., there are other extremely attractive men in the world, including the actor portraying Süleyman in this show, Halit Ergenç.

Every so often for the last number of months, we will have watched an episode or two (there are 48, we’re at 37), during which it was de rigueur to say out loud two and three times: ‘Now that’s a good-looking man!’

The show is terrible, and the actress in the female lead, Meryem Uzerli, is so wonderfully terrible that we have taken to imitating her delivery expressing this or that emotion around the house.  Stephen has her down, but the character itself is the ideal of petulance and willfulness, so it’s really not that much of a leap.

I will deny having said that.

Tab Hunter is 86 years old today.

Somewhere around the house, I have a ’45’ of his Dot Records hit ‘Young Love’, which was released January 19th, 1957 (the day before my own 10th birthday) and stayed at #1 on the Billboard chart for 6 weeks.

Somewhere around the house, I have an original ‘Odorama’ card from the John Waters film ‘Polyester’, starring Tab Hunter and Divine.

These are bits of information you had no idea you would acquire today.

Just a guess.

This museum project I’ve been working on is… still going on.  I’m headed to the museum after I post this.  My enthusiasm, etc, etc has diminished somewhat.  (Imagine that.)  HowEVER, the other week I did get a lovely citation and a lovely bottle of Prosecco.

I hope Tab gets a lovely bottle of Prosecco today.  Actually, we can share mine.

In a few minutes, I’m off to my little photo studio at the museum, for another afternoon of shooting 19th century doodads.  Before I leave, for no reason in particular, I thought I’d throw this out there into the ether.

The other evening at dinner, I asked two of our friends who have advanced degrees (which I have not) to remind me of the titles of their dissertations.  I don’t recall what prompted this query.

Thesis titles can, and very frequently do, sound über-pompous.  Our friends’ titles?  Only moderately pompous.  If I had an advanced degree, you know how pompous that title would be.

Anyway, here is a transcription of a favorite piece from ‘Beyond the Fringe’ from the very early 1960’s.  Actually, most of the bits from ‘B the F’ are my favorites.

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We have in the studio Bertrand Russell, who talks to us in the series “Sense Perception and Nonsense: Number 7, Is this a dagger I see before me?”.  Bertrand Russell.

Russell: One of the advantages of living in Great Court, Trinity I seem to recall, was the fact that one could pop across at any time of the day or night and trap the then young G. E. Moore into a logical falsehood by means of a cunning semantic subterfuge. I recall one occasion with particular vividness. I had popped across and had knocked upon his door. “Come in,” he said. I decided to wait awhile in order to test the validity of his proposition. “Come in,” he said once again. “Very well,” I replied, “if that is in fact truly what you wish.”

I opened the door accordingly and went in, and there was Moore seated by the fire with a basket upon his knees. “Moore,” I said, “do you have any apples in that basket?” “No,” he replied, and smiled seraphically, as was his wont. I decided to try a different logical tack. “Moore,” I said, “do you then have some apples in that basket?” “No,” he replied, leaving me in a logical cleft stick from which I had but one way out. “Moore,” I said, “do you then have apples in that basket?” “Yes,” he replied. And from that day forth, we remained the very closest of friends.

I frankly don’t know how other bloggers can routinely churn out posts while otherwise apparently having full lives.  This photographic project I’ve waxed on about for the past two posts continues to wipe me out, no energy for the blogging give and take.

How nice to have one of those bloggers write a post for me [click] on the subject of the loathsome experience of buying a new car!

Three or so weeks ago, the subject of buying a new car was not even on the radar, then without warning a bee got into Stephen’s bonnet and ‘suddenly’ I was signing the papers last week on a brand new ‘Ioniq’, Hyundai’s entrance into the Toyota ‘Prius’ market.  Far prettier, see for yourself:

Click to enlarge

Googling for the above picture, I got directed to the ‘Wiki’ article on the car, which includes the following sentence: The nameplate Ioniq is a portmanteau for ‘ion’ and ‘unique’.

Until today, I had never encountered the word ‘portmanteau’, but spellchecker knew it.

Spellchecker making a person feel illiterate?  That’s just wrong.

This project I posted about three weeks ago has morphed into something very much resembling an actual job, as in ‘employment’.  This has been quite a shock for someone who for the past thirteen years of retirement has been — as our friend Michael J puts it — ‘sitting around the house all day, touching myself’.

Earlier this week, after about five minutes of watching the Congressional grilling of Former CIA Director John Brennan on the Trump-Russia matter, I wrote a piece about South Carolina U. S. Representative Trey Gowdy entitled:

“Dave: ‘Insensate’ or merely ‘Wantonly Vicious’?”.

I very wisely canned it, but here is the thumbnail: Gowdy is a hideous to look at, embarrassingly vile redneck.

I am very tired.  An op-ed piece I read a month or so ago places — with regard to the damage to our collective psyche — the election of Donald Trump alongside the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 attacks.  I concur and need relief.

My late friend Dee was a voracious reader, and though I do not know how she came upon Ernest Howard Crosby (1856—1907) ‘American reformer, georgist, and author’ in her reading journey, during her moments of frustration with this, that, and the other, she would say with just a hint of wry:

‘I am here by some sad cosmic mistake, and I am homesick’.

Here is Crosby’s line in its context:

I am homesick / Homesick for the land I never have seen / For the land where men rise only to lift / Where there is nothing over a man between him and the sky / That land is my true country / I am here by some sad, cosmic mistake / And I am homesick

Ernest Howard Crosby

My own approximation of Dee’s ‘mantra’ comes from a far less idealistic author, Dame Truman Capote.  Here are the words of Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, one of Capote’s couple of prototypes for Holly Golightly, in this case a precocious little girl in his short story ‘Children on their Birthdays’:

‘The Devil … will do you a good turn if he knows you trust him …  Now, as a matter of fact, I have called in the Devil just recently.  He is the only one who can help me get out of this town.  Not that I live here, not exactly.  I think always about somewhere else, somewhere else where everything is dancing, like people dancing in the streets, and everything is pretty, like children on their birthdays.’

I don’t require ‘pretty’ just now, I just need so much less ‘ugly’.  Seems unlikely, but I wonder if the Devil can help me out.

Here’s a bit of wisdom I’d like to pass along: If you don’t want to do something, you have to say ‘no’.

A couple of months ago, I found myself added to a committee for a local ‘attraction’ which is attached (so to speak) to the municipal fine art museum.

Here is a partial description:

The Ware-Lyndon House is a circa 1840s late Greek Revival home with Italianate influence. It is the last remaining house in its once fashionable 19th century in-town neighborhood. The interior has been restored and arranged with decorative art and furnishings of the period.

This committee I’ve mentioned took on as a project the creation of an online database of a wide swath of those period furnishings and objets in the house.

Here’s where I enter the picture.  Since for a sustained 22 years of my 30-year ‘association’ with the local university my business card included the descriptor ‘photographer’, assumptions were made.

I did not say ‘no’.

I’ve set up a small studio in the house and am currently spending hour upon hour photographing the length and breadth of the contents, from chifforobes to dainty porcelain.  I’m killer at dainty porcelain, chifforobes not so much.

Truth is, I’m not suffering as much as implied.  My only paranoid ‘dismay’ is that in this iPhone world, people think photographs just happen: I sense a phantom bit of impatience from the other committee members.

Well, f*ck ‘em.  Oh, I don’t mean that.  Actually, yes, I do.

On an occasion or two, I’ve mentioned that I’ve weeded — scythed, actually — posts from this blog since 2009.  The other week, however, I stumbled onto the fact that my WordPress ‘Media Library’ remains completely intact.  I discovered this noticing in my ‘stats’ that people’s internet searches will occasionally ferret out a image from my trove.

In late 2011, when the late Kim Jong-il of North Korea, became ‘late’, photos and video online depicted the most outrageous displays of public grief, simultaneous theatrical weeping and sobbing by throngs of North Korean nationals.

At about the same time, someone sent me a video entitled ‘I Hate My Job’.  Don’t remember why, though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a statement about the possibility that Kim Jong-il hated his job.  I cobbled together this ‘chimera’ below, when I noticed that the relative leg/body positions in two very separate images were just crying out to be joined.  (And the shoes and hatband match.  Kismet!)

We recently learned that Donald Trump thinks that Kim Jong-il and his son Kim Jong-un are the same person, and thought he’d sent a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier to threaten him, but actually hadn’t.

With things this très screwed up, reposting this picture can’t do that much harm.

‘… they are so unlike your Christ.’  — Mohandas Gandhi

On this, the ‘Holiest Day in the Christian Calendar’, I have a proposal for all  ‘Christians’.

If you don’t already have one, get yourself one of those ‘Red Letter Bibles’, the ones that have the words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth printed in red ink.

Jettison all the what-notery in the rest of the tome, and I don’t mean just the ‘begats’, which as a matter of fact, you can keep if you absolutely cannot part with them.

If you cannot do this, then please call yourself something other than ‘Christian’.

I myself continue to struggle with ‘The Risen Christ’, but I’m pretty much 100% on pixies.

A number of years ago for three years running, we would rent a house on the coast after Christmas for a week spanning New Year’s Day, with a group of friends and friend/acquaintances.

The last time we participated, before the week was out there was ‘tension’, and we subsequently opted out for upcoming treks; the report coming back the next year included one couple abruptly leaving mid-week.  Boom.

Part of the tension during our ‘last’ arose from a lady couple of our many years’ acquaintance (friends of friends) bringing lady colleagues from Washington DC, taking a nearby house, but using ours for evening board games.  Loud ones.

One individual amongst the ladies was second in command at the EPA at that time and a major power lesbian.  Her general disdain for gentlemen was — How to put it? — not well-concealed.

What sent me into the recalling of all this was running across Bessie Smith’s ‘Foolish Man Blues’ the other day:

“There’s two things got me puzzled, there’s two things I don’t understand, that’s a mannish-acting woman and a lisping, swishing, womanish-acting man”

(Over time I’ve seen ‘skipping, twisting’ substituted, ‘skipping, hopping’, too.)

Now, as to the aforementioned lady’s alleged disdain for men, I want you to take it on faith that during that week there was no lisping or swishing, no skipping that I am aware of, and absolutely no hopping.  Scout’s honor.

There was traipsing.

Come to think of it, I suppose we were just asking for it.

Why am I telling you this?

I started blogging in 2009, but September 2015, I ditched the previous posts in a fit of cyber housecleaning. Some of it was really nice writing, but alas as my old friend Susan once said, 'Compulsion is a cruel master'.

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