Friday, January 22, 2021

What A Cluster-Pluck


"Elite" institutions attract the financial "elite."  I know few people who, if they got into Harvard (as a symbol, not a university) would have been all that comfortable or gained all that much from being around the "elite" for four years.  "Elite" institutions attract people from that strata of society, for better or worse.  And it's no surprise they scamper off to familiar environs as soon as they can.  The former owners of my house came from the very wealthy section of town, and sold this place so they could return there.  So it goes.  And then there's the assumption "white supremacy" is the province of the poor and the poorly educated.  To which I respond:  Charles Murray; Stephen Miller; Donald J. Trump.

Just for starters.

But to put it in further context:  "Today we have homegrown feudalism"?  Huh?  From what "elite" university did he get that misguided notion?  Nothing in American society, politics, or governance even vaguely resembles "homegrown feudalism," not even the paltry efforts of plantation owners before slavery was abolished.  We have what we have always had:  people divided by race, money, and education.  And frankly, not all education is equal.  "Elite" institutions in general do a poor job training their graduates to be ethical, responsible beings.  Again:  Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, for starters.  But then, as Randy Newman sang about "Rednecks", we got:  "Good ol' boys from LSU/Went in dumb, come out dumb, too/Hustlin' 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes/Gettin' drunk every weekend at the barbecue/Keepin' the niggers down."

As the song argues, that last sentiment belongs to pretty much all of us.  How many black/brown faces at the Capitol on January 6th? The most prominent one was there on the side of the government. How many of the protestors are products of "elite" universities, or support white supremacy?

Enter Joe Biden, a man who is repelled by the ancient feudalism of the right and is outside the “meritocratic” feudalism of the left. Here is a Truman-like figure, whose Inaugural Address was spoken in the plain words and with the plain values of Main Street.

I like "Joe from Scranton" as much as the next guy, but this nonsense about "feudalism" has got to stop.  "Ancient feudalism" of the right?  What, in contrast to modern feudalism?  Feudalism IS ancient.  Period.  " 'Meritocratic' feudalism"?  I don't even know where to start.  By what meritocracy, frankly, does David Brooks get space on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times?  Is feudalism involved?  As I recall, Molly Ivins, who was actually quite well-educated and knowledgeable (despite the proto-Texan persona she portrayed in public, and traded on heavily at the end), but she didn't get along with the Times "meritocracy" at all.  Feudalism at work?  Or more likely regionalism?  Ms. Ivins had the temerity to write an article about a chicken plucking party in a Western state and rural area as a "cluster pluck."  Her editor was outraged that she made the tender readers of the NYT think of...well, you know what you thought of.

If that ain't "feudalism" in this new and metaphorical meaning, what is?


  1. David Brooks graduated from the U of Chicago.

  2. Oh, fact checking my memory, I see he was born in Toronto while his daddy was pursuing his PhD at the rather elite University of Toronto, before going to teach at hardly non-elite New York University, his mater was a product of Columbia.

  3. He reeks of white privilege, and always has. I knew someone who knew him; her husband had been in the State Department, and she spoke quite cordially of Brooks. She was a very nice person, but from a distinctly "elite" life-experience, certainly compared to mine. My sister-in-law, similarly, grew up very wealthy in Houston, spent her summers at the Broadmoor in Colorado, etc. More so than the person I knew who knew Brooks (who I knew only casually), my sister-in-law is one of the dearest people I know.

    Fitzgerald was right; the rich are different. And when they start talking about "elitism" and "feudalism," I can't stop laughing at the cluelessness involved. Molly Ivins grew up pretty rich (Daddy was chief counsel to one of the major oil companies), but she knew better, too; bless her.

    1. I constantly find myself going back to the collections of her columns. I had a few major disagreements with her, you'll know which ones, but she was one of the great commentators on politics and life in the United States. I looked at the one in which she explained the diversity of Texas to the rest of the country, it should be required reading for people who figure that the entire South and the West are white, Republican-fascist, reactionary and hypocritical-"Christian". I remember the first time I pointed out on Eschaton that The Reverened MLK was a Southerner and a Baptist and that it was such Southerners who were the major figures and forces in the most significant success of the American left during our lifetimes. It was like I'd told them the Easter Bunny wasn't real and George Carlin wasn't funny.