Monday, July 31, 2017

Hmm …

On the Touchy Subject of Class in America. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)
One of his fundamental points is how rigid, though invisible, America’s caste system is. “We’re pretty well stuck for life,” he writes, “in the class we’re raised in.”
Well, I was raised by and among factory workers. But in grade school I was taught by the Religious of the Sacred Heart and I ended up speaking in such a way that once, in Illinois, I was asked where I was from. When I said Philadelphia, my interlocutor was surprised. He thought my wife, who was born in New Jersey, sounded like she was from Philadelphia, but he said I had no trace of the Philadelphia accent. I guess that is so. But I also don't think I am usually thought to hail from the lower orders. I probably owe that to the nuns as well, since they also encouraged us to go to the Art Museum, listen to classical music, etc. Nevertheless, I have ended up living in a working class neighborhood, where I feel quite comfortable.

1 comment:

  1. I read the book probably thirty-five years ago, and came away with a couple of impressions, one at least probably not intended by Fussell.

    The first was that a lot of what gets counted as intelligence is probably mimicry. Dress like the better of your professors, adopt their ways of speech, and you'll pass well enough for an intellectual.

    The second was that just as Schopenhauer allows a couple of ways of escape from the veil of Maya, just as various religions offer a way of salvation, there is in Fussell's world a way out, into what he calls Class X. Most of the saved in this economy seem to be professors or sorts who might as well be. I found myself thinking of something that Randall Jarrell quotes from Goethe in Pictures From an Institution: "But who is so cultivated as to refrain from stressing, at times, the qualities in which he excels?" I don't know, but he might not be in Class X.