Class Warfare: Tales of a White Underclass

14 Apr

I can’t for the life of me understand why no American publisher had the intelligence to publish Joe Bageant’s Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir(Scribe) thus leaving Australia’s Scribe Publications to show some great good sense. One clue to how this came to pass may be contained in the author’s introduction explaining (among other things) why he chose to write a memoir:

…I’d be willing to bet that my generation—the baby boomers—has produced more damn memoirs than all others combined. Angry memoirs weeping over some metaphorical pony the author did not get for Christmas in 1958, left a sour wad in the gullet of serious readers…

…I am advised by some editors that he word ‘memoir”, like the word “essay”,can be the kiss of death in today’s suffering book market. But this book was published first in Australia, where i have with my very own eyes seen real customers in book stores, there to purchase a book, not a talking greeting card or a Shakespeare coffee mug to prove they have been in a bookstore. So I nurse a shred of optimism

Or could it be Bageant’s very acute assessment of the American polity left our native publishers skittish?

Everyday it gets a little harder not to notice some fifty or sixty million people scratching around for any kind of job, or working more hours that ever in a sweating white knuckled effort to hang onto the jobs they do have. With credit cards melting down and middle class jobs evaporating, there is the distinct possibility of them slipping into the classes below them.And who are they anyway—those people wiping put the ramen noodle shelf at the supermarket, and looking rather surly as they are moved out of their repossessed house?

Bageant’s assessment includes the very tabooed notion of America as society riven by class— an idea that runs counter to a deeply engrained mythology of ours as a classless society. It is such an obvious feature of American society but not many observers and commentators of the American civilization are unabashed about featuring a class analysis—Howard Zinn was one, as it puts a damper on the glorious fairy tale of American exceptionalism.

Sadly, Joe Bageant passed away recently leaving a dwindling population of sharp eyed and fiercely outspoken critics of late capitalism America. He did leave a large body of work freely available at his website which I heartily recommend you visit. Especially as an antidote to the equine vernacular being freely dispensed hither and dither.

The memoir is a bittersweet look at a slice of society (rural white working Americans) which very few Americans understand or even recognize. Good for Joe Bageant for writing about it with such care.

I should not leave unsaid that Matt Taibbi is doing his fair share of iconoclasty
A recent post at his weblog succinctly addresses the current economic quagmire:

It’s bad enough that middle-class taxpayers have been forced in the last few years to subsidize the vacations and beach houses of the idiots who caused the financial crisis, and it’s doubly insulting that they’re now being blamed for the budget mess.

And he disperses some blame in the right places

It is obvious that we have a debt problem in this country and that something needs to be done about it. But a huge part of the blame for the confusion and the national angst over our budget issues has to be laid at the feet of media assholes .., who continually misrepresent what is actually happening with national spending


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