Email: darkblogules at yahoo dot com
All email will be assumed to be for publication unless otherwise requested.
What's in the banner?
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Via John Coumarianos at Innocents Abroad comes this fascinating piece by Janet Daley of the London Daily Telegraph.
It describes how Berkeley turned her into a Marxist, and how living the Marxist dream turned her into a conservative. This article puts its finger directly on something I meant to write about in the next few days, so I'll save that part for later. But I did want to mention another thing that struck me.
Daley starts out life as liberal New Englander ("I had my own version of the American dream: a cross between New England Puritanism and cerebral Jewish idealism.") and comes to late '50s California for her last two years in high school. She's "appalled" that her new classmates don't seem to have any shred of social consciousness (conscience?): "The idea with which I had been raised--that life was, at least in some sense, a moral mission--was literally unintelligible to most of my friends."
She says she was particularly moved by the film Operation Abolition, made by the House Un-American Activities Committee to discredit its critics, especially those in San Francisco---but not in the way those who showed it to her intended:
I was going to point you to the Prelinger Archives, where, I thought, you could download Operation Abolition, but it's not there. You can, however, download Operation Correction (Part I and Part II), a film made by the ACLU to "correct" the impression made by Operation Abolition. I thought both films were there.
The commentary on the Prelinger Archives site says, of Operation Abolition, "the resultant publicity did much to engender the social consciousness of the 1960s."
When Daley got to Berkeley she found herself among sympathetic souls. However, she never quite explains how a concern for civil liberties (which I would have shared) became sympathy for Marxism (which I wouldn't). In any case, she eventually went to Britain, where she taught "liberal studies" to lower-class boys "with no occupational ambitions beyond becoming factory hands."
The point I wanted to make was that this attitude is not confined to urban British factory hands: it works for rural Americans too. I encountered this attitude when I wanted to go to college to study physics. It stems partly from the old-fashioned notion of a university as a sort of junior social club for the rich---a place where personal ties can be formed so that business ties can be formed later. Hobnobbing with the high and mighty will avail the poor boy nothing (since they will always stick to their own kind, in the end), and only make him dissatisfied with the life to which he must return.
But that's only part of it. Another part is the realization that when one member of the community makes good, it makes the rest look bad. "Hey, it wasn't bein' poor that kept us back; it was the fact that we'd rather drink than study! Who knew?"
Daley believes that this attitude was excusable in people whose ancestors "had learned bitter lessons about the dangers of 'getting above yourself.'" She does not clarify what this means, but whatever it is, it's hardly likely to apply equally to the descendants of American farmers, which is where I found it.
But here's something even more interesting:
There's much more of this, in four paragraphs around the middle of the article. Does it sound familiar? It should; they're basically the same arguments the anti-globalization crowd makes.
"Oh, how terrible that Hejhogovenia has a McDonald's now! It will completely supplant their wholesome native ant puddings and dirt pies and boiled slugs. Right now their children are starving; soon they'll be---eeewwww!----obese! And when McDonald's comes in the door, you know their authentic culture will go right out the window! What will happen to the colorful Pricking Festival? You know, the dangers of being stabbed repeatedly with long needles are really over-rated, and besides, it's their culture, isn't it? I mean, you have to really respect that, don't you? And besides, my friend over at UNONUTN says they'll have pricking-related deaths down by five percent in only ten years!"
This point was the one that really struck me, and it ties in nicely with a similar attitude that cropped up in the Prelinger CD set Our Secret Century (which I have finally got my hands on). I'll be posting about that in a day or so. Betcha can't wait!