Discontent. Were this a high school essay, we would start by saying, “discontent according to Websters XXIIV Dictionary defines discontent as….” Or, “In art as in life….” However, discontent is the malaise of a middle class regressing back into a high school mentality. Before the concept of “high school” this discontent should better be attributed to the human condition rather than some made-up institution we have recently invented to confine younger people in like so many hogs in a animal factory (formerly known as a “hog farm”). Our regression to “high school” is not picking up the books or wandering the halls with a worn out and out-of-date permission slip, but sophomoric behavior and overly emotional reaction or puerile fixations on idiotic trivialities that substitute or otherwise stand in for more important issues too frightening for the underdeveloped brain and emotional cortex to comprehend. Our times are littlered with these “high school” boobs both on the airwaves, in our public life, at work, and usually these stunted figures are our bosses or at least the loudest ones in the room. Again, prior to the concept of “teenage” (occurring in the USA just about or after WWII) or the obsessive fixation on developmental science to inform a more scientific rearing of children, those of “high school” mentality may have been refered to as the mob mentality, or King Mob. (As an aside, the contradictions in our fixation on “developmental psychology” as it informs our current and sick approach to raising humans and that which we drop when it suits us. We hear a youth of 18 being called a “child” in one instance, such as social services needed or some other protection, but discarded all our precious literature in scientific child development when we jail that same “child” as an “adult.” Or that one’s daughter of 16 can expel a fetus without parent consent because she is her own person yet if that same girl drinks booze at a party and crashes the family mini van into a herd of Hasidics [was going to say nuns but wanted to spread the wealth], the parents are charged with neglect and financial damages may led the entire family to become homeless… but that is another story. Ahem). King Mob and the idea of the crowd as being irrational desires and base motives is nothing new. The concept in the proverb that “it takes three generations to make a gentleman” is also nothing new. Both predate the French Revolution and the remake of Tron. However, there is something in this and the high school mentality that may inform our more base climate infecting business, markets, and what is left of the body politic and the dying remains of the Commonweal.
The first issue of a regression into 9th grade (for full disclosure this author was home schooled and only “attended” high school by working with the population for a number of years) is the impact on infantalizing our society. Infants want the here-and-now. They want to be distracted or entertained. The love of spectacle (apologies Debourd), the impact of reproduction not only on our concept of objects and “one of a kind” but our lust to replicate in exacting methods in our services both popular (think McDonald’s) and [formerly] civic (think one school in South Central Crackpipe serving as a model for all schools) where we look to create that perfect tee shirt with that perfect logo that will brand our lives (totally need to put flowers on your grave Benjamin for basterdizing that one). So the pervasive social regression and hatred of all things “adult” (except for the films). From a Freudist perspective this may be explained by one of Dr. Cigar’s common themes, one that run deep in professional and drug store psychiatric wards and therpizors. Regression is often a reaction to stresses from the environment. Not the once in a while big event, but ongoing and pervasive doubt, fear, and uncertainty that we Americans have not been taught to live with. Those who work with abused children have seen (and documented) that psychological abuse can effect a developing child as much as being beaten once in a while with a wire hanger and that children who had occasional but regular physical abuse were more well adapted than those who had psychological abuse and lived in uncertainty (really looking for the citation for this one so for now can you just go with me on this for the rhythm of the idea? Think of those people who you know who knew if they did X Y would beat them with Z than those trembling ones who never knew what would be the trigger or what kind of punishment would be dealt). Those who were psychologically abused are often stunted in body as well as mind, especially in complex emotion or comfort with abstract thought. So, not to say that the body politic of America has been bent over a barrel and ass raped, no, that award goes to Africa, but that after a stretch of a bounteous cornucopia we as a nation have been facing increasing stress as to our situation, as a whole and culture, as well as individually. So, individually we regress into Snookie and a thousand other distractions. the aggregate of these regressive or stunted individuals (yikes sounding a little like a neocon here a’ la Leo Strauss) is King Mob. This mob, unlike previous mobs is not quite as king as it used to be since it is indeed made up of various publics (shit, really digging into my Routledge library here) and this creates a tapestry of idiocy more multi culti and harder to define than that of Old Hickory and his army of dunces. Nevertheless, our King Mob can be defined as middling class, no matter if it is Hispanic suburbanite in Medford, Indian computer programmer in Atlanta, or Hmong hunting enthusiast in Minnesota. This middle class we are dealing with who Teabag or perseverate on usless trivia (think NYT and the RCG crowd) ae not the first generation to bust into that degree of wealth, ownership, and comparative comfort that defines “middle class. Our trouble is caused by this next generation, the one that should proceed the creation of the “gentleman” mentality as they step away from the peasant-minded passivity of the parents and follow Darwin’s evolutionary path growing branches towards that green glen of gentility. This need not be the “gentleman” (sorry ladies, you can be gentlemen too for the sake of the author’s prose) of a financial mantle, but a mentality that many argue (see Renaissance saying above) comes not only with having money but having money long enough to realize its eventual worthlessness unless spent on the social common good. In the past the great families of the United States (think the FDRs and so forth) were ultimately civic-minded. They built libraries, were social workers, led public health campaigns, and while they did hold on to their cash – and unexpected bad things happened to the Indians along the way – they did so with a mentality that is hard to find today outside of the halls of primarily Jewish foundations and certain individual charities where the last vestige of common good seem to prevail (the majority of American Christians have turned their back on actual Christian behavior in their mega-churches and back yard Bible classes). Our generation is then ruled by non-gentlemen – the mook. The mook who has gotten stuck along Developmental Way and seems to relish in their regression to all those traits that make peasants bad – the petty feuds, the wilful ignorance, the fear of change. As peasants made for poor rulers in Russia when they took power only to turn their rage against their formerly fellow peasants (think Stalin), our non-gentlemen middle class now in power have turned upon those peasants in our society with thug-like glee as they rant and rage against immigrants, the poor, the lower middle class (not that these are nobel people, but that too is another story) as they also spit bile at their alien antecedents – the intellectuals, statesmen, and genteel folk who have already gone green but could afford to burn tankers of oil to read poetry by should they wish to. Garish McMansions are a symbol of this regression, the mob mentality of “me” and at the same time an aggressive middle finger to those poor saying “fuck you I got mine.” This is opposed to Locust Grove, Lyndhurst, or other Mansions that while grand beyond the needs of keeping water and snow of a group of people, were social centers with extra rooms not to fill with video game consols but guests and society, libraries to provide a space for learning and conversation, and dinning rooms where the kabuki of European dinners lasted but a short span of American networking. Since every society will have a ruling class and it will never be truly “the people” would we want that of the Great Society (actually LBJ was a shitkicking peasant but influenced by those Ivy Leagues of old) or the fuck you buddy culture of a sour bunch of children perched on every piece of formerly fertile farm land so they can ruin our land as fast as they piss away civil society and the rule of law.
We are then stuck in an age of jocks and cheerleaders. Listen to the sport metaphors in business and the current obsession with “leadership” and “self-esteem” two qualities our children seem in no shortage of while their deficiencies in math, reading, and reasoning may lag other nations. This garish sporting game is no longer that of a sport of skill, but the smash-up of football, or the lions eating virgins of the coliseum. It is no wonder that complex ideas cannot be taken on. In high school as in life, we avoid the ideas that make us appear egg headed non jocks or pessimistic prognostications that may tell us, prepare for bad time, for peak oil, for the idiocy of American Management, because that may not allow us a place on the cheerleading squad where our proverbial or actual tits can wave in the wind in time to our pom poms.
Our middle class is shifting in a way that it is not even the loss of financial stability, a hallmark of middle class existence, but the slow progress from Peasant to gentleman. We have stuck in our stages of development despite our scientific upbringing by teams of experts. So, the next time you see some red-faced buffoon or talking head with her tits out, calm orator who avoids issues or doing more than formulating policy based on the latest opinion poll, don’t get mad. It is a stage of their development from High School to Higher Education. When you see the middle class public/s turn on the commonweal, the civic, and those less fortunate, it is just a stage in their transformation from peasant to gentleman. The problem is, we seem to be stuck in the transformative process and perhaps regressing at a historic time in our nation – that of decline due to the policies of the past thirty years – and a transformation of the planet both environmentally as well as for traditional resource allocation. The Jocks and Cheerleaders play on making more and more noise. The clock is ticking in the gymnasium and the game is about to get real interesting as our court is filled with more toxic sludge, carnivorous beasts, and fewer virgins to be eaten.
One thought on “The Middle Class and its Discontents”
“Wandering the halls with a worn out and out-of-date permission slip” is what our generation of the 30 something middle class is doing and have been doing since we were really back in high school. Our generation is made up of “that guy” who doesn’t give a shit about jocks and cheerleaders, says little and wanders the hallways wearing a Cure T-Shirt, listening to the Smiths and wearing doc martens and flight jackets, when we had no intention of flying.