It was a rare day in America where we saw unique social agreement take place. People from both sides of the aisle politically came together, teaming for a joint cause: to ridicule the pomposity delivered by NY Times columnist, David Brooks. His attempted explainer at why lower class people have it so tough bears all the signs of a lubricated country club pontificator lecturing from the Nineteenth Hole.
Brooks, the living equivalent of a Brooks Brothers store mannequin whose display rod was removed from his colon so he now thinks he walks around as “one of the people”, has long been oblivious to the working of those operating in a strata below his own. (He once referred to the Belgian beer Stella Artois as a “working class” brand.)
And what happened in his column that had the regal writer coming under the cross-hairs of social media? Allow me a forensic study on how he managed to make himself appear as a caste-hole. The opening paragraph sets the stage. (For those who have only gone to trade school, a stage was that wooden platform you built for the better kids to sing and dance upon.)
Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.
From here Brooks launches into numerous avenues which tend to illustrate one thing; the scribe is writing from within the very bubble of which he seems to be castigating. So allow me to carve up Davy’s prolix, to see what exactly caused this vibrant musing to flatline abruptly.
How (upper middle class families) managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid.
— Nothing’s quite so distancing to your readers than injecting upper middle class verbosity, a product of your privileged education. (Calling them “stupid” is also a harsh bit of arms-length maneuvering.)
Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.
— This bit of “analysis” says more about Dave’s upper crust set, than anyone else. Does Brooks really think families wanting a better life for their progeny is a new concept?! “The hottest new trend is sweeping the Manhattan-ite set — giving a damn about your kids!”
Upper-middle-class moms have the means and the maternity leaves to breast-feed their babies at much higher rates than high school-educated moms, and for much longer periods.
— Are we going to begin legislating breast-feeding? Supposing there are moms who want the leave time, but elect NOT to breast-feed? Will we somehow demand lactation records, or send them back to work?!
It’s when we turn to the next task — excluding other people’s children from the same opportunities — that things become morally dicey.
— Note Republicans, who are often labelled as the “rich” elite, are also those who try to pass school vouchers to allow that very class mobility. It is the liberal elitists who fight this solution.
The most important is residential zoning restrictions. Well-educated people tend to live in places like Portland, New York and San Francisco that have housing and construction rules that keep the poor and less educated away.
— Based on what I’ve seen of these leftist utopias the “poor and less educated” are going to be just fine if they become excluded from these dens of liberal distemper.
From here Brooks tries to make a finer point, and he chooses to do so delivering what is intended to be an anecdote, one that he purportedly experienced. If you are picking up on my dubious opinion of his empirical example then good, you are a sharp one, my friend.
I’ve come to think the structural barriers…are less important than the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent.
— Now we will be coming across the cause of death for this particular column. Brooks attempts to suggest the powerful economic blocks are not nearly as impactful as these “social barriers”. You instantly can see which side of the members-only wall he is writing from.
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch.
— As you will quickly note, this is going to be a deeply questionable claim. (Additionally: anyone have a read on what constitutes a high school “degree”?)
Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop.
— It is only from a stance of elitist condescension that this act could be regarded as “insensitive”. The “I mistakenly brought them to one of our establishments” mentality is on full display.
Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette.
— Oh this poor, overwhelmed and uneducated serf! She was assaulted with food choices with which she bore no prior exposure — and David Brooks was responsible for this!!!
I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else…
— And here is where this entire claim of this as a real experience goes sideways. If this were you, or myself, or anyone else outside vine-choked security walls (that is to say, “normal people”), we would have done the expected – coached and helped our dining companion. Brooks instead looked at his “friend” (ahem) and instantly felt a need to usher them out to a safer gastronomic environment.
…she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
— Nice racist turn there, Dave. These exclusionary upper-crust foreign Italian deli meats were triggering and offensive! Let’s get you to a more accommodating lower-class food option — Mexican.
American upper-middle-class culture is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”
— I would like to point out that in his given example it was Brooks who evacuated the individual briskly from his high class sandwich emporium. (Also, how does a deli filled with Italian sandwich items constitute “American upper-middle class culture”???)
The other indicator that the writer is full of garbage here is the sheer disdain he shows for this “friend” of his. I mean think it through. You are this friend, and you see him describe you in print as an undereducated social naif who becomes paralyzed at the site of foreign cold cuts, and you needed to be rescued with the comforting presence of a taco.
If I were Brooks’ friend here he would receive the gift basket equivalent of a Cressi Sub knife blade in his 4 tires.
Dave then closes out his piece in a no-less exclusionary mentality.
We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible. The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there.
— Paraphrased: too bad they are too dumb to see our barriers! This derision is made more evident when a member of that educated class points those barriers out, and then ensures the “rest of America” is quickly taken away before they have any chance at learning about the differences.
More hot sauce for that burrito?