Sunday, August 07, 2011

Checking Up on my Class Markers

I'm suddenly missing some big ones.

My passport expired last summer, so I now make part of that oft-cited figure--is it 70%?--of Americans, most of whom are presumed to be benighted, who don't have one. Sadly, I probably won't be getting another one any time soon either--certainly I won't need to--unless something spurs me with great force to desire to go to Canada again, as I think you need one even for there now.

I also don't have a master's degree, which I did not think of as a socially crippling lack formerly, but it seems in the past few years, especially since women have started getting the sizable majority of them, to be the new cutoff in some quarters for qualifying as officially educated. Real men don't care about this, but lacking a high degree of authentic competence, as well as basic horse sense, I have a pathological need to retain some means by which to plausibly deceive myself that I can claim to other contemporary people to be an educated person, or at least comparable in mental development to what they are themselves. It is doubtful that my projected M.A. in theology or whatever will make much of a difference in how I present myself socially, but by not having one I am almost making it too easy for people to dismiss me out of hand.

I went to my local Borders the other day, which is already in full-fledged shutdown mode--they have already taken out all the chairs. While I haven't spent as much time in bookstores in the last couple of years because seeing all the books that had made it successfully to publication was depressing to me, it never impressed itself upon me that they would literally begin disappearing. Librairies doubtless will be next to go--I think half the people running for my local city council in the next election are doing so just so they can close the library down. A lot of people want to put college online too and turn the current campuses, or least the non-STEM portions of them, into tract housing or something. When I was young of course these places were inspiring to me--wrongfully so, apparently, though in my defense children generally are still not allowed to hang out in and poke around insurance offices or medical research labs or other places serving useful purposes--and these are very sad changes and passings for people like me (I seem to be too old to be able to imbibe from the computer screen the physical and aesthetic atmosphere and more appealing conception of life that the presence of actual books, pictures, oak reading tables, etc, suggests, and while it doubtless sounds ridiculous to someone who did not pass many significant hours in one's early life in such places, I do experience many aspects of the new age as a loss which I won't be able to wholly recover with the new and improved methods). I do enjoy tormenting myself by reading the myriad commentators who find these developments cause for celebration, directing laughter and a surprising amount of contempt at English majors and other sensitive idiots whose cherished and already irrelevant world continues to collapse around them. I can sort of grasp the hardcore technophilia, and the exhiliration of feeling one is fully on board with the creative destruction ushering in a new cultural paradigm and all that. The total disdain for the era that is passing away does always catch me off guard. I don't get that.

As I had another weekend of staying behind to work whilst the family was away I tried going out to dinner again. This place was not as bad as the Olive Garden though the dining room was full and I had to sit at the bar, which I would have preferred not to do. There were a pair of distracting TVs on--in my inexorable march to unmitigated crankiness, I find I increasingly dislike televisions on when I am eating in a restaurant, which formerly did not bother me, and which indeed I often enjoyed, especially when in a foreign country--one of which had on COPS, which really puts one in a great frame of mind for enjoying one's dinner, and the other was showing a competition from the "X Games" in which a bunch of guys oozing some kind of I'm-better-than-you attitude whom I still have no real desire to be like other than that they get to sleep with tons of the kinds of girls I would have wanted for myself were doing some skateboarding thing on a U-shaped wooden track kind of structure. Shaun White, the multiple Olympic snowboarding gold medalist, was one of the competitors in this event, though I did not notice where he finished. This guy seems to get a lot of publicity, and I don't really see why. Is he genuinely popular among any segment of the public? I have seen that he also has a clothing line with an alternative sportswear type theme at Target. There isn't a lot in his presentation that I can see would be appealing at all. He is the dominant figure in his sport, but what kind of a sport even is it? I did watch his turn at skateboarding expecting to see clear evidence of unique athletic abilities, but nothing jumped out at me. It does seem to be true in general in the winter sports, especially those contested on mountains, that the most skilled practitioners are the kingpins (and sometimes queenpins) of a fairly vibrant social scene, with groupies and disciples and the rest of it. This is not the case in every Olympic type sport. Top runners are greatly respected by other runners, but as compared to skiers their lives seem rather boring. They neither rule over a desirable party scene nor exude much sexual charisma. But does Shaun White exude sexual charisma, or any other kind? He probably does, but it's so original I can't even see it.

The main thrust of this post was going to be a short discursion on the subject of immigration, but there really is no short discursion on that subject. Politically I have the problem that I can rarely refute the arguments of either of the more extreme positions, so I end up having to stake the moderate ground where you mainly hear the furious demands coming from both sides simultaneously that you grow a pair and declare for one side of the confrontation or the other. None of this namby-pamby I-can't-make-up-my-mind-stuff. So my article, at least for now, was not going to be intentionally inflammatory, and indeed likely would not have had anything in it that hasn't been written a million times. It would mainly have served the purpose of adding support to a few particular positions which already exist, and which strike me as reasonable enough, and not callously offensive. Questions such as What is the plan in instances when say, several thousand Somalian refugees begin turning up in places like Lewiston and Portland Maine? Should there be a plan? Why are the perfectly legitimate and natural concerns of the native population regarding quite drastic demographic changes as well as strains on existing institutions not treated seriously, and indeed with contempt, by so many of their fellow citizens, including most of those in positions of influence? What is the source of the ideological refusal to even address these concerns as adults and equal partners in the future of the country. Why has the leadership of the country seemingly given up on developing intellectual talent and other desirable qualities for a vital civic life in the native population? or, Why has the human capital and spirit of the native population collapsed so spectacularly that the top people increasingly prefer to deal with any other people but them? (For me a lot of the emotion on this subject is the sense of shame and rejection by the elders and leading people of my own country and seeing them extol foreigners as preferable and better than I am. I can't claim that I didn't deserve this rejection, I guess, but it still hurts).

All of this would have taken a long time to write.

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