Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thoughts Inspired By Uproar Over Recent British Vote*

*I refuse to say "Brexit".

As with so many political things, I had, like Levin in Anna Karenina, no especial emotional investment in whether the UK remained in the European Union or not, but, as you know if you have any social connections with the educated cosmopolitan internationalist crowd, they are rather enraged and seemingly fearful at this development as if it marked an ominous devolutionary movement along the road to Progress that they all seem to have seen as very clearly marked out for the achieving. Certainly this view of the world has a strong appeal to me--I devour magazines and other media detailing the lives of its adherents, and at one time I very likely would have counted myself among their number in spirit. However as this cosmopolitan lifestyle requires most preferably a substantial amount of money, or at the very least good modern credentials and education, to take full part in it, none of which I have or am at this point likely to obtain, it naturally holds less meaning for me as something that must be promoted or preserved as time goes on. I have never been much of an EU enthusiast because of what I took to be its homogenizing influences, though these did not seem to me quite as pronounced in England as in countries like France or Italy or Spain, which were formerly much more worlds onto themselves and quite foreign places that have to my view been pushed into becoming more like the United States and England and Germany more than these latter countries have had to become like them. The increased freedom of movement for work and travel purposes has been wonderful for people in the traditionally poorer countries and the upper, best-educated ranks of the wealthier countries, including many Americans, but the benefits to the more ordinary people in these societies of the constant flow of people into what used to be considered "their" countries and correlating constant changes in the social contract are obviously starting to come under question.

The enlightened media, and its sympathizers in the social media universe, have not for the most part been shy about expressing its horror at the result of the vote and what they took to be the motivations behind it (namely economic ignorance and racism, two of the deadliest sins of the new social order), and by extension their apparent inability to guide a too great segment of the electorate to think and vote properly on important issues. Seeing as a great part of the resentment against the establishment as I see it is stirred up by the way all kinds of stories are reported, and what is emphasized in them, I wonder if there are not some changes in the presentation of certain stories that might assuage some of the hysteria which is currently afflicting much of the electorate in what used to be known as the advanced countries:

1. I know it is boring, but perhaps run a story once in a while about some ordinary person who actually paid off their student loans, maybe with some detailed explanation of how they did it over a period of years.

I have a lot of questions about the current way student loans are administered--I don't understand, apart from the necessity of pandering to various forms of greed, why it is impossible, for example, to just go back to the system that was in place when I was in school, which was low interest government administered vanilla loans with clear and consistent repayment schedules--but nonetheless the overwhelming majority of people still don't default on their loans, especially if they went to any kind of legitimate school, but you certainly would not know this from reading The New York Times. People below the upper middle class in general I think need more detailed straightforward explanation, not necessarily negative, but something like in the manner that magazines like the old Saturday Evening Post or Edward Bok's Lady's Home Journal used to do, from their media about practical matters and how to navigate education, find careers suitable to their abilities, how to work effectively in general, not get taken advantage of financially, and so on. It seems clear that current media is not helpful in this way and is promoting a state of widespread fear, pessimism and panic with regard to these areas,

2, Two, related to this, it might be helpful sometime to run a story about an ordinary person who got laid off and whose life was subsequently not ruined; houses were not lost, children did not end up in jail for selling meth or abandoned single mothers, the middle aged ex-worker did not develop debilitating health problems but was able to carry through, and so on. Surely there are instances where this has happened. I don't want to make light of the real problems people in this situations can face, and this is something that I often worry about it in secret with regard to myself, though the people around me have made it very clear to me that it in the event of such a thing happening, my innate proclivities towards weakness and emotional collapse will not be indulged, and I will be expected, as a 46 year old (one person even went so far as to say 'white') man with a college degree and six children, to conduct myself in a manner appropriate to what used to be understood by that station regardless of whether some sector of contemporary society would diminish it or not. There is something to be said for maintaining an attitude of dignity in the face of adversity that the media could promote more effectively, and with better results than I think has come out of this last decade or so. The  Times, Post, Atlantic, etc, seem to love to go to these towns abandoned by the modern economy and wallow in how pathetic and poor and bereft of dignity and self-respect all of the people left behind in them are.

3. It is clear that in the British election, the implied threat that if people did not vote the way the establishment wanted, they would basically be thrown into poverty almost as a punishment, backfired to some extent. This implication of punishment for incorrect voting is one of the more revolting characteristics of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate by the way, because there is no pretense that she cares about the actual horrible consequences that are going to fall upon the deceived voter, it's intended purely as a threat to vote for her--or else. Something of that same dynamic looks to have been at work in the British vote. The instinctive response to this kind of threat for many people, especially men d'un certain age, is to think, jeez, if it's gotten to this state that I have to support this unappealing program or direction in which everything is moving or face imminent ruin than perhaps we had better return at once to a state of things where this was not a danger and we had more agency over the course of our lives. But this mentality is a blind spot that many people in power seem to have, or are at least dismissive of.

4. I don't know how the establishment's/media's message with regard to mass immigration can be massaged to make it more palatable to their antagonists among the backward elements of the native populace, though as it looks more and more like they are never, in the near future anyway, going to relent on their demands for welcoming endless numbers of immigrants into the western nations, and are willing to fight anyone opposed to it to at least the metaphorical death, especially if they have any sense that racism is an influence in the opposition, they might want to try. There is an emphasis and tone in most current pro-immigration stories in mainstream media that are going to be off-putting to some degree, either because the immigrant(s) under consideration is written about in a far more respectful or admiring way than the writer would ever express towards a non-millionaire or high level creative/knowledge class native citizen, especially if the native citizen is white, or the premise of the reporting is completely phony, like the story I mentioned that ran in my local paper a few years ago about a pro-immigrant rally that was accompanied by a photo of a person everyone in town knows to be arrogant and disdainful of most of her fellow citizens gleefully hugging an African refugee, or an article that ran recently in the New York Times about Muslim teenagers celebrating Ramadan against the backdrop of the Orlando shootings that was basically A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with Syrians taking the place of the Irish-Germans. I actually liked the article, and thought it would be nice if it were so. But is it so? The modern propagandist is often handicapped by his or her inability either to share and express the enthusiasm for America, or the vision of it, which many immigrants still really do have, or to feel an obligation to promote its adoption and an accompanying respect for the established citizenry, at least publicly, among the new arrivals where it is perhaps lacking. Apart from the question of how many people should be continually coming into these countries in the first place there is a conflict in many western countries over whether there are norms of behavior prevalent in the existing societies that immigrant populations should be expected to conform to in some degree, or what those norms even are, that as far as large swathes of the less-influential segments of the public are concerned, are not even being addressed.

I sat up until 3:53am on Saturday night to write this post.     

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