Joe Bageant’s writings are more relevant than ever. He grew up in the white underclass in Winchester VA, became a leftie journalist and compatriot of Hunter Thompson, and returned to Winchester in his 60’s to write about the white underclass, which has been continually and roundly screwed by most everyone.
In “Deer Hunting With Jesus. Dispatches from America’s Class War” he writes about how the white underclass and working class used to vote solidly Democratic. But over the past few several decades, the Democratic Party has so thoroughly repudiated and insulted them they became Republican. And now they’ve realized the Republican Party is pissing in the faces too. And now we have the rise of Trump, something no one could have predicted, at least no one in the insular, asleep higher classes of both parties.
Bageant views this from a class perspective, because that’s the only way it makes sense.
If in my travels and experience in American life I see that tens of millions of Americans being screwed silly by a handful of chiselers at the top, or if I see one percent of Americans earning as much annually as the bottom 45 percent of Americans, then that 45 percent is an underclass. When I see a 70-year-old man on his second pacemaker limping through Wal-Mart as a “greeter” so he can pay at least something on last winter’s heating bill this month, then he is part of an underclass. When I see the humiliated single mom waitress tugging downward on the ridiculously short red plastic skirt she must wear at the Hooter’s type joint so her crotch won’t show, she’s part of an underclass of humiliated and socially oppressed people. Screw the hairsplitting about who qualifies as underclass and what color they are. Just fix it. Or reap the consequences.
If you want to escape the underclass, then you need to adopt the protective coloration of the oppressor. Or do it on “balls”like Bageant did, even if he did have an icky Southern accent which identified him as being one of “those people.”
In the end, race, gender or sexual preference are just moving parts of the class machine, with middle class perceptions setting the standard. You can indeed be black or queer, but with the properly buffed patina of white middle class mojo you can make it to the top, or near to the top of the heap (in America, proximity to the top of our cultural garbage heap is everything).
He has the crazy idea that a solution to poverty is to pay people a wage they can live on. I know, that’s just Marxist craziness, isn’t it? Oh wait, Australia already does this. Huh.
Armchair sociologist that I am, I have a theory about this: Millions of American women are in poverty because they are paid poverty wages. I could be wrong, I often am, but there seems to be a connection between poverty and money. I started developing this theory last year when I was in a Melbourne, Australia hotel and learned from a single mother hotel housekeeper there that she made $19 an hour, had government assisted childcare and was going to college at night toward becoming a medical technician. Hmmm… Over here we tell single mothers, “Get a six dollar an hour job or get married bitch! Workfare, baby, workfare.”