David Brooks and sandwiches

In his column yesterday Brooks made the point that the inability of blue collar / hardscrabble types to master white collar / gold collar social mores was a barrier that prevented their economic upward mobility.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/how-we-are-ruining-america.html?

I like Brooks. He was rightfully mocked for his sandwich anecdote. But I don’t think he’s right anyway overall here either.

I was just up in NW Wisconsin. It’s very bro-country and hardscrabble there in ways that are not all flattering. And while you might drive around and observe it as superficially poor and barren, you inevitably keep running into hs educated guys in jeans and flannel shirts who have title to hundreds of thousands of dollars of trucks or milling equipment or bobcats & forklifts or land. IE, ‘wealth’.

As a matter of inequality, I’m not so sure the rural and non-college educated are being carpet bagged. It is its own ecosystem that the residents therein seem to have ownership of eh.

Now, if their kids want to become Wall Street quants or traders or join the prosperous mandarin ranks of journalism, law, PR, non-profit… how that is achieved is kind of a knowledge problem that I think is probably blurry to a lot of those folks. But it can be done by the heretofor layman and I don’t think anyone is actually trying to assertively exclude them.

My wife is votech educated and she has to help me understand the sandwich menus at these very run of the mill coffee places. I have no idea what they are offering. I like Jimmy Johns.

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One thought on “David Brooks and sandwiches

  1. pm1956

    Well, yeah. I like Jimmy John’s too–fast, dependable, and much better quality than Subway.

    But about Brooks: Often i like him, but there are times when he kind of goes over the edge, times when his is blinded by his own partisanship (trying to maintain his GOP credentials, usually). But I think that the mocking of this column by some is too simplistic, too pat (even though it was pretty funny).

    I think that Brooks was trying to point out the issue of cultural division, not just economic division. And I happen to think that cultural divides were more important in the election of Donald Trump than economic divides. I do think that cultural divides map more easily onto the rural/urban split than do economic divides.

    One of the big problems is that economic divides are easy to identify–they are about something that is easy to measure and to compare, money. Do you have more or less? Pretty easy to rank people like that. Not so easy to rank people on Culture. And this is where Brooks makes his big mistake–he equates culture and education. He is displaying his biases here, and kind of opens himself up to being mocked. He sort of assumes that the kind of culture that is associated with elite educational institutions like Ivy League schools is superior to what you might find in, say, NW wisconsin.

    And it is exactly that attitude that helps to make Trump possible. Trump played on that resentment of people who feel looked down on by the David Brooks of the world, even if they are doing alright farming or being a mechanic, etc. Even if they are wealthy. Brooks likes to rub elbows in the Washington DC salons with snooty friends. Trump mocks him for it, and wins elections. People who mock Brooks for his sandwich gaffe are just as out of touch as Brooks is.

    Reply

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