Anger and Me, Bourdieu and You
I am angry today. No one angered me in particular, and honestly I don’t think it is healthy, but there is a certain bout of self-unreflectiveness that bothers me. Social media, being all about the capital we can make of image, and the way we can reinforce our egos, make it worse. I was going to make a blog post about how so many people ignore union leaderships’ role in failed negotiations and bad politics, and how no one is talking about how to get around the Taft Hartly Act or the way AFL-CIO in particular has been good at keeping all the focus on individual loci of wages, which does very little. Then I got distracted by internet memes and this weird use of Distinction I see so many upper middle class types have, and masquerade it under the idea of speaking the truth to the power.
Yet a lot of this speaking truth to power seems to be aimed downward: to mocking a decaying culture that is under-educated in the case of the US; and, yet, this seems to further drive a wedge between people and anything political in the broad sense. I suppose it should. This is use of cultural capital manifesting in memes about “the Opposite of what America does”, or making fun of rednecks.
This got me thinking on this:
“As for the working classes, perhaps their sole function in the system of aesthetic positions is to serve as a foil, a negative reference point, in relation to which all aesthetics define themselves, by successive negotiations.” (57) Bourdieu, Distinction.
Why is that often people, who in displaying a sense of liberality, attack both the 1% but mock those who are lower down on the social class? This is a kind of class and ego confirmation that mistakes itself as politics.
The righteous anger of the wronged and the call of distinction can often look the same, but look at the root and the aim. Is the person trying to change material conditions and cultural hegemony of their society or merely mock it while also belonging to it.
If it’s the later, what purpose does it serve: Is this condemnation really inverted exceptionalism? It is about making someone feel superior for the right beliefs? Then this quote probably also applies:
The most successful ideological effects are those which have no need for words and ask no more than complicitous silence. – Bourdieu
So, I am angry today: mainly because a certain kind of ideology gets to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to supposedly defending the working class. We all know the villains and reactionaries that we can easily speak about (hyper-reactionaries in the GOP), but that of which we can’t speak, that is where the ideological blinders truly lay. In this we find “distinction.”