Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Joe's Back!

Or more likely, he never left and I just didn't notice.

Anyway, I'm talking about Joe Bageant, a sour old curmudgeon with a gift for prose both florid and cantankerous. Earlier in the life of this blog I would link to pieces by him on a semi-regular basis, because I often liked them even when I didn't totally agree, and because I stumbled across them all the time in my trips through lefty news and opinion sites. It's not often that lefty political writing makes you laugh out loud, but I chortled and occasionally even guffawed over his stuff all the time. Then I saw a few long interviews with him posted here and there, and then the essays stopped. This was kind of sad, but I figured he was busy with other things. Then yesterday I stumbled across this article on CounterPunch, and from there linked to something I had no idea existed: Bageant's personal site, which contains a carload of essays written since the last time I encountered anything with his name attached, plus emails he has received from many ordinary Americans, plus the interesting fact that he has a book coming out in 2007: Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America's Class War.

Bageant grew up a poor/working-class white southerner in the United States -- a region and a class usually despised by the urban, the middle-class, and the liberal in that same country, a distaste he returns amply. I seem to recall reading that he worked for years as a professional in the media industry and also, somehow or other, ended up a strident socialist. Much of his invective is directed towards middle-class liberals for their ignorance of and demonization of working-class white America (which often corresponds to a version of anti-racism that erases any serious understanding of class as it pertains to people of colour as well) and for their constant insistence that working-class white America is if not the problem with the country at least a big part of it, while middle-class white America is the solution -- a formulation that, among other things, completely ignores middle-class white liberal complicity in lots of the miserable details that come with living as a poor or working-class person in America. Perhaps the best part of his essays are his anecdotes about people, particularly the working-class white southerners that are his people and that still fill his life. He doesn't romanticize them, as many a newly-minted university socialist has done, and he is perfectly willing to name dumber-than-paintness and the politically terrifying when these things occur (as they do in every group). But he starts from the idea, foreign to many a red state/blue state rant I've read, that working-class folk are actual people whose lives and feelings matter, and who shouldn't have to endure the misery that capitalism heaps upon them.

Not that I agree with everything he writes, mind you, but I agree with a lot of the spirit in his work, and his cynical but unceasing outrage is refreshing.

1 comment:

Spartacus O'Neal said...

He's also a friend of Arvin Hill.