Yves here. The first comment came in on a post that had gone cold, and I thought it was so revealing that it needed to be seen widely. The second is a synchronistic complement.
As much as I carry on about the isolation of the Acela-riding classes from the acute distress in much of the US, I only have a very distant feel for it. For instance, I grew up moving through many small towns where a paper mill was a major, and in some cases, the biggest local employer. Those mill jobs were well paid and the workers could buy houses, cars, and had pensions. One of my brothers works for a paper mill that should have been world competitive through his retirement, but it’s been wrecked by a series of private equity owners, starting with Cerberus, and in now in bankruptcy. The town in which he lives, Escanaba, Michigan, has lost over 20% of its population since the mid 1980s. Similarly, my uncle lived below the poverty line in Maine, lobstering until his knees gave out. But he had a fully paid for house he had inherited, and access to VA hospitals and doctors, so it could have been a lot worse. But Maine is a poor state, so even visiting there as a tourist in the summers, it’s not hard to see the signs of struggle even in those who are getting by.
The first comment gives a window into the hidden desperation in America that is showing up in statistics like increasing opioid addiction and suicides, rather than in accounts of how and why so many people are suffering. I hope readers will add their own observations in comments.
We recently took three months to travel the southern US from coast to coast. As an expat for the past twenty years, beyond the eye opening experience it left us in a state of shock. From a homeless man convulsing in the last throes of hypothermia (been there) behind a fuel station in Houston (the couldn’t care less attendant’s only preoccupation getting our RV off his premises), to the general squalor of near-homelessness such as the emergence of “American favelas” a block away from gated communities or affluent ran areas, to transformation of RV parks into permanent residencies for the foreclosed who have but their trailer or RV left, to social study one can engage while queuing at the cash registers of a Walmart before beneficiaries of SNAP.
Stopping to take the time to talk and attempt to understand their predicament and their beliefs as to the cause of their plight is a dizzying experience in and of itself. For a moment I felt transposed to the times of the Cold War, when the Iron Curtain dialectics fuzzed the perception of that other world to the west with a structured set of beliefs designed to blacken that horizon as well as establish a righteous belief in their own existential paradigm.
What does that have to do with education? Everything if one considers the elitist trend that is slowly setting the framework of tomorrow’s society. For years I have felt there is a silent “un-avowed conspiracy”, why the seeming redundancy, because it is empirically driven as a by-product of capitalism’s surge and like a self-redeeming discount on a store shelf crystalizes a group identity of think-alike know-little or nothing frustrated citizens easily corralled by a Fox or Trump piper. We have re-rcreated the conditions or rather the reality of “Poverty In America” barely half a century after its first diagnostic with one major difference : we are now feeding the growth of the “underclass” by lifting ever higher and out of reach the upward mobility ladder, once the banner of opportunity now fallen behind the supposedly sclerotic welfare states of Europe.
So Richard Cohen now fears American voters because of Trump. Well, on Diane Reem today (NPR) was a discussion on why fascist parties are growing in Europe. Both Cohen and the clowns on NPR missed the forest for the trees. The reason Trump and Sanders are doing well in the US while fascists are doing well in Europe is the same reason: neoliberalism has gutted, or is in the process of gutting, societies. Workers and other formerly “safe” white collar workers are seeing their job security, income security, retirement security all go up in smoke. Neoliberals are trying to snip and cut labor protections, healthcare, environmental regulations all for corporate profit. In Europe this is all in addition to a massive refugee crisis itself brought on by neoliberalism (neocon foreign policy is required for neoliberal social policy, they go hand-in-hand). The US and NATO destabilize countries with the intent of stealing their resources and protecting their markets, cause massive refugee flows which strain social structures in Europe (which falls right into the hands of the gutters and cutters of neoliberalism). Of course the people will lean fascist.
In the US we don’t have the refugees, but the neoliberalism is further along and more damaging. There’s no mystery here or in Europe, just the natural effects of governments failing to represent real people in favor of useless eater rich.
Make the people into commodities, endanger their washes and job security, impose austerity, and tale in floods of refugees. Of COURSE Europeans stay leaning fascist.