In your previous piece you mention Professor John McWhorter’s point about the failings of the African American community being fueled by flaws present within their culture. This is an interesting sentiment that I’ve actually thought about for quite some time, though I haven’t personally focused on the culture of the black community in the United States. I’ve instead invested my time in investigating the culture of lower class and lower-middle class Americans as a whole.
A rough estimate for the amount of time I’ve put into this effort is about twenty-two years, considering that these sections of the United States’ socioeconomic ladder are where I originally come from. Although I grew up surrounded by lower class culture, I’ve always seemed to naturally resist it. It’s not as if I look down upon it or thumb my nose at it. My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather are all products of this culture, and they are men that worked hard, provided for their families, and served their country. They are to be admired – at least in my view – for the lives they’ve honestly built.
However, they were also held down by the same ideals that made them so successful. They perpetuated a culture that promotes minimal intellectual effort, bad art, resistance to change and exploration, and the outlook that higher education is often an over-expensive waste of good years. More drawbacks than these ones are present within this particular lifestyle, but they are more subtle and nuanced when compared to those listed above. While the lifestyle that this culture provides may have once been sustainable for generations, the flow of its benefits is quickly running dry.
The culture of my family – and of many families that occupy my homeland of rural Pennsylvania – is not adapting well to the quickly accumulating technological, political, and economic developments of the 21st century. While the belief that a high school education and a hard labor factory job can adequately carry you through the entirety of your adult life may be admirable, it’s also quickly proving to be a train of thought more and more out of date. But, nevertheless, it remains a steadfast belief amongst those Americans that live throughout the sparsely populate plains and woodlands of the United States.
This specific outline of lower class thinking is also only one variant of several different sub-cultures within the bottom levels of the American economic system. My thoughts on how these cultural influences result in some Americans remaining stuck in poverty purgatory also factor into the on-going struggle between the liberal oriented and conservative oriented sectors of my mind. I often find myself wondering if the liberal inclination that the American political and economic systems are rigged against the unfortunate is true, or whether conservatives are right to point out discrepancies in culture, work ethic, and drive as the true causes for the relegation of individuals, families, and communities to a cycle of lower class living.
While I do think that there are inherent barriers present within the system that prevent some sections of the country from achieving upward mobility, that’s a topic best left for another time. I instead want to stay focused for the remainder of this piece on the subject of culture, as I do agree with my conservative countrymen that the lower echelon of the United States’ economic spectrum is experiencing a crisis of culture. However, at the same time, I’m also willing to let my liberal side show when I point out the fact that the Republican Party has been more than a significant factor in the cause and continuation of this cultural stagnation and degradation.
As I continue to explore this idea through my own thoughts, as well as through my observation of the world around me, it’s becoming more apparent to me that class is the greatest fueler of conflict and resentment in the United States and throughout the world. This conflict of classes isn’t only the result of economic differences, however, but also of cultural differences. It’s very clear to me that the upper class of the United States have an overwhelming bias toward cosmopolitan culture, while the lower classes have a bias toward rural culture.
Even businessmen and politicians who vote Republican and like to slip on their cowboy hat every once in a while wouldn’t be caught dead outside the city limits unless there’s a news camera within fifty yards of them. This is why, despite their overwhelming differences as political actors, President Trump is able to more closely relate to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer than to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel. The split between cosmopolitan and rural culture also accounts for why so many people perceive the mainstream media to be so wildly biased toward liberal ideology. It’s not because they’re necessarily in favor of every liberal policy, but because their culture more closely aligns with the average liberal voter than with the average conservative voter.
It’s this cosmopolitan culture that the wealthy and successful are able to adopt, and thrive within. In fact, it’s entirely necessary, seeing as this cultural variation is built upon values of higher education, intellectualism, appreciation for good art, and accepting new experiences. It’s the rejection of these ideals – a rejection that’s often prompted by elites who adhere to cosmopolitan culture – that is causing so many Americans to be left behind in this time of great economic, political, and technological change. While I don’t necessarily advocate for a vast and forceful shift in how all Americans think, I do believe we’re at an important turning point for how we view the effectiveness and aberrance to the culture of our fathers and grandfathers.