Thursday, March 23, 2006

where you are is what you do

The social politics of geography and class:
Generally speaking, expensively-educated professionals tend to bounce around with an American urban “network” – a archipelago of mostly coastal cities including NYC, DC, SF, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle. Even though people bounce around a lot from place to place, they remain within the network. And if you went to undergrad in one city and grad school in another, chances are you have friends in every one of these cities. On an aside, I think this is why some of my fellow urban travelers don’t “get” (dramatic chord) Red America. They have no contact with it – they live in a wholly different “network.” For instance, the urban network above had little contact with, say, the Little Rock regional network, which might consist of people moving around within a three-hour radius of the city.

Anwyay, here’s my point. If you spend your time bouncing from city to city, you become completely rootless. Your family is probably far away, as are your high school friends. The closest thing you have to a family is whatever subset of college or grad school friends happen to be in that city. You don’t go to church, you don’t really participate in your local community. You have no stable micro-social structures of any kind.
So people's jobs become central to their lives and also, their is the need for individual success in the form of outdoing your peers with your relative accomplishments. Jealousy at undeserved success is also such an under-exposed and over-exploited part of the political psyche. At the same time, witness the disparity in covering the relative achievements of Al Gore, Vietnam vet, Senator and VP, and George W Bush, who has a spotty record of service to the Texas National Guard, and whose fortituous sell-off of Harken Energy stock immediate to its collapse (replete with a quashed SEC investigation of insider trading) led, as Clinton put it, 'to buy the baseball team which got him the governorship which got him the presidency.' So, when conservative pundits claim that contempt and digust for Bush personally is somehow incomprehensible and mean-spirited, I find this completely oblivious to the pattern of inequity in GWB's record that the faded promises of compassionate conservatism can no longer cover. When conservative scholars betray lifelong legal principles to endorse an expansive view of Federal power over local voting regulations out of fealty to someone's father, then the idea of American society being fundamentally a meritocracy seems hopelessly naive.

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