Let us abandon our condescending snickering for a moment and try to gain a clear, social-scientific perspective on what is going on here. We have, I think, been given ample proof over the past few weeks of the weakened condition of the right: it is so weak in fact that its strategists have had no choice but to trot out their very most Lumpen element to make their usually somewhat more subtle points for them. The next and final step towards marginality comes when these points are made not by middle-aged, barrel-shaped, worn-out workers, but by adolescent males selected from that same group to serve as shock troops, to shout their point and drive it home with kicks and punches, rather than to attempt to write it out on placards.
Already, one may suppose that the class rift this tactic reveals is a great embarrassment to the Republican elites who stand to gain from it. Who after all can look at this image, and others like it, and not conclude that this movement is entirely about class identification, and not at all about the articulation of a coherent political viewpoint? And who can help but wonder how long these 'borderers' --as they've been called in reference to the original settlement patterns of the Scotch-Irish cast-offs who continue to vote as a bloc and, one might say, as an ethnic community--, who can help but wonder how long they will be able to continue to believe they have common cause with the patricians of their party who --as they must know-- hate them every bit as much as the privileged 'liberal' elites on the two coasts do?
I have been positively obsessed with questions of class over the past few years, after a long childhood and extended adolescence during which I scarcely even knew they existed. I knew some people were rougher than others, but I truly thought this was a matter of 'lifestyle choice' rather than of habitus or of inescapable historical forces. For better or worse, a combination of factors in my own habitus turned me into a desperate class-climber, intent on landing as far as I could from the kind of people who, early in my life, provided an example I knew, without having read Bourdieu, I did not want to follow. But my strategy for ascent did not involve the acquisition of capital through speculation in real estate or pork bellies. Rather, I became set on the acquisition of cultural capital through, among other things, learning how to fucking spell. And now, some years later, I am still indentured to the student-loan agencies --my deal with the devil to advance in the class hierarchy-- but my orthography is unimpeachable.
This history has left me with a strange politics, a politics I have trouble fitting into any of the available 'national conversations', whether American, Canadian, or Québécois. I confess I would prefer aristocracy to mobocracy any day, and this aligns me with certain strains of conservative thought. Nowhere, I also confess, have I ever felt more out of place than when compelled to attend a planning meeting for a narrowly averted, university-wide strike. I came this-close to marching with a union sign while having to listen to Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and chanting uninspired slogans, and I did not like it. At the same time, what this variety of elitism hates most is provincialism, what Marx called 'the idiocy of village life', an idiocy that cannot see what it is that elegant Spanish has to recommend it over poor English. The man in the picture has no idea what a charged intellectual capital Mexico City is. One can go there to talk about culture and history with interesting people. Those are my people, and whoever hates them for contingent reasons of idiom or geography is my enemy.
Lip Gallantry, or certaine Labiall fashions invented by divers Nations
The Macuas, not farr from Macambique, among other notes of their Gallantry, have holes in their Lips, in the upper of which they put little pegs of wood, as big as a hens quill; of a finger long, sticking right out like a naile, in the lower Lip they weare a leaden bung, so close and heavy that the lip fals to the beard, shewing their gums and filed teeth, that they seem divils: this is their gallantry, or rather their loathsome bravery; for when they are sad they leave these holes open, and many others of their owne making.
--John Bulwer, Man Transform'd: or, the artificiall Changling (1653).
"Porchetta romana cotta a legna," Adina Ruiu (2008)
This is the sign atop some sort of meat-vending mobile in Rome. Look at that
juxtaposition of images, and try to imagine the roast pig replaced by a
giant stalk of celery. It just wouldn't work. It's not that the scene
would be uncompelling, but rather that it simply wouldn't make any
sense. Why is this?