Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More on "Stuff White People Like"

I've always considered "Stuff Various Ethnic Groups Like" harmless fun. I had my own fun with the concept here.

But Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic's literary editor, thinks that Christian Lander, founder of the blog "Stuff White People Like," offers more than lightweight mockery:

"SWPL—which catalogs the tastes, prejudices, and consumption habits of well-off, well-educated, youngish, self-described progressives—was refreshing because it’s everything a blog, almost by definition, is not. Rather than serving up unedited, impromptu, self-important ruminations on random events and topics, the tightly focused, stylishly written, precisely observed entries eschew the genre’s characteristic I (though Lander in fact writes nearly all of them) and adopt a cool, never snarky though sometimes biting, pseudo-anthropological tone. "

Further on:

"More damning is the conclusion produced by a careful reading of this often fine-grained semi-sociological analysis: a good deal of the progressives’ attitudes, preferences, and sense of identity are ingrained in an unlovely disdain for those outside their charmed circle. "


"At the top of this list is anything that has to do with Christianity”—an aversion, Lander discerns, rooted not in religious enmity but in taste (Christianity is “a little trashy”), formed largely by class and education. To those of this mind-set, the problem with a great many Americans is that they don’t “care about the right things.

".... In fact, he asserts in a somewhat atypical aside that betrays the steel behind his joshing, 'White People 'really do hate a significant portion of the population.' "

Think of the Left's predictable reaction to Sarah Palin, and the Right's gleeful, cynical, and equally predictable effort to exploit it. (Perhaps we need a blog called "Stuff Right People Like.")

I'm afraid that disdain for a certain "significant portion of the population," isn't limited to the Left. Here in very white collar, Republican North Texas, among people who generally regard any form of collective bargaining as a significant slide down the slippery slope toward socialism, I'm amazed at the new-found love of the working class. Todd Palin, a union man! A sure-enough 'merican! Those goddamn liberals wouldn't last a week up there in Alaska.

Of course the ideologues and opportunists in both parties underestimate the people they simultaneously loathe and woo. Getting to know truck drivers, rural preachers, farmers, factory workers, and tradesmen would be messy and uncomfortable. Better to work in the abstract and deal in stereotypes. Engaging nimble minds where we hadn't expected to find any, seeing what can be endured and accomplished through simple religious faith, or counting friends among the uninsured "resources" freed-up by downsizing and globalization could encourage reflection. We might even begin to to question positions we've spent years solidifying and arguing.

But then we like what we like. If only the everyone else liked what we like...

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