This Deceased Equine Quadriped Has Been Pretty Well Whacked, But…
…I’ve never thought enough was that much better than too much, so here, a brief (for me) reaction about the now-notorious Gene Marks piece in Forbes. (With apologies to ABL, DougJ, and John, all of whom get this “timely” thing waaaay better than yours truly.)
I popped these thoughts up in response to this piece over at WNYC, goaded by Marks’ smarmy attempt to justify himself in the comment thread:
Marks is a condescending twerp who fails to get the key difference between anecdote and data. Sure, the tools he describes are available to all; why then any income/class/social indicator gap?
If you don’t want to go all eugenics here, then the answer is either a noxious culture argument (the David Brooks gambit, frequently debunked) or the actual acknowledgement of social injustice and the impact of discrimination on the poor, the non-white, on the unprivileged.
But if you do that, then you have to acknowledge that some redress– action at the level of society, and not just the individual — is needed to address the reality of that injustice, the practical loss to our society that results, and the moral obligation that flows when you recognize a wrong being done.
But on the strength of his post, and especially on his mealy mouthed comments here and elsewhere, Marks doesn’t want to obligate himself or his privileged buddies to pony up for such social action. So he chooses to ignore the reality of unequal opportunity.
So even if it’s true that hard work and tech are available to most/all, what Marks doesn’t get is that for many among us, even hard work and the use of all that lovely internet stuff won’t actually overcome the barriers raised by the reality of daily experience for many, many Americans.
Yeah, I know. Quoting oneself is a sure sign of some kind of pathology. (“Enough about me. What do you think of my hair?”)
But just to beat this dead horse one last time: I’ve used often enough the line that runs, with some variation, that is is exceptionally difficult to know that which your livelihood depends on your not knowing. With that in mind, what strikes me most about Marks’ piece is how baldly it goes to the heart of our politics right now. As noted above, the point of saying that kids of color have all that they need to succeed is both to dodge the bullet of paying for change, and, more deeply, to avoid confronting all the moral complexity of the reality of others’ experience.
Of course, that’s not a two-step unique to Marks. It’s the core mental operation required to be a member of the “I got mine, Jack” caucus of the GOP. Which is why it so important to bust apart the concept that individuals can prosper outside of society. I failed meme school — but in the metaphors I trade in day to day, the way I phrase it to myself is that atoms alone have little value; molecules interacting…now you’re talking. Elizabeth Warren says much the same notion vastly more effectively. But however we get the message across, that’s what’s up for grabs over the next year.
Image: Benjamin West, Queen Charlotte, c. 1776.