Saturday, February 19, 2005

walls less and more

The poor live with the wind, with dampness, flying dust, silence, unbearable noise (sometimes with both; yes, that’s possible!) with ants, with large animals, with smells coming from the earth, rats, smoke, rain, vibrations from elsewhere, rumours, nightfall, and with each other. Between the inhabitants and these presences there are no clear marking lines. Inextricably confounded, they together make up the place’s life.
Twilight was setting in; the sky wrapped in cool grey fog, was already being closed off by darkness; and the wind, after spending the day rustling stubble and bare bushes that had gone dead in preparation for winter, now lay itself down in still low places on the earth...
The poor are collectively unseizable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere and the smallest event speaks of them. This is why the essential activity of the rich today is the building of walls – walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, frontier controls, and opaque media screens.

~ John Berger, channelling Andrei Platonov, via the marvellous Charlotte Street.

~ Meanwhile ~

The privileged class I am proposing has a substantial material base--a massive hunk of this country's wealth, which is right now being transferred at a fairly rapid pace from the "moving lane" parents to their "aboveground" offspring and heirs. Wealth, however, remains a necessary but insufficient determinant of class. There must also be a common culture, and this culture is what's lacking in today's privileged class.

The basic choice is to recognize that their children are really and truly different from the children of the less successful. ...

Building this culture will, of course, demand special institutions. The most important of these, and the only one that stands a chance of any success against both consumerism and wealth perversity, is boarding school.

~ Nelson Aldrich, really and truly channelling Manifest Destiny, via The Happy Tutor.

2 Comments:

Blogger The Happy said...

High culture, good taste, civic virtue. To wall off the children of the rich, behind a gate manned by a Porter, and to teach them their responsibilities would (re)produce a social class, but isn't that what you and I were trained for? And having failed it, we now wander the streets teaching our students where we find them. You see, I really do think that the liberal arts were and should be again the pererequiste for class and leadership. Even G.W. Bush would have gained, and the country too, if he had paid better attention at Yale.

2/21/2005 1:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

You are probably right that such was the vision of liberal ed in the 70's at certain institutions. But I hardly believed it then, let alone now. At least, the hope for me was that the triv and quadriv could liberate precisely those who were not pre-DNA-destined to be our next rulers.

As for wandering the streets, I think Berger touches on something important here: the poor have no space. They are choking on themselves without much in the way of streets. It's like another dimension, which has no dimension. So the very possibility of setting oneself before them in the role of educator is challenged from the start - they have no before (nor an after).

2/21/2005 9:10 PM  

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