Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On the New Victorians

A friend sent me this article, and it's shown up a few times in my FB newsfeed. The argument synthesizes what have been a series of observations several have made these past few years: The new bourgeoisie has developed its own moral codes in order to defend a class structure that protects their interests. These moral codes include an adherence to healthy eating and healthy exercising, as well as the constant appearance of healthy eating and healthy exercising. The bourgeoisie doesn't just attend yoga classes. It wears yoga pants when it goes shopping even if it doesn't plan to go to yoga that day. The bourgeoisie believes in the college ranking system, and pushes its kids through college prep courses and summer internships, and when its kids are accepted to Tufts, it congratulates its kids on their achievement. It believes in a pure meritocracy that led to its childrens' acceptance. Just as the old Victorians considered attendence of music concerts a moral duty that separated the from the masses, so too do these new Victorians practice their own moral codes to signal their virtue to one another, to establish that they are all part of a specific class.

There is a hole in this article, which the book it is reviewing may fill in. It's the hole that ignores how this new bourgeoisie regards class, race, and gender all as part of their moral code. Twenty-five years ago, a woman in her early 40s with a small child could say, without any fear of condemnation whatsoever, that she hopes her son would not grew up gay. "And if he is gay, I hope he isn't too effeminate." Today, that woman would have to qualify her statement very quickly -- "No, I'm just afraid of how society will treat him" -- before her peers rush to condemn her. You think Mexicans are taking your jobs? Go to hell. You're not part of our club. Do you hate Trump? You can join our crowd.  

Now, I am on the side of all these moral codes. I think we should be at a point where non-dominant forms of sexual orientation should be celebrated, and that any mother should consider gayness a gift to her son. I believe immigrants should be welcomed. And I hate Trump. And I am disturbed when I meet people who feel differently.

Moving on:

"I hope my baby doesn't have Down's Syndrome. I don't want a dumb kid. My kid is autistic. Not extremely. But he's on the spectrum. I just wish he wasn't. Yes, he has all this intelligence too, but I wish he wasn't autistic. Anyone who doesn't believe all our soldiers are heroes is a horrible person." 

Whether I agree or don't agree with any of the previous -- or rather, whether I feel or don't feel these things to be true -- I think all these statements are wrong on some level. They should all be questioned, and probably condemned. The first two privilege a certain type of mental ability that we have been taught to honor, the one that gets your kid into Tufts. The third accepts a destructive worldview that kills a lot of people, although probably not your own kid who won't be going to war anytime soon, because he is going to Tufts.

The New Victorians' bigotries are not limited to class. 

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