[ Previous ]   [ Next ]

Outsider

Sandwich

Osita Nwanevu in Slate on David Brooks, the by now infamous sandwiches and class in America (and elsewhere):

'"Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican."

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class.
Here, Brooks takes decades’ worth of sociological work on cultural capital and flattens those ideas with a panini press. This has been his meal ticket for nearly 20 years. It is obviously true that cultural signifiers both divide and stratify Americans, often by class. But Brooks has long demonstrated poor command of those signifiers and the overall cultural landscape. In a 2004 piece for Philadelphia magazine, for instance, Sasha Issenberg masterfully debunked Brooks’ 2001 essay “One Nation, Slightly Divisible,” in which Brooks described stark cultural differences he had supposedly discovered exploring his own predominantly Democratic and upper-middle-class Montgomery County, Maryland, and the red, less affluent Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Issenberg wrote that as he retraced Brooks’ journey, “It became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home.”

(...)

'Should we respond to the very real class anxieties Brooks describes in the same way? Should we deride the less affluent for, as Brooks suggests, needing safe spaces away from elite fixations like bourgeois breads and David Brooks columns? Should we mock Dreher for writing, sincerely, that “the soppressata sandwich is a condensed symbol—shorthand for an entire worldview,” the way that conservatives routinely mock campus paper missives on cultural appropriation? Of course not. We can be better than that. We ought to understand and acknowledge the full range of obstacles that can render people outsiders even if conservatives won’t.'

Read the article here.

Whether David Brooks leaves his home or not is an important question, but more important is the question whether we should aim for a society without outsiders.
And yes, encourage emancipation, fight racism, describe privileges.
But a society without outsiders is a fascist ideal.
Certain signifiers may make people uncomfortable, but it's possible to adjust yourself. The eternal comfort zone is another word for hell.

S

2 comments