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http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/column-mainstream-a...
(In the article lumpen proletariat means the undeserving poor, more or less.)

I'm not sure what to make of this opinion piece, though maybe I'm making a little more sense of it as I write this.

The author, Gerald Jaynes, an economist, riffs off of libertarian/conservative Charles Murray's Bubble Quiz (linked in the article) and views. The Bubble Quiz essentially tests for stereotypical working class values: No college degree, blue collar, small town, been poor, pickup truck, mass-market US beer....

Oi! Murray is essentially an elite trying to explain to other elites about "Mainstream America". He's a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute in DC.

They seem to agree that the fortunes of middle America are plummeting, but they attribute it to very different reasons.

Murray seems to believe that middle America has been tempted away from Virtue by liberal programs, and that dirt poor people are a natural segment of society--giving them middle class status just puts them above their station.

Jaynes attributes many GOP policies to keeping them down (it goes a long way toward explaining their sustained attack on unions, minimum wages, social safety net programs and support for right-to-work laws, etc.), and believes:
... Since about 1970, whites without a college degree have experienced falling marital rates, increasing divorce rates and mushrooming rates of children born outside of marriage. And this has accompanied an explosive rise in joblessness among white males. It’s not a surprise to me that falling wages and poor workplace conditions result in falling employment and earnings that in turn make marriage and intact families more difficult to sustain.
...
For Murray, deindustrialization due to globalization, and labor displacing technological change, are merely tests of character that America’s working classes have failed. ...


What do I think? Hmm. First, I agree with Jaynes that Murray's Mainstream is a small part of blue-collar America. It's a tiny idealized part, like River City, Iowa or Main Street, USA. The problem extends far beyond that part of the US, though it's maybe most debilitating in small towns with limited opportunities.

I'm a compulsive, obsessive learner; I'll die happy because I will be conducting the single most definite theological experiment possible--not that I'm in a hurry. Most people aren't compulsive learners. I've seen people completely lose the ability to learn, or even use what they supposedly learned, some with advanced degrees. I've seen some who are totally convinced they have zero ability to learn, despite being fluent English-speakers, a not inconsiderable learning achievement.

But, I'm pretty pessimistic about changing ingrained adult behavior. GM has laid off 4400 in recent months. Some of them are probably non-learners who identify themselves as auto workers. It's who they are. They'll sit and grump about lack of auto jobs and vote to tear down the Republic--it's not doing them any good. I think the only thing to do is comfortably retire them: it's not their fault the economy changed, and if they want it, they'll be able to learn another line of work.

Fifty years ago, the village idiot could always sweep the streets. Now a huge street sweeper comes by once a week, needing a skilled operator, replacing dozens of sweepers. Soon it will be an automated sweeper. Now, even average Joe Sixpack jobs are disappearing. This may be helped by eliminating "employment taxes" (FICA, etc.) for both employer and employee, but that won't bring back manufacturing jobs: robots don't just do the job faster and cheaper, they do it better. (Ever seen hand-built furniture? Lots of flaws. Ikea? Flawless.)

This circles back to the UBI discussion.

So, what do you think?
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Doesn't "mainstream" always exist by definition? -- the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.

Both of these authors are discussing 'Mainstream' as if it were an immutable definition, and now their definition is out-of-date.

Mainstream is easy to define--go watch a few hours of prime time television. Mainstream is (currently) younger, slightly liberal, mostly white-color, mostly white but must be partially black/asian/indian/etc, mostly straight but must have some LGBT, totally okay with divorce / single parenting, iPhone using, reality-tv / talent-show-tv watching Americans. Oh, and they're also scared of everything -- the environment, the government, social injustice, etc.


As for a test to see if you're in 'The Mainstream', I just named it. Go watch a few hours of prime time TV. Do you fit in with what you see?
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Adrian Hague
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Isn't America's mainstream the Delaware or Mississippi or something?
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Fifty years ago, the village idiot could always sweep the streets. Now a huge street sweeper comes by once a week, needing a skilled operator, replacing dozens of sweepers. Soon it will be an automated sweeper. Now, even average Joe Sixpack jobs are disappearing. This may be helped by eliminating "employment taxes" (FICA, etc.) for both employer and employee, but that won't bring back manufacturing jobs: robots don't just do the job faster and cheaper, they do it better.

This is a separate topic, really. I think it's pretty obvious that conservatives and anyone else that is against social aid really, are going to have to bite the bullet because sooner or later we will have to have a minimum living wage / security net for people who can't/won't reach the minimum level of skill required for 21st century human-needed jobs, because as you've said, the 21st century technological world increasingly does not need unskilled manual labor any more.

It's an ironic catch-22, actually. The corporations and rich guys love modern technology because it increases profits. But then, most corporations and rich guys get those very profits from selling to the unskilled masses that they're taking those unskilled jobs from.

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The concept of "mainstream America" is divisive and designed to engender a form of class/social warfare. The "main stream majority" of Americans who fly right and drink Ovaline exemplify "American-ness" and those "others" who are "abnormal". A false dichotomy on a generous day.
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rcbevco wrote:
The concept of "mainstream America" is divisive and designed to engender a form of class/social warfare. The "main stream majority" of Americans who fly right and drink Ovaline exemplify "American-ness" and those "others" who are "abnormal". A false dichotomy on a generous day.
Yeah, it's another of those cultural "snapshots" used to marginalize people. It's a static ideal created for 50's television that people pine for.

I was thinking about this after the discussion in the Terrorist Hospital Attack thread. Culture loses it's value when you try to codify it and make it permanent. Once it is a commodity it is no longer organic and newer generations don't feel like it is "home". That is the main problem, people use their perceptions of the past to measure "home" and the comfort zone of their culture is a past state. Culture has to change and evolve with every generation and every new person added to it. It is pointless and counterproductive to preserve it (I'm looking at you France!). You become a cheesy tourist trap.

Having said that, it is important to see the upper/middle/lower classes as independent of culture, except for it's pressure on them. Economic mobility and stability should have nothing to do with a concept of "Mainstreet".
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Fifty years ago, the village idiot could always sweep the streets. Now a huge street sweeper comes by once a week, needing a skilled operator, replacing dozens of sweepers. Soon it will be an automated sweeper.
And therein lies the consequence of a lack of forward-thinking by "mainstream America." They fell for the lie that they could really, honestly, truly have 1950's Ozzie & Harriet lives back again, if only we had a "strong" president who would "bring the jobs back" to "make America great again." Stubbornly refusing to see the twin-trains labeled "globalization" and "automation" that have been bearing down on them for at least 20 years now.

Which provides a very stark reversal of narratives. The way I see it, some immigrant from a foreign land willing to uproot self & family for an indeterminate job at an indeterminate wage in an indeterminate location for an indeterminate length of time... those people are the real workers. Those people are the real bootstrappers.

Contrast that with Joe Lunchpail, sitting in the same house in the same town that his pappy's pappy's pappy built, refusing to budge, refusing to learn, refusing to step into a world that wasn't obsolete 40 years ago, and then blaming it all on "the other"... that guy is a leech. That guy is the parasite. That guy is the drain on society. And I have all the sympathy in the world for him, but until he wakes up and realizes that life changes, he will be holding the nation back from blazing a new trail forward and achieving actual progress.

Trump could be the most transformative president ever if he embraced a UBI and embraced a way to find a role for people in the coming automated economy. But his tiny brain and crooked soul prefers to just pander to peoples' shitty, inert, unsustainable baser instincts to run to the past as a solution for everything. Which is why the next 4 years will be a lost era of American development while reactionary forces try to drag us back into a life that can never be again.

To quote Trump: SAD!
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Walt
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BoB3K wrote:
Doesn't "mainstream" always exist by definition? -- the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.

Both of these authors are discussing 'Mainstream' as if it were an immutable definition, and now their definition is out-of-date.

I don't think Jaynes is saying that; mostly he's trying to refute Murray.

That aside, I do not think "mainstream" exists, now, as a single thing.

Hundreds of years ago, mainstream was the farm and all towns were was a way to supply farms; trade was just to balance overages and shortages.

Since the Industrial Revolution--much more so after the Information Revolution--society is more like a rainstorm, drops of innovation falling everywhere. Some drops form flash floods that sweep businesses and jobs away: automated weaving swept away weavers; engines swept away horses; faxes swept away document delivery services, and email swept away faxes; typewriters swept away scriveners, and computers swept away typewriters.

Some drops of innovation have no effect, no effect, no effect, and then become practical: computers and automation of some kinds date back to Heron (Hero) of Alexandria, to Babbage in the mid-1800s, Hollerith for the 1890 US Census, and now computers are everywhere; mobile phones (car or marine) date to the 1940s, but had little effect until they were cheap and fit in your pocket; tablet computers were attempted many times before they became useful enough; radio, then TV, then Internet--drip, drip, drip, flood.

The technology has produced hundreds of different streams of life. The life of a farmer is different from a clerk in an Apple store is different from a factory worker is different from a knowledge worker.

Declaring a One True Lifestyle is like declaring a One True Religion.
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