Plebeus Vulgarus

To recall Chesterton’s response to the question as to what is wrong with the world, he said, “I am.”

And so are each of us.

Being born a vulgar plebeian, I must say that growing up in that milieu gave no dissatisfaction, as there were no standards for comparison available. Until the advent of television. (We got our first set in time to watch Dobie Gillis cavort with his friend Maynard G. Krebs about The Thinker.) Once attuned, I perceived classical music (from the local PBS college radio station), Great Books (thanks to the ‘middlebrow’ Mortimer Adler), and chess (as opposed to checkers) as my way UP. It took years to shake off the prejudices I gladly embraced.

“I tell ya Maynard, I got it all figured out.”

Of late, I have several friends who react to cultural degeneration with political activism, holding signs which read, “Take Back Our Government.” The incoherent response of who THEY are, prompts me to remind them that in the USA, the ‘Gummint’ is not some foreign occupying power, nor is it in the end those of the Patrician class, those born to wealth, power, and privilege, who rule.

Be careful, the Plebes may secede, and then what will the Patricians do?

However messily democratic and vulgarly republican, the basis of Constitutional Federalism is the people, individually and together. What my friends object to is that a majority of their neighbors (and friends and relatives) have different ideas than they.

It has famously been said, “God must love the common man, he made so many of them.” Well, He may have had an off day? Or should this Common-ness be celebrated with a fanfare a la Copeland? Or should an attempt be made to “elevate the masses” with cultural recitals (yuck).

Aaron Copeland “Fanfare for the Common Man”

I have always found, and am prejudiced in favor of the idea, having experienced it, that plumbers can profit from Plato and electricians from Epictetus as much as any professor or professional pundit. But these are the proles. Can the same be done with the “lumpenproletariat”? Have we ever tried?

Beware the Gracchi, they are NOT doing it for the common good!

When Mortimer Adler came out with the Great Books program, it was derided as “middlebrow” by the intelligentsia, who saw their dominance threatened, so they moved further out, into incomprehensibility in culture, philosophy, and art. They are now almost irrelevant, having tied their search for “relevance” to one moment in intellectual history.

Don’t need to be an “intellectual” to read the Great Books.

Personally, I am fond of cheap beer, since my retirement pension will not support anything further. Other tastes are similarly lowbrow. But, there are yet my books and my poetry to protect me.

The worst critics are those lower-middle class who have a little, but are perched precariously on the edge of being demoted, back to the (horrible) Lower Classes. They evidence all the Sophomoric reaction which gave that division a bad name.

One supposes the lesson to be gained is, you don’t have to be an academic, a white-collar upper middle-class person to think excellent thoughts. (And being such is no guarantee of critical thinking in any event.) But on the other hand, there is no glory in being so far down everyone else is UP from where you are. This is America. Despite obstacles thrown up by those who climbed the ladder, and then drew it up after themselves, you can still have a very good life.

If you pursue it.

Getting a piece of the pie is not a zero sum game.