HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
I’ve spent the last couple of days hungrily reading Rainbow Pie by Joe Bageant, and reading sections of it aloud to anyone who will sit still. I’ll enthusiastically pass it on to whomever will read it.
Joe speaks with the heart and mind of a country boy who loves his people and his country and has had the good fortune to see, really see, what has been going on in this country for the past several generations if not forever. Good fortune is that he’s had the education (much self taught) to understand the abysmal history of the 1900’s.
“Rainbow Pie” explores the diaspora of white folks from rural America into the cities where they have served as parts for the machinery of capitalism, and cannon fodder for the machinery of empire. Joe doesn’t disguise the lack of education and the resulting willingness to feed on the hallucinations of media drugs. What Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas tried (and failed) to describe in ” Hollowing Out the Middle”, Joe succeeds at, because he really knows and understands the great white underclass of the US.
In a supposedly classless society we have done a lot of worrying about the “Middle Class”. And yet wouldn’t you suppose the Middle Class would be somewhere in the middle? The folks earning the median wages of 35K individually to 50K per household, according to the census bureau? Then how do we end up talking about Middle Class folks who are making 100K+?
That’s cause most of us, the great majority are – working class – disposable bodies who keep trotting after the carrot promised by tv and magazine ads. Go to WallyWorld and you can dress for the golf course while sending your job off to Bangladesh.
I’m including the review below because it tells the story of Rainbow Pie better than I can..
By Smith T. Powell III “Smith Powell”
I have hanging on my wall a check that my father carried in his billfold from 28 September 1953 until his death in a tractor accident on his farm in 1977. He had sent a calf to the stockyards in hopes of selling it for twenty to fifty dollars. The check was for eight cents. It was my first lesson in the new realities of farm life. As Joe recounts, “When World War II began, 44 persent of Americans were rural, and over half of them farmed for a living. By 1970, only 5 percent were on farms.”
I lived that transformation. I saw how many of our farming neighbors left their farms, or took outside jobs, or their wives took outside jobs, or both took outside jobs in order to make ends meet. I elected to leave the farm and was lucky enough to recieve help in pursuing an education that provided a road to success. Joe notes that many millions of Americans were not so successful.
Joe’s memoir is a poignant telling of what was lost in that transition, of how the game was rigged against those trying to buy into the American Dream, and of how so many found that Dream just beyond their reach. So much of the story of his family sounded like the story of my family right down to the family home burning. What a tragic loss. It had been built in the 1790s.
I have urged all of my family to read this book, and now, I urge all Americans to read it. I am sure all who read “Rainbow Pie” will have a better understanding of our current situation through the life of Joe’s family and many readers will recognize their own story. I hope readers will be more conscious of the poor underclass who serve as our farmers, our mechanics, our factory workers, our hair dressers, our store clerks, etc. I hope readers will reflect how we might reorganize the system to make it fairer and so that the sick and the old receive the care and support that they need. I hope that readers will no longer support calls to increase the age of retirement, which call will place an additional burden on the backs of the old and the infirm and will represent an additional transfer of wealth and of privilge from the poor to the rich.
Or, as Joe suspects, “For a few years, the powers in charge will manage to waste our remaining resources, human and natural, extending a doomed system long enough to extract those last few trillions [of dollars], instead of creating something more sustainable.”
Joe is a modern prophet who, like Jeremiah or Hosea or Amos, provides a powerful indictment of our current situation and with the prophets he warns, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”. In Joe’s words: “It’s [watching tabloid TV] certainly better than contemplating America falling apart before your very eyes–not to mention the unnerving impression of inhabiting a spent empire locked in its inexorable orbit, and growing darker by the day.”
I am so sorry that we no longer have Joe’s voice, but I can hope that more will hear what he has said.