Two books I’m about to begin reading for the purpose of generating good crude thought are The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap and The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. The first was recommended on the Daily Show with John Stewart. I have become what I would call a strong reader, and I’ve worked to get there, but mostly what I read is fiction.
One night Jon Stewart did an interview with author Matt Taibbi, and I was hooked. I was beginning the semester taking Intro to Sociology, and here was a book that was right in line with one of the major schools of thought I’d been studying, mainly Conflict Theory. Loosely defined Conflict Theory is a school of thought which aims to search out areas of social inequity and once these areas are identified deconstruction is used to examine the individual pieces of the “collage” that when joined together create the whole fucked-up picture. This loose definition also works to describe Taibbi’s The Divide.
First I started listening to the audio book. It was a new experience for me, but I learned how to book mark certain sections, and since I was accustomed to reading and writing in the margins, I had to develop a new kind of literacy. You might not believe me, but learning to listen can be challenging for some, and certainly for me.
Eventually I found myself in a world I knew, but all the same was shocking to meet and to see for what it really was, a mess. In the introduction Taibbi talks about a system of justice that is “universal” for all American citizens in name only, and that in fact the system isn’t universal but stratified just like the classes. And one thing that resonates deeply with me is this, “more and more often we all make silent calculations about who is entitled to what rights and who is not. It’s not as simple as saying everyone is the same under the law anymore. We all know there is another layer to it now.”
And I think we are seeing this even more now with police brutality clearly targeting low-income and working-poor neighborhoods, and our pampered friends on Facebook blaming our outrage and our call for regulation as the reason their cop-relatives are being gunned down in the streets. Here we see the lower and lower-middle classes taking aim at each other, when the ones that run the system that maims us continues to live and thrive hidden in obscurity.
While The Divide Looks at the current state of affairs and lays bare what’s actually happening now, The Unwinding looks at how we got here. This, was a recommendation, but one I’m glad I followed up on. I began listening to this on audio too. Here George Packer tracks the movement of “the” glacier that is American politics and Domestic Policy.
He’s worked hard to uncover and expose key players who have played a role in shaping the world we see around us, and he has worked hard to show readers how the pieces fit together, and to show that some things we look at and think “how crazy” actually fit together nicely, naturally, and snug as a bug when you examine the other pieces. Together I hope these books will prepare me for my next semester, one filled with Sociology and Argumentation.
While I’ve listened to these and gotten a lot, I’m now going back over paperback copies with highlighter in hand. What I find I’ll share with you.
And I haven’t Forgotten about Austen. Me and her are getting along just fine currently!
Two quotes to leave you with, some food for thought.
“We are creating a dystopia, where the mania of the state isn’t secrecy or censorship but unfairness. Obsessed with success and wealth and despising failure and poverty, our society is systematically dividing the population into winners and losers, using institutions like the courts to speed the process. Winners get rich and get off. Losers go broke and go to jail. It isn’t just that some clever crook on Wall Street can steal a billion dollars and never see the inside of a courtroom; it’s that, plus the fact that some black teenager a few miles away can go to jail just for standing on a street corner, that makes the whole picture complete.
The great nonprosecutions of Wall Street in the years since 2008 were just symbols of this dystopian sorting process to which we’d already begun committing ourselves. The cleaving of the country into two completely different states–one a small archipelago of hyperacquisitive untouchables, the other a vast ghetto of expendables with only theoretical rights–has been in the works a long time.”
-Matt Taibbi, The Divide
It’s like If I were to walk down to the creek, I’m going to wear a path, and every day I’m going to go the same way. That how the roads in this country were built, basically. The people that built the roads followed the animals’ paths. And once that path is set, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to take another path. Because you get in that set pattern of thinking, and it’s passed down generation to generation to generation.
-Dean Price, in The Unwinding