“Most People”

Yes, I know I’m supposed to be user-centered and all that, but I think the great wave of populism we’re seeing now is going to lead to bad things. Some friends say it’s a time of opportunity, that maybe the blind rage of the common man can be directed toward support of progressive policies. Perhaps, but with everyone’s attention spans diminishing and few people actually looking into details or questioning assumptions (progress to some of you out there), I tend to think that things are unraveling. And “the people” are only going to get angrier when the middle class tax increases come in a couple of years (as though there was an alternative to transferring debt to the public sector to bail out the global economy).

So as an antidote to the present populist fervor, three quotations that I hope mean something….

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).
– Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904

Most people are not liars. They can’t tolerate too much cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well. But I don’t think that’s the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception.
– Noam Chomsky, in an interview with James Peck, found in the Chomsky Reader

History is the present. That’s why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.
– E. L. Doctorow, in an interview in Writers at Work (1988)

4 comments on ““Most People”

  1. I will always worry when the common man is a whipping boy. But as a unionist that is where I fall. Growing up w/o a h.s. educated family likely gave me more empathy for the working class. People can be smart w/o formal education.
    Also it seems in this post-racial time so many continue to have recourse only to formally educated white guys a point needs to be underscoed.,
    I notice the American Libraries article on writing in the June/July issue was mostly white guys.
    Nothing wrong with white guys,,,just it is such a one-way perspective.
    How about a union white guy at least who had faith in working people?
    …”If the workers took a notion they could stop all speeding trains; every ship upon the ocean they can tie with mighty chains.”
    Joe Hill

  2. I agree with Kathleen. I know Rory doesn’t necessarily mean this but the bashing of the common man is also a snobbish bourgeous critique of working class culture. From an economic point of view, the common man is us.

  3. I’m not taking an economic point of view. I know that from an economic point of view the common man is us. But it’s simply a fact that our economic status as the common man does not prevent us from having the critical thinking skills, analytical abilities, and the interest in relevant details over spoon-fed narrative that we do. If we didn’t have these skills and concerns, who would? And isn’t it important? I’m not going to let a concern about classism prevent me from valuing my own education or prevent me from viewing education as important in general. People should value education and thought. I won’t accept “bourgeois culture versus working class culture” as an excuse if the result is that I have to honor people’s supposedly “cultural” choice to not give a shit about thinking (and reading, etc.).

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