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Telling it like it is

By Zach | August 2, 2010

Anyone out there read Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant? It was published back in 2007, but the book has legs. I read it a couple years ago and have passed it off to numerous friends. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy.

I keep up with Joe’s writings here and there and came across this clip of him. Hopefully a couple minutes of Joe telling his truths will convince you to check out the book. You’ll either “get it” or you won’t (and if you don’t, maybe you should). After reading the book you might see why Joe and the people of his community aren’t anarchists. …And you just might realize that they would be, if so many anarchists weren’t so distant from their everyday concerns. Enjoy.

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Topics: Recommended Reading | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Telling it like it is”

  1. alwayshistoricize Says:
    August 2nd, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Yes, Joe has a way with words.

    The only problem that I have with his reflexive condemnation of middle class “liberals” is that he tends to leave out the middle class reactionary statists who manage to do so much more damage to the ideological landscape. While it is correct that, as a demographic, the rightist middle class tends to be lower on the socioeconomic scale than its liberal counterpart on the coasts, it constitutes a body of resentment far away from being anywhere near the bottom-rung earning categories of those whom Joe so vigorously defends.
    What is crucial here is that we somehow manage to distinguish between a legitimate grievance among the working poor (e.g. “liberals have the gall to ridicule our religious faith and cultural habits while simultaneously living in affluence via the surplus extracted from generations of our labor”) manifesting itself in knee-jerk jingoism from an illegitimate grievance among the white middle class (e.g. “My 401k took a major it because the Community Reinvestment Act forced a bank to hand money to some lazy blacks in the form of a home loan”) organizing itself into concerted political action via the machinations concentrated capital.

  2. Zach Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Yeah, no doubt. Well put.

    The way I read Joe’s message is that he’s more comfortable taking the liberals to task for three reasons: a) he was an admitted “coastal” liberal for some time before moving back “home” so he’s maybe exorcising his own demons a bit and b) related to the former he sees liberals as imperfect, yet natural, allies and c) illuminating a working class culture that’s worthy as-is, and capable of transformation in the here and now, and framing it in opposition to liberal and conservative ideologies could potentially build confidence for the class as-such, without Joe having to perpetually frame his arguments in reaction to white middle class values (your example above is illustrative).

    Now, if I am guessing correctly about Joe’s approach we have to remember, as he says, the book wasn’t written with an expectation that his family and neighbors would devour it—it was aimed at liberals. And people can agree or disagree whether liberals are natural allies (or to what extent they may be in the US today). That said, it’s a refreshing book and offers much food for thought for radicals too. Which only brings us back to your point, to paraphrase: how does the US working class define its own interests without being influenced, led, or hijacked by middle and upper class values (which includes a healthy dose of racism, xenophobia, etc., etc.)? And yet still, how does it navigate those persistent values on its own terms, accepting and rejecting what’s useful with an eye toward social and economic freedom?

    These questions are as crucial today for anarchists as they’ve been for the last 150-odd years. I guess that’s what struck me most about Joe’s book: it reminded me how far removed the vast majority of the anarchist movement is from the very people that at its most heroic times were its allies and constituents.



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