Back Row America, Back Row Bronze Age Europe

Back Row America:

This was a really interesting article–book excerpt–about an upper-class Wallstreet guy who, through his daily walks, begins talking to and photographing the people he basically hadn’t noticed before.

Over the next half hour, she told me her life story. She told me how her mother’s pimp had put her on the streets at twelve. How she had had her first child at thirteen. How she was addicted to heroin. I ended by asking her the question I asked everyone I ­photographed: How do you want to be described? She replied without a pause, “As who I am. A prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God.”

I spent the next three years following Takeesha and the street family she was a member of—roughly fifty men and women who lived under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in sheds, in pits, in broken-down trucks, on rooftops, or, if they scored enough money, in per-hour motels. What she showed me prompted me to travel to other neighborhoods in cities across America, from Buffalo to New Haven to Cleveland to Selma to El Paso to Amarillo. In each of these places, people have a sense of being left behind and forgotten—or, worse, mocked and stigmatized by the rest of the world as it moves on and up with the GDP.

In many cases, these neighborhoods have literally been left behind by people like me. …

We had compassion for those who got left behind, but thought that our job was to provide them an opportunity (no matter how small) to get where we were. It didn’t occur to us that what we valued wasn’t what everyone else wanted. They were the people who couldn’t or didn’t want to leave their town or their family to get an education at an elite college, the people who cared more about their faith than about science. If we were the front row, they were the back row.

Had I asked people in my hometown why they were still there, I would have received the answer I heard in neighborhoods from Cairo to Amarillo to rural Ohio. They would have looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Because it is my home.”

The book it’s from is Dignity: Seeking Respect in Backrow America.

This article–and the larger book, undoubtedly–touches on a lot of themes I’ve been pondering myself. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t have answers. I’d like answers.

Dignity, as I’ve said before, is one of those principles I am drawn to. I am not sure what can be done for people. Maybe nothing. But I can still treat others with respect, and maybe if we respected each other a little more, we could get our heads out of our collective rear ends and make something better of this country.

Related: Crossing Borders to Afford Insulin:

All told, I bought two cartons of Lantus (5 pens each carton) for $52 each, which is about a year supply for me. I also bought six single Kwikpens of Humalog for $13 dollars each, which is about a six month supply.

My total pharmacy bill that day was $182, and I left Mexico with a year’s supply of one insulin and a 6 month’s supply of another. That same amount of insulin – the exact same, in identical cartridges and boxes with the same graphics and colors and the same words written on them (in Spanish for the Mexican insulin) – would cost me over $3,000 with my American health coverage. Even after adding in a tank and a half of gas, I saved thousands of dollars by buying my life-saving medications in Mexico, instead of the US.

Also related: Mass grave of an extended family probably murdered by invading Corded Ware People–I mean, peacefully interred by migrating pots:

We sequenced the genomes of 15 skeletons from a 5,000-y-old mass grave in Poland associated with the Globular Amphora culture. All individuals had been brutally killed by blows to the head, but buried with great care. Genome-wide analyses demonstrate that this was a large extended family and that the people who buried them knew them well: mothers are buried with their children, and siblings next to each other. From a population genetic viewpoint, the individuals are clearly distinct from neighboring Corded Ware groups because of their lack of steppe-related ancestry. Although the reason for the massacre is unknown, it is possible that it was connected with the expansion of Corded Ware groups, which may have resulted in violent conflict.


5 thoughts on “Back Row America, Back Row Bronze Age Europe

  1. It’s a fundamentally good sign. George Orwell said that new money tends to be the most judgmental.

    >My office, my neighborhood, and most of my adult friends were like me. Almost all of us had used education to get out of a hometown that we saw as oppressive, intolerant, and judgmental.

    For basically these reasons. You see all the bad of the world you leave behind, and the new world is bright and shiny and you want to ingratiate yourself. Of course, he phrased it less… diplomatically. It’s like fat people and former fat people.

    >But I can still treat others with respect, and maybe if we respected each other a little more, we could get our heads out of our collective rear ends and make something better of this country.
    >Unfortunately, the article doesn’t have answers. I’d like answers.
    The things people like to do are usually unhealthy. “If it feels good, do it” is a terrible mantra.

    Cultural tradition. Every class has its set of neurotic, emergent behaviors which are personally costly to restrain. These vices create tensions within society if not checked. For the lower stratas, low FTO and fecklessness. Large amounts of effort produce minimal returns. Why save several years for a TV when you can get one now? Why work when it is so hard and so unrewarding? For the middle class, rudeness and arrogance. There’s a fine line between sticking to your guns and just being an asshole to people. And upholding societal norms quickly becomes preening and status signaling. It’s hard to keep up with the Joneses, either monetarily or morally. For the upper stratas, hypocrisy and subversion rule. How do high openness people flaunt their big brains? By signaling transgressiveness and flaunting bourgeois norms. Culture was made to be corroded. Why play by the rules?

    Traditional societies have traditions. These traditions keep vice in check. The workers hold their lives together by believing in a meaningful universe and that work is inherently righteous. The middle class teaches itself to be mannered and thrifty, blunting the harshness of its words and checking the endless rat race of conspicuous consumption and other forms of preening. And the nobility is taught noblesse oblige, and that just because you can make Sonic a weird manhog and Thor fat, it doesn’t mean you should spit upon society’s common cult and culture. Myths were made to be protected.

    Tradition is stultifying. It rots the soul and binds the hands.

    Human societies are cyclical because man can never be satisfied in this fallen world.


  2. Dignity means dignified behavior, respect-worthy behavior. It is someone thing one has or not, not something others give to one through respectful behavior. This word is very often misused, sad to see you too misuse it. Dignity is practically stiff upper lip. Dignity is not not dragging others through the mud. It is behaving unfliching and somehow with an air of royalty while one is being dragged through the mud.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s