Friday, April 29, 2011

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

It seems a lot of people have died since this year has started. A lot of famous individuals dying and a lot of regimes have died as well, especially in the Arab world (sorry for not covering that, but things don’t seem to shut down in Pakistan). But most of those deaths were political or well known to the media. The one I am confronted with is a slightly personal one, the death of a literary influence on my work, a man I began reading in the mid-2000’s. A good man and a good writer, Mr Joe Bageant.

Mr Bageant died on the 26th of March of 2011, last month, and since we were all busy with our own things, I didn’t notice the death of somebody whose writings informed me. His writing introduced me to another culture of America, that of the working man, and what it means to have to fight and struggle in this brave new economy when the chips are stacked against you.

There were a few salient features of Mr Bageants writings. His description of a rural pre-television childhood, a description of being raised in a pre-internet era, the contours or shadows of the confederacy he could feel in his life in the South, how he enjoyed reading, whilst many of his fellows growing up were not too fond of it. The more serious stuff was how he described the effects of growing up a religious Christian and most importantly, why George Bush won the second term and why people voted against their own interests to elect George Bush to power, not once, but twice. On the way, he verbally kicked an American John Dolan, who is related professionally to Matt Taibbi, whilst in the process humanising Lyndie England (who never should’ve been in Iraq, like the rest of the American army) yet simultaneously condemning her act of torture. In his later writings he turned to a very environmentalist reading of the economy, something I disagreed with, and sometimes wrote off as a feature of age. Especially when he talked about the US maybe become a second world country and “Please excuse the lack of oxygen”.

He is also one of the few Americans who mentioned Swat as one of Obama’s wars and tried to explain to Americans what their role was in the war in Swat. For that he has my permanent gratitude.

I ran into Mr Bageant’s writings in 2005. I’m not sure how I ran into his writings. It likely had something to do with the website workingforchange.com and its internet published columnists, that eventually led me to Mr Bageant’s little place on the internet. I had been referred to workingforchange.com by Michael Moore’s website, a man who championed (and still does) America’s urban working poor. And whereas Mr Moore’s factory workers have been driven from the factory into the fry-cook job, Mr Bageant’s rural American workers have been driven off their land over generations by collapsing food prices thanks to corporatized farming, to compete with America’s working poor for those fry cook jobs. It is these people Joe Bageant wrote about, because it is these people Mr Bageant came from.

End reference:

Some of the few things I read off Mr Bageant, flipping between 4chan and Joe Bageant’s website. 4Chan has made into Time magazine as a cultural icon. Mr Bageant deserves to be counted as one as well.

Carpooling With Adolf Eichmann (references Pakistan’s “nuclear blackmail”)

Drink, Pray, Fight, Fuck (An introduction to the Scots Irish)

Poor, White and Pissed (Why poor people in the United States may have voted against their own economic interests)

Lafayette Park Blues (A History of Joe Bageant During the 1960’s)

Mash Note for the “Girl With the Leash” (On Lynndie England’s infamy)

Driving on the Bones of God (A Contemplation on the Federal Government Structure in Washington)

Karaoke Night in George Bush’s America (A Contemplation on His Ancestral Town’s Fellow Citizens)

One Last Kick At Liberal Dogs (On Contemplating American Liberal’s Own Sometime Bigotry Against and Misunderstanding of Rural America)

3 comments:

Amna K said...

Good write up!

And why did you disagree with his environmental views exactly?

TLW said...

:-) Thanks. I liked what he wrote, but some of it was deeply sceptica l stuff, like saying the President of the United States should say about his country's future, "Don't mind the lack of oxygen." His environmental views were also a little too extreme, like trying to susbsist (in America) on $3000 a year. Now that's about Rs 24,000 ~ Rs 27,000 a year for an adult living in Pakistan. I don't know who would enjoy living on that, even though poor people manage it.

Amna K said...

Aaah, I see. That's why we're required to take into account 'Environmental Economics' before making any 'green' propositions.