As Russians openly strive to become elitny, America's dominant oligarchs and feeble intellectuals live in a state of grotesque denial about their elitism. Billionaires act like hicks and get away with it. Liberal intellectuals try to suckup by learning sports metaphors. The smoke and mirrors works well for the billionaires but not for the nearly-extinct Left. So why are they still in the elitist closet?
When I was in America this past January, I visited Old Navy for my first time. It was there that it all came together for me: the whole intertwined web of America's elites, diversionary elites, the War On Terror, globalization, neo-imperialism, and the anti-consumerism/globalization movements. Pouring through a giant bin of $12 dollar sweaters -- with a satisfied feeling that finally I was the one profiting from the Schopenhauerean forces that run this planet -- I began to understand how they were all linked, and how they came together right there in that Old Navy bargain sweater bin.
The Old Navy store chain is one of those cultural events that I missed out on, having spent almost all of the 1990s abroad. Before moving to Louisville in 2001 I'd assumed that Old Navy was just a Navy surplus store chain that had been bought out by some multinational and repackaged for the middle classes. Part of the eternal cooptation of bohemian fashion by the consumerist bourgeoisie.
Then I took a temp job at NPC as a data entry processor. I replaced a nineteen-year-old girl, a poor white single mother with a mousy face and a giant ass. She'd dropped out of high school to work at age 16. When I arrived for the first day of work, she was just pulling all the photos of her baby son out of the tacks in the cubicle mesh "walls." Thanks to my hiring, she was able to move up a tiny notch on the administrative chain. She told me more than once how glad she was to be out of my position, and feared that I wouldn't stay on as the Small Business Approval Department's permanent data entry aphid.
"I don't ever want to do that job again," she said, moving her stuff down to the opposite end of our beige, chest-high cubicle corridor to share a slightly larger 2-desk space with a divorced woman twice her age and weight.
One day, wearing another one of her oversized navy blue and white Old Navy sweaters which hung over her baggy khakis, she told me how loyal she was to Old Navy, that it was her favorite store and she always goes there for herself or for gifts for others.
"It's the only place I'll buy clothes," she said. "It's my favorite store in the world."
A year and a half later, during a one-day vulture-like mall sweep to take advantage of the Bush-economy bargains, I stumbled into the Old Navy store in Santa Monica. Now if I know my reader, then I can see the nauseous sneer crossing your face: "Ew, gawd! Shopping! Malls! New clothes! Third Street Promenade! Ames, what happened to you? How bouge, dude!"
If you're thinking that, then all I can say is you're either a fucking idiot or you've got very generous parents. I was that fucking idiot before moving to Louisville. Hell, it was places like The Gap that first helped drive me out of the country. But that was before poverty mattered to me. Being poor in America is no fun at all. It's not only materially horrible, but it's a national sin, proof of your innate sloth and depravity. You're essentially a traitor to the State if you're poor, so the smartest thing you can do is shut your mouth and hang an American flag on your trailer.
But there are some things which make poverty more tolerable. Wal-Mart for one. I'd moved to Louisville with not even a fork or a spoon. Wal-Mart sells all that -- hamper, dishes, utensils, dish rack, sheets, telephones, you name it -- for prices so incredibly low that I was genuinely grateful. I thought about Wal-Mart's union busting, its abused work staff of geriatrics and economically desperate wage slaves, its stocks of Third World products which in turn further destroyed America's manufacturing, it's aesthetic Sovietization of America... and then I thought about my own shitty fiscal situation. Conclusion: "Fuck 'em."