Sunday, March 22, 2020


Perhaps you remember about me grumbling about needing a synonym for the "middle class."  It turns out that I needed more than that -- I need a definition for a whole new class.  At present I have the Goldilocks list of bottom, middle, and upper, plus the wild-card Class X of Paul Fussell, meaning something like arts or hippie free spirits -- that is, people who don't conform and don't have money.  That's a definition possibly created by this new category which is itself founded between the working and middle classes.  I found it in an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich.

The interviewer asks:  "The P.M.C. are people whose economic and social status is based largely on education rather than capital ownership: teachers, managers, lawyers, doctors, and culture workers of various kinds. These professionals make up about twenty per cent of the country’s population, but a person reading the news and watching TV might think they make up ninety per cent of it. Many of these professions began with missions of social improvement, but in practice the P.M.C. have largely reinforced an existing order rather than lifting up the people they represent or teach or care for. You originally asked whether the P.M.C. could actually align itself with working-class interests rather than continue to seek control. Then, in 2013, you wrote a follow-up, in which you observed that the P.M.C. lay “in ruins”—that its members were either placing themselves in increasingly direct service to capital, being disempowered by corporate control, or spiralling down the ladder into hourly wage work. You asked, “Should we mourn the fate of the P.M.C., or rejoice that there is one less smug, self-styled elite to stand in the way of a more egalitarian future?” Do you have an answer to that question, and has it changed?"

Ehrenreich's answer is that we should mourn.  I will expound my own cynical view.  

The PMC was seen by many as a goal and salvation for their kids, esp. in rural and rez communities.  "Get an education!  Go to college!"  In part my outlook is changed by what I've seen over a lifetime of watching students and family.  And part of it comes from a Class X friend.

A competing formulation with the same acronym follows:

"The politico-media complex ( PMC, also referred to as the
political-media complex) is a name that has been given to the close, systematized, symbiotic-like network of relationships between a state's political and ruling classes, its media industry, and any interactions with or dependencies upon interest groups with other domains and agencies, such as law (and its enforcement through the police), corporations and the multinationals. The term PMC is often used to name, derogatively, the collusion between governments or individual politicians and the media industry in an attempt to manipulate rather than inform the people.

"There is recent evidence to suggest that newer media portals (as opposed to those outlets of "traditional" mainstream media MSM) are turning, more readily, to using the PMC framework in critical analysis and interpretation of media behavior." (wiki)

This whole Wikipedia entry is valuable enough for a class session, though it still doesn't deal with the Internet and the forces on government represented by presenting speakers with their former contradictory selves, showing living illustrations of abstract examples, or the effect of seeing politicians age.  It notes the participation of religious institutions.

When I look for info about the Ehrenreich's formulation of PMC, I run into Left Wing radicals and Marxists, who make no sense to me.  I find this political/media complex interesting and vital to the discussion, but evidently I'm taking it in some idiosyncratic way.  I see this PMC class, either formulation or both, as being one that led working class, minority people, and women to use education to become certified, entitled and employed.  But in the process both education itself and the people entering the class were changed.  Not for the better.

Partly it was a matter of confusion as old habits and assumptions mixed but didn't match.  Partly it was "pinkifying" and I don't mean Russia -- I mean that women entering these occupations made their prestige and status drop and introduced a lot of frustration on their part as the pre-existing good old boys tried to shut them out.  In addition. there was an element of upper class white boys who pretended to be educated (Ivy League entitled) but were not, and threw their entitlement around as hate.

For rez people the problem was a little different because it meant a seeming choice between being "white" or being indigenous.  White meant conformity.  Indigenous meant defiance sometimes or others it was just permission to break the rules about schedules, budgets, and other accountibility   -- instead taking popularity as the index of success.  There is a strong prejudice in both cases against what is assumed to be snobbish intellectualism.  Those Ivy covered drunks like that idea and so does Trump.

All along since Trump became so obviously damaged, I've been watching "The West Wing" as an antidote, so that I remember what it used to be like to work on the line between government and the media as I did both for Multnomah County Animal Control and the City of Portland at widely different periods and in contrast to both real UU congregations and to the actual rez.  The series takes up the various kinds of dilemmas and how ordinary lives can become tragic or illuminating to those trying to deal with them from the "top".  Adding in these two PMC theories about class dynamics gives me more concepts and vocabulary, but no solutions.  My head buzzes.

Going to the vast transformation that science exposes is almost a relief.  For one thing, if Corvid19 had struck fifty years ago, we would simply have died in great helpless blind masses.  Now -- having dealt with so many viral epidemics, most powerfully the HIV -- we at least have a knowledge of the molecular structures of cells and bodies that can save some people.  Hang on.

No comments: