Thursday, July 14, 2011

Working Class: One of the united cultures of Our Lady of Vilnius

Yesterday Dwight Garner of the New York Times reviewed Owen Jones' book "Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class." In Mr. Garner's take on this book, Mr. Jones' thesis is "How did the salt of the earth come to be viewed as the scum of the earth? " Though Mr. Jones' observes this phenomenon in England, can it be operant in the United States as well?

My roots, as the roots of many parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius, are planted firmly in the American working class. This is poignantly displayed in the first article to address the future closing of Our Lady of Vilnius, The Villager's "Lady of Vilnius and 'Pretzels' and 'Provolone' may lose home'. It is my view that Our Lady of Vilnius is a casualty of gentrification and the real estate bubble as much as anything else. The working class of New York City is being pushed to the perimeter of the city and beyond. Its habitat, haunts and monuments are being destroyed.

When I was a child, I was encouraged to lose my Bronx accent and associate with people who had "class". I mastered the art of upward mobility, but the spiritual quest for Our Lady of Vilnius has caused me to abandon it. How I miss the "F--- 'em if they can't take a joke" resilience and humor of my parents and the neighbors who surrounded me as a child: people who are smart but not intellectual, who are holy but not conspicuously pious and who do not take themselves too seriously. I found them again in the community of Our Lady of Vilnius and I treasured them.

Returning to Mr. Jones book through the filter of Dwight Garner:

"The author notes how demonizing the lower classes makes it easier to make policy against them. “To admit that some people are poorer than others because of the social injustice inherent in our society would require government action,” he writes. “Claiming that people are largely responsible for their circumstances facilitates the opposite conclusion.”

In this country even those who would champion the working man have reduced him to "Joe Sixpack" Owen Jones' book sounds like a fun, provocative read and, most likely, a cautionary tale.

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