SERF PRIDE

Of all the disheartening aspects of our modern public discourse, nothing saddens me as consistently as listening to people who are proud of their own ignorance. I'm not exactly a strong proponent of a Japan-style Shame Society, but being ignorant is one of those situations in which a little shame can be a valuable tool for self-improvement. You can only watch someone proudly assert that the world is 6,000 years old and Science is wrong so many times before hope for the human condition begins to fade. Ignorance is an easy problem to overcome if an individual is willing to learn. If not, though, it only gets worse.

One of the jarring things about living in the South has been seeing how proud the civic leaders are of things for which they ought to feel embarrassed. They love to boast, for example, about the rapidly growing population and industrialization in places like South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Look at all these shiny new factories! Take that, Detroit! Victory is ours!

Of course the reason that the Bible Belt is the new Auto Belt (among other major industries) is that these states are willing to hand employers billions in tax abatement, free infrastructure upgrades, and other "incentives" – in other words, we're winning the race to the bottom.
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And while it is spoken of only in euphemistic terms like "motivated workforce" or "right to work state", one of the big draws is that unemployment is high, the workforce is docile in the extreme, and people will work for pretty much anything. State and local politicians, not to mention the population itself, crow about the Business Friendly environment, which essentially means that people are ready to stab each other to get a $12/hr factory job, employees won't tell anyone if they get hurt on the job, and the state won't do anything about it even if they do. What employer doesn't cherish being able to use a line as effective as, "If you're not happy, I've got 20,000 people on file who want your job.
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"

That's not an exaggeration. When I see a headline like "20,000 apply for 877 Alabama Hyundai plant jobs" I almost have to feel bad for said Alabamans on account of the fact that they elect people who see this as a victory for the state. Alabama lures Hyundai, much as Georgia lured Kia and South Carolina lured BMW, using the same techniques that bring manufacturing to Mexico from the US, to Eastern Europe from Western, and to China and Southeast Asia from the whole world.

So congratulations, Alabama. You're the Bangladesh of the United States. Your population is poorer, more desperate, and less assertive than anywhere else in the country. That's quite an accomplishment. Maybe it's time to update the state flags again; I'm thinking a job applicant bending over with his pants around his ankles and a big, inviting grin might be appropriate.

57 thoughts on “SERF PRIDE”

  • Middle Seaman says:

    And "the population itself, crow[s] about the Business Friendly environment, which essentially means that people are ready to stab each other to get a $12/hr factory job, employees won't tell anyone if they get hurt on the job" votes GOP who will make the hourly rate just $10 if it wins.

    Not only the politicians are ignorant, the whole population of the mentioned states is ignorant. If ignorance were a disease, Alabama, NC, SC and Mississippi be in isolation.

  • You forgot. They also elect judges and pass laws so anyone hurt on the job has no right to recover any damages.

  • Man our kids are just going to hate us with unyielding intensity as soon as they learn just a little bit about recent history and political economy.

    Haha just kidding! They ain't learning shit about shit in the soon-to-be-ubiquitious Microsoft Learning Centers (Sponsored by Lowe's) that isn't rote math and how to read an employment contract. Ie, how to know where on an employment contract to initial and sign.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Not to rain on everyone's parade, but, "Ya ain't seen nothin' yet!"

    Let Mitt win, have a R Congress, and a compliant and complicit Supreme Court, and they'll not only tax-cut the wealthy to the point of paying nothing, while taxing the poor, and privatize SS, Medicare, and Medicaid (and further privatize edumakashion (sic)), they'll also change peoples voting rights and turn them into privileges, to nullify the coming demographic changes that might favor Democrats, who they'll keep around as a permanent minority party – to be used to blame all of the coming problems on.

    Now, add a healthy dollop of Dominionist Christian Jesusy goodness, and we'll be serf's who'll also be required to pray at school, at work (if we have any), and on certain days of the week, besides Sunday services – which will be absolutely mandatory, of course.
    And the church will also act an enforcer of the Jesusy laws that Congress writes, the President signs, and the Supreme Court gives its blessings to.
    And the minimal salaries we make, will be tithed to whatever the official Church we'll have in our coming decent into The Dominionist Christian Fascist Banana Republic of America. I mean, who wouldn't want to pay a Jesus Tax?
    Heathens and Atheist's, THAT'S WHO!
    Get the stocks (not the financial ones, either)!
    Ready the stones for throwing!!
    Prepare the wood faggot's into a pyre to burn the LGBT f*ggots!!!

    But the one thing that might, MIGHT, slow the Jesusification of this nation, is all of the egotistical God-botherer's on the Dominionist Christian side.

    They ALL want DOMINION over this nation and the earth!
    But every single peckerwood Jesus-grifter will want to be THE DOMINANT one in that DOMINION.

    Can you say "Internecine Religious War?"

    There's nothing more entertaining than religious wars.
    Just ask the mid-16th Century to early-18th Century Europeans.

    You know, the ones our Founding Fathers looked at, since all of that happened only relatively recently by the time of our Revolution, and decided that Church and State needed to be kept permanently separate?

    And THAT'S what I'll amuse myself watching, as this nation goes down the world's toilet faster than a lead-infused turd.

    That's if I'm not interred in some detention/death camp.
    If so, 'I'll see you in the gulag!'
    I'll save a lower berth fer ya!

    And yes, all of that CAN happen here.

  • Then there is the type of resentful serf who is out to fuck his/ her fellow workers over because he/ she is bitter about having to work two or three crappy jobs just to make ends meet. Jealous of union workers who have decent pay and benefits, these scabs actively fight for union busters like the infamous Gov. Walker of Wisconsin… for no other reason than they are miserable so every working person must be miserable.
    It's infantile.

  • Freeportguy says:

    Race to the bottom, you say? Not complete yet, for I doubt Michele Bachmann and friends have given up on their efforts to cancel minimum wage law…

    Why not hand out the states keys to employers while they're at it… Don't look now, but they are trying to run factories like they used to in good ole Soviet Unions where one's only right was to shut up and take hat ever they were willing to give him…

  • I kinda' miss the USSR, they were such a good bad example. In the old days, if a business was tempted to embrace bureaucracy too enthusiastically, they risked being compared to the Soviet Union, not so now. Was that the entire point of defeating the USSR, so that American business could embrace their methods?

  • ladiesbane says:

    Don't blame Alabama for competing with Bangladesh. Poor people who need jobs would be silly to sneer at them when their kids are hungry. (And besides, that's a slight against Bangladesh, which is on the way up. Unlike Alabama.)

    Sneer at the corporate overlords instead. Profit trumps patriotism, profit trumps community, profit trumps a strong America, profit trumps all. The Dominionist Christians mention by c u n d don't worship Yahweh and they don't live in imitation of Christ. They worship Mammon, and vote for Moloch.

  • The culture of ignorance you refer to is far and away my biggest complaint about the broken culture that is The Confederacy.

    I don’t have any hope for that ever changing, either. It is too deeply ingrained that book-learnin’ is for Those People. My mother-in-law (who herself has a degree from NC State), still believes that the “liberal” in “liberal arts degree” is prima facie evidence that colleges seek to turn students into leftists. And yes, I’m serious.

    We should not have left the insurgency alive 150 years ago. I fear we are still learning our lesson on that point.

  • Major Kong says:

    One problem with races to the bottom is they don't stop until they hit the……..you know……..bottom.

    I wonder how many years until we hear that Hyundai is moving those 877 jobs to their new plant in Monterrey or Guadalajara.

  • "… nothing saddens me as consistently as listening to people who are proud of their own ignorance."

    Purely an etymological side note, but this reminds me of The Daily Show sketch a couple years back making fun of some Faux News personality (Carlson? maybe) for not knowing the meaning of "ignoramus," looking up the answer, and still getting it wrong. (The proffer, if memory serves, was "an ignorant lawyer.") The current meaning of the word merely serves to underline extreme ignorance, but in the Elizabethan drama from which we take the word, the ignoramus was characterized not by his ignorance but by the fact that he was proud to be ignorant. The original English satire has been repackaged as good ol' American No-Nothingism, which takes some of the sting out, but that's what the word means. Or used to, at least.

  • Rick Massimo says:

    Now now – remember, it's absolutely uncouth to point at a region of America and say bad things about it.

    Unless of course it's San Francisco, Hollywood, Aspen, Chicago, certain parts of Florida (guess which ones), New York or Massachusetts.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    Why the bald eagle is the national animal and not a bucket full of crabs I'll never know….

  • "..nothing saddens me as consistently as listening to people who are proud of their own ignorance."

    No disagreement about the direction the post went in, but for a moment I wondered if maybe you were going to talk about something else, namely "educated" people who are proud of their own ignorance.

    I've had more than one run-in with "liberal arts educated" people who will smugly tell you that there is "no such thing as reality", "nothing is objective, everything is subjective", "there are no facts, it's all just constructed subjectivity", etc. And then use that as an all-purpose excuse for why they don't have to actually lean any facts or crtical thinking skills or use any logic, but can instead live in their own imagined reality, which is no less "real" than anything else, cause, you know – everything is just "subjective opinion". You and your facts and reality are just…deluded tools of the patriarchy, or something. All viewpoints, however mornonic, are "valid ways of knowing". (No offense to English majors, but…well, they're often English majors.)

    My point is…I don't know. Not directly related to the point about the race to the bottom, I guess….or maybe just that "proud ignorance" can be found in all sorts of places?

  • But they are quick to tell you they don't pay any union dues, then again neither did Roger Miller in the song, "King of the Road" and look at the wages he got!!

  • Can't say I disagree with a lot of the sentiment posted here today. But, I have one question to ask everyone: what's the alternative for southern

  • Can't say I disagree with a lot of the sentiment posted here today. But, I have one question to ask everyone: what's the alternative for southern “leadership” from an economic standpoint? To criticize their current approach is to assume that there is a more viable alternative they simply choose to ignore for ideological reasons. Let’s face it, whether it be the South or America’s more educated metro areas, corporations have gained the high ground with respect to setting employment terms. For the Southerners who don’t migrate to the metro areas for work, what should they do to regain the high ground? I guess they can seek to better educate themselves at local public universities but, as we are learning, the cost of education is putting such advantages out of the reach of the common serf. And, without education, your average serf must take what he can get. So, basically, what we have is a situation in which the highly advantaged (ie. corporate executives) continue to take from the Commons without leaving anything positive in return. History tells us that the only way to rebalance this relationship between the powerful and the powerless is through insurrection or strikes. So, I think, a generation from now, we may see a renewal of the union movement in the last place we’d expect to see it: The South.

  • @Da Moose:
    IMO, the proper reaction for working-class Southerners to this sort of thing would be to give up on Pick Six, realize they got fucked out of the American Fantasy well and good, take a good hard look at who's fucking them and why, and then fuck back as hard as possible. It's not easy or likely, but it's happened before.

    @Rick Massimo:
    Thank you. The right-wing victim mentality is so influential that even lifelong Southerners are afraid to observe how badly things are going down there. Wouldn't want to be an "elitist." A category that naturally doesn't include those who can't talk about anything in the Bay Area without making fag jokes. That's just being a Real Person.

    @Davis X. Machina:
    Love it.

  • I've got a nit to pick with this post:
    Alabama's population isn't the poorest, most desperate and least assertive of anywhere in the country. New Mexico wins on all of those categories and more. Seriously. We are proudly at the bottom, unless Mississippi manages to have a bad year or two.

  • The tax breaks are outrageous. The tax breaks often exceed the entire operating cost of the plant. In many cases it would literally be cheaper for the government to build the plant and hire all those people itself, and then throw the resulting products in the garbage.

    Yay crony capitalism.

    What astonishes me is not that government officials can be bought but that they are bought so cheaply. A hundred million dollars of taxpayer pork can be yours for just a few thousand dollars of campaign contributions. I wish our elected officials charged more for such high levels of pork spending.

  • I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    If the choice is between unemployment or a $12 factory job it makes sense to line up for the factory job. This IS a victory for those people who are in desperate need of work.

  • I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    Corporate welfare isn't just done down south either. The Jackson Labs deal in CT was done with $291M in taxpayer guaranteed loans and grants…for 300 mostly upper income jobs. Both of these deals suck…but of the two, the AL jobs will help those in need the most.

  • mel in oregon says:

    the deep south has always been full of ignorant & stupid people. but that doesn't excuse the slightly less stupidity of the rest of our country. a people that elected nixon, reagan & gw bush has to be called for what they are, stupid as hell. if george mcgovern hadn't lost to nixon in a landslide, we would have been out of viet nam shortly after mcgovern took office & there would have been a lot of progressive legislation passed. unions that whine about going from half of workers insured to less than 10% have only themselves to blame. if they hadn't supported the viet nam war & voted for reagan they would still probably be relevant. whereever you have the most deeply religious people is where there is always the greatest stupidity & ignorance. when bertrand russell said, "christianity set civilization back 2000 years", he wasn't kidding. the whole history of christianity mocks what christ preached in the sermon on the mount. the crusades, the inqusition, burning old women as witches, the denial of science from copernicus & galileo to darwin, its all been bullshit. it probably always will be.

  • mel in oregon says:

    wrong choice of word, union member, not insured. guess i've been hanging around dummies too much.

  • @ladiesbane:
    "Don't blame Alabama for competing with Bangladesh. Poor people who need jobs would be silly to sneer at them when their kids are hungry."

    And corporations that need to maximize their profits would be silly to set up shop in an area where they needed to pay living wages when there are places where they can pay their peons with peanuts.

    Don't blame the people; they're just seeking their own self-interests. Don't blame the corporations; they're just seeking them too. And don't blame the politicians; they're just seeking them as well.

    They're all acting rationally within an irrational system, so blame the whole damn system.

  • ladiesbane says:

    DB, lumping self-serving corporations and desperate poor people into the same "acting rationally" group is an oversimplification, don't you think? It's about as pertinent to the discussion as focusing on the fact that we're all bilaterally symmetrical. Everyone might just be trying to do his or her best to get by, but that only applies in the most general of views.

    Specifically, one is trying to feed his family, and the other is harming his neighbors in order to turn an obscene profit into an absurd one. There is a material difference between them.

  • @mel

    Historical details:

    last US combat troops out of Viet Nam in August of 1972 (3d Bn, 21st Inf Regt and battery B, 3d Bn, 82d Field Artillery Regt)

    All US troops out in 1973

    Senator McGovern lost to Mr. Nixon in November 1972. If McG had won I can't imagine he would have withdrawn any quicker.

    Subsequently, the US gov through congressional action cut off funding to the RVN and the North Vietnamese conquered Saigon in 1975.

    The US did not lose, we cut off our corrupt clients and they fell.

    //bb

  • @mel

    'when bertrand russell said, "christianity set civilization back 2000 years", he wasn't kidding…'

    I have been searching for a source of this using the usual suspects – can you help?

    Of course, this is one of those delicious morsels for atheists/skeptics – can't really prove it, but it feels good goin' down.

    //bb

  • @Ellie

    You and your facts and reality are just…deluded tools of the patriarchy, or something. All viewpoints, however mornonic, are "valid ways of knowing". (No offense to English majors, but…well, they're often English majors.)

    Save us all from the person who slept through half a seminar on Kristeva and Cixous.

    I think on balance, though, it's more problematic to think that your belief system, or perspective, is completely rational and objective, when it isn't.

  • @bb in GA:

    Everyone else in the world sure as hell thinks you lost in Vietnam.
    Maybe we should all be watchin' more Fox News.

  • @Nomad

    Roam on brother…FNC came on the air in 1996….

    Power of Propaganda says the US lost. Can you refute the facts as I have stated them rather than be a smart ass?

    Where am I wrong?

    //bb

  • Major Kong says:

    @bb

    Well let's see.

    50,000+ US casualties. Countless Vietnamese casualties. More bomb tonnage dropped on North Vietnam than all sides in WWII combined.

    All to prop up a corrupt ally that fell as soon as we withdrew our support.

    Call it what you want, but I'd hardly call it a "win".

  • ConcernedCitizen says:

    @bb and Nomad

    "Lost" is a term applicable to games of Risk. If you're talking about the Vietnam War – or any war, for that matter – a proper historical interrogation involves defining the objectives of the actors and then asking whether they achieved them or not. Militarily – that is, as far as body counts go – the U.S. was trouncing the opposition in that besieged country. And how could it now? We had the most powerful, technologically advanced military that had ever existed (not to mention millions of tons of ordnance, chemical and otherwise).

    But if you're asking whether the U.S. government achieved its objectives in Vietnam, I think the answer is No. And how could it? Virtually the entire peasant population supported the NLF – oops, I mean the Vietcong.

  • Major Kong says:

    From the Vietnamese perspective it was just another war in a long string of wars against China, Japan, France, Us, China again.

    They simply call it "The American War".

  • 'The American War'

    Strategic Objective – an independent RVN free of domination by the North – FAIL

    Military Objective – 'Vietnamization' of the conflict – completed in 1973

    The popular leftist conception is that the US was 'driven from the field' by a ragtag bunch of folks in black pajamas and conical straw hats. I don't believe that to be true. That more closely describes the USSR in Afghanistan (except for the outfits)

    Lots more NVA involvement rather than NLF after Tet.

    No Americans were dying (for several years) when the US 'lost.'

    //bb

  • @ladiesbane

    As a socialist, I'm certainly not trying to draw a moral equivalence between the two. I guess my point is just that both of them are playing out their roles within the system in a manner in which those roles have to be played out per that system's rules of the game… so don't hate the player (or at least don't *just* hate the player); hate the game.

    Granted, one of the roles is contemptible whereas the other is pitiable. And granted, people are douchebags for adopting the former role in the first place. But if one guy declines to do so, another asshole will step in his place; the role will continue to be played so long as the game continues, so there's no point in focusing on the players of that role, in my view.

  • @bb

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but by your logic, it would seem that we could invade a country, utterly fail at defeating the opposition, declare our military objective to be turning over the fighting to someone else, turn it over over to them, watch them get steamrolled, but then, nonetheless, declare victory at the end of the day, simply because, hey, we turned the fighting over to them just like we said we would.

  • Tangentially (but certainly not off-topic) is the Wisconsin recall election. Preliminary results report as much as a 60+% result for Walker.

    Gobsmacked, I be.

    All electoral caveats apply.

  • @Pat
    Purely an etymological side note, but this reminds me of The Daily Show sketch a couple years back making fun of some Faux News personality (Carlson? maybe) for not knowing the meaning of "ignoramus," looking up the answer, and still getting it wrong.

    IGNORANUS: (n) def: an uniformed asshole.

    How could anyone get that word wrong??

  • ladiesbane says:

    DB, I think we understand each other. I'd shovel shit all day to feed a hungry kid…but would I take food from the mouth of one kid to send my own to Park Slope? Fuck no.

    And as for the war in Vietnam…we have a clear winner: Halliburton. Also known as KBR, Kellogg Brown & Root, Brown and Root. Wasn't war profiteering against the law at one point? Cue "Fortunate Son", fade to black.

  • Major Kong says:

    But! But! The Vietnamese had rifles and pistols.

    My NRA friends assure me that small arms are proof against foreign invasions and overreaching governments as well.

    So how could we possibly have won?

  • @dB

    You are absolutely right.

    The incomplete thought in your scenario is that in our case because of liberals, in particular ( Senator Church et al ) we decided that our client was too corrupt to continue supporting after the 'hand off.' THEN they got steamrolled.

    Even with continued support could the RVN become the analog of South Korea? Would Uncle Ho's guys eventually succeeded? I don't know…

    But we decided, for political reasons, to abandon our admittedly corrupt bunch in South Viet Nam.

    We will never know because we quit.

    //bb

  • I see some very good ideas here, and if I had the intelligence I'd combine them to articulate a coherent point of view. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of bullshit: eg, "I'd shovel shit all day to feed a hungry kid." Really? Way to serf, dude.

    Seems to me Ed's real point is contained in the first sentence:

    Of all the disheartening aspects of our modern public discourse, nothing saddens me as consistently as listening to people who are proud of their own ignorance.

    Obviously there's our shitty "news" media, but additionally there's the fact that many people are simply too busy working to be political junkies. Come home after 8/10/12 hours, make/eat dinner, spend some quality time with the family or go on a date or jerk off or read a book or whatever.

    As to willful ignorance…I get that, I really do. To keep the bloodpressure and incipient alcholism, etc, down, yes. There are things I would rather not know…if for no other reason than to meet each dawn without a deep sense of shame.

  • Da moose, in terms of what is the alternatives for the Southern leadership, please remember what they're doing.

    The corporations in question get massive tax breaks, massive subsidies, and massive indirect subsidies. They then hire ~0 workers, as far as overall employment is concerned (877 Hyundai jobs @ $12/hour?).
    And IIRC, in general if the company doesn't do what they promised, they're not on the hook for repaying any of those bennies.

    They are not benefiting the people of Alabama (or Georgia, …), so one guess as to whom actually benefits.

  • @I_am_a_lead_pencil:

    "This IS a victory for those people who are in desperate need of work."

    Did you catch how the original post mentioned being proud of ignorance? That applies to ignorance about arithmetic, too. What's 18,500 – 877? How about 877 / 18,500? Report back when you've learned how to calculate those numbers, and we'll move on to teaching you how to use a dictionary, so you can look up the word "victory."

  • We really need to do some divide and conquer. Maybe we could push for a laaw making it illegal to bar handguns from the workplace. It would be hilarious to see the NRA fighting against this one, and they would.

  • John Rambo to BB: "Do we get to win this time?"
    BB to Rambo: "What? Are you implying we didn't win LAST time?"

    This is almost as bemusing* as the RWNM apparatchiks peddling the meme that the Nazis were leftists.

    *And I do know what that word means.

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