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14 October 2010 @ 06:41 pm
You Tell 'Em, Herman  
"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." - Herman Melville

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
— Herman Melville
 
 
 
Equinoxstephanieb on October 15th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
Last weekend I listened to Bill Bryson's At Home (highly recommended, btw), which covers Victorian daily life and material culture in detail. In the latter half of the book he talks a lot about Victorian attitudes toward the poor and toward servants (overlapping groups, obviously). I thought I had a fairly good grasp of class issues during that time, but I was STUNNED at the casual viciousness and completely oblivious privilege in some of the quotes he dug up. (actually, they kind of reminded me of the libertarian types I often see trolling liberal and feminist blogs)

Melville was really speaking outside of his time and class with those quotes.
Tapatitapati on October 15th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
I definitely should read that. Yes, I think a lot of attitudes have been ingrained for generations. There are always a few people who see the fallacies inherent in the cultural norms of their time and speak out against them.

There are those who simply don't see poor people as people. You (general, societal "you") pretty much have to dehumanize and demonize poor people in order to not care or feel any sense of responsibility for children going hungry or people living on the street in your society. And for our society to keep churning out relatively cheap food and services we need poor people and illegal immigrants willing to work for wages too meager to live on.
Equinoxstephanieb on October 15th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
If you like audio books, At Home is really well-done. I listen to a TON of audio books and have gotten pretty picky about narration. Bryson reads it himself and he possesses one of my very favorite voices of all time (half small-town Iowa, half England). I'd listen to him read a phone book.

Nothing to do but nod at your second paragraph; you're exactly right.
3treekisser: Darth Sidious3treekisser on October 15th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'd heard about At Home but it didn't sound particularly interesting...until now. Thanks for the heads up.

(And great quotes, Tapati. If I was Melville I'd've added 'ill-bred' to rhyme at the end. >.>)
Equinoxstephanieb on October 15th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
I thought it was terrific. But I am definitely a Bryson fangirl, so ymmv. It's not a scholarly work, though I always learn a lot from his writing and come away with many thoughts to chew over. He tends to approach his subjects by a meandering sort of path and gets distracted by interestingly shiny things along the way. But his curiosity is infectious, he comes off as a deeply humane sort of fellow, and he has a wonderful voice (authorial and actual).