Friday, June 12, 2009

bell hooks. . .Class Matters

bell hooks writes powerful, challenging, disconcerting, revolutionary stuff.

"Class" issues occupy her thought and analysis. She makes it very, very clear that we are not comfortable talking about these "class matters" and that we are in deep denial about them.

What follows is a sample of her work from her book, Where We Stand: Class Matters (Routledge 2000).

Nowadays it is fashionable to talk race or gender; the uncool subject is class… In less than twenty years our nation has become a place where the rich truly rule… While greed has always been a part of American capitalism,it is only recently that it has set the standard for how we live and interact in everyday life. Our nation is becoming a class-segregated society where the plight of the poor is forgotten and the greed of the rich is morally tolerated and condoned. (p. vii)

Everywhere we turn in our daily lives in this nation we are confronted with the widening gap between rich and poor… Yet there is no organized class struggle, no daily in-your-face critique of capitalistic greed that stimulates thought and action – critique, reform, and revolution.

As a nation we have become passive, refusing to act responsibly toward the more than thirty-eight million citizens who live in poverty here and the working masses who labor long and hard but still have difficulty making ends meet. The rich are getting richer. And the poor are falling by the wayside. At times it seem no one cares. Citizens in the middle who live comfortable lives, luxurious lives in relation to the rest of the world, often fear that challenging classism will be their downfall, that simply by expressing concern for the poor they will end up like them, lacking the basic necessities of life. Defensively, they turn their backs on the poor and look to the rich for answers, convinced that the good life can exist only when there is material affluence. (pp. 1-2)

More and more, our nation is becoming class-segregated. The poor live with and among the poor – confined in gated communities without adequate shelter, food or health care – the victims of predatory greed. More and more poor communities all over the country look like war zones, with boarded-up bombed-out buildings, with either the evidence of gunfire everywhere of the vacant silence of unsatisfied hunger… No one safeguards the interests of citizens there; they are soon to be the victims of class genocide. This is the passive way our country confronts the poor and indigent, leaving them to die from street warfare, sugar, alcohol, and drug addiction, AIDS, and/or starvation. (p. 2)

We live in a society where the poor have no public voice. (p. 5)

Solidarity with the poor is the only path that can lead our nation back to a vision of community that can effectively challenge and eliminate violence and exploitation. It invites us to embrace an ethics of compassion and sharing that will renew a spirit of loving kindness and communion that can sustain and enable us to live in harmony with the whole world. (p. 49)

Wealth built and maintained by the exploitation and oppression of others undermines a democratic vision of prosperity. (p. 79)

…the widening gap between the rich and the poor causes pain far beyond economic suffering, it rends and breaks us psychologically, tearing us asunder, denying us the well-being that comes from recognizing our need for community and interdependency. (p. 158)


Dean Smith said...

An excellent book, especially the last chapter that casts a vision for "Living Without Class Hierarchy," something close to the kingdom of heaven. I was particularly moved by the plight of the middle class (an endangered species these days) whose fear of poverty keeps them dependent upon the rich for their vision of community and success. Jesus offered a different view where "the first shall be last and the last shall be first," but he's having a hard time finding adherents these days.

Chris said...

Why do liberals always consider achievers greedy? That is far from the truth.

It sounds to me like someone has an agenda, to bring down the rich, to redistribute income. Oh, that sounds like the President.

So do you want organized class struggle, perhaps a revolution? Hmmm, sounds like the old Soviet Union.

Street warfare, alcohol, drugs, perhaps that just might contribute to being poor, in addition to school dropouts, out of wedlock pregnancy, and trouble with the legal system

I doubt we will have this problem much longer. Obama is presiding over the distruction of this country. So far everything he has done has failed and the "health care reform" will put the icing on the cake. I do wish the people would wake up before it is too late but I doubt they will.

His ego knows no bounds. This morning he is taking credit for the "robust" debate in Iran. It's shameful. He didn't even talk about democracy in his Cairo speech.

Just had to vent a little. Remember, when our country is destroyed, we will all be poor. There will be nothing to share.

Anonymous said...

chris - you vent your hate-filled, intolerant rhetoric on here every day -- what else is new?

Your attitude proves Larry's point. You despise the poor, because of a perception that those who are poor have some innate inferiority like an inability to work.

If America is destroyed, then we can finally get back to living simply and imitating Christ -- what's wrong with that.

Chris said...

No, I do not hate the poor but the way to raise them up is not to pull everyone else down. That is stupid.

mundiejc said...

Its a vicious cycle Chris, poverty leads to the things you mentioned, addiction, street warfare, having kids out of wedlock (how much did the last wedding you attended cost?) and those things then reinforce poverty for future generations. We need to stop looking at things from a democrat republican standpoint and start looking at them from a Christian standpoint.

Christ was more about standing with people than standing for anything. He lived among, accepted, and loved those that society looked down upon. And we, as followers of Christ, should do the same. We may never be able to end poverty completely (and Larry and I may disagree on that) but being a follower of Christ is not always about practicality. Its about living out a reality that is yet unseen, but that for which we hope and have faith will one day be. One day, mouths will not cry for bread. One day, children will turn their weapons of hatred into tools for creation. Radical love made manifest in the life of Jesus will conquer over all evil. That is what we hope for. And that is the new creation we were baptized into. One that sees the world not as it currently is, but as it will be at the restoration of all things.

And that means that we no longer can retreat to our suburban enclaves, hording our wealth for ourselves, building bigger barns and trusting in our own hands for our security. No. We left that life when we surrendered our lives to God. We now proclaim not just with our mouths but with our lives that God is the true King and that his favor is with those on whom society has given up.

Maybe you don't believe these things. Maybe Christianity for you has nothing to do with following Christ, and more to do with mental assent to some set of principles about how your worship on Sunday morning. But for many of us, including I believe Larry, Romans 12 is taken seriously. That our lives are to be sacrifices to God. Not just an hour on Sunday morning. And when one reads through the scriptural narrative, one point is consistantly driven home. That the God of the universe cares mightly for the least of these. So much so that he made himself one of them, and came to preach good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

If you check, the "year of the Lord's favor" is Jubilee. I imagine you'd be upset at God's intentions for His people of canceling all debts, returning lands to original owners, etc. It doesn't sound much like either political party in America.