Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things November 21, 2012

Mary Beard: “Why the rich look down on the poor”

The other way in which the comfortably-off traditionally talk of those less fortunate than themselves is, of course, to divide them into the Good Poor and the Bad Poor.

In fact, when Tacitus wrote of the plebs sordida it was explicitly to contrast them with what he called “the respectable elements among the common people”.

Talking about the death of the monstrous emperor Nero, he claimed the “filthy poor”, the squanderers and the racing addicts, lamented the death (for Nero had been an easy touch for entertainments and hand-outs).

Predictably enough, the “respectable elements” were those who welcomed the new regime of austerity and cost-cutting under the in-coming emperor Galba.

That division is still with us. The 19th Century notoriously had its “deserving” and “undeserving poor”. Our own equivalent of the “deserving poor” is “hard-working families.”

Rachel Held Evans: “The Real ‘Evangelical Disaster'”

This, I believe, is the real evangelical disaster — not that Barack Obama is president and Mitt Romney is not, but that evangelicalism has gotten so enmeshed with politics, its success or failure can be gauged by an election.

It’s this idea the “cause of Christ” is to vote against gay marriage and for tax cuts, and that the hope of evangelicals lies in election day returns. It’s this idea that a Christian worldview is something we can vote for because it fits on a ballot.

… The great evangelical disaster is that evangelicalism has become synonymous with Republicanism rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dianne E. Anderson: “Slutty Sluts Vote Sluttily”

But, as a woman with a lifetime of experience in the evangelical American church, [BSkillet’s] views on women did not surprise me. His thoughts, indeed, resemble in a more bald-faced fashion, teachings I absorbed as a member of the church. Whether it is black or white women, sexual purity is the end-all-be-all, and women as a whole are not highly regarded even if they do remain pure (BSkillet proclaims as much when he opens by saying “this is why women shouldn’t be in government” before he ever reaches the “slut vote” point).

BSkillet’s extreme point is in fact symptomatic of a larger culture that thinks women’s sexual choices and agencies are/should be up for a popular vote. It is unsurprising, then, that a culture in which the purity of women is everything would give rise to a man and a movement (The Christian Men’s Defense Network) in which women are discounted and even reviled for failing to live up to a man’s definition of pure.

Keep in mind that BSkillet is not just one extreme outlier, but is actually part of a larger movement in society. His writing is shocking only in the baldness of the misogyny, not in its views. The larger evangelical culture as a whole does, in fact, believe that a woman’s sexual activities are reason enough to discount her opinion in the public sphere.

Mark Kelly: Statement at sentencing of Jared Lee Loughner, Nov. 8. 2012

We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late.

We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence, not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing.

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  • suzemagoo

    To the first bit you posted, Mary Beard’s article:

    The Western concept of duality backs archaic xenophobia. The reason the duality in categorizing the poor has been carried down through the centuries about the poor here in America is largely from generational inheritances of xenophobia built into a Christian framework. While disregarding strident warnings about the West’s false duality and of xenophobic bigotry being just as much a sin from its founder, well intentioned Christians fall for a Christianity that is, in application, not what Jesus intended.

    What really determines it for these rogue Christians is “the good poor can still be part of the us and the bad poor can never be” when, according to Christianity, the only one who can know who can or cannot is God. Correct that massive hot mess and who is left of the Western wealthy making the false dichotomy about the poor in America won’t matter.

  • Mark Kelly is a hero of mine. What he said should shame everyone. Instead we let the gun lobby run rampant in this country.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    First of all, I would like to give a standing ovation to Rachel Evan Heard!  Her statement that Evangelicals need to start preaching the Gospel again should be e-mailed to every conservative Evangelical leader in the country.

    I also loved Mary Beard’s article.   I’m an ancient history buff, and it never ceases to amaze me how much the ancient world resembles ours, thousands of years later.

  • suzemagoo

    Joins you in the standing ovation for Ms. Heard.  A better manifestation of the Christianity intended by its founder would benefit everyone, especially the politically conservative in the US.

  • The larger evangelical culture as a whole does, in fact, believe that a woman’s sexual activities are reason enough to discount her opinion in the public sphere.

    What a coincidence, I happen to believe that a man’s sexism is reason enough to discount his opinion in the public sphere.  

  • Magic_Cracker

    I dunno. If you live in a stratified, class-based society with little hope and no opportunity to move up the ladder without the patronage of sucking up to the already rich and powerful, why not be a plebs sordida? The perverse incentive isn’t giving people bread and circuses, but a social system that makes bread and circuses the more appealing choice.

  • Re Mary Beard’s article:

    DOOLITTLE [to Pickering] I thank you, Governor. [To Higgins, who takes
    refuge on the piano bench, a little overwhelmed by the proximity of his
    visitor; for Doolittle has a professional flavor of dust about him].
    Well, the truth is, I’ve taken a sort of fancy to you, Governor; and if
    you want the girl, I’m not so set on having her back home again but
    what I might be open to an arrangement. Regarded in the light of a
    young woman, she’s a fine handsome girl. As a daughter she’s not worth
    her keep; and so I tell you straight. All I ask is my rights as a
    father; and you’re the last man alive to expect me to let her go for
    nothing; for I can see you’re one of the straight sort, Governor. Well,
    what’s a five pound note to you? And what’s Eliza to me? [He returns to
    his chair and sits down judicially].

    PICKERING. I think you ought to know, Doolittle, that Mr. Higgins’s
    intentions are entirely honorable.

    DOOLITTLE. Course they are, Governor. If I thought they wasn’t, I’d ask

    HIGGINS [revolted] Do you mean to say, you callous rascal, that you
    would sell your daughter for 50 pounds?

    DOOLITTLE. Not in a general way I wouldn’t; but to oblige a gentleman
    like you I’d do a good deal, I do assure you.

    PICKERING. Have you no morals, man?

    DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Can’t afford them, Governor. Neither could you if
    you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza
    is going to have a bit out of this, why not me too?

    HIGGINS [troubled] I don’t know what to do, Pickering. There can be no
    question that as a matter of morals it’s a positive crime to give this
    chap a farthing. And yet I feel a sort of rough justice in his claim.

    DOOLITTLE. That’s it, Governor. That’s all I say. A father’s heart, as
    it were.

    PICKERING. Well, I know the feeling; but really it seems hardly right—

    DOOLITTLE. Don’t say that, Governor. Don’t look at it that way. What am
    I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving
    poor: that’s what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means
    that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time. If there’s
    anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same
    story: “You’re undeserving; so you can’t have it.” But my needs is as
    great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six
    different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I
    don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don’t eat less
    hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement,
    cause I’m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band
    when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as
    they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an
    excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two
    gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you.
    I ain’t pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go
    on being undeserving. I like it; and that’s the truth. Will you take
    advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own
    daughter what he’s brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his
    brow until she’s growed big enough to be interesting to you two
    gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it
    to you.

    HIGGINS [rising, and going over to Pickering] Pickering: if we were to
    take this man in hand for three months, he could choose between a seat
    in the Cabinet and a popular pulpit in Wales.

  • MaryKaye

    The comments to Rachel Held Evans’ article were upsetting.  People seem really stuck on identifying their religion with a particular temporal alignment of power–one poster at least, so stuck that he was totally unable to hear what people were saying to him.  Or unwilling, I guess.

  • Tricksterson


    First of all, Mr. Skillet, go fuck yourself with a belt sander.  Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

    Second why did you take your statement down?  If you’re going to be a sexist, racist asshole, at least have the guts to own it.  You’ve already spewed enough bile that anyone with a brain and/or any trace of decency is going to hold you in utter contempt, you don’t really have anything to lose.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it.  Except go fuck yourself again, maybe this time with a parking meter or a broken tree branch.

    That is all


  • patter


    Eshet chayil!  Oh,
    Rachel, you go, girl! 


  • Jessica_R

    I can’t stop posting this photo, Mitt Romney apparently isn’t taking well to not getting his way,

  • Lori

    It was really mid-boggling the way that guy kept going on about believing in what WORKS and generally being impervious to reality. I wonder how much time he spends on things like going to church, reading the Bible and praying vs how much time he spends watching Fox News. I also kind of wonder why someone didn’t ask him about that. (I’m not gong to because I feel like RHE’s blog is explicitly a conversation between Christians, which I think is fine and which I support by staying out of it.)

  • He looks not unlike Nick Nolte’s long-lost brother in that shot. Too bad it’s not a wider angle so we can make sure there’s not a dog on top of the car.

  • stardreamer42

    One toss-off line in Mary Beard’s article caught my eye:
    Are you any less worthy of our political time and care just because you haven’t got kids?

    Sadly, the answer to that seems to be “yes”.  Especially if you’re female.

  •  Wow… how the mighty hair has fallen. (o,o)

  •  Indeed, if someone is willing to discount half the population on the basis of what’s between their legs, I see no reason they ought to be given any consideration beyond “how can I stay as physically far away from them as humanly possible.”

  • LoneWolf343

     Wow. That’s actually kind of pitiful.

    Looks like he’s putting on some weight too.

  • Fusina

    With apologies to whoever wrote the original, but

    If you’re slutty and you know it clap your hands.
    If you’re slutty and you know it clap your hands.
    If you’re slutty and you know it and you really want to show it.
    If you’re slutty and you know it clap your hands.

  • LL

    I continue to be amused (because, really, if you’re not amused by it, you are likely just really angry about it, and that’s kind of a bummer) by the white male Republicans (and it does seem to be mostly Republicans, though I’m sure there are some Democrats of this ilk as well) who are shocked and outraged that women, gays, blacks and Latinos don’t agree with them that WE (the aforementioned groups) are terrible people who are destroying America and we really should know that by now and vote accordingly for the good people (you know, white Republican males). 

    It’s like they all stepped out of a time capsule that was buried in 1955, have no inkling whatsoever of any cultural shifts that have happened since then and think that WE’RE the ones who don’t understand. I mean, HOW DARE WE think we have rights? Rights to decide stuff for ourselves. The right to vote. The right to vote for the candidate of our choice. The right to not be treated as third-class citizens (or really, barely citizens at all, some of us are only worth 3/5 of a citizen). The nerve of us, thinking we’re responsible adult humans with rights equal to those of the old white guys still in charge of almost everything.

    I’m not sure what’s funnier: the obliviousness or the outrage. I guess it could be both. Oblivious outrage. 

  • He’s pumping gas? So? 

  • People like that having to pump their own gas is as bizarre and surreal as the notion that Donald Trump would ever comb his own hair.

    Rich people have EVERYTHING done for them.

    So I don’t know if this is Mitt’s belated attempt to connect with common people or what.

  • wendy

    It’s not the pumping gas that’s so amusing — it’s the disheveled hair and shirt that looks like it’s been slept in. The Romneybot isn’t looking so bot-like today. 

  • Though Dianne E. Anderson brings up something interesting, in that this BSkillet guy has, in his own twisted and stupid way, a point.  In a lot of ways, this election was influenced by the so-called “slut vote”, or to put it less pejoratively, the vote of people who want women to have sexual and reproductive agency.  

    I guess what has him so incensed is that women with sexual agency and choice usually do not choose assholes to be with like him, nor choose to act the way he wants them to.  

    I guess the “B” in “BSkillet” stands for “Butthurt”.  

  • AnonymousSam

    Maybe after seeing what he did to his campaign aides, his servants staff decided discretion was the better part of employment.

  • MaryKaye

    Please do not threaten rape, even of people you intensely disagree with.  It’s really hard on rape survivors among the readership.  Thanks.

  • suzemagoo

     I think that’s called a projection?

  • vsm

    Who are you replying to?

  • Chris Algoo

    As usual, the comments make RHE’s point for her.

  • MaryKaye

    vsm wrote:  “Who are you replying to?”

    Tricksterson.  On consideration it wasn’t rape, just self-inflicted sexual violence, but please.  There has to be a way of expressing one’s rage that does less collateral damage.

  • vsm

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • He looks kind of like Bruce Campbell after a hard day of getting abused by Sam Raimi and his deathless Oldsmobile on set.

  • P J Evans

     I hope he gets used to it; there are next to no full-service stations in California. He’ll have to get used to the prices, too.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The fuck does he care about gas prices for? He’s MITT FUCKING ROMNEY. The money I have to work all year for, he earns in TEN HOURS. A couple dollars per gallon of gas is not exactly a thing that will hurt his purchasing power.

  • Lori

    It’s true that there are very few full service gas stations in CA. It’s also true that the ones that do exist are in towns full of rich people. I would be more than a little surprised if there isn’t at least one within a couple miles of Mittens’ car-elevator inclusive mansion.

    It’s also true that the riches have “people” to fill up their gas tanks, even if there aren’t any full service stations nearby. There is generally some member of the household staff or a personal assistant whose duties include gasing up the Beemer so that the Lord and Lady don’t have to sully themselves which the task. 

  •  Presumably this is why he looks so glum. Clearly, he did not expect to need gas while in some podunk town without a full-serve station, because normally he has people who do that for him. Here he was, out for a relaxing sunday drive in the country, and now he’s got to pump his own gas. So help him, the garage-boy is SO fired for this one.

  • Lori

    Honestly, I wonder if he got stuck in traffic and therefore needed gas when he didn’t expect to. Southern California traffic takes some getting used to. Someone who hasn’t lived in the area long isn’t going to know things like which times of day one needs to avoid the 405 like the plague.

  • Tricksterson

    Sorry didn’t mean any hurting.  I am a rough and crude person

  • Oh, is anyone surprised Romney was driving an SUV?

  • Don Gisselbeck

    Let’s not forget that all you need too do to be regarded as plebs sordida is be unwilling to work 80 hrs a week for bad room and board.

  • Oh, is anyone surprised Romney was driving an SUV?

    Maybe a little. Unless it’s a Range Rover, I picture Romney as more of the luxury car type than the SUV type.

    Of course, my recollection of my own youth, before the rise of the SUVs is that mormon fathers always *always* drove minivans, so maybe it’s a “family” sort of thing.

  • Well, some SUVs are the epitome of useless luxury, and I fully expect Romney was probably driving a Mercedes or Cadillac SUV.

    Sheesh, even a Ford F150 pickup truck these days has seats that warm your ass.