Non-Fiction

The Gutter Culture

“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.” —George Orwell

brokenwindows

I. The Culture

In discussing cultural hegemony—the leadership or dominance of one social group over others[i]—we may observe that among the variety of cultures in America some concede to dominant cultural practices more so than others. This concession occurs in several forms, from consumerist trends and food-culture to lifestyle values and health habits. In America, acceptable cultural norms include: paying taxes, keeping up with news, furthering education or skills in order to be gainfully employed, following fashion trends, and more. Conversely, some cultures possess characteristics that not only are different from the dominant group, they actively oppose accepted cultural norms and are thus labeled deviants. In sociological terms, deviance is defined as “behavior that violates the norms of the social group in which the behavior occurs”[ii]. It’s important to note that being a deviant is not an inherently negative quality; deviants simply do not reflect the practices, beliefs, outlooks, etc. of the majority. Instead, they establish an identity constructed from a different set of values and customs. Many deviants are our heroes, our champions, and our pioneers—they are accomplished innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs who’ve found success through deviant behaviors. Deviance is a highly normative aspect of culture, and many functionalists argue that it is a constructive, necessary quality of every society. However, there are other types of deviants, both individualistic and cultural, which are troublesome and antagonistic. When a culture of purely negative deviance flourishes, not the innovating heroes mentioned before—but the group of teenagers who knock down mailboxes—this has a corrosive effect on our larger systematic society.

Today, we are seeing the rise of a culture that quickly is devouring generations-worth of progress in our country. It is defiant to the greatest attributes of America’s cultural hegemony, and worse, it exploits programs designed to alleviate poverty and enable social mobility in order to pacify a stagnant, empty existence. Such a culture not only hinders the progress of our society, it actually works as a proactive agent in devaluing and corrupting many of the exceptional achievements our vastly multicultural, multiethnic, and multispiritual society shares. This culture acts as a harmful parasite whose sustenance will spread disease throughout the entire organism if it is not contained and controlled. This culture of specific deviants, the Gutter Culture, is tearing away at the social fabric of American society.

Why this title? Originally when I drafted this essay I referred to this group as the “Problem Culture”—thinking of the ways this culture deviates from and exacerbates the cycle and culture of poverty popularly studied in the social sciences. However, I believe that was an inappropriate title. No doubt there are several “problem cultures” which contribute at various levels and degrees to the compounding institutional and cultural conflicts we face today in America. The “gutter” is a common symbol not only of poverty, but also of the vulgar, the unclean, and the promiscuous (hence the phrase “get your mind out of the gutter”).

The Gutter Culture doesn’t merely dabble in it’s characteristically reproachable mentalities and practices—it makes them a celebrated lifestyle. Those within it do not desire to rise out of the gutter, but to wallow in it by pursuing a value system centered on depravity and blind selfishness. This culture views life through a distorted lens. Fueled by irrepressible propaganda and ignorance, it sees our country’s greatest values and successes as vile malpractices—as fantastic traps and cages—rather than opportunities to a better life, a life of one’s own making. Worse, those in the Gutter Culture wish nothing to do with what most call “a better life”, for this implies an opposing set of values and morals that are neither desirable nor familiar. This ultimately affects the whole of American society and manifests many grave symptoms that threaten the longevity of our success as the most prosperous nation on Earth. The Gutter Culture, blinded by ignorance and a not-it mentality, degrades the human spirit (of its followers and its external victims alike) on such a mass scale it is worthy of being labeled an epidemic.

Livelihoods are devoted to studying this culture, and there is much debate over its origins; blame has pointed to everything from institutionalized poverty, to urbanization, to the ignorance of racism—but these are anecdotal symptoms of a broader social paradigm.

In reality, the Gutter Culture thrives in all varieties of social climates; which makes it largely enigmatic and therefore difficult to define. There are no geographical, racial, ethnic, or other boundaries that constitute it. It is spread amidst the vast networks, neighborhoods, and communities of our nation. It can be found in trailer parks, on remote country roads, in the projects of metropolitan cities, and many other places where education is replaced by hate-born fury. The Gutter Culture exists amongst gaunt meth addicts, obese alcoholics, teenage drug dealers, irresponsible parents, hood rich gang members, empty-headed partiers, and those who simply sit around day after day doing absolutely nothing. Its constituents include those young and old, women and men, white, black, Hispanic, and anything imaginable between. The Gutter Culture has seeded itself in the hearts and minds of many disillusioned persons across America, however it is by far the most concentrated and harmful within the abundant poor communities of our nation. If there is one common thread that absolutely dominates the Gutter Culture, it’s that it is a culture of the socioeconomic disadvantaged.

The Gutter Culture produces an environment that promotes stagnation, and gives rise to cultural norms of violence, aggressiveness, drug/alcohol abuse and dependency, and laziness; further, these characteristics are entwined with a mindset devoid of personal responsibility and overflowing with excuses—“but it’s not my fault”. Such environments sustain a generationally degenerative effect on the quality of life of its inhabitants. Consequently, the mentality that the cultural members have no control makes it impossible for them to ascend the socioeconomic ladder. Worse, the mentality of the culture pacifies the desire to strive for these ends in the first place, making personal repression a cultural norm.

bike

II. Values

To begin dissecting this social system, one must first look at what values dominate the culture. A value is defined as “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”[iii] which therefore suggests values can be measured by the observable characteristics and actions consistent of a person or culture. All cultures have problems and weaknesses, but the truly destructive elements of the Gutter Culture lie in the normative values which exacerbate and accept destructive lifestyle conditions as normal, inescapable, and even rationalize such statuses as decent. Not negating that indeed the poor suffer many hardships of economic disadvantage, and are therefore predisposed to various forms of conflict that are often overlooked and undermined, it is important to note that many people who are poor and who do have hardships do not ascribe to the GC. We all know people who’ve dug out of the trenches of poverty, and they did this because they did not ascribe to this culture’s values.

These values include:

  • Excessive Pride
  • Hedonism
  • Materialism
  • Sexual Promiscuity
  • Escapism
  • Financial Ineptitude
  • Familial Negligence
  • General Aggressiveness
  • Excessive Drug/Alcohol Use
  • Deceptive Extravagance (Colloquially known as the slang term “Hood Rich”)
  • Egotism
  • Pack Mentalities

To those readers who are thinking, “Well, many if not all of these values are inherent in every socioeconomic class”, this would indeed be correct. The difference is, unlike those fortunate few who are born into a cushion of financial stability, or may rely on others for such prosperity, the poor have much more at stake when following such lifestyle practices. When persons struggle to meet basic necessary expenditures such as grocery costs, electric bills, rent/mortgage costs, etc. facilitating the drug use, promiscuity (and accompanying pregnancy), purchase of designer purses, etc. contributes to a destructive environment which ultimately affects the whole of the community.

The Gutter Culture thrives in an environment that one can only describe as utterly despairing. In such spaces a man may look at his dilapidated life with hopelessness and apathy, and turn to escapism to ignore the realities of his lifestyle. Rather than pay the rent, members of the GC spend the little money they have going to the club. This kind of behavior is celebrated in songs that currently top the music charts in our country, which shows there is obviously a growing consumer market that identifies with its messages. A person not only chooses to be irresponsible in this environment—she is encouraged and rewarded for doing so. Members of the GC often resent successful members of society and attribute the prosperity of such people to superficial means. Perhaps this is a tool of the Gutter Culture used to reinforce their status as the victims of institutionalized injustices against them; or perhaps it is simply a coping mechanism born out of the incredulousness required to accept their sad state of affairs for which they will not take any responsibility. These types of perceptions are necessary in order to rationalize lifestyles free of burdens such as financing, career advancement, time management, disciplining and raising children in a psychologically healthy environment, moral accountability, and seeking higher status or other attributes of self-improvement. These basic life inadequacies produce a self-inflicted, inescapable cycle of socioeconomic stagnation that passes from one generation to the next.

These values trickle down into two elements that, in a nutshell, explain why the Gutter Culture suffers such severe and longstanding hardship:

  1. There is little personal responsibility and accountability for living a grotesquely destructive lifestyle, and
  2. There is a cultural lack of respect for the authorities and institutions that have been established by the dominant population as having legitimate sovereignty over widespread cultural practices and values.

Both of these elements are the result of an institutionalized set of radically deviant values. When coupled with other identifiable elements of cultural degradation such as the Broken Windows Theory, a failing public education system, a large portion of citizens who will not speak grammatically correct English (or English devoid of curse words), and other qualities, it creates an environment of disorder, mistrust, and hopelessness.

Each one of us, every single human being on the planet, is indoctrinated with the belief systems and norms of the culture we are born into. When this occurs in areas where the Gutter Culture dominates, their debilitating qualities indoctrinate entire communities in values of selfishness, hedonism, egotism, and non-commitment. This begins at birth. It is no wonder such destructive cycles are so deeply rooted within the Gutter Culture.

hands

III. Resources

In the United States, those who are at an economic disadvantage have more available resources at their fingertips than ever before. Consider this list of available free resources for those in financial hardship:

Obviously nothing is “free”, it is paid for by the dominant American culture, who, for the most part, want better for the poor of our society. The American people have made these programs accessible options for those who need them, regardless of any outlier’s personal opinions about their nature, effectiveness, or otherwise. The dominant culture wants better. Furthermore, seeing as the above list of resources covers the majority of living costs, it seems almost unimaginable that those who have access to them cannot eventually find their way into a higher, more stable socioeconomic position.

The problem is not that resources are not available—this much has been reasonably ascertained. The greater issue is: this abundance of resources—purposed as temporary tools to enable socioeconomic mobility—has been misappropriated and exploited because those in the GC have no desire of changing. They do not care about sustainability or financial progress. They care about their next high, their souped up Oldsmobile or truck, and getting laid—and they don’t have to care about anything else because they know they will always be taken care of by Uncle Sam. Consequently, this enables the Gutter Culture to continually find excuses and manipulative methods to inappropriately utilize these resources not as tools, but as facilitators of otherwise non-sustainable, destructive lifestyles.

There are many people outside the Gutter Culture who stand ready to defend it, disbelieving this systematic abuse of resources occurs on a large scale. Yet, if any person were to spend just a short amount of time in the “projects” of a metropolitan city, she would quickly witness the startling reality that she has been educated to disbelieve. She would find that from one housing unit to the next, on and on, a culture has been cultivated amongst its inhabitants—a way of life where the principle object of the resource (i.e. temporary housing) is the antithesis of its actual use. We know of many occasions in history where such idealistic visions for society appear beautiful on paper, but fail miserably when implemented into an interactive network of real human beings—especially those who’ve been indoctrinated their entire lives to be selfish, nihilistic, and greedy.

What do these resources actually serve to do in the context of such a culture?

Family Structure

They encourage young women to have children when it is not in the best interest of either mother or child, simply so the mother does not have to work yet receives a living wage by the government, which is more often than not used to smoke, drink, waste away in front of a television, become obese, and to then utilize further financial resources for the incurred medical expenses that support this gruesome, miserable existence. Children who are fostered into the Gutter Culture develop understandings of life and reality that fall in line with those unhealthy values of material and physical gratifications, irresponsibility, and non-commitment. Further, without proper guidance and discipline from their parents (remember—they’re too busy going to clubs with rent money) children develop to have little discipline and they become educated in drug use, sexual promiscuity, criminal activity, and the methods of exploiting institutions—not to mention their lack of interest in a formal education.

This cycle repeats indefinitely, and exacerbates itself with each successive generation. The dismantling of the family structure, which is arguably the direst consequence born of the Gutter Culture, has become normal in poor communities.

old

 IV. The End of Acquiescence

If you rewarded an animal every time it did something bad, do you believe the bad behavior would ever wane? Would it not grow? Why do we mistake human beings to be so infallible—as if work ethic, integrity, discipline, and benevolence were inherent principles of our species? Indeed, I wish such an ideal was in fact truth, but it is not. Rather, just as positive values and characteristics are learned, so too are the qualities of the Gutter Culture. For those who erroneously disregard and infringe upon the fabric of our principled American society, the only methods of their retribution are strict sanctions and uncompromising consequences.

The presence of a culture comprised of these qualities provides absolutely no benefit to society, and acts as a parasitic environment where a disproportionate amount of crime, immorality, and indulgence occurs and is promoted. When we do not hold those beneficiaries of our financial benevolence to the standards that are appropriate of such privilege we are reinforcing and promoting the inexcusable Gutter Culture. As a society, we have created these programs and resources with cause for the integrity of opportunity and the fidelity of growth for all. This is a great system that should not be abused, and its abuse should not be tolerated. The multitude of federal and state-provided aid must be regulated and overseen with constructive scrutiny and responsible oversight. Such stipulations are the only true path for implementing equity on a grand scale for the socioeconomic disadvantaged in our country. Similar to that of power, with great opportunity comes great responsibility—as opportunity is power.

The systems we have implemented into our society for the poor are not working, and in fact are working against us. This stagnant culture of dependency and destructive values is quickly leading us to moral bankruptcy. Rather than facilitating institutions for socioeconomic mobility, we have cultivated a cyclical machine of generational poverty that has given rise to the Gutter Culture—perhaps the greatest domestic threat our country faces. Just because the Gutter Culture does not yet thrive in the suburbs does not mean the ill effects of the GC are not wearing down on our society. Not only an important matter of principles, this issue may have grave consequences on the structural integrity of our society if left untouched—it is the dominant culture who funds and supports this culture. This isn’t an issue that is staying put—it’s invading the newest generations who are idolizing the GC lifestyle.

This mentality, this support of the Gutter Culture though idealization of its values and financing of its lifestyle is untenable. We must not exonerate or otherwise dismiss accountability for those within the Gutter Culture; by focusing on politically driven narratives that the GC’s presence and continued growth is driven primarily by external forces, we do exactly this. Socioeconomic mobility requires discipline, work ethic, and persistence—three things severely lacking within the Gutter Culture. We must not let our means of supplying relief overshadow the responsibilities of implementing that relief with due regard for the integrity and wellbeing of our neighbors, our children, and our communities. We have the potential to forge cultural institutions of progress or cultural institutions of destruction. We have seen how exponentially prosperous our nation has become since the age of our forbearers. Imagine the wealth of good we will cultivate when we have succeeded in abolishing the Gutter Culture to give rise to a culture of productivity, benevolence, discipline, and positive values.


[i] Hegemony. 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015
(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hegemony).

[ii]Deviance. 2015. Retrieved April 11, 2015
(http://www.sociologyguide.com/questions/deviance-socialcontrol.php)

[iii] Value. 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2015
(http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/value).

25 thoughts on “The Gutter Culture”

  1. Ad Dawg says:

    Well, John Foster, I can see that you speak for a segment of American society that has rationalized a point of view that hides its privilege, or hatred, or racism behind a seemingly logical summation of where our society exists at the moment. It is telling how you include members of all racial and ethnic groups, but I could see your curve ball coming from a mile away – those damned Urban Poor (translation: Black people) who just won’t get with the program. Who just will not for the life of you, meld into the overall society – your White society. Those whom just will not “pull themselves up by their bootstraps!” That flawed ideology has been discredited by just about every mainstream objective scholar in the land.

    I submit to you that the overall reason why Black people have not assimilated is because they are Black. More importantly, your dominant culture does not want them to be part of the your larger White society. That you want them to adapt and adopt your values is what most societies want their underclass, or minority-class to do. Makes perfectly good sense and policy for those imposing the rules. All the while, creating rules that hinder, and in some cases, prohibit their full participation in you ordered and perfect community; and blame them for shortcomings of historical origins.

    You can not have it both ways.

    Your in-depth essay of your self-described “Gutter Culture” exposes your anti-non White bias. I’m sure your reply will offer a carefully rational ( and in your mind) objective response to my comments that will purport to provide statistical data to support your argument. That will show how empirical evidence nails down your “truth,” leaving no doubt of the correctness of the same.

    Media constantly reports on Politicans stating how racism has risen during President Obama’s term in office; as if it is his fault. When in actuality, hatred fueled by White racism has erupted from the shadows and has been the impetus behind the schism that exists to the extent the polls reflect.

    You will note on your “About” section that I am a new follower. I intend to tag along as I said, now even more so. I am not skilled in the art of the debate; but I will challenge and expose those things you think are irrefuteable. In the end, we will agree to disagree. From the replies I have perused here regarding your GC essay post, I will be outnumbered 23 to 1 – a voice crying in the wilderness.

    But in the end, America will survive and change, or Black Americans will be further confined to American ghettos like the Jews to suffer a slow death of despair. And when they throw a rock, bottle of water – and yes, a firebomb, your National Guard will be ready to restore “law and order” with the firepower of an AR-15 or M-22 – or worse. Why do I say this? White men make up 30% of so of America’s population. They hold 80% of the political offices; control the wealth of this country which is roughly $20 Trillion dollars, and yet, you own 99% of the guns. Why? I’m not sure, you tell me. But one thing I know for a fact, some 15-year old Black kid (and he is a kid) from Baltimore couldn’t give a damn about seeking some sort of “revenge” against a White family in Wyoming, Iowa, Oregon, Kentucky, Nebraska or any other location in America.

    What he’d rather do with his time and effort is to have the opportunity to get a quality education and all that follows from it. That’s the only way you and those who feel as you espouse will get the results you want.

    Otherwise, I’m sure my other scenario would probably suit some of your like-minded brethen as well. Lord knows, I hope I am wrong. And I fervently “beg your pardon” if you and others whom agree with you are offended. But I am from Missouri, really, and you no doubt are familiar with that state’s motto.

    One final point, for now as least, 400 years in this country; with 370 or more of them having been spent in some form of slavery and economic deprivation, and being designated as less that human; and having been treated as such, has left a huge divide in every way between you and your Black countrymen. I would wager that many whom replied to this post, don’t really consider them citizens in the truest sense of the word.

    That’s a lot of time and space to close in a mere 40 years.

  2. shatteredpieces2014 says:

    “The Gutter Culture thrives in an environment that one can only describe as utterly despairing.” As sad and true as that is, your words also point to what I believe is the only solution – the reality of hope.

    It will take those with vision for something better and a willingness to bring it into the heart of those communities to bring the healing change that is needed. Not more of our ‘white guilt social services’ mentality that says ‘poor you, it IS hopeless’ and continues to enable the destructive behavior.

    You have clearly described the problem, now it up to all of us to be a part of the solution. The children of the next generation deserve no less.

    A wise man I know who has dedicated himself to being an agent of that change demonstrated the difference to me in one small act. As I bent down to tie a small child’s shoe, he stopped me and said, “Don’t do it for him, he knows how. Celebrate his success in this one thing, and build from there.”

    There will still be those who refuse to change, but they will no longer be seen as having a viable solution for those whose hope and dignity have been restored. The ‘gutter culture’ can become a rejected fringe, rather than a common way of life.

    Thanks for following my blog, and I look forward to exploring more of yours!

  3. operahell says:

    Dear John,

    This was a very lengthy essay, you have some interesting points, I’m not looking to pick a bone with any of them specifically – I simply dislike the tone of this essay, the negative xenophobic way in which you view this socioeconomic group.

    There is a term in anthropology called “cultural relativity”, basically judging a culture by the standards of that culture. You’ve clearly given your points about the “peasant class” a lot of thought and it matters enough to you that you spent hours writing this, I suppose I would just encourage you to hone in on the factual information and take a step back from the broad generalizations and assigning positive terms to things you like and negative terms to things you don’t like.

    The term “gutter culture” alone is a pretty damning phrase from a cultural relativity standpoint. The fact that you had to defend its use in this article repeatedly says something in itself. But it’s easy to blame the poor, it’s not like they can hire a lawyer to sue you for slander.

    1. John Foster says:

      Dear operahell,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my essay on this matter and for voicing your opinions about the nature of my slanderous writing and xenophobic tone.

      I would like to point out that the entire premise of your comments is based on the notion that I wrote this article about the poor or “peasant class” (a term never mentioned in my essay) in general. The GC is a subculture of the poor, just as there are subcultures of bureaucrats and bourgeoisie-elite “owners of the means of production” type people who inappropriately use their power and influence, which causes societal disharmony. There are several problem cultures throughout the class spectrum. That was not the topic of this piece.

      If you take issue with this essay, please be specific–simply not liking the “tone” indicates to me that you emotionally dislike that I have identified a real culture within the poor that doesn’t paint them simply as a victim of the culture of poverty. If you ardently believe the Gutter Culture doesn’t have any stake in the dissemination of violence and other abhorrent cultural values, I welcome you to spend some time in the projects or trailer parks of our great nation and prove me wrong.

      The term “Gutter Culture” is an appropriate title for those that meet its categorical criteria–perhaps you have had the privilege of not encountering this grotesque way of life, but that doesn’t erase the reality of its existence, prevalence, and influence. You have accused me of generalizing, yet your greatest take-away from this article was that it was nothing more than a “slander” of the poor—a gross generalization about an argument centered around a specific subculture.

      To believe the complex sociocultural problems we face in today’s world can be wholly blamed on one institution, class, political party, etc. is not only naive, it corrupts any chance at real progress by emotionally reacting to ideas that disrupt popularly voiced (and inadequately simple) notions about the nature of these issues. Responsibility lies on all of us, at some varying degree, to understand and act on these issues, as each of us in society shares an equal stake in the whole of the societal organism that we constitute. Those who participate knowingly in the GC have a lot to be accountable for in their way of life, but mindsets as the one you are arguing give these people a free pass to disregard real responsibilities—and it damages the children born into this culture the most. That you do not acknowledge there is a subculture of disruptive and problematic people within the poor is extremely problematic itself. Unfortunately, rose-colored glasses won’t change the reality.

      1. Sal says:

        This is how you shut down an overly-emotional and subjective “critique”. Operahell, I hope you continue to work on your rhetoric and debating acumen.

  4. Amanda Shelton says:

    I am glad I stopped by you’re blog. This post is straight forward and very true, and said to say the least. I myself am lucky that my parents were a little stringent about the rules. Though my brother didn’t like rules, I thrived because of their rules. I do like structure in my life so following rules is what I do, unless it doesn’t help me grow.

    I also wanted to thank you for following my blog. 😀

  5. charlypriest says:

    Hi John glad you stumbled upon one of my little poems. This blog is quite fascinating, you’re poetry is great and I see you’re a ‘thinker’ with interest in philosophy.
    I believe what you call the problem culture, is in every culture. Cultures are made up of human beings, and as long as human beings run the show well there will be bad apples amongst the cultures.

    You did say at one point that the common thread of the problem culture is social economic disadvantages. That is true, but as you also said before the key here is personal responsibility if you want to get out of the hole.

    You named certain programs established that help the poor, I don’t think all of them helps them. If you give and give out handouts for food, housing, obama phone(have to say that one is worst than what the socialist do here in Spain to get the votes), welfare checks, well those type of programs create what in my opinion being Spanish and having been governed by the Socialist Party for quite a lot of years, well what that creates is what I have called, the parastite society. Peoople always looking and expecting the government to help them and that does create the mentality as you said before ‘ is not my fault’. So personal responsibility is thrown out the window by the system that is placed under socialist parties. There is no shame in saying a person is a socialist, seems that in the U.S it is frowned upon, but the policies instituted specially by Mr. Obama they are taken out of the play book from the socialist here in Spain. Actually there is a playbook for socialist around the world and is called International Socialism. It’s on the web, it’s no secret, it’s a public institution.

    At what I’m getting at, is that once they create a system in which you encourage peopole to avoid personal responsibity for your own gain by establishing the sort of programs you mentioned , so they will vote for you and you will stay in power because you are their saviour (obama phones….), the country is pretty much doomed and is not going to be as a hole a wealthy nation. Those programs create parasites, people will take advantage of it, not to climb the economic lader but usually for the worst.

    Great read this post, made me think……which lately I rarely do.

  6. 24-6.org says:

    John:

    Your essay is a departure from your other gifted and disciplined writing as only your personal stories and poetry are. It would seem anecdotal experience described later in your comments combined with some statistical references in the essay have created a confirmed worldview to confront.

    For me it was working on a publicity effort with the CHIP (Child Health Insurance Program) that helped me understand I knew nothing of the inertia people experience to avail themselves of public assistance. Anecdotal certainly but eye opening. The “Welfare Queen” of Ronald Regan has reappeared in your discourse – a real person but a misrepresentation of the greater population. We can be sure that the truth within a greater myth will not offer any change. You say this is not the thrust of your argument but this is politically how thinking categorically this way plays out.

    From Lyndon Johnston’s Great Society to this Second Gilded Age we misrepresent the violence and damage any dominant culture leaves in its wake. Perhaps you only intended to raise an apparent heretical truth, that there is a generational legacy of anger, despair, apathy and violence in sectors of society as Senator Patrick Moynihan once theorized or, as the biologist E.O Wilson did, experiencing public ridicule for suggesting a genetic basis in mankind’s evolutionary behavior. All of which suggests that all individuals are capable of a range of personal acts as well as how the larger culture impacts that person in life.
    In only one sentence did you mention that a privileged individual is also capable of being sociopathic. This is so remiss it is dangerous. Lately, I think the vast amount of prison housing in our country will one day be put to compassionate use for white-collar criminality as it is perhaps a statistically greater and more insidious danger to a more perfect Union.

    All Americans must account for a 400 year legacy of enslavement that helped build and finance a young nation and the virtual annihilation of hundreds of thriving native cultures inhabiting these lands for millennia, and yet, whose ancestors and kin, who have fought our wars, are literally robbed and disenfranchised to this day. Friends from South Africa find our national amnesia to our own country’s history incredible. In so inadequately remedying this continued cultural violence we prevent the only justification of The American Experiment – the promise of equality, and justice – pathetically insufficient social engineering notwithstanding.

    Many people surely are lost before they’re born.
    We lose the immeasurable wealth contained in that deep cultural history by abandoning it. During these days of civil rights memorials and racial tension I regret the feeling of progress when we could easily call each other brother and sister in a shared cultural awakening. Still plenty of jiving and humanity seeking advantage and even threats but a sense that people were beginning to know or at least listen to each other’s stories.

    Steve

    1. John Foster says:

      You describe the nature of my argument as strictly anecdotal, which suggests it is derived from an ill-refined worldview that lacks variety. The “anecdotal experience described later in [my] comments” is typically what is called empirical research. Empirical evidence can be either qualitatively or quantitatively analyzed. You may be familiar with some empirically derived theories; there is a popular folk story about when Sir Isaac Newton discovered the Universal Law of Gravitation while sitting under an apple tree. Observable patterns of behavior typify every foundation of social theory that has ever been crafted—and my arguments are no less legitimate having used an empirical approach to this topic.

      “The “Welfare Queen” of Ronald Regan has reappeared in your discourse – a real person but a misrepresentation of the greater population.” –I’m not talking about the greater population, I’m talking about the Problem Culture. The PC is a subculture of the greater poor population.

      Your comments here support a strictly deterministic worldview, which is used to dismiss the false victimization of those persons who choose not to take responsibility for their actions in the PC. The forces of “violence and damage any dominant culture leaves in its wake” realistically have only an influence on a person’s starting place in life and little more. The only people who are “surely lost before they are born” are those children born to parents who are old enough to know better yet still raise children irresponsibly. However, that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the growing child’s actions from him or her, especially as they become physically and psychologically independent and start making decisions on their own accord. As a social mechanism of cultural preservation, groups stigmatize those who do not act in accordance with social rules of conduct—this is a sanction that promotes assimilation, which preserves the overall social system. Such stigmas (such as those regarding child-rearing) are eroding as it becomes progressively acceptable—thanks to the PC—to neglect children and raise them irresponsibly.

      You also address our country’s “national amnesia”—stating that we must account for the atrocities that were committed against past nations to build the once New World of America. Your statements about “a 400-year legacy of enslavement” suggests it should be responsible for the actions of those within the Problem Culture—though many people in the PC aren’t even black or otherwise an ancestor of a slave. This is a perfect example of mistaking correlation for causation. Regarding the “justification of the American Experiment – the promise of equality and justice”—America was not built on a promise of equality, perhaps you mean liberty and justice (as is stated in our pledge). Our existential human value is the only equality we share—there is no other. We should strive for equity, not equality. I think you have taken specific points from my essay out of context and have applied them to your own social (and highly racially-charged) ideologies about issues that frankly aren’t relevant to my argument at all.

  7. pndrgn99 says:

    Dear Jon, my mother worked as a technician at Yale New Haven Hospital and gave her life away daily or just enough money to support her children. Perhaps in addition to studying her along with your mother we should study the system in which this occurred. Contrary to your expressed opinion I am neither entrenched in my beliefs, nor in any way interested in Marxism or its offshoots. Indeed I believe everybody deserves an opportunity to contribute and an opportunity to earn enough by contributing to sustain themselves in acceptable, sanitary, and healthy environment. During the W PA the unemployment rate plummeted to near zero. Given an opportunity for honest work environment in which they are treated as equals, most will participate willingly. Given an environment in which the core of advertising is founded on blatantly sexualized women, where the Cardassians are more newsworthy than foreign affairs, and were success is most often measured in dollars, apathy and despair are often accompanied by excess and intoxication. I won’t name all the positions I’ve held but suffice it to say but I have been in executive positions numerous times and have an extensive history with human services that includes decades of accusations that we were wasting money and years in which our funding was flat or cut. At the same time the overhead involving bureaucratic oversight, and the cost of management utilizing positions that paid many times more than any caregiver including MD’s employed for public service received, far too little of the budget was allocated to direct care. Is this the example of creating an environment in which autonomy, personal responsibility, an individual development are highlighted? From where I stood it appeared to be an economy in which the politics of power dictated the
    disenfranchisement many populations. There are many of us who overcome difficulties and many more who do not. Failure is not always defined by money and the children of the wealthy are not uncommonly arrogant hedonistic and entitled.

    But your assertions my contrast of industry and individuality is one of values and not primarily one of wealth. It is one of those who care versus those who do not. Selfishness is not opposed best by unselfishness but rather by successful interdependence. I look forward to hearing more.

  8. pndrgn99 says:

    My dear Kate, there are many things of which I can be accused. One thing which is not an appropriate characterization is a stereotype, especially that of middle-class. If I am guilty of anything perhaps it is comprised both of a lack of the ability to be articulate enough and an inner disbelief/anger at what the world has become during the period of my life. I would ask you to consider the difference between placing blame and identifying the source of the problem. There is little less narcissistic than business. Despite being proclaimed people, corporations are entities with non-human goals. They exist to consume, & grow. By contrast, an infant has basic needs for survival. The difference Is salient.
    Our last president stated that our economy could exist with the top 12 to 14% supporting the infrastructure and noted that the rest of us were essentially excess baggage.

    My values are quite simple. I live to learn, to grow, and to love. Let me be clear loving is not sexually based. My greatest achievements include re-claiming my feelings after youth with an abusive father, my joy in compassion, and my lifetime commitment to supporting those with chronic mental illness and those who need rehabilitation after becoming criminals. The other joy of my life is the pursuit of my personal spirituality. What I have learned is that we’re all people. Like those in a village we each need to be embodied as meaningful by the culture in which we live and in turn to appreciate and contribute to the value of the culture in which we live.

    I have no idea why you’re trying to rescue John. He is clearly very intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and well capable of speaking for himself. As for myself, When I express Outrage, it is outrage at the lies, the fact that our country was founded on the genocide of Native Americans (with whom I have lived and been by two tribes adopted), by the wholesale repression Of black Americans and the murder of the only two presidents that supported their equality, by American arrogance in the assumption that we should be the nuclear watchdogs of the world without the admission that we are the only country in history to have utilized them against a civilian population, by the powerful and persistent efforts of the wealthy to found and maintain what has become an American oligarchy and is evolving into an international one, by the light or nonexistent prosecution of those who have manipulated The banking and investment industry for personal gain; stealing in the process the invested pension and retirement funds of millions of Americans, The military-industrial complex’s shifting alliances international manipulations and motivations based on power and profit.

    If the middle-class of this country and the poor have a sin, it is willful ignorance. (I suggest you really read The documents declassified and know as operation Northwoods) The truth is written off as paranoia were buried under the experiences of those who have been politically socially economically or physically destroyed in the pursuit of voicing it.

    The black lives matter movement is an example of the amazing capacity of people oppressed for hundreds of years two (once again) to take a thoughtful, nonviolent, and responsible road toward equality.
    I have never been given lesson honest welcome by people of color in the ghettos or on reservations. I wish I could say the same for the Boston Brahmin. Is amazing the difference a response I have to the people were trying to teach and those who are trying to step over me as if I were offal and my dirty their shoes.

    I would ask you what is your contribution? Is it to become a productive citizen contribute to the economy? Or is it to become a citizen of the world supporting responsible stewardship of our environment and the ongoing development of equity and opportunity. Perhaps both.

    American corporations go offshore to avoid taxes, access cheap labor, and avoid costly safety regulations (Bhopal & other examples are plentiful) oppose a living minimum wage, and contribute to the wholesale distraction of our oceans and our land.

    At the very least I believe I have at least you justified consideration of the fact that there may be more than one problem culture. If those at the bottom are raging what are those at the top doing? What were you doing during the worst Times in your life and why? Is it possible that more love and a more responsible and feeling level of support and guidance might’ve spurred you your time inebriated and working in the kind of clubs you describe? Is it possible that we have forgotten the real meaning of life and how little it has to do with money. When I was very young I begin working in a western auto store, after that I always had a job. In that world I was happy. In the current one I fear for my children.
    John is fine, save yourself and the world around you.

  9. pndrgn99 says:

    Edited response

    This post is dishonest, makes a pretense of concern, and is ultimately blatant propaganda.

    A society comprised of people many of whom were brought here in chains as slaves, others that emigrated to live in a free country based on values like those expressed in the US Constitution and engraved on the Statue of Liberty.

    Believing in altruism they found themselves in a country where they were crowded into poor neighborhoods,-based discrimination, and found that behind the jargon what America wanted most was cheap labor. Despite all of these things many have succeeded and contributed tremendously to the growth and wealth of our nation.

    As time has passed It has become more and more common to hear people like you blaming those who have been cheated and disempowered while corporations and wealthy citizens continue to deprive them of funding for public schools, loans for secondary education, a livable minimum wage, retirement benefits, and affordable healthcare.
    The same wealthy people utilizing campaign contributions, and corporations utilizing advertising dollars and marketing expertise to make cell phones and fashionable clothing, cars, in the communities essential for acceptance into, recognition by, or hope of social equality within, American society.
    My first two American ancestors as documented in our family genealogy were John Alden Priscilla. I am not poor, I am not a minority, I have completed post secondary education, and maintained myself without resourcesI that I did not earn. Having accomplish these things and the seemingly entitled to participate as an equal in any society, I find myself profoundly disappointed that someone as articulate and apparently intelligent as you appear to be can espouse a position that is so clearly arrogant, uninformed and self-serving. I believe that you are complicit in a national lie.

    From the new federalism on Republican leaders have deprived states of funding and political power, passed user taxes to replace equitable income taxes, reduced all taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and even passed legislation according corporations the rights of a person. Usery laws have been revoked, stockholders and bankers allowed free reign and absolved of egregious criminal acts with minimum penalties.

    The layout and tone of your post leads me to believe that you are far too educated to be as naïve as your audience apparently is. Therefore I am forced to conclude that you are complicit.

    Wake up, The day someone you love is shot while fully restrained or with their hands up I doubt you will march peacefully for legislation to change the law.

    There is a law in life beyond that made or enacted by men or influenced by money. If you ignore truth, goodness and honesty, you do so at your own peril. What you choose not to learn life will find a way to teach you.

    1. Kate says:

      “I am not poor, I am not a minority, I have completed post-secondary education, and maintained myself without resources I that I did not earn.”

      First: I’m really happy for you, dude/lady. I’m working really hard in my BA now, will get a MFA, and hopefully then enter into a PhD program- It thrills me to see that people with lots of education are reaching out about a topic so near to me. I have quite a bit of experience on the other side of the tracks, and I feel like I might be able to clarify some things about this post. First, my history: I am a white chick, born to a middle class family which turned upper-middle class when I was a teen. I grew up similar to you, most likely. My brother was the golden boy and took the much easier route: completed college on time, went to a well-known law school and graduated cum laude, is married, lives in a beautiful home and will likely be partner in a very successful firm within the next 10 years—I know how that side of the fence works. Most of the current generation of my family is where you are—they think like you think. All of this is political for them, and I see you in my loved ones, which is why I feel the need to speak up. Due to some personal ideals, I decided to try to make a go of it on my own when I was a late teen; I thought I could support myself and stay in college and live my dream and blah blah blah. Within a year I lived in the projects of a large metropolitan city, worked 3 jobs, and was failing my college classes. I fell hard.

      I dropped out of school and started working more and more unsavory jobs—waitressing turned into bartending. Bartending turned into bartending at a goth club pretty well known for sexual deviancy. I worked one full time job by day, and two part times for 3 years. At first I worked because things weren’t so bad—I was drinking regularly, I had a hot body and wore clothes that showed it off, I had a few guys I dated (not at once, but I never would settle and be anyone’s gf) I thought I was free. I thought the fact that I could afford good liquor and designer shoes for every day of the week meant that I was somebody—and everyone in the culture I was a part of agreed. I was hot, had a hell of a wardrobe, had a tight body and a pretty face, a decent car, and managed to pay bills. I delved deeper and deeper into the Problem Culture mentality of “me-first”.

      About a year later, I was in a club with someone I considered a friend, a chick I’d known for over a year who I’d party with nearly every night. She told me her kid’s dad was finally out of prison, so she wouldn’t have to worry about her son anymore. “Son? What? You have a son?!” I was shocked—we were 20 and she not only had a 3 year old, she’d been leaving him at home by himself so she could go out, “What? He sleeps. It’s whatever, he’s just a check anyway.” This woman I’d developed a friendship with just blatantly told me that she not only abandons her toddler every night, but that his only value to her was the check she gets from the government to have him; even more shocking was that everyone in that group of friends of mine thought this was perfectly normal and acceptable. I’m sure here’s the part where you’re thinking, “But she doesn’t know better, she’s been oppressed by the white man, blah blah”, but you’re wrong. My friends were predominantly white, this chick was white—a few ghetto black people mixed in our group because we were all poor together, and they all did drugs, fucked, and did pretty much all the stuff listed in this articles’ bullet points.

      I realized what a fucking idiot I’d been—I failed out of college, was working 80 hours a week, had no decent friends, and could barely afford an apartment in which many tenants paid off the local gang to make sure their place stayed safe. I was walking home that night when I realized that I no longer woke up when I heard shots fired. The culture of violence, sex, drugs and irresponsibility was my normal, and I was sickened by it. It was not how I was raised—I knew better. When I started hanging out less, one my best friends called me out on it, and I had a heart to heart with her. I explained that I thought many of the morals were wrong, that people in our group were using the government and each other, that they were choosing coke over their kids, and that everyone bitched about being poor with no intention of doing anything about it—they just wanted someone to hand them a check. Her reply was something like, “Yeah… but why change? The government will always give out free shit. It’s stupid to work when you don’t have to—that’s what those dumb rich fuckers are for, they feel bad and we got more money. Easier than stripping, and without the razor burn!” The mentality that John is talking about isn’t purely geared toward ghetto people. It’s a problem of people who are given things when they don’t have to work for them—I’d surrounded myself with leeches.

      We stopped being friends pretty soon after that. I realized my partying and freedom wasn’t worth having to deal with people who had no ambition. I stopped partying, began saving up for school, and at 24 had finally saved enough cash to go back to college debt-free. I’m now 26 with a very good scholarship through an honor’s college at a large state school. I have no contact with those people, and moved to a different state. I still live in a poor part of town, because it’s all I can afford, but it’s Friday night and I’m on WordPress after working all day, and after this extraordinarily long post, I’m going to go write a paper on cultural appropriation of Native Americans—which is absolutely fascinating and terrible. Side note- Pine Ridge in SD is the second poorest place in the western hemisphere, second only to Haiti. And it’s in our backyard :( Anyway…

      Why I wanted to spend so much time on this response is because I feel like you’re very hung up on the politics you’re reading in this post, and that is because you’ve been indoctrinated to think that way. It’s in the upper-middle-class canon to turn social issues into political issues. I humbly encourage you to simply reread the values of the culture: I can personally attest that they’re there. I will say that some of the homes in poor sections of town are shabby because people can’t do better—that’s about 20% of them. Those 20% are the types of people my ancestors were, and who I am—temporarily poor and working to get out of it. They belong to the Hispanics who come here and work back-breaking jobs in the fields in the day, and work with their children to learn English by night. They belong to the forgotten elderly. They belong to people who don’t know how to use money correctly, and are trying to rebuild. The other 80%? They’re complacent. They have no desire to change because they have to *reason* to change. Their values are earned through selfishness, and their values center around self-seeking behaviors.

      You say that this is a “dishonest” article, full of propaganda, but my understanding of propaganda is that it is something used as a tool to promote a political cause or cultural idea. What exactly, is John Foster promoting? This article just identifies a very specific culture which is blatantly and obviously growing in the US—There is music currently on the top 10 in which the guy says something like “I knew my rent was going to be late about a week ago… but I have enough to get in the club”. Our culture is encouraging this frivolous, financially damning, morally devoid culture as fun/cool/understandable, when in actuality, it should not be tolerated.

      You’re talking about factors of a problem— which I’m sure John agrees with. He never once removed the blame. He never said “And they did this all to themselves, it’s not the corporations’ fault!” Hes simply pointing out that there is a huge (and rapidly growing growing) culture within the economic poor which is becoming a societal norm and standard. And instead of being outraged when people have 8 kids so they get more money from the government, we just try to give them more money, somehow imagining that if we could just pay for more, they’d choose to do better.

      Members of the problem culture will *never* choose differently, just like I could not choose to accept friends who believe that fucking strangers and getting drunk/high is okay for someone with a 3 year old alone at home. I know how easy it is to talk about these things objectively, because you’ve never seen them. You’ve never lived where I have lived—and let’s face it: for all you know, John could have grown up in some trailer park with neighbors constantly doing meth and jacking up their truck with spinners and nonsense. He could be a social worker and have to deal with these people daily. Shrug. But I do know what I am—and that is someone who whole-heartedly agrees that the Problem Culture is an enormous threat to a healthy future for our country. I know that enabling generational thievery of goods and misappropriation of those goods is wrong. I know that the only way to change the mentality is to make is uncomfortable enough that those people must change their values in order to survive—which has historically been how all cultures in America have assimilated and gained success and stability.

      1. Luke Lindsley says:

        Excellent response Kate. I think you really hit the core of politics when discussing the percentages. What percent of people are genuinely trying to better themselves and what percent of people are really part of the problem culture? I think your 20/80 figure is a bit radical. I would put the figure closer to 50/50, but I understand these are based on my own biases. For all we know it could be even worse: 10/90, 5/95.

        Whatever it is, the problem culture is certainly there and liberals (which includes myself) need to start acknowledging it.

    2. John Foster says:

      First of all, thank you for your in-depth feedback. I very much appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to engage others on this topic, and I am especially delighted that you have read my post and feel strongly about it. This is an important conversation to have, and I am happy to have correspondence with you about it.

      You suggest I make a pretense of concern. I assure you my concern is genuine, and I would think that at the lengths of writing an extensive essay on the topic, the amount of time I spent preparing and editing this piece would suffice as evidence that this issue is indeed very important to me. I believe wholeheartedly in my views on the topic. There is nothing dishonest about the post, and I certainly gain no benefit from my views. Of what it is exactly you believe I am complicit about I am not entirely sure.

      You told me to wake up. Awake from what, exactly? That my mother grew up in section 8 housing, got into drugs for a time, and now is almost entirely disassociated from her family because many of them wasted their lives away in violence and drug addiction—I suppose that is the dream you would like me to wake from. Or perhaps it is that she went on to become a hairdresser, nurse, went to college, got her masters, and now teaches at colleges and runs her own clinics? A dream too, I suppose. She must have somehow slipped through the fingers of every greedy wealthy person and corporation that was so persistently using their time and resources to keep her repressed. An anomaly—perhaps she should be studied.

      In the work I do for a living I spend almost every day in the poorest areas of my county, a county which encompasses a relatively large metropolitan city. I walk the projects, section 8 housing, shanties on back roads, and everywhere in between. I meet a lot of people; I see the way they live, I see what matters most to them, and I see their unique way of what living “the right way” means to them. Much of this is beautiful, but much of it is also very dark, sad, and troubling to the core. My experiences meeting these people and the things I have seen, time after time, are what gave me the cause to write this essay.

      The next point I would like to make is perhaps the most important. I believe your concerns identify that you have entirely missed one of the largest points of my essay. The Problem Culture is neither the culture of welfare recipients, nor of the poor in general—which it seems you have correlated. The PC is a subculture of the poor. There are many welfare recipients and poor people who do not abuse the system or commit crimes, or abuse and neglect their children—but those who do are a part of the Problem Culture. They decimate the good name of those who are genuinely doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the Problem Culture is growing. This is due to the degradation of cultural values and the familial structure. That is the truth.

      I don’t expect a blog post to change the deep-rooted opinions that you have built up over a prolonged period of time, but based on your comments, it is my opinion that your scope of the subject at hand is unquestionably limited. Your explanations for the plights of the poor are cliché at best. The elements you lay blame to do have some stake in the argument, but they don’t have a fraction of power you believe they do on normal, every-day people’s lives. Believe it or not, many people truly are just lazy, selfish, and worse—sometimes much worse. If my mother can do it anyone can, and her story is only one of many, many accomplished people I have had the privilege to meet throughout my life.

      I am not delusional, and I have no ulterior motivations in offering my opinions and thoughts about this issue. I am genuinely concerned at what I have experienced, and I wrote this essay with the greatest hope for the betterment of those communities which I have identified.

      I too have received a tertiary education. I graduated from a respected private liberal arts university with a Bachelor of Science. Having been a part of the university/academic culture, I can attest that most professors at these institutions subscribe to Marxist-style doctrines regarding social and political systems and typically use their authority as educators to reinforce such systems as the only ones credible and backed by data, which is entirely false. Please advise me if you have experienced any notable variation from this. Liberal arts colleges and universities will most likely never teach students about life in “the real world”—the world where people will take your life for five dollars to buy crack, where fathers rape their daughters, where mothers smother their babies, or beat their four-year-old child until her entire face is blue and swollen. These people are not victims of anything; they make victims of others. Wealthy Americans and corporations do not disable people from understanding the differences between right and wrong. I will never defend or excuse people who live this way, and I will never remove the responsibility of their actions from them.

  10. pndrgn99 says:

    This post exists in a vacuum. A society comprised of people many of whom were brought here in chains as slaves, others that emigrated based on principles like that engraved on the Statue of Liberty which proclaimed altruism while actually seeking cheap labor. As time has proceeded I hear people like you blaming those who are lost and unempowered while corporations and wealthy citizens continue to deprive them of resources for basic education, a livable minimum wage, retirement benefits,and affordable healthcare. The same people utilizing psychologyand marketing expertise make cell phones and fashion essential for any recognition or hope of social equality. You can’t continue to beat people with both ends of the stick. I am not poor, I am not a minority, and I truly believe that you are either ignorant of far too much information were complicit in a national lie. From the new federalism on Republican leaders have deprived states of funding and political power, passed user taxes to replace equitable income taxes, reduced all taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and even passed legislation according corporations the rights of a person. The layout and tone of your post leads me to believe that you are far too educated to be as naïve as your audience apparently is. Therefore I am forced to conclude that your complicit. Wake up, The day someone you love is shot while fully restrained or with their hands up I doubt you will march peacefully for legislation to change the law.

    1. John Foster says:

      Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

    1. John Foster says:

      Thank you for reading and for your comment!

    1. John Foster says:

      Thanks for reading, Cody! Glad to see you back.

  11. Travis Geyer says:

    A wonderful post brother, God bless you, I hope to see more soon!

    1. John Foster says:

      Thank you very much for reading!

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