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May 2021

For several years, I've been sporadically obsessed by the metamorphosis of Medieval serfs into Yesterday's television audience. My thesis goes something like this: having been denied participation in political life for about a thousand years, most members of what used to be called the Third Estate declined to take an interest in the matter when it was finally opened up to them. Instead, they registered their ideas for social improvement as entertainment. For most of the last century, broad "popular" audiences worked with movie producers in a feedback loop to create images of what American life ought to look and sound like. We call it entertainment now. One result is that most Americans, if given the chance, will prefer to watch a game that's being played right in front of them on a screen.

I'm reading Isabel Wilkerson's Caste, and while I think that its many stories ought not just to be read but known by everyone, I'm not sure that the title helps me to understand any better the horrific treatment that Africans have endured in America. But it has made me ask if there wasn't a caste system in medieval and early-modern Europe. There was certainly the attempt to institute one. But it almost immediately lost absolute rigidity. It turned out that kings needed money even more than noblemen needed status. The numbers were never large, but the bourgeoisie that started buying its way out of the working class long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue is running the place now.

Or at least it thinks it is. Is anyone else paying attention?  

Stationery Lust

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