Above Our Own Dignity


For over ten years, I’ve had the following quote pinned above my working computer, because having found it gave me one of those moments of “Somebody gets it.”

“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. they may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.”

— from The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham 1919

This visit to Portugal was easier than others in the past, partly because I realized — or rather felt, at a deep level — that I could never have stayed and lived there all these years.  I don’t know if this feeling is true, mind you.  I know I’d be a different person if I had. But the feeling is strong and unavoidable that I COULDN’T, that my odd corners would never fit in that round hole. This removes my feeling of guilt from having effectively abandoned the family on that end which, as mom and dad grow older, in turn makes it hard for me to render any help and assistance. (It would be different if I were a millionaire, but I’m not.)

It’s probably more so — the feeling I can’t fit in — in that it’s not a big difference. If I were a startlingly different appearance — say tentacles or pink polka dots — from the people there, or if I stuck out in some obvious, visible way, it would be easier, because I’d account for that and THEN fit in.

It’s more that my way of “being in the world” is too different in small, annoying ways.  People rub me wrong or judge me wrongly and I, assuredly, also do so.

Perhaps it is nothing more than the result of having grown up mostly inside my head and in books, though I think that was rather the consequence of feeling out of place than the origin.

That quote above came to my mind a lot while I was in Portugal this time.

And because of that, at odd times, I found myself thinking of ways I felt welcome or relieved in the US that never worked in Portugal.

One of them, which I’ve mentioned here before, is the respect for private property that allows us to have unfenced yards and outdoor decorations.  That was both weird and enthralling before I figured out the differences.

But another, superficially just as silly but in reality as important was this: my high school in the US was festooned with funny, self-mocking signs.  The hall with math, physics and computers, for instance, had a hand-lettered sign entitling it “Nerd Alley.”

In Portugal — at least at the time — such a thing would not only be unbelievable, it would be incomprehensible, frowned upon and fought.

You see, from about the time I was old enough to go out alone, Mom complained I didn’t “hold myself up in my own dignity.”  Since I was 12, this was incomprehensible, since I had NO dignity (and a twisty sense of humor.)

What mom meant was my inherited class, as a daughter of an educated middle-class family who was attending school beyond fourth grade, unlike the daughters of laborers, who had been sent into the mills at ten.

This was supposed to be a source of pride, which I upheld.  I was supposed to internalize a sort of “do you know who I am?” which communicated itself to people who met me the first time.

I never did, partly because of those fine accomplishments, most weren’t even mine, except by chance. Surely I didn’t choose who birthed me nor how educated my ancestors were.

I never managed it, either, even when the accomplishments — such as entering college — were my own.

Mom was right, btw, for that place, that culture.  Looking at it through an almost total stranger’s eyes, when I went back this time, I saw that if you don’t hold yourself up as being important, having a reason to be important, people there will walk all over you.  If you’re not the “daughter of something” you’re no one and to be exploited and ignored.  I just never got it, and was enough my own, solitary person, it didn’t seem to affect me much.

But I see now why the self-deprecating humor in high school; the lame jokes teachers and people in authority made about themselves were a relief.  It felt more natural than holding myself up in false pride like armor. Armor is heavy and unwieldy.

It also, in terms of culture, prevents advancement. Part of what we dealt with, in hell-journey through Spain was the fact that every single bureaucrat, janitor, information booth lady, even the security guards/police of which Spain has a lot in surplus to requirements, was “holding him/herself up in their dignity.”  Which meant not bending enough to try to understand what two people going through, who spoke no Spanish but only English and Portuguese might be asking or wanted.

It is also, I think, responsible for why Portugal remains largely stagnant while any Portuguese immigrant abroad seems to have a head start on excelling in their field (Yes, weirdly, I did too. The odds against even being published in the bad old days were overwhelming. And most literary careers last 3 books, not 30 something.  And I’m not done yet.  And in indie, maybe monetary success will come, too.)

You see in Portugal being seen to work excessively or at something dirty, or having enough humility to start again if a career goes bang would be demeaning. It would rob you of your dignity and leave you open to predation or at least social opprobrium. Some people still do it, but they’re rare and exceedingly strong-willed.  Meanwhile the country, as a whole, lurches about with no innovation, no enterprise worth the name.

And from my glimpses of Spain, it might be worse there.

I understand why people think these things are genetic, but seriously, culture is enough to explain it. It’s just that very few people go behind the gears of the culture and see the little things that sabotage it. Or how difficult it can be to change, because those evil little mines in the culture field also protect the individual in the way the culture is, right now.

To me, as an American, it’s simply a relief to be able to laugh at myself and refuse the assumed dignity that can’t be dented.

Which is a good thing, since I’m basically starting again.  Once more into the breach…

At least I’m doing it from home, and not a strange environment I don’t fully understand.

Americans are, in a way, above our own dignity. We don’t need to hold ourselves in false pride because as sovereigns of our land, we’re all as important as may be.

And the result is that we can work, get our hands dirty, and even laugh at ourselves, with no fear.

It’s a good (and fortuitous) thing.


218 thoughts on “Above Our Own Dignity

      1. I hope you forgive me for answering here because I don’t seem to have a reply button at the very bottom of the post.

        being seen to work excessively or at something dirty, or having enough humility to start again if a career goes bang would be demeaning. It would rob you of your dignity and leave you open to predation or at least social opprobrium.

        Interestingly enough, this brought to mind a story my mother once told me. She was studying in Mindanao for some years in her youth, and as part of either her earning extra on her scholarship or paying part of the fees (I’m not sure of it right now but it’s irrelevant to the thrust of the story) she worked in the school canteen. There was a woman there of a particular Muslim tribe that had it that their women must never be seen working, or they would be considered haram somehow and thus unmarryable, so she insisted on having the windows closed whenever they worked, making it dreadfully humid and stiflingly hot. She was poor, but with the superior attitude that she displayed, you’d think she was a princess of Brunei or something. She bullied the other Muslim women because she belonged to a tribe that would exact bloody retribution if she complained (lied about the women there), and sneered at the Christian women as beneath her.

        1. No reply window? WordPress Delenda Est!

          Yes, in Appalachia, they call this attitude “poor but proud”. The twin obstacles to any single person bettering themselves in that culture are… the person themselves being too proud of their heritage and their attitudes to learns and change, and their family, who would rather they all stay poor than someone reject their culture of pride. (As well, should anyone make it out or land a bigger, better job, they get a lot of family immediately looking at them as a slush fund, which effectively keeps them poor.)

          This does mean that the most successful Appalachians I know are either those who’ve left the family and hills behind, and have a real chip on their shoulder against their family, their culture, and the wider US culture at large – because when they got out to get successful, they often run face-first into “That accent? Ew! You’re a poor dumb hick!” stereotype, and have to work even harder to keep from getting bounced back onto the reservation…

          Or they’re back in the hills, but they’ve learned to be very, very quiet about what they’ve made, and not show it off. My father taught me to treat everyone with utter courtesy no matter what they’re wearing or what accent they have, and more than once, from the Blue Ridge Mountains up to Alaska and out to Texas, I’ve been dealing with a gent in ripped, stained overalls with a bushy beard and ancient, battered boots… who, when he’s concluded the deal, pulls out a roll of 100’s that could choke a goat, and peels off enough to cover the bill.

          Dad also trained, bone-deep, blood-deep, the phrase, “We’re not poor, we’re broke.” Because broke is a state of cash flow, that can be fixed. Poor is a state of mind, that… can’t. Between that and “Never say ‘I can’t’! Always say ‘I don’t want to.’ or ‘how can I?'”, he fair inoculated me against the self-defeating culture.

          1. poor but proud

            I hadn’t given it any thought ere this* but that does explain the otherwise incongruous locution so often heard in certain Brit-coms, “Begging yore pardon, sir, I am but a poor yet humble …”

            *A full listing of things to which I haven’t given any thought is NOT forthcoming, so ye may rest easy.

          2. I’ve mentioned my friend who we nickname Machiavelli, who dresses very simply and on top of it, has a baby face. He’s the sort who’ll look like he’s 15-16 years old forever until suddenly he’s an old man. He and his wife are very well off, but they’re both focused on investments and making their wealth work for them. I’ve heard a number of ‘I wish we had more money’ statements, and I always have to remind myself when Mrs. M talks about that, they’re talking about ‘enough money to buy X amount of land so they can establish an aquaponics farm’.

    1. We aim to misbehave. We are not “respecter(s) of persons.” Inwardly I seethed when President O. bowed to a Middle-Eastern potentate. When I worked for a company that was bought out by British Aerospace, I soon realized what had never occurred to me before, that I hate the English. Oh, not the individuals, but the company newsletters full of Sir Umptysquat and Lord Hoohaw got walled. The whole class thing made me furious, and those twerps in big cities here who want to look down on us deplorables can stick it where the sun don’t shine. My favorite piece from Quigley Down Under sums it up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-r-5kB1Sz0.

      1. As long as the class system is like giving people Burger King crowns or cool medals, or as long as people really are doing noblesse oblige and running their estates, I can stand it. But when people start taking it seriously in regards to other people, it gets annoying.

        1. Only tangentially related, I read that Burger King in Los Angeles has instituted Direct-To-Car deliveries for commuters stuck in traffic. A phone ap identifies the nearest BK, places the order (Whopper Meal only at present) and a motorcyclist delivers it to the car while the fries are still hot! (Well, warm. -ish.)

          America! What a country!

          1. Some years ago in Seattle, we had a major snow storm (yeah, rare) – and therefore the freeways at end of workday were nigh unto parking lots. I.e. 45 minute commute became 4 hours. And at least one pizza joint near the freeway was delivering phone orders to customers in some of the nearly-parked cars…

  1. Includng “Dignity” in the title drove my thoughts immediately to this classic film sequence:

    A sequence I always consider when being lectured about moral behaviour by my Hollywood “betters”.

      1. The song The Farmer and the Cowboy from Oklahoma! says it all:

        “I don’t say I’m no better than any body else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good!”

  2. Priggish self-importance is the armor of the second-rate.
    I’ve met many people with that trait; not one of them has been worth the effort.

  3. I’ve been wondering about some of this, thanks.

    Have we talked over the Australian election yet?

    Shadow, is it really going to be WWIII? XD

    1. Here, hold my beer.
      Jump high and throw both arms in the air.

      Yes! ScoMo Won!!!!


      Take that, Proggies!

      1. Oh. That’s what the Democrats were afraid of … it’s catching (like a cold or flu). After all the world gets hints from America (not like America said “Hey do this.”) “Hey! They did it! We can too!”

      2. It’s beginning to sound like the Brexit Party in the UK is going to clobber the establishment; first in the EU elections, then in the next general.

        Is there enough popcorn?

        1. And if they win, why the EU is facing the real possibility that other countries will learn from Brexit — the wrong lesson.

          1. I was wondering. First the good ‘ol USA, next the Aussies, now Brexit appears to have taken lesson to heart, whose next? Canada has been leaning a tad left, maybe their heartland and outlying areas will?

            Yes. Popcorn is indicated.

          2. I do not recall the source, but I read this weekend that multiple “populist” parties — not just Farage’s Brexit but also parties affected by Hungary’s Orbán and other “subordinate” members of the EU are now threatening to be the single largest bloc in the EU after the coming election. Apparently there is an upper limit to how many times people can be told to “know your place!”

            Stupid Progressives! They’ve made “populist”, “far-Right” and “extremist” positive signals.

          3. Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy [is different for financial reasons], Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria… The old East is having second thoughts about the EU’s cultural crisis. They survived the Soviets and do not care to be submerged by the Ottomans 2.0.

    2. But, but!- they went about as hard left as they could! Isn’t that all the rage with the kids these days?!?
      But all sarcasm aside, it appears that once again, those who would be Masters have lost touch with the people. I suspect the US Democratic party will go even harder left for the same result.

      1. I suspect the US Democratic party will go even harder left for the same result.

        Heh. Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web Today” (behind a paywall, but it might be accessed by Googling a unique phrase) takes note:

        Did Democrats Just Create a Problem with Soccer Moms and Dads?
        Every Democrat in the House chamber on Friday voted for the appealingly titled “Equality Act.” But next year Democrats are likely to find that support for the bill among swing voters is far from unanimous.


        The legislation appears to expand government power in a number of significant ways. Today Brad Polumbo writes in USA Today:

        The bill purports to protect LGBT Americans like me by prohibiting discrimination… On the surface, this sounds unobjectionable — after all, no one deserves to face discrimination. Yet the bill defined “public accommodations” so loosely and called for regulations so sweeping that it would crush religious freedom and radically reshape American society.

        For example, the Equality Act undermines the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which established a balancing test for religious freedom claims. It established a process for the litigation of discrimination grievances, where religious employers could appeal if found responsible for an offense and their actions could be fairly evaluated.

        This helped ensure that reasonable invocations of religious freedom are permitted, such as a private, Catholic school only wanting to hire teachers who live in accordance with biblical values, but blatant discrimination, such as a grocery store randomly firing someone for being gay, is not. Yet in any of these situations, the so-called Equality Act would mandate that an LGBT person’s claim wins by default — therefore not ensuring equality but elevating their rights over those of religious Americans.

        Prior to the House vote, Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote in Reason:

        Libertarians who don’t fear fading gender norms and who fully desire to see social equality for all people can still see some causes for concern in the legislation, which would drastically extend the federal government’s prerogative to intervene in college life, micromanage private business exchanges, and punish disfavored groups or companies, among other things.

        Libertarians and social conservatives aren’t the only ones expressing reservations. Duke law professor and former track athlete Doriane Coleman, tennis legend Martina Navratilova and four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross wrote about the bill last month in the Washington Post. They urged lawmakers to amend the bill in order to protect women’s sports and specifically to maintain the law known as Title IX, which has been interpreted to require educational institutions that receive federal money to provide separate programs and opportunities for females. “This is necessary because sex segregation is the only way to achieve equality for girls and women in competitive athletics,” wrote Mses. Coleman, Navratilova and Richards-Ross.


        The bill is going nowhere while Republicans control the Senate and the White House. But based on the unanimous support among House Democrats, voters can reasonably expect such legislation to become law in the event of a Democratic sweep in 2020.

        Progressive politicians may be surprised to learn that imposing on girls and women a radical change in the rules of sport will not be universally welcomed by competitors or by the parents who love to watch them play.

    3. Nah, not really, though I’m sure the local neomarxist hard left here are stunningly shocked and into ‘they lied about us, that’s why they won’ mode.

      I mean, the main productive industries in Australia are in dire circumstances (either through botched policies, national disaster, or both), and Labour goes “We’ll raise taxes! Global Warming BAD! Mining BAD! Retirees are cheating the system so we’ll tax them higher! RACISTS BAD, MOAR IMMIGRANTS FROM ISLAMIC TERRORSTATES GOOD! Firstime home owners-” you get the idea.

      What happened here wasn’t the choice between Hillary and Trump, I’m told. This is more “The extreme radical left swung extreme right.” And with a Majority Liberal Government, it is very, very likely that they can do whatever they want.

      1. “Green” is the most elitist possible ideology out there. My Senators are all-in on “renewable” this and that and global warming bla bla bla and ignore entirely that oil and gas is not just the biggest industry in the state but possibly the *only* industry in the state. (Other than ranching and we all know about cow farts now.) They go on about all the “new jobs” that will be made and say, with straight faces, that solar and wind is *cheaper* than gas. It’s the poorest people who will be hit with those power bills and the most remote populations that will be out of very well paying jobs. Our schools are funded by oil and gas revenue, so they want that to go away.

        Saw recently in a Facebook thread from one of them someone said that they can’t afford to pay for “renewable” energy. Someone responded, “Well, why don’t you just leave then.” Because f*ck the poor. Global Climate Change is about comfortable people getting to feel extra good about themselves while the wealthy give up not a single bit of their lifestyles.

        And the political parties that are supposed to be for *labor* or the lower classes think that this is a winning hill to die on?

        1. ” Our schools are funded by oil and gas revenue, so they want that to go away.”

          Ask the timber county schools how that worked out for them. You know, the counties where over 33% or more (some almost 70%) is federal or state timberland.

        2. They seem to be taking some rather interesting positions to die on. Infanticide, anti-old-people, climate change (which is really, anti-poor.) I don’t remember where I read it, but it’s said that how a capital-city dweller sees ‘renwable’ differently from someone outside of it. The choices that a lot of people are being presented is ‘You can look out for your family, or you can look out for the world’ in a nutshell.

      2. It is indeed curious that the only mining of which the Marxists seem to approve these days is data mining.

  4. I’m reminded of the British gentry and upper class, for whom it was demeaning to do your own work with your own hands (if you didn’t have servants to do it for you, you were nobody) contrasted with American frontiersman, who lived by the rule “root, hog, or die”.

    1. It wasn’t really limited to British gentry. You find it anywhere you have an aristocratic class. It’s presumably even an element in the US, as it’s a theme in Gatsby, with the “old money” of most of the characters, versus Gatsby’s new money.

      1. It is very much in America, in large part because of the lefts embracing of Socialism, which is very autocratic to its core. Thus you get the divide between the ‘Woke’ and the ‘Deplorable’, they know better than you and if you don’t agree you are just a peon, so back to your place. The sad part is how well they are teaching the idea that it is best to be serfs.

        1. Ties into my definition of intellectualism. An intellectual is someone who thinks they can run a garage better than someone who has been a mechanic for 20 years, because they’ve read Proust & the grease-monkey hasn’t.

          1. i know you have been doing your job for 20 years, but my clipboard says you are doing it wrong.
            ran into that more than once.

          2. Yep, the left wants to make thinking of striving, innovation, learning from failure, etc., a thought-crime and to instill complete and total dependency on government and government mandarins to dictate and direct every aspect of our lives:

            1. Yup. They literally consider government taking over responsibility from individuals for tjeir own well being to be a VIRTUE. “Throwing back responsibility to persons” is a PROBLEM. I don’t get it.

              1. If everyone who did honest labor (plumbers, mechanics, roofers, etc.) would refuse to work for the “elites”, for about 3 months, we could change the world. Desk clerks, secretaries, mid- levels, too. There are way more of us than they think 🤔

      2. And it’s curious just how few generations back you have to look at those gentry and old money families to find a pirate, a scoundrel, a thief, or a beggar who took a terrible risk and won.
        With the aristocracy of Europe you can always trace it back to a man with a sword and a strong arm to swing it.
        In the Americas it tended more towards cutthroat businessmen who took advantage of the huge opportunities to be had in the acquisition and development of resources of the North American continent.
        And then there were those such as old Joe Kennedy who acquired a rather massive fortune with his investments in trade during the period from 1920 to 1933.

        1. A lot of money to be made providing desired goods even if they are proscribed by the government. The trick is not getting caught, and minimizing the losses if you are. Which, by the way, wasn’t something I taught my kids; they can figure that one out on their own.

          1. A lot of money to be made providing desired goods even especially if they are proscribed by the government.

            Fixed that for you. Done rightly the profits cover bribes to constabulary and judges to ensure they only impair your competition, and emoluments to politicians to ensure you product does not get legalized and its profit margin destroyed.

          1. In fairness, Joe Kennedy did not make his fortune from bootlegging, merely enhanced it.

            He made his fortune from his experience as a bank examiner, determining which banks were undervalued and worth buying at fire-sale prices.

            Bootlegging probably was the more socially benign activity.

            1. Bootlegging probably got him invited to all the right social parties, the bank thing not-so-much.

        2. False! False! FALSE! Pure urban legend! This story should be buried at a crossroads with a stake through its heart and under five tons of concrete.

          The only support for the claim that Joe Kennedy was involved in bootlegging was a 1950s statement by an elderly ex-gangster that another gangster (then deceased) had told him that Kennedy was involved in a third gangster’s operations.

          In (extremely well-documented) fact, Kennedy was a wealthy banker and entrepreneur before Prohibition. During the 1920s, he was a big-time Wall Street operator and Hollywood mogul. He had no reason to get involved in an illegal business that could get one killed.

          He did make a fortune off liquor – but entirely legally. During Prohibition, he acquired (for almost nothing) the US distribution rights to several major foreign liquor brands. After Repeal, these rights became very lucrative.

          Joe was a thoroughgoing sleaze: much of his Wall Street dealings would be criminal today, and in Hollywood one could say he paved the way for Harvey Weinstein. But he wasn’t a bootlegger.

          1. I used to work for a guy who worked for Joe Sr. back in the day. He said flat out the Kennedys were Irish mob — not bootleggers, but direct rivals to the Italian mob. And one of the franchises they acquired was for all Scotch sold in the U.S. — he said it paid them 5 cents per shot.

          2. Your claim of “False! False! FALSE!” is equally unsupported by evidence; a more accurate (and credible) refutation would be that the bootlegging charge is “unsupported by documentary evidence.”

            As for his behaviour in Hollywood, it is inappropriate to credit Joe with “pav[ing] the way for Harvey Weinstein” as not only was the practice standard in the industry (and not just by men; read up on Dietrich and Mae West, especially how they “supported” the careers of, respectively, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Cary Grant.) Moreover, it had largely been the practice in the Theatre since about the time women joined the profession … and, truth be acknowledged, had likely long been the experience of many many men before and since. Harvey was merely a guy caught with his pants down when the goalposts moved. Sure, he was disgusting, but where do you suppose he got the idea that actresses would tolerate such demands?

      3. Not just English – other nationalities whose members fancy themselves to be ‘upper caste’. My next younger brothers’ first wife was from a wealthy Iranian family, exiled to the US after that little fracas with the Shah being overthrown …
        (Frankly, I suspect she married him to get away from her family by being married and my brother was just convenient and susceptible.)
        It just embarrassed the bejeesus out of her, when my brother popped up the hood of his car, and worked on it in the driveway. Doing something messy and mechanical with your own hands was just too low-class and infra-dig for words, in her world. Never mind that my brother was good at it, and loved tinkering on his cars…

        1. I pride myself that there is no job so low that I wouldn’t do it; well, except for being a lawyer. You have to have some standards.

          1. I was a janitor’s assistant, and worked summers on a poultry farm. I’ve said, from time to time, that I was in poultry husbandry…until they caught me at it.

            1. Chickens are bad enough, but Lord save me from turkeys, stupid birds.
              And it’s hard to find a more aggressive animal that the goose, evil wretches.

              1. You ever dealt with swans? Gives me shivers of horror just thinking about it.

              2. Whether one prefers the dry, acrid odor of turkey houses to the wet, oppressively heavy odor of hog parlors is a matter of personal preference, depending on wind direction, or one’s own financial interest.

                (I think I’d rather smell hogs than turkeys because turkeys are so, so biting, but I can sympathize with those who speed up on the highway to escape the rank stench of hog houses. Depends on which one you’re use to, I suppose.)

                1. I’ve been downwind of large cattle feed lots; pigs aren’t that bad in comparison, at least on a 95 degree day.

                  1. I beg to differ. Not even a dairy can compete with pigs.
                    ESPECIALLY on a hot day.

                    1. I’m not talking about a mere dairy; picture the feed lots outside of Omaha. And yes, 95 degrees. The smell is chewy.

                      (OTOH, I’ve never encountered a feed lot of the porcine type.)

                    2. I’d say pigs smell worse. Although when the “egg plant” dumped the rotten eggs into the lagoon from the feed lot… That was a whole ‘nother level of stench.

                    3. The most interesting smell I ever experienced was from the pig farm next to the pineapple cannery. The pigs ate the leftovers from the canning process – resulting in a smell that was both sweet and pungent.

                    4. Crossing Iowa on a hot, muggy day in a pre-WWII airplane… I was at 3,000 feet and the smell of the CAFO (concentrated area feeding operation) reached right up to sock me in the nose. And there was no way to outclimb the smell; the plane wasn’t powerful enough. I just had to wait until I finally passed the very wide swatch of state defined as “downwind of a CAFO.”

                    5. When I first lived in Silicon Valley, my commute home passed by the Libby cannery. Peach season was nice, but I got really tired of the smell when they’d do tomatoes–and that lasted months.

                      Never made it to Monterey when the sardine canneries were in operation. Probably a blessing for my nose.

                    6. I have to laugh, poor Dorothy in the airplane.

                      We were driving across the Oklahoma panhandle and that corner of Texas into Kansas and passing a feed lot. All of a sudden horrible horrible stench. There were cornfields on the other side of the road and my son only saw the corn and *opened the car window*.

                      We were past it pretty soon though. We got to tease my son for the rest of the trip.

            2. I once earned my bread as a dishwasher, and discovered there is someone lower yet: a dishwasher’s assistant. Amazing how much Crud Work can be delegated, if only one has an assistant.

              1. I worked at MacD’s summer of 1969. Worked the front counter, cooked fries and did the evening dishes. I think it took a week or three to get the grease particles off my skin. (We caught the Apollo 11 landing on radio. Was disappointed again when the Apollo 12 landing party camera was accidentally(?) pointed at the sun and burnt out.)

          2. Being a lawyer is not necessarily a low profession; they fill the function once served by hired guns in the Old West.

            What determines your moral worth is whether you choose to be Shane or Jack Palance Wilson.

        2. I wonder what she would think of my planting flowers in the garden. A small child in the neighborhood was observing that I was getting awfully dirty.

      4. Happily, “Old Money” doesn’t last too long in the good old USA. By the time money is old enough to be properly acceptable, there’s usually not enough of it to be properly aristocratic.
        And that’s a great thing.

      5. It’s DEFINITELY an element in the United States. Old Money, the Ivy League…all running high-proof snobbery. It arguably was worse in the Antebellum South, but having Sherman burn your plantation tends to knock it out of people.

        1. Do a little dive into research about the related institutions to those Ivies, e.g., the Harvard Club or Yale Club in major cities, and you will grow in appreciation of the ways Old Money has of restricting its circulation to “Our Kind, Dear.”

          Prior to WWII the opportunity cost of attending an Ivy League school pretty much assured the only people attending (outside of a few mascots) had their future careers assured and the contacts and customs inculcated in college helped ensure their wealth would be properly held.

          As the recent discussion of discrimination against Asian-Americans at the Ivies reminds, it had been their practice in the past to apply quotas to the matriculation of Jewish students.

        2. Tom Russell Jr, long-time CEO of IBM, said that in his memoirs that there was a girl he’d been interested in when he was young, but her parents rejected him as unsuitable…they were some sort of New England aristocracy, but young Tom’s father was nothing but one of the most successful and well-known businessmen…even back then…in the country.

        3. Oh, people put on airs all the time- provincials do like to ape the manners and customs of the cosmopolitans, and there’s no snob like the insecure snob.
          But, if you look into it, we really don’t have the goes back 1000 years rode with William the Conquer old as balls old money thing that Europe does.

        1. That’s almost all societies for all of history, from Rome to the Plains Indians.

          It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that the practice started to die out. You don’t have to feed a machine when it’s not working.

          We even know the date and time when the world changed: when Abraham Darby made the first pour of steel made by his new process, at Coalbrookdale, England, on the morning of January 10, 1709.

          Darby’s cheap, high-quality steel is what made the Industrial Revolution *possible*. That it happened so fast wasn’t some unique outpouring of creativity and enterprise, it was that all those ideas had stalled for centuries, because without cheap steel they weren’t economical to implement.

          After almost three hundred years as a steel mill, developers bought the Coalbrookdale site, sent in the earthmovers to remove any trace it ever existed, and built an office block on the site. Such is fame… as far as I know, Darby never even hot a mention in any of those BBC technology documentaries either.

          At least Fritz Haber got a Nobel, though almost nobody ever heard of him either… it’s unlikely the world’s population would exceed one billion today without the Haber Process.

          1. The book _The Enlightened Economy_ is about how different England/Great Britain was as compared to Europe, and why the Industrial Revolution could grow there. The presence of civilian engineers was one of the differences I’d never thought about, as was the relatively porous society of the 1700s (as compared to earlier and later). A Josiah Wedgewood could become rich, socially accepted, and respected.

            1. The French actually had a fairly substantial technical lead over the rest of Europe in the early 1800s. Chemistry and firearms were their specialty, and they had some of the first self-propelled vehicles, both roadworthy and on rails.

              The problem was the government (all of them…) which operated on a patronage system; the first autobuses got shut down because the carriage lines had a government monopoly, as an example. And there was no effective patent of copyright system. If you invented something, it either got stolen, or outlawed, or both.

              Meanwhile, in England circumstances were more favorable, and Parliament wasn’t extending and revoking monipolies more or less at random. Inventors had some protection for their ideas, and if you put your money into a venture, you had *some* expectation that it would pay off. Once the idea took hold, even the monarchy joined in.

              After a while British attitudes toward technology were notably different from the rest of Europe. The British monarchy was, for various reasons, more dependent on tax revenue than others, and the more trade, the more money they pocketed. The new spinning and looming wotzis let the merchants buy and sell more of whatever it was the lower classes were interested in, but every time money changed hands, a bit went to the Crown. So early on, they got the idea that this “technology” was pretty good stuff, and were openly supportive of it, to the point of handing out patents of nobility to various inventors, scientists, and so forth.

              Somehow, it still seems ironic that Britain became the center of the Industrial Revolution because its monarchy was comparatively poor…

          2. So, if the Progressives are rejecting Western Culture and all that it brings, they are also rejecting the Industrial Revolution and thus wanting a return to slavery/serfdom?

            That is appallingly easy to believe.

            As far as Haber, the Left doubtless considers him a villain, responsible (with many others) for over-population and consequent despoliation of their Mother Earth.

            1. Well, Haber was a fan of chemical warfare during WWI, and a his lab developed Zyklon A, so he was working against overpopulation too… actually, while the Haber Process revolutionized fertilizers and agriculture, it was originally developed to supply Germany’s need for military-grade nitrates for explosives and propellants.

              Heh. I’m surprised he didn’t get *two* Nobels…

          3. Another factor in the fall of the aristocracy was the development of firearms. Before firearms, one generally needed a lifetime of training and practice to be able to effectively use melee weapons. Which meant those who had mastered those weapons were in charge.
            Once practical firearms became available, a conscript could become an effective soldier with a relatively short training period. Armored horsemen basically became tall targets on a battlefield.
            And as infantry became more and more important to winning wars, infantrymen began to demand a say in their governments- and eventually got it.

  5. There’s a story about Abraham Lincoln sitting down in the dirt to talk to a child. I’ve no notion if it’s a *true* story. The point is more about which stories we chose to tell in an admiring way.

    1. Oh, I don’t know. I can actually see Abe taking his hat and jacket off and playing marbles on his hands and knees with a group of kids.

      1. It’s certainly believable. At least because we have this sort of story about him.

        And in America, we think more of him for it rather than less. In other cultures that might not be true.

    2. OTOH, the prince or princess who has to take a menial job — scullery maid, stableboy, gardener’s boy — because of exile is a commonplace trope all over. Perhaps the difference is about how close to the bone it hits.

      1. Nah, those stories are about showing grace to rhe less fortunate/blessed. You note that thr HEA aleays includes being taken away from such drudgery and/or being recognized as “above” it regardless of circumstantial appearance?

        1. Huh? The main character IS the one doing the drudge work. As for how the HEA works, the most gung-ho American story about someone working as a mechanic or a fast-food worker is going to involve a change in circumstances — to avoid an endless cycle of the same — and a worse job would mean an unhappy ending. (Guy gets job as auto mechanic may be a story; guy is auto mechanic for the rest of his life means the story ended when he got it, however happy he is.)

    3. I hardly think it reasonable to claim today’s politicians are reluctant to “get down in the dirt” nor that politicians ever were.

      Speaking of getting down in the dirt, I see that Stormy Daniels is now claiming she did not have sex with that man, Donald Trump.

      Porn star: I didn’t have sex with Trump

      Sorry, Stormy, but a Non-Disclosure Agreement is like virginity: once you break the seal it’s void.

  6. Maybe it’s just having read so many books by Americans and because most movies and television series seen here also are from USA, but that month and a half I spend there: I pretty much felt at home. Sure there were funny differences, and I didn’t get everything even after trying to figure it out and I made social missteps (probably more than I noticed). But I felt at home. It was comfortable.

  7. “in Portugal being seen to work excessively or at something dirty, or having enough humility to start again if a career goes bang would be demeaning. ”

    I think this holds true for an awful lot of would be ‘betters’ throughout history; once their ship has never mind come in, but actually SUNK, they fade into a half-life over the ‘old days’ rather than make an effort to rise up anew. It certainly afflicted the old Plantation Aristocracy as their sun set.

    And people who see new opportunities along with the loss of old ones, are often treated as Class Traitors. You see that in the attitudes of Regency England were and when any Aristocrat who actually involves himself in Trade risks ostracism (at least until his newfound wealth makes him impossible to ignore).

    In a way, this cheers me. The present Parasitical Left strikes me as likely to come down with a particularly virulent case of the usta-was-es. That’s retreat to whatever cultural dead ends we leave them and hold never-ending coffee house meetings bemoaning the Old Days…and never, ever undertake the effort to bring them back.

    I hope.

    1. I’ve been watching the new HBO series Gentleman Jack which IMDB describes as:
      A dramatization of the life of LGBTQ+ trailblazer Anne Lister, who returns to Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1832, determined to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home Shibden Hall.
      Very “woke” given the subject matter, but based on Lister’s diaries and has a budget sufficient to get the historical details and background correct.
      I bring it up because of a scene with a group of minor aristocrats at tea. One makes a disparaging remark about a person in the area as being “in trade.” Another remarks that still and all he’s done quite well for himself, better than all of us. At that point a grandmotherly lady looks at the group, most of them relatives, and says our great great grandfather was a wool merchant and bought his way into the aristocracy.
      At which point the topic of discussion quickly changed.

      1. Amusingly, Anne Lister scolds her sister for considering the advances of the fellow who is “in Trade”, despite her own business dealings. (Collecting the rents from their tenants & leasing the coal seams on their land)

        1. While confessing that I rather like her, I can still say that Miss Lister is quite the manipulative bitch, for all her manly ways.
          Certainly a take charge personality. Not only collecting rents, but making new lease agreements when necessary whether to retire a tenant too old to continue or cut a new agreement with the adult son of a man who has mysteriously vanished.
          One of my favorite quotes from the show, “One thing you taught me was that pigs will eat anything!”

        2. Which reminds me of the Roman attitude that the only respectable way for upper-class people to make money was war, land and farming.

          1. Land and farming? Only respectable because an upper-class Roman of course had slaves to do the dirty work.

            1. Whence came those slaves? (See the first of the three acceptable methods listed above.)

      2. Everything I’ve heard of the middle east is that way. If you’re seen to *work* it means that you’re lower class. People would rather live in respectable poverty and dependence on more distant family than be seen to work and so appear lower. And that you’re less likely to find a good wife if you’re working than if you’re poor and dependent.

        Americans who travel to work there report the same sort of attitudes. Getting the job done is often the opposite of admired. It’s all status.

        There’s a certain consistent internal logic to it all at an individual level.

        1. I seem to recall many years ago reading that Chinese who had been promoted to a responsible government position took great pains to grow their finger nails extremely long as an indication that they did no manual labor at all.

        2. Some American Indian peoples as well. Men raided, hunted, defended the tribe, and that was that.* Women…did everything else. The men took great pains not to work with dirt, and that made it very, very difficult for Euro-Americans to convince the Natives that farming was an honorable industry. After all, what real man did women’s work?

          *Yes, oversimplifying, and leaving out a lot of spirituality and differences between tribal groups.

  8. Strikes me that this is a variation of the same attitude as “F*ck you, no!”

  9. Coincidentally, I received an invitation to my 50th high school reunion this morning. I won’t be going.
    I suppose my excuse will be that it’s 600 miles away and the date conflicts with other obligations, but in truth it’s because all my memories of high school were most reminiscent of a term in prison. Strict and arbitrary rules with never an explanation. Plodding coursework that held no interest or justification for why it might ever prove valuable in real life. Constant teasing and bullying with few if any true friends.
    I was a fat kid, and younger than most in my class as my birthday came late in the year. And I was always the smartest kid in the class and that included the teacher. Which might have made sense if I’d known it, but policy in those days was the students and their parents were never told a child’s IQ, but all the teachers and staff knew. So I spent four long years failing to meet the expectations of everyone while never being told why.
    I’m sure there must have been some good times, it was after all four years long, but I’ll be damned if I can remember any of them from that long ago.
    Things did work out though. Ten years after I graduated I qualified for and joined Mensa and began college courses leading eventually to multiple degrees and ultimately to a position with NASA in our manned space program.
    But then I have this hunch that so very many of we odds could tell equally twisted convoluted stories from out of our past lives.

    1. I was teased and bullied without mercy during my small-town, elementary school days. I got along better with adults than with those my own age. After the family moved away and I traded small-town notoriety for big city anonymity, I visited the town, I was surprised to find that one of my worst tormenters of old was the friendliest person I encountered. Some people really do grow up.

    2. Wow Lar. Your school experience sounds a heck of a lot like my own; except I enjoyed the science classes. But even among the odds, I was geographically removed, so I was basically left to my own devices. Wander the woods and fields for hours after school, and read the encyclopedia in the evening.

    3. A few years back, I went on a cruise with a large group of friends. One of the party was a gal who was one of the queen bees from high school, and not one of the friendly ones, either.
      We would up having a pretty good time- all the old drama and other nonsense was long past, and we had grown up. Running down who was where and doing what was pleasant, even with those we didn’t especially like.

    4. “But then I have this hunch that so very many of we odds could tell equally twisted convoluted stories from out of our past lives.”

      Concur. I was also an outsider…but I knew that I was the smartest kid in class by a wide margin. Went to my 10th HS reunion and pitied my former classmates…who had gone nowhere. Went to the 20th…and they had still gone nowhere, while my career had really started to get traction.

      These days…I don’t tell people everything, they would not believe it.

    5. I did the 40th reunion ten years ago.
      Even then all our teachers and administrators had long since passed on.
      This was and still is a small midwestern farming community, though it is the county seat, so by no means a backwater.
      At that gathering I found that I no longer had much of anything in common with my former classmates. Most had stayed in town or at least very close to home. And of course being class of ’69 we lost several to the war and even more to drugs.
      So I did my due diligence at the 40 and have no compelling reason to rehash all that again ten years later.

    6. Elementary school was hellish after Dad moved us from a blue collar suburb of Detroit to an upscale (with much better schools) ‘burb outside of [redacted]. I was pretty much the class Odd, young-ish, fat, and seriously uncoordinated. Got used to dreaming in deep right field during softball games. Like Larry, TPTB (and I assume my parents) knew my IQ, but I have no firm idea of the numbers. OTOH, the 1970 vintage SAT score says I qualified for Mensa. I’ve never bothered to quantify the IQ. I’m smart enough.

      Junior HS was less bad; more Odds and science geeks. HS was spotty. I took a couple of shop classes Sophomore year and got along all right with the greasers. (Scandalized my advisor; hell yes, I was college bound, but I figured I needed drafting and metal shop just was cool. Was right on the drafting, too.) One kid from my neighborhood was trying to make my life hell; rode the bus with him, but usually walked home.

      Now that I’m retired, I actually use the metal working stuff, as well as carpentry. I’m also a decent electrician; the EE degree stuff helps when I’m doing some of the more exotic projects. I never developed the coordination skills to do pretty welds, but my goobered MIG attempts seem to be adequate. I’m slightly less uncoordinated now, but age has slowed me down. At least I see grass from the green side in the mornings…

      1. I went to my 10 year HS reunion. Had an OK time, reconnecting with some of the friends I had from then. We were all the bookish nerds taking the AE (academically-enriched) classes so we had all gotten on pretty well. I won the prize from having come the farthest away to attend — all the way from Greenland. Couldn’t do the 20th for various reasons, don’t know if any other reunions are planned. I don’t think I will go, in any case, since it would mean going back to California.
        My brother and I tested out as gifted, in that spasm of testing that the academic establishment went for, in the wake of Sputnik. It meant mostly that we were advanced to the next half-grade higher. And that I had a mad enthusiasm for reading everything that I could find which attracted my butterfly-roving interest. Which pretty much turned me into a walking encyclopedia on a wide number of topics. My nic in the Girl Scout troop when I was in high school was “Wiz”, for what it is worth.
        I had a rotten time in seventh and eighth grade, but that passed, when I realized over one summer that those morons in the seventh and eighth grade didn’t and shouldn’t have the power to ruin my day. I cared not for them in the least … so I went back to the 9th grade paying no attention to them and their paltry, petty opinions, and behold! It was like having a set of armor, which served me well, all of the rest of my primary school days.

        1. I suppose my 50th reunion is coming up (graduated in 1970), and I think I’ll keep my perfect record of zero attended. There’s no animosity, just that my best friend moved to SoCalifornia after HS graduation, steady GF moved to Wisconsin, and I moved to NorCali after college. Less-close friends? No idea where they went. Some might have stayed put, and one semi-close friend flunked out of college freshman year. (He was smart, but not well focussed. I avoided that issue, though I got awfully close to disaster.)

          Best Friend went to one of the reunions; said it was OK, with some of the usual suspects being awfully pleased with themselves. At the time, of the 1000+ graduates in my class, I was one of two people not tracked down. BF gave them my address. Interestingly enough, the other MIA was the GF who went to Wisconsin. Searching on her maiden name gets me nada. Ain’t gonna try harder.

          1. My 45th is coming up. Made my 20th. Haven’t been back again. Didn’t get notice of the 45th, even tho they’ve managed to find me in the past and we haven’t moved, in 30 years. Not only that, mom is still in my childhood home, after 55 years.

            Ran into someone I graduated with. She went to the 40th and said she had fun. I think because they did away with all the stupid “accomplishments”. Our class top graduate (and class clown) flunked out of college sophomore year (too much partying), joined the army. Last I heard he was working on his 3rd or 4th PHD, still in the service, with some serious officer credentials. I’m one of the younger classmates and I’m 62, so guessing he is retired by now.

            Mom’s class has a reunion every year. Small town. They group years, I think the classes included in the annual one graduated 15 years after she did. This summer will be her 65th.

          2. what technically should have been my 30th is next weekend, i’m crashing it, technically.

      2. At least I see grass from the green side in the mornings…
        So there IS a place where the grass is greener on the other side?!

  10. May one ask our hostess if she had written the nice letter to the nice people at the airline to inquiry when they will be refunding your money for baggage fees (at least)?

    1. If you mean Norwegian, they have said they won’t refund either the flights we didn’t take, nor the seats, nor baggage.
      They have a pattern of doing this, as one can find online, including hiding the check-in point.
      At least when run by Wamos, which this one was with a last-minute change.
      We’re going to point their public relations very nicely that we have a access to a very large aggregator site….

        1. Norwegians operate by the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition? Who knew? (Once you have their money, never give it back.)

          1. Looking at the complaints, it’s not too horrible for short hop flights, but long distance travelers beware.

      1. So you could try emailing up the food chain. It’s worked for me in the past. Norwegian’s website lists Kurt Simonsen as “Chief Customer and Digital Officer”. His email isn’t listed, but poking around the investor page, it looks like they use the format of firstname.lastname@norwegian.com. You might have some luck if you try emailing kurt.simonsen@norwegian.com — might not, but it’s worth a shot. Here’s a list of their management team; you could try another firstname.lastname email if that one doesn’t work. https://www.norwegian.com/uk/about/company/management/

        Perhaps tellinglly, their “Help and Contact” link returns a 404 error.

      2. Send the bastards a link to “United Breaks Guitars” and point out you have access to at least a dozen Bards (I bet Leslie would help me write something)….

  11. “…being seen to work excessively or at something dirty, or having enough humility to start again if a career goes bang would be demeaning. ”
    Sounds a lot like the “Go to college OR YOU’LL BE A FAILURE AND HAVE TO WORK AT SOME JOB WHERE YOU’LL GET DIRTY!” attitude of the ‘college or you’re nothing’ clowns, doesn’t it?

    1. Yes. Locally, in the last 45 years, they’ve all but eliminated the trade options at the local CC. Alternative programs have sprang up, with limited (they get to avoid core rounding classes unless topics directly required by specialty) attachment to the CC, I think for access to governmental loans. But the CC is more dedicated to being a GED, and pre-4 year, non research, college.

      1. Interestingly, my local CCs are all going the other direction – catch kids up for the GED, and all-out trades, far less “general education”. Granted, given the demographics and the quality of the largest school districts, it makes sense, but it’s still interesting.

    2. Hence the “learn to code” advice, rather than the more practical “learn to service & maintain the devices” — even though the latter probably requires more knowledge.

      1. “Learn to weld” – it’s harder physical labor than coding, but they pay’s a lot more certain and you can go anywhere. We have kids graduating high school with welding certificates and stepping right into $70,000 jobs, no debt.

        1. The local CC offers a welding class, but the damnable schedule has it always running at night. I’m sufficiently recovered from eye surgery that I *might* be OK driving long distances in the dark, but I’m not eager to do so. OTOH, my welds ain’t pretty, but they hold.

        2. Let it be noted that for those kids “stepping right into $70,000 jobs, no debt.” the opportunity cost of attending a four-year college would be, at minimum, $280K and, more probably, $420K given how few people get out in just four years. Then add in the attendant costs of tuition, books, fees, loan interest and impaired intellect …

        3. There’s a lot of people in the 3rd world who couldn’t care less about coding. But if you can teach them good welding, you’re worth your weight in gold.

        4. “‘Learn to weld’ – it’s harder physical labor than coding, but they pay’s a lot more certain and you can go anywhere.”

          Learning to weld is good, but I think you may be selling programming short. People seem to be able to get away with claiming to be able to program when They. Just. Can’t. And doing so is common enough that, unless you have some way to check that people who claim to be able to program actually can do so, the ringers can screw up your perception of how reliably someone can get paid by being one of the non-ringers who actually are able to program.

          I have personally gotten frustrated with an individual who I know to be smart and reasonably disciplined (from conversation and also from some strategy games) who confidently reported knowing at least the basics of how to code (in particular: having taught programming for some time in school before coming to the US). This person was working unskilled retail and would periodically mention some frustration related to the usual drawbacks of unskilled retail jobs, which seemed like unnecessary waste. So I thought I’d helpfully try to connect this person to some entry-level work in coding (software, or maybe something nearby like web stuff). So I tried to start by probing the level of knowledge (easy, ’cause it was supposed to be in a language I knew fairly well). And … not easy to distinguish from zero knowledge. I’m not even sure the person could reliably distinguish a line of code written in that programming language from one in some unrelated programming language (e.g. some old obsolete dialect of Fortran such as I used in some summer work as an undergrad). My impression was like finding a self-reported teacher of Russian language who couldn’t reliably recognize Cyrillic. I’m sure there are unqualified welding instructors, but I hope it’s rare that they cannot weld two things together using the piece of welding equipment they taught with, and I hope it’s vanishingly rare that they cannot even recognize the pieces of welding equipment they were supposedly instructing people to use.

          Conversely I have over the years done a lot with free software, and have picked up bits and pieces of information about the background and career of lots of people whose contributions I have been able to read and recognize as correct and useful. It seems to be quite rare for people who are able to do useful bits of coding on a free software project not to be able to find a reasonable job in something related to software. The exceptions that I know of are rarer than e.g. the people I know of who just seem to prefer staying in some other plausibly promising and/or rewarding career (e.g., an emergency room doctor who contributed to a free software project that I worked on).

          And going beyond my personal experience, the stereotypical sob story about a terribad unsuitable hire for skilled traditional blue collar work like welding seems to be about problems such as absenteeism or substance abuse: hiring someone who basically could do the work, but just turns out not to do it for one damfool reason or another. In software, it seems to be different: a stereotypical hiring sob story is people Who. Just. Can’t. Look for “fizzbuzz” in a search engine if you want a representative family of stories and discussions and chinstroking about this.

          All that said, though, it occurs to me that welding and the like do have one “go anywhere” aspect that programming doesn’t. If people need computer programs for a remote site (e.g. an electrical grid or drilling rig somewhere in the back end of beyond, maybe offshore) it is usually most practical for them to get it over a network from workers in an office someplace less remote. If people need welding on a remote drill rig, they need it on the remote drill rig, and it is often most practical for them to pay some skilled person to come out and do it. So if you particularly want to be paid to “go anywhere” including places that fewer than 100 people per square mile go to, then working with physical tools might be a clear win over working with software.

          1. I would point out that both coding and welding are craft work that take certain skill sets and to be really good at either you need aptitude and a bit of art.
            I got my AAR welding certification back in the days of stick welding so clueless when it comes to MIG and TIG. But in general you need a good eye, a steady hand, and an intimate knowledge of how various metals and alloys react to being welded.
            I’ve written code for several projects as a sideline, never as my primary duty on a job. Coding is like learning to speak a language, some become more fluent that others, and a very skillful few can learn to tell a story or a tight efficient functional program. Having an aptitude for sequential logic I’ve found to be quite helpful.

    1. Aliens arrive on Earth and tell the first human they see to take them to their leader.
      Human thinks for a minute, and then leads them down to the local river and out onto a pier where an old gentleman sits in a folding chair, fishing, and occasionally pulling a cold beer out of the cooler next to him.
      “This is your leader?” asks one of the aliens.
      “Yes sir! He’s caught the most fish in this month’s fishing derby, so he’s currently in the lead!”

        1. Quoting Tom Lehrer’s “Whatever happened to Hubert”
          “As someone once remarked to Schubert,
          Take us to your Lieder.”

  12. This is one of the biggest reasons for poverty in the third world. Sadly, that means that most trade was, and is handled by foreign merchants, usually the Chinese who aren’t “debased” by trade, and don’t have the money sucking obligations to clan and tribe.

  13. Excuse me, I have plenty of dignity to uphold. I am of the line of Lord Adam and Lady Eve, and I demand that you treat me with the respect due to one of that decent.

    It’s not that we don’t have dignity in the U.S.–it’s that we have so much of it, we’re convinced that little things like showing concern for others or working on our own cars can’t cost us anything. If the Queen bends over to pick up a toy for a crying child, she’s still the Queen. And if an American needs to put in an eighteen hour day at the factory, well, he’s still an American.

    1. To quote C.S Lewis (from Prince Caspian)
      “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

      1. “When Adam delved and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?” — attr. John Ball

        Do be careful trying that at home though, because as Wikipedia also notes “when the rebels had dispersed, Ball was taken prisoner at Coventry, given a trial in which, unlike most, he was permitted to speak. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at St Albans in the presence of King Richard II on 15 July 1381.”

  14. What a serendipitous arrival!

    Wealthy people think they’re better than others, even when they’re not
    Research published online Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people in higher social classes tend to think they are more adept at certain tasks — even when they are not — than their lower-class peers. And that overconfidence is often seen by others as competence, which can help them in situations like job interviews, the research reveals.

    This research was actually made up of multiple studies with more than 152,000 participants. In the first, the researchers obtained class information (income, education and perceived social standing in society) for 150,000 small-business owners in Mexico who were applying for loans; they were given a cognitive matching test and asked how they performed. People with more education, income and higher social class had “an exaggerated” belief that they performed better, the researchers revealed.


    1. It is an observation as old as Plato’s Apology of Socrates that people tend to assume their competence applies outside its field.

  15. One of my mom’s friends was native to Spain but moved to Noo Yawk in hear early teens, and from her descriptions I think you’ve got a good grasp of it.

  16. I believe it was Churchill who said, “I am not aware of any case in which a man increased his dignity by standing on it.” Churchill also built a brick cottage with his own hands. The cottage was later occupied by one of his servants!

    1. Peter the Great was a shipwright and carpenter. Granted, no one was going to criticize him too much, but it served as an outlet for what we’d call ADHD. And probably gave him something to vent his frustrations on that wouldn’t have him doing penance for murder. Plus it was a stick in the eye of the old nobility. But he was an odd Odd.

      1. There was also his penchant for amateur dentistry and barbering, which also helped quell any direct criticism.

    2. The premise underlying the Protestant Work Ethic is that all work has equal intrinsic value and that the dignity comes from the job done well, not the “worth” of the job itself.

      Of course, they are now condemning the Protestant Work Ethic as a component of White Supremacist Culture and want the schools to teach it as evil in pursuit of the efforts to rid society of Toxic Masculinity.

      1. re: The Evils of White Supremacy Culture

        [NYC Schools Chancellor] Richard Carranza held ‘white-supremacy culture’ training for school admins
        City Department of Education brass are targeting a “white-supremacy culture” among school administrators — by disparaging ideas like “individualism,” “objectivity” and “worship of the written word,” The Post has learned.

        A presentation slide obtained by The Post offers a bullet-point description of the systemic, supposedly pro-white favoritism that Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza claims must be eradicated from the DOE, and provides just one insight into his anti-bias training efforts.

        The list — derived from “Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups” by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun — names more than a dozen hallmarks of “white-supremacy culture” that school administrators are expected to steer clear of.

        They include such dynamics as “paternalism,” a “sense of urgency” and “power hoarding,” according to the slide, which an insider said was part of mandatory training crafted by the department’s Office of Equity and Access and recently administered to principals, central office supervisors and superintendent teams.

        The seminar is concurrent with Carranza’s larger push to root out “implicit bias” in the school system — an effort that some veteran DOE members blasted as creating a view of “toxic whiteness” detailed in a front-page story in Sunday’s Post.


        “It’s good work. It’s hard work,” Carranza said. “And I would hope that anybody that feels that somehow that process is not beneficial to them, I would very respectfully say they are the ones that need to reflect even harder upon what they believe.”

        Carranza also waved off allegations by at least four white DOE administrators who are poised to sue the department over their claims that, under his watch, they were demoted or stripped of duties in favor of less qualified persons of color.

        “It’s always been my experience that anyone that comes in as a CEO of an organization takes a look at the organization and, based on their experience, makes some changes,” he said. “This is no different.”

        The schools boss insisted that there was room on his staff for people of any race who share his emphasis on equality.


        Graphic to follow.

        1. As promised, the Evils of White Supremacy, in one slide (because putting it on a slide makes it irrefutable):

          The innate assumptions and historical blindness are staggering, but (of course) if you challenge any of these bullet points you are being “fragile” and “defensive.”

          1. My response to that slide is “WTH?”

            So, let me get this straight. The slide and (I presume written explanations somewhere) are the “written word.” Which according to the slide “White Supremacy” are suppose to take because it is written. But if “White Supremacy” objects they are being “fragile and defensive.” Wait. What?

            My head hurts.

            1. That’s because you suffer from White Fargility. (Dr. Freud, what have been doing to my flingers today?)

              1. Or any kind of consistency.

                The written word is hard to change just by yelling “no, you heard wrong and misunderstood, what they really said was….”

                1. I’ve expedited the process. En route in a moment. There have been several other articles on the subject, links being in the article transmitted.

                  Apparently looking in a mirror is a White Thing because the subordinated self-awareness of some of this is astounding.

                  It should be noted that Carranza, presidential candidate de Balsio’s hand-picked Schools Chancellor, has been prominently in the news for wanting to eliminate the state-mandated screening tests for admissions to MY City’s “elite” schools in order to make them more racially balanced “diverse” — much to the annoyance of New York’s Asian-American parents who liked the idea of an unbiased system where hard work paid off.

                  1. Hand-picked, you say? By a white fellow, you say? Well, it sounds like Carranza benefits from numbers 7 (paternalism) and 9 (power hoarding) on that White Supremacy list.

              1. WTF, WP? Why did you not send that comment through my email? Nothing sent from this post between 12:45 and 2, even though CTRL-F indicates eight such? Bugger all. WPDE.

                1. Okay, WP – some of those eight were AM and some were my own posts, but really …

  17. At some point in my writing, somebody asked me about the Dawn Empire. “Doesn’t it have an aristocracy?” the person asked.

    “Yes, it did,” I said. “Sort of. The Dawn Empire, from the outset, has been brutally egalitarian. The only thing being born in the right family gives you is better odds. If you can’t make the minimum, you won’t get a title and rank and power, as the Magos decides if you’re worthy of it. It’s also a military aristocracy. If you have a title, it means that you are someone that can kick ass and take names at your rank with the best of them.

    “The average Dawn Empire Solist, Sol, or So would look at most of the post-Empire ‘nobility’ and politely laugh behind their hands at best. Oh, a Solist can clean up nicely, have no doubts about that. Some of them are bloody peacocks, and there are quite a few that are very openly poofs and queers and limp-wristed faggots. And, nobody tries to deny the poofs (as long as their partners are actively consenting) anything, because even a poof Solist is still a Solist. Which is to say, ‘an autonomous tactical-to-operational level nuclear weapons system in a human skin.’ And they have the attitude born to those that honorably bear that kind of responsibility.”

    I’ve been reading about class systems, and how ‘labor’ is seen as ‘unseemly’ in quite a few places. It’s really only in some Catholic and Protestant areas that ‘labor’ is viewed as worthy and worth-while. After all, if you work with your hands, you’re a peasant and therefore not among the worthy people. Some of that is due to history-it took a lot of labor to get things done and it has only been in the last century at best that quite a bit of human labor could be replaced by machines. And, a lot of that labor was dirty, messy, filthy, disgusting, and definitely shortened lifespans.

    But, there’s also the monkey logic thing-if everybody is bringing you mates and bananas, that clearly means that you are worth something. If they’re doing things to make it easier for you to get mates and bananas, that clearly means you have value and worth. And, there’s also (in ethical monkeys) the whole “if they bring me mates and bananas, and I don’t provide my fellow monkeys some mates and bananas as well, there will be no monkeys to bring me mates and bananas.” I’ve read quite a few stories of how hard it was for aristocrats to “trim” their household staff, because they felt responsible for them. You could argue “oh, they’re not wanting to get rid of status symbols,” and that is possibly true…but there is also the responsibility thing.

    It’s a very interesting consideration about human behavior. And, don’t even get me started on the whole vocation/avocation thing…

  18. It has been suggested that the Christian belief that Jesus Christ worked with his hands, as a carpenter, led to more respect for workers and for work than had been the case in the classical Greek & Roman societies. Source on this is ‘Stronger Than a Hundred Men,’ by Terry Reynolds, a history of waterwheel technology, which observed that the medieval monasteries did pioneering work with this technology.

    Not sure how valid this is….doesn’t really seem to fit with the observations about aristocratic behavior over the past couple of millenia…..but it’s an interesting thought.

    1. My big observation as well, which might have also been an effort to bring the faith to the lower classes, by saying “the Son of God helped to build the world with his own hands in the dirt with the rest of us.” Christianity is one of the few faiths that this happens in.

      1. Don’t forget that Adam’s original job was to tend the garden of Eden.
        Abraham & sons, Moses, and David were shepherds- a particularly poorly regarded profession. Many of the Twelve were fishermen, and the Apostle Paul was trained in tentmaking.
        Biblically, we don’t really see a basis for snobbery because one has to demean himself by working with one’s hands. Instead, we see a dignity in labor- the book of Ecclesiastes is full of it.

      2. Yup, and that is why Docetism (everything Christ did as a human was just an illusion, and He didn’t really die) and Adoptionism (Jesus wasn’t God until He got baptized, there was three years of possession by the Holy Spirit, and then the Holy Spirit left so only a human got crucified).

        The amusing bit was that the Greek word used for Jesus being a house builder, “techne” IIRC, could also be used to refer to the Creator. So you were supposed to get that point, that Jesus was acting as both God and Man when He did His trade.

    2. Before He walked, the tendency was there, so it must be a human tendency.

      His presence didn’t stop any of the big ten sins, so why would it completely wipe out this failure to love the other?

      1. I had a similar thought. After two millennia of practice, we’re slowly starting to figure out His lessons and how to apply them. We Hairless Apes are slow learners, so it’s a good thing He has infinite patience.

        1. Infinite patience? Noah’s neighbors beg to differ.

          But He does adhere to a different time scale than that to which we are accustomed.

    3. In Germanic cultures, smiths were honored as holders of a mystery. In Rome, smiths tended to be slaves. When the two cultures eventually blended, it got a little strange.

    4. Monks in early Christianity mostly went by “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” whether you are talking East or West. The desert monks did a lot of weaving palm mats, baskets, etc. In the West, St. Benedict and others were big believers in the military model (the monastic day is a watch schedule), but also in work as keeping people out of mischief, as well as being useful.

      The other factor was that if God made Creation good, and people were supposed to tame it, natural philosophy and engineering were next to godliness. Ancient texts on such topics were extensively collected and copied by monastic libraries (and used as sermon ideas from the earliest times), whereas pagan society was not super-interested.

      And indeed, since there were saints and martyrs from all walks of life, from the earliest times, there was a lot of moral support for Doing Stuff. (St. Eligius/Elmo was a goldsmith, prime minister, engineer, and miracle worker. His contemporary biography by one of his buddies is a hoot.)

      1. Oh, and Himself giving out blueprints for Temple stuff from Mt. Sinai. And giving out compliments about the dudes assigned to build it all.

        (Also, to be fair, the Egyptians took architecture seriously, and thought architecture was a good job for a brilliant priest or the smartest prince in the royal family.)

  19. You were born American, you just had to get over here.
    Glad you made it.

  20. “But the feeling is strong and unavoidable that I COULDN’T, that my odd corners would never fit in that round hole.”

    Hell yes. Problem for me of course is the the round holes were all that was available in my chosen profession, physical therapy. No squares allowed.

    Self employment is the best employment when you are the square peg, young Nerdlings.

    “You see in Portugal being seen to work excessively or at something dirty, or having enough humility to start again if a career goes bang would be demeaning. It would rob you of your dignity and leave you open to predation or at least social opprobrium.”

    I’ve seen this in certain British-born intellectuals of my aquaintance, in stupid things like a refusal to fix their own lawnmower so they can cut their own grass. Professor Noseworthy is a PhD in mechanical engineering, but his house looks like it was bombed because he can’t be doing [gasp!] Physical Labor! How unbecoming! I’m told that higher-caste Hindus and Mooselimbs, as well as Chinese aristocracy have the same types of issues. They come here to Canada, and it confuses the shit out of them when the crazy white people don’t automatically acknowledge their inherent superiority.

    One of the huge and untold differences between the USA and European countries is that under Feudalism, every US citizen is effectively a noble before the law. (A viscount, if I remember correctly. Like, more than a farmer that owns his own plot.) All are “gentry.” And they ACT LIKE IT.

    This is partially where you get that “Ugly American” myth in Europe. Americans go to the Vatican to see the art dressed the same as they would dress any other day. Because what’s the difference between the Vatican and any other museum -to an American-? There is no difference. Plus the American is used to living in a Free Country, where -he- decides what he’s going to wear. Some stranger gets lippy with him and says a Hawaiian shirt is not appropriate for the Sistine Chapel, he quite rightly asks “Who are you to be telling me what to wear?”

    Europeans hate that. People are supposed to -know- their place, and know enough to stay in it. Some plumber from New Jersey shows up at the Ritz with enough money to afford the tab and the balls to actually walk in the joint, that’s an Ugly American.

    1. It’s not that it’s in the Vatican; it’s that the Sistine Chapel is a working church, not a museum. (Although I am pretty sure they don ‘t reserve the Eucharist there, unless there is a tabernacle back in the security somewhere; so you have less potential to do something blasphemous than in some other famous churches.) People forget that they aren’t just going to be walking galleries.

      OTOH, a lot of people do go to church (in the US and elsewhere) in their sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts, sneakers, and/or flip flops, and without the men taking off their baseball caps. So it is hard to convince people about acting different on holy ground.

      1. If you want to see the Sistine Chapel “at work,” with the Sistine Choir doing what they were instituted to do, I think EWTN still has a video up of the annual baptism of babies from the families of laypeople working at the Vatican.

      2. You could substitute the Louvre for the Vatican. “How dare you wear such a garish shirt in front of the Mona Lisa!” Same thing, different day.

        1. Eh, it’s not my ex-royal ex-palace. If people want more aloha in their Mona, who am I to say? The shirt has its seasons, which seasons do not know.

          Comfy shoes are a must in any museum, but it is nice to have a cardigan or cover up or spare t-shirt, if you have been tramping streets all day and have gotten sweaty. The restroom is your friend, especially since they make you check all your bags these days. And sometimes museums are so cold! (Not art museums, usually.)

      3. I sometimes sit in the lobby at our church and watch the parade of women’s shoes exiting the service. Frequently I wonder what the wearer had in her mind when she chose that footwear …

        Men’s shoes are comparably dull in their variety, but I doubt men’s shoes are so intrinsic a statement to their owners.

        As for how I dress for church, I figure He knows what I look like and no amount of packaging will fool him, so I strive for neat and clean.

        1. Seconded….

          You don’t have to be super-dressy to visit a church on a workday, but European churches usually want adequate coverage of torso, shoulders, upper arms, and upper legs. Women are sometimes asked to wear something on the head, and men take their hats off unless they are Jewish. Some places used to give out paper jackets or skirts.

          But if you are wearing a nice solid-colored or print t-shirt and longish shorts, you are covered. No problem. (And an aloha shirt would probably make the little old lady caretaker think you are a nice respectful boy, unless the pattern includes nekkid people.)

          1. What I would want are those travel pants with the zippered knees, so you can go from shorts to pants and vice versa, without even hitting a restroom.

            1. Columbia has a “No Fly Zone” clothing line this year, which is SPF 50 and has built in insect repellent. They have the zip leg pants, normal pants, also shirts and rain jackets.

              So far the ticks have been 100% repelled by the pants. There are a LOT of ticks this year. I’ve been kept busy trying to cut the grass, even though the ground is so wet that even my wide-support fairway mower leaves ruts and gets stuck.

        2. Frequently I wonder what the wearer had in her mind when she chose that footwear …

          I STILL do not know how the gals walk in some of those stilts.

    2. My grandpa on my mother’s side moved to the itty bitty town that my father grew up in. He was a grocer. He brought his car to the gas station on the opposite corner of the grocery store and asked to get the oil changed and they didn’t want to do it. No one paid for an oil change. No one. And taking money for an oil change was simply too much. The guy who owned the gas station refused.

      I think they finally worked it out past offering to change the oil for free so that grandpa finally got the guy to take payment for it. But it was definitely an issue. And that back when no one pumped their own gas!

      People are weird.

      1. Hmmm … at a guess, wouldn’t that have been during the same era when people recycled the used oil by pouring it onto the ground?

        Having the lift and the dolly for going under the engine facilitates draining the old and might not be commonly owned items for all car owners.

        Geeze, I remember when the attendant not only pimped* the gas but checked the oil, the wipers and cleaned the glass. Heck, i remember when the gasoline makers advertised on TV! The only gas station ads I see these days are for SHEETZ! — and they’re flogging the food.

        *that’s a typo but when Freud slips …

    3. There’s a flip side to the ugly American coin- the American who is a bit TOO into the foreign thing, and tries way, way too hard to fit in. Mark Twain described the type well in “Innocents Abroad”- mixing in foreign phrases into their English, aping the manners of foreigners, wearing their costumes… and usually getting it wrong.

        1. That’s a classic.
          Then, it really gets fun when they get back to the USA, and do every possible thing to let you know that THEY TRAVELED! OVERSEAS, TO A FOREIGN LOCATION!!!!

    4. it confuses the shit out of them when the crazy white people don’t automatically acknowledge their inherent superiority
      “Don’t you know who I am?!”
      “Yeah, you’re a prick. With an accent. But I’m gonna take your order anyway.”
      (Best done while smacking your gum loudly.)

  21. Ahoy! Are you there, cjinglaterra ?
    If so, something of interest might have been observed.

    For off-channel: vakkotaur (kumquat) vivaldi (simple sentence end) [tennis divider].

    Why yes, I do loathe spammers. POP! goes the weasel!

  22. “I understand why people think these things are genetic, but seriously, culture is enough to explain it.”

    People make culture, not the other way around. And there’s a reason you’re here and not much of your family. The people who live to come here are of different stock than those who stay where they are. The people hardy enough, foolish enough, whatever, came here were just different enough to create a different culture.

    You get enough of the wrong type of people and sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, their genetics seeps into the population and our culture changes. That’s what history is.

    Genetics matter BECAUSE culture matters. A hardy people create a hardy culture that can withstand a lot. But the evolutionary selection process is ruthless and success breeds parasites. Parasitism is a legit form of survival. We can see it all around us. The most successful people in the US are the ones most politically and economically burdened, while the losers are actually rewarded.

    That socialism took hold where it did makes sense. Socialist tendencies were bred into us for survival reasons over millions of social evolutionary years. The evolutionary selection process in some parts of the world resulted in civilization being create, but that is only 10,000 years old. At best. The evolutionary selection pressures inside some of these civilizations resulted in people creating cultural respect for private property of ordinary people. This is only 200 years old and immediately, the natural tendency of people, even in the places where this took hold, was to strangle such an idea in its cradle.

    1. Your theory can’t account for with the fact of blind adoptions by Americans of foreign infants resulting in Americans, not infrequently in spite of some folks trying to force them to “celebrate” their “authentic” culture.

      The cultures are all human; humans have main failure states, and cultures can fail through those.

      A population influx is the usual route for incompatable cultural aspects to be induced in a culture. (By infection, reaction or disruption.)

      1. One very obvious factor against the “genetics = destiny” thing is that the children of the very talented very often don’t inherit that talent. If breeding and all that crap meant anything, then the aristocrats of Europe would have gotten better and better at ruling. They bred rulers to rulers after all, and that should have selected for people good at ruling.
        Instead, we see that they just plain got worse and worse at it, culminating in the utterly useless Kaiser Bill II and Tsar Nicky II, who both managed to lose their empires.

        1. Oooh, that reminds me, there’s also that relatively small groups that didn’t bring genetics have huge impact, such as celibate Christian missionaries.

          All they brought were ideas.

          Very, very dangerous ideas…..

  23. Once again, Sarah, you express well how I’ve felt for so long. You speak so well for all of us Odds. Thank you.

    Maybe I can get back here more often. I miss it so. (The OC need to read (and engage with) ALL the comments from the fantastic commenters is a serious problem. But, rest assured I do think of y’all.)

    Oh, and the Protestant Work Ethic thing is a big deal – stemming at least partly from the Protestants adhering to an attitude of equality before God that the Roman Catholic church did not encourage at the time. And then, Luther and others writing about every man’s work as a vocation promoted it as well.

  24. Dear Sarah,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs and articles for years. Weirdly, I’ve never read any of your books, but I’m going to put it on my list of things to do. (I do read science fiction, but tend to read much more history).

    I just wanted to say thanks for coming to America, and clearly becoming one of us. By “us”, I mean one of the normal Americans. And by “normal” I mean conservative. All the lefties I know think they are better than us for some reason as I don’t think I’ve ever met one who is not arrogant and thinks of themselves as better than me because I don’t believe their enlightened view. And the odd part is, I don’t think any of the lefties I know are from Portugal. I think this culture of holding yourself up you describe in this excellent article, infects everybit of the democratic and media governing class.

    thanks again,


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