My conversation with American author and photographer Chris Arnade
We--or maybe I mean they--are indeed masquerading as democracy. Love this post and thanks for introducing me to him, his book, and substack! I’ve been thinking a lot about this class issue lately. Even this squeezing out of the middle class that I’m seeing more and more. It feels like there almost IS no middle class. Was it always mostly an illusion anyway? To placate the masses? More middle class means more stuff, but not really anymore power. Reminds me of how he says communism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin. Lastly, speaking as a Vancouverite who worked for a very Liberally funded high tower academic education pilot program recently, yes to that materialism/materialistic nature of the academic elites. I saw it. No concept of what’s on the ground, this group, while at the same time dictating what happens on that ground. So backwards.
Fantastic interview. Dignity was ahead of its time. Elites only care about themselves, the virtue signaling while pushing policies that make things worse is nauseating.
This was a very enjoyable read. Chris Arnade has a great mind and great perspective about the world.
I love all these nuggets:
“feeling sorry for someone is very demeaning.”
“It’s wrapped in a scorn of provincialism — that you shouldn’t want to stay your entire life in the same city. But that’s very important to people. That defines who they are, that gives them literally a place in the world. It’s a way of understanding. It’s a way of being valued. The idea that you might want to spend your entire life surrounded by the hills that make you happy, or the people that make you happy, is kind of foreign to us because we move all the time.”
“Place, family, faith — these things are organic regulatory bodies that provide people not only a place to be integrated, but also rules to live by.”
“. The point I want to get across is we’re the ones in control. We make the rules for everybody. We’re the occupiers.”
I do share some of his unfortunate cynicism that things will get better any time soon. As someone with a college education and a professional career that lives on the left coast in a primary liberal community, but with a blue collar background and family and roots in the Midwest Trump territory, my assessment of these two camps is that things are going to come to an ugly head soon.
Tara, your choice in content is SO spot on! I think you have an excellent grasp of the the deeper, human issues at play in the current political environment
Lefties may not like this, but Stephen Harper discussed his own very similar insight in his 2019 book, Right Here, Right Now, He used different terminology, referring to the secular, credentialled and mobile elite as Globalists who often disregard or even disparage the views and values of the more local community-oriented folks. This, of course, can give rise to populist movements (like we've recently seen in Canada - thank you truckers!) and populist leaders like Trump.
We're now hearing this message consistently from many different sources. Politicians everywhere need to wake up and realize that many ordinary folks with ordinary (but rich and meaningful) lives aren't "all-in" on the utopia of global, secular liberalism. A better balance needs to be struck between the wants and needs of the globalist elites and the wants and needs of more ordinary folks with simple human values like faith, family, tradition, belonging and community.
Loved this. The front row/back row divide makes total sense and it's a shame the political elite aren't able to understand this difference in values without negative judgement.
Arnade says, "If you prioritize economic growth above all else, there’s a lot of destruction. Because you tend to forget about these things that get in the way of growth — these messy things like family and place." Many wise words in the conversation.
Walking the World is the highlight of every week; thank you Tara for hosting Chris Arnade.
Absolutely lovely read! I love my little place in rural Hampton, NB. However, the woke culture is starting to grab at our culture...and it's frustrating and extremely troubling. Definitely a culture war and I hadn't thought of it from a back row/front row perspective. So much to ponder! Now another great person to subscribe to!
Excellent book. Recommended.
Really enjoyed this but I think the analysis suffers from the 'I walked amongst them and heard their problems, therefore I understand the causes of their problems'. Like with many issues, we do not have insight into what causes us trouble.
Too many issues to point to here but I'll take a stab at them. I think the vision is incorrect and potentially dangerous because it feels so right.
"If you keep imposing this highly materialistic, highly competitive, very secular framework on people, they’re going to revolt. If you don’t want that to happen, maybe you should listen a little bit more. When you make your rules from far away, what do the people think about it?"
This has things the wrong way around. This framework allows for what the author refers to as place, it makes room for family, belief, tradition. It does not restrict or impose anything upon them, but we must organize a system where different values, beliefs and traditions can coexist. This leads to a system hat must be agnostic or otherwise risks creating preferences for one group over another. Competition is the natural result of equal opportunity, and materialistic concerns are still the bedrock of distributive politics.
"When we erode [daily custom] and try to replace it with a rule book written from D.C., or Ottawa, it’s going to cause a lot of chaos. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. You’ve eroded these places that give people a sense of who they are. You’re left with this very hierarchical, materialistic society that says your place is how much stuff you have, and how big your resume is. The only people happy with that are the people at the very, very top."
The people who are suffering are those who cannot afford to continue their life as their parents did. They face severe economic risks because they do not have the skills to find gainful employment. The author is confusing the 'wolf at the door', the pain caused by economic uncertainty, with the rules that come from Ottawa and DC. The places that suffer are where various industries provided stable, high income blue-collar jobs. The government cannot prop those industries (see: fishing on the East Coast of Canada) if the economics don't make sense.
One role of the government is to help people transitions out of industries that are disrupted. Canada does a good job of this, we re-skill workers so they can be employed in new industries. America has virtually no investment in these programs and it means that if you lose your union job and can't find a way to land on your feet, you bump down the economic ladder into the service industry, to an Amazon warehouse or as a gig-worker driving fast-food to college kids.
This interview gives voice to the majority of people who are not going to fight for the microphone. Nice.
This is an incredible interview, thank you!
I think something most people are struggling with now is that our bubbles are very small, but the internet has exposed us to this great, big world. We see things through this weird lens, and there's little actaul human connection to it. We also have to struggle with not being able to befriend and show "appropriate" compassion or empathy with every person we see which I, [an atheist] who studies Buddhism, am told I should do. We need to remember that everyone living their lives- even busy, somewhat bitter-and-disgusted- by-my -society me- gets to choose their path and deserves a level of respect and dignity. It just gets tricky with so many individuals out there. I personally think that included with the internet came so many opinions, thoughts, ideas, and general bullshit that no one is on the same page. I think that hurts civilizations, not having a "rule book" to go off of so we can kinda check to see what's appropriate and what isn't. It seems anything goes and is even encouraged in certain circles. Materialism is garbage though, no doubt. One of my life goals is to teach my children to adapt to their environment and be content and productive, if not happy, with what they're presented with. I am thankful to get to be exposed to these stories, though, so thanks Chris and especially thank you, Tara; I owe a bit of my well-being to you, to be sure.
We hear a lot about the “leftist elites” in this space. Where did all the “rightist elites” disappear to?
Great stuff, I've heard Chris in other interviews and he definitely has a lot of good insights. As someone on the back row, it's definitely thoughtful. I also agree with him regarding the problem of communism and capitalism. Although I went through some of the aspects of it in my own writing. People don't see the problems with these systems. They think so long as they oppose one, the other must be a positive thing.