Why rich people are still worse human beings...
Atrios bade his readers to read this NY Times article by some well-off "freelance journalist" who hired a nanny to care for her children--and found herself exhilarated and then creeped out by her nanny's web log. As I read the article, though, I was increasingly annoyed, not with the nanny, but the "journalist" and the NY Times for publishing this article (as was Atrios). For me, it was the person's pathetic whine of missing gallery openings because of her children and longing to be hip--if only those damned kids were not around. The envy and anger toward the nanny was quite plain by the time the article was over--yet the NY Times felt no compunction toward perhaps giving the nanny a say as to her perspective. This could be the latest Exhibit "A" to prove the NY Times is not "liberal," but elitist.
Then, gingerly, I went to the nanny's blog. She wrote a lengthy, but well written defense of herself which made me very angry at the Times as she refered to speaking to a responsible person at the Times, who showed the young lady no respect whatsoever. The person at the Times decided she was simply an immoral slut because she had a couple of sexual relationships with men with whom she was not married--and apparently deserved no equal time to respond. There was no sense that perhaps we should be outraged by the fact that this young woman had to work as a nanny at all. I thought, "My God? Are we back to Dickens' time--where the rich create economic conditions that are oppressive to the poor and then have the audacity to lecture the poor on immorality?"
My thoughts then turned to Barbara Ehrenreich's view that says it is wrong for well-off women to hire poor women to care for the well-off women's children. Previously, I never knew what to make of that position because I thought that some of nanny-family relationships are quite humane and special in a good sense. Yet, here was this "journalist" writing an over-the-top catty article in the Times writing in an abusive and exploitive manner about a young woman who cared for her children--and where the nanny performed her job in an obviously competent manner.
Feeling deep sympathy for the nanny blogger, I took up her challenge to read some of her blog entries. In doing so, I then learned something else that reenforced a bias I admit to some pride in: I have little use for most English Lit departments around the nation. This young woman, we learn, is going for a PhD in English Literature and it shows: While she proves her point that she is not particularly a party girl, her obsession with herself is a mirror image of her now former employer. Why anyone but voyeurs would read her blog is beyond me. Ironically, she worries about her career in writing these utlimately pedestrian thoughts about her daily life which succeeds in exposing her boyfriend--she calls him "Boyfriend" as if that doesn't make him feel "outed" to those who know her. Considering what passes for literary theory and criticism, I have to say this entire episode will probably be good for her career. She does need to learn to write in a more obtuse manner, though. Writing about one's navel and sexual organs in a way that is difficult to understand appears to be the prerequisite to a PhD in most English departments.
In all, the well-off journalist wins the jerk derby. But the nanny disappoints me too as she ultmiately longs for the life of a "knowledge worker" dispensing bullshit. And we wonder why the discourse in America has become so corroded? It's because the fight between these two people discussed here is the only fight that seems to have validity to even the august NY Times. There are no voices except those of an educated elite. Conversely, there is no voice of how hard it is to work at a car wash or the back of a fast food restaurant. There is no voice as to what it means to have no health insurance and have a sick child. Nope. Just the whine of privileged lives. Where are Jacob Riis and Thorstein Veblen when we need them...