November 7/2023

People who do stuff

I’ve been reading Rob Henderson on Substack, I like his writing very much. Like Paul Fussell (Class) and David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) he writes about “class” or better “status” but from a relevant perspective. I would add that the non-upper/middle/class world — ‘working class’ and village and rural and small town life, the culture tends to form around what people DO.

The urban world in general coalesces around how people can appear and the culture urges an eternal struggle for social status.

Wallace wrote that we seem to be becoming a world of ‘appearers’ rather than ‘do-ers’.

So when journalists or retirees or anthropologists step out of an urban upper/middle/’class’ world into that of the village, rural, or ordinary working people world, they tend to assume that the social scene they have entered is also formed around how people can appear. They assume that the people around them are also in an eternal fight for social status.

They are very much mistaken and often come to grief because they can’t question their own cultural biases.

The culture of non-urban people is around doing stuff and doing it well. Sometimes fearlessly. The culture of the non-urban does not impose that terror of losing social status, of slipping down a notch, of social shame, of being ejected from society because of a non-approved-of signal.

When one does something and does it well, sometimes fearlessly, what one gains is respect, not status.