Singing the "Complacency Class" Blues. Is the American Dream dead?

May 1, 2018

 

 

Are Americans so complacent now that we've started losing our edge? 

 

Why don't we see more folks in lower economic categories breaking into the middle class, as we did decades and centuries ago?

 

It used to be that Americans jumped at economic opportunity. Now studies are showing that people just aren't jumping like they used to. 

 

Whether it was immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Japan, or elsewhere, a century or more ago people started off at the bottom economically and ended up doing pretty well. Their children did even better, and their grandchildren topped that.

 

One example really hits home. Look no further than the Mississippi Delta. Hard-working black Mississippians headed for Chicago and a job (granted, many have returned, saying Mississippi is preferable to them). 

 

Also, there were our musicians, who hit it big elsewhere.

 

As soon as African American Mississippians developed that unique music called "The Blues," many followed the money and opportunity. They packed up and pursued the American Dream, ending up in Memphis or better yet, Chicago. 

 

They had initiative and drive. 

 

Jackson City Councilman Ashby Foote notes these and other stark examples in his breaking article at biggerpieforum.org (BFP).

 

In Foote's review of a new book--The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream--Foote relates how fantastic Mississippi artists of yesteryear didn't sit on their hands. They hit their feet and headed for a better life economically. They took their "product" and expanded, so to speak.

 

 

Foote quotes the book's author, top economics professor Tyler Cowen, who writes, “Nicholas Lemann, in his classic study of African American migration, wrote: ‘For a time, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it seemed as if the whole black society of Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta had transferred itself to Chicago.  Everybody was either living in Chicago, or back and forth from Chicago, or occasionally visiting Chicago.’ 

 

Cowen adds, "This was a way to earn more money and see more of the world, but without cutting ties altogether with one’s home community.  Muddy Waters is one significant creator who made the move from the Delta up to Chicago.  And it is from that geographic transition that electric blues, and eventually rock and roll, was born.  The story of African American popular music in the twentieth century is above all a story of migration and creative adaptation to new environments.  It was in the larger, noisier nightclubs of Chicago that Muddy Waters plugged in his guitar and made it electric, so that his music could be heard above the drinking, arguing, and overall hubbub of the audience.”

 

We can't discount real sociological factors that continue to keep some down. Some are battling and just can't seem to get a break. But Cowen's book seems to argue that we may have given some sociological factors too much power over us. 

 

Just when you think we've exhausted every potential tragic effect of today's entitlement society, another seems to pop up!

 

Click here to read the full text of Foote's excellent review, plus other fascinating BPF commentaries and articles.

 

"BPF researches and shares educational information encouraging Mississippi’s Economic Freedom while discouraging Crony Capitalism to increase Mississippi’s Economic Growth. BPF focuses on Education,Energy, Environment, Health Care, Federal Government & Agencies, Mississippi State Government & Agencies and Regulatory Abuses & Reforms."

 

PHOTO BY SeppH

 

 

 

 

 

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MississippiMatters is a news blog of cooperative writers, videographers and podcasters published by  The Well Writers Guild, a 501c3 devoted to mentoring Mississippi writers and to addressing uncovered or under-covered topics.  MississippiMatters focuses on offering creative "takes" on our state's culture, ideas, events and more.