by Alexander Zubatov
Anyone who is sensitive to the environment in which we live cannot avoid having noticed that even as our culture has become more and more restrictive and censorious in the domain of core freedoms of speech and expression tracking the dimensions of race, gender, sexuality and other superficial identity categories, we are developing more and more of an anything-goes attitude along the more fundamental dimensions of crudity, vulgarity, explicitness and all-around barbarousness in our public displays and in our interactions with one another. To express this thought more succinctly, we as a society are becoming increasingly low-class. Things that used to shock us are now par for the course.
My own most vivid daily experience of this growing phenomenon consists of riding the New York City subway, where every last shred of manners has gone out the window. For example, it used to be unusual for people to put their feet up on the seats. Now, it’s something that many people just seem to do in the ordinary course of riding the trains, and when a big snowstorm piles snow, slush and grime all over city streets, that doesn’t stop these people. They rest their dirty soles right on top of those subway seats so that the next person who has the misfortune of sitting down on that particular seat gets a nasty surprise. In a similar category is public playing of music on the subway. It used to be the case that, back in the 1980s, only the big boombox thugs would do it, and then in the 90s and 00s, we started getting the “It’s showtime!” losers, the groups of ghetto teens who’d panhandle by doing a low-class dance “show” to the deafening blast of their beat-heavy tunes, as tourists gawked while locals rolled their eyes.
More recently, however, people seem to have come to believe that listening to your music and videos out loud on the subway is just something that’s okay to do. I’ve always wondered how things will go down if two competing thugs both want to listen to alternative low-class music out loud at the same time — is that tantamount to fighting words and a standoff leading to caps being lodged in someone’s ass? — but it hasn’t happened yet, so I’m still waiting to get my curiosity satisfied. In the meantime, I have to endure watching little kids sitting on the subway while lowlives continue to blast their explicit, profanity-and-sexuality laced music in the trains. And then there’s smoking in the subway. That used to be something I’d encounter around once a year on the trains and maybe two or three times a year in the stations, and all those cases invariably involved homeless people. Now, I run into someone smoking on the subway about once a week (sometimes cigarettes, sometimes weed), and at least half of those cases are people who don’t look homeless, just low-class.
These kinds of issues represent a massive failure of governance, as far as I’m concerned. Low-class people will be with us always, but in contrast to some conservatives who believe that the g-word is always a species of profanity, I believe that good and bad governments come and go. Maintaining law and order should be government’s #1 duty. It’s the whole reason for the social contract, the reason we are willing to give up our freedom in order to live in a society with others. See generally Thomas Hobbes. What good governments do is police low-class behaviors by hitting these people with fines or, if need be, with sticks. Instead, New York’s mayor, a man who has achieved the remarkable feat of generating hatred from every single corner of the political spectrum, has made it a priority to please his tiny following of unrepresentative activist loons and, to do so, has disempowered the police all but completely. The reality — as anyone who lives in a big city like New York knows — is that because Black people are disproportionately poor in America, they are also disproportionately the ones who will be numbered among the homeless, criminals and low-class people. This is not because they are Black. It is because they are poor and live in dense concentrations of urban poverty that amplify all sorts of counterproductive behaviors and ultimately create cultures of poverty that then proceed to breed poverty in future generations (whoever had the bright idea of inventing “housing projects” to herd all the poor and dysfunctional people together so that they could learn from each other needs to be placed in the same rare pantheon that we reserve for Nazi war criminals and the like). Nonetheless, because of the demographic complexion of those who tend to engage in the kinds of low-class behaviors I’m talking about, there’s obviously been political pressure — especially in this year in which we made the serial criminal George Floyd into a folk hero merely because he was unjustly killed — to police the minority of Black people who are thugs as little as humanly possible. And now all the law-abiding, normal citizens of New York and many other cities in America have to suffer the consequences.
But back to the theme, which is low-class people in general. While I did not spend my 2020 chronicling such people and their behaviors, I may start doing it more systematically in 2021. Because of that failing on my part, I can’t offer up a full top ten. Instead, for my first annual year-end low-class list, I’ll just give you all a top three:
3. Meghan Markle. She deserves a spot on the list. I don’t follow the daily doings of the British royal family, but everything about this woman screams low-class. I mean, come on: she literally couldn’t handle being royalty. If that’s not the very definition of low-class, I don’t know what is. She was born in 1981, the first year that qualifies you as a Millennial, and fittingly, she is a kind of poster child for all the worst traits we associate with that generation of brittle, insecure, entitled narcissists. Heck, she married the Queen’s grandson; she knew what she was getting into. Apparently not. Observing royal protocol was just too much for her. She felt overshadowed by the Queen or by other members of the royal family who actually had the self-discipline to handle the modest demands of their station that come along with its far more numerous privileges. It wasn’t long before she had to get away and take her lapdog, Hapless Harry, with her, so that she could more easily “us[e] [her] voice in a way she hasn’t been able to of late” to lecture the public on her enlightened views about racism, which she’s obviously more than qualified to do because she’s superior to us by virtue of being both a B-list actress and (kind of) royal. I’m going to make a prediction here: this marriage won’t last too much longer. Hapless Harry doesn’t seem like the type to call it quits, but she’s a social climber, and at some point, especially now that she’s done the royal thing and gotten that arrow in her quiver, she’ll find a better option that won’t come loaded with all sorts of actual obligations. The only thing that might possibly prevent any of this from happening and that might make Meghan Markle a bit less low-class and a bit more appreciative is if some enterprising do-gooder takes it upon himself to beat this woman with a stick. Any takers?
2. Jimmy Galligan and Dan Levin. You probably don’t know either of these losers, and perhaps this is recency bias talking on my part (as in, this is something that just happened in the past few days, as of this writing), but surely, this has to be one of the lowest-class acts of the year. So, if you haven’t heard, what happened is this: there was this teenager (I’m not even going to mention her name because she’s gotten enough undue negative publicity as is) who, back when she was 15 years old four years ago, used the N-word in a Snapchat video and not even as a slur. Rather, after getting her driving permit, she posted a private Snapchat video to a friend in which she said, “I can drive, [N-word].” Now, when you have a word that some people are allowed to use while other people aren’t, that can be pretty confusing for a teenager, especially when they are growing up in an environment buzzing with low-class hip hop lyrics (that they’re likely singing along to) that make use of the term with reckless abandon. But none of that matters. While Snapchat is supposed to have the advantage of making the stupid things you post disappear so that they can’t be used against you years later, in this case, the video was captured and then shown, at some point last year, to a classmate of this girl, one named Jimmy Galligan. By then, the two were high school seniors in a school in Virginia, the girl was a varsity cheer captain and had been accepted to the University of Tennessee, where the cheer team, which she would be joining, was the reigning national champion. (The whole “cheerleading” thing is a bizarre American invention I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around, but who am I to judge other people’s dreams, right?) So what this Jimmy Galligan thug does is save the video, wait for his chance to pounce for over a year (“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” he explained), and then, go public with it. As this article from Rod Dreher in The American Conservative makes perfectly clear, this act makes Galligan a “moral monster,” someone who made a deliberate decision to damage the reputation of a girl by using a four-year-old video of her from back when she was 15 and didn’t have the mature judgment it takes to make the sometimes subtle distinction between “okay” and “not okay” uses of the N-word. The result was that not only did she lose her spot on the University of Tennessee’s cheerleading team but was also pressured by the University to withdraw entirely. So now she’s going to community college. This thug ruined her education and her dreams, in other words. But it doesn’t end there. Enter Dan Levin, a New York Times reporter, whose beat is covering “youth issues.” This guy, mind you, has gotten in hot water before for some very questionable reporting tactics, but that didn’t stop him this time. He decided that this tempest in a teapot was worth a New York Times article, and, what is worse, a New York Times article that makes Jimmy Galligan into its protagonist, who, according to the article, “thinks a lot about race” and serves as a kind of hammer beating the alleged “racism” out of his community (you can see a reader comment at the bottom of the Rod Dreher article disputing Galligan’s allegations of racism at the high school at issue that are presented uncritically in Levin’s piece) and even out of his own biracial family. The article says not a word to condemn Galligan’s obvious moral depravity and adds a colossal amount of negative publicity for the cheerleader girl. Now, in a sane society, we as a community would be condemning the vengeful, low-class thug who ruined this girl’s life rather than the girl herself for something questionable she did back when she was 15, and in a sane society, a university would be throwing him out rather than her. And, in a sane society, what used to be the most authoritative newspaper in the nation would not be publishing articles like this that don’t have much of a point beyond ruining a girl’s reputation. We don’t live in that society. We live in this one, one that allows low-class people to do their worst and even get rewarded for it. (Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning’s work on the transition to “victimhood culture” is relevant here.) That’s why we have guys like Jimmy Galligan and Dan Levin, who retain their reputations and their places in college and/or their jobs despite engaging in morally monstrous acts that should rightfully get them put in a re-education camp and beaten with sticks. The reason this incident belongs on my list, in other words, is that it’s so emblematic of where we are as a society today and shows low-class behavior all around.
1. Cardi B (with a supporting nod to Megan Thee Stallion). Really, this one is almost too obvious, and the less said about it the better. This woman used to be a stripper, and her pedigree shows. Now she’s winning Grammy awards, which is more a sad reflection on the (low) class of the people running the Grammy awards than on Cardi B’s talent. She’s on the list for “WAP” (on which Megan Thee Stallion plays a supporting role), of course, and if you don’t know what that is, you’re lucky. I won’t link to it, and I certainly won’t reproduce the lyrics. You can go look it up yourself if you feel the need. If you do decide to listen to it and don’t feel absolute disgust, there is something deeply wrong with you. But, in all honesty, there’s something deeply wrong with all of us because we allowed things to degenerate to the point where an uncreative, repetitive, repulsive litany of primal bodily functions set to something that is less music than it is the barest suggestion of musicality becomes a #1 single in America rather than something that gets it creator — and the cynical corporate greedsters who profit by producing and distributing filth like this — given a stiff fine for infractions against good taste, decency and public morals and beaten with a stick. (I’m partially joking about the fine, but a good, solid caning might be appropriate, if you get my drift by now.)
So that’s my 2020 low-class list. If you think I’ve missed some extremely low-class person, event or behavior that really belongs on the list, please don’t be shy about writing it up in response. If it’s a good one, I’ll try to work in an “honorable mention” of it at the end of the article.
Happy New Year, and best wishes — though not much hope — for a higher class 2021!
— — — — — — — — — — — -
Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”
Some of his articles have appeared in The Federalist, Quillette, mises.org, Tablet, Times Higher Education, Areo Magazine, Public Discourse, The Imaginative Conservative, Chronicles, Front Porch Republic, The Independent Journal Review, Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, Mercatornet, The Montreal Review, The Fortnightly Review, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.
He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Zoobahtov).