Sympathizing: Must Loving Fishtown Equal Hating Belmont?

 

We have plenty of folks on Ricochet who inhabit Belmont, more or less, but identify with Fishtown. It seems the easiest way to signal this sympathy is to be a self-hating Belmontonian. But what if you don’t hate everything about Belmont? Is it possible to sympathize with Fishtown even then? I would say yes. Though I would not, at this point, expect to be believed.

I recently reviewed Dreamland, a reporter’s magnum opus on the opiate addiction epidemic. My interest in its devastation isn’t academic. After all, I, too, have known chronic pain, death-wish despair, and repeated exposure to opioids through injury and surgery. Nor am I the only one in my family to have had these problems. Yet we’ve been spared from narcotics addiction, and the buffer of Belmont customs is at least partly to thank for this. Growing up, I hadn’t thought of myself as “Belmont.” My parents’ one sacrifice to dwarf all others was buying us a precarious perch in a Belmont neighborhood so we could attend its famed Belmont schools. It meant money was always tight. We dressed in the kind of secondhand clothes that made other kids point and laugh. In Belmont, we were at the bottom of the food chain, and that, plus my family’s right-leaning distaste for Belmont smugness, left us thinking of ourselves as outsiders, crypto-Fishtowners. It took leaving Belmont to find out how Belmont we’d become.

Being Belmont isn’t such a bad thing. There’s much more to Belmont than smugly looking down on the rubes. We rely on Belmont to support much of the finest flower of Western civilization – the arts, the sciences. As Charles Murray noted, Belmont neglects to preach the morals it still practices, while Fishtown struggles to practice what it preaches. But practice is not nothing, especially for youngsters who get to grow up surrounded by the practice. In my teens, I began attending about the Belmontiest church you could imagine – folks way richer than us, socialites on the “in” when I was “out,” with everybody reluctant to preach what they practiced. But among the things they practiced was traditional worship music (it’s why I went) and, as Lutherans like to say, music is its own sermon. You can get a pretty good Christian formation in one of those churches by ignoring what’s spoken and taking to heart what’s sung. And oh, the music!

Whenever I’m around other classical-music lovers, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be in the political minority. Loving classical music seems very Belmont, and my family never did adopt Belmont’s progressive politics. It can grate to hear other musicians and music-lovers toss off progressive opinions like they’re sure everyone agrees. It can grate that the arts aren’t “owned” by the faction whose stated political project, after all, is preserving the best of Western tradition from whatever threatens it. It can grate, but what does not grate is listening to and making music – participating in the perpetuation of that tradition – with these progressives. We decry progressive attacks on aesthetics when Belmontonians support modern works that don’t deserve to be included among works of historic greatness – but that only happens because works of historic greatness are still being performed, largely thanks to Belmont’s support. Music, at least, is something traditional conservatives do with Belmont. Not without it.

From music, and the tacit-but-powerful pressure to stay on the straight and narrow, to all the other social resources and little customs which can fortify a family in the face of pain and despair, my family owes Belmont too much gratitude to really hate it. If proof of loving Fishtown is denouncing Belmont, I’m in trouble. Should it be?

According to some, perhaps:

If the poor have vicious habits, whose fault is it — theirs or the people who made fortunes encouraging and refining these habits with the help of international consulting firms?

Supposing the indictment against international consulting firms were true, not every Belmontonian makes money with the direct help of such a firm. But just being part of the Belmont class – or even getting along ok with the Belmont class – might seem like tacit approval of those who do. As @jon just observed,

Elitism is Belmont hating Fishtown. Populism is Fishtown hating Belmont. Either is just Americans wanting to hurt their fellow Americans, which is where our politics has been for at least a decade.

Is it still possible to be neither an elitist nor a populist? To have sympathy for those who are hurting without hating the better-off?

Published in Culture
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 215 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I am lucky enough to live in a Fishmont. It seems to combine the best of Fishtown and Belmont. Working class and professionals living next to each other.

    Seawriter

    • #1
  2. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I was raised in Fishtown, ended up working and living in Belmont.  Not sure I belong in either, but I can exist in either.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Is it still possible to be neither an elitist nor a populist? To have sympathy for those who are hurting without hating the better-off?

    Absolutely. Yes. I think that’s me. :)

    • #3
  4. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Is it still possible to be neither an elitist nor a populist? To have sympathy for those who are hurting without hating the better-off?

    Yes, I think so. I am only vaguely aware of the whole Belmont-Fishtown thing; have never read Murray’s book on the subject. I grew up in Fishtown, and still live there. From what I can tell-and admittedly, I don’t get out much, but from what I can tell, people in Fishtown really do not think about Belmont all that much, and when they do, they generally aren’t hostile. I have friends and relatives in both places; actually, at this point, most of the people I know live in Belmont; I don’t sense any hostility from them :)

    I do feel frustrated with people from Belmont, because some of them have what I think are crazy ideas about how young adults should be treated-ideas that only kind of work for them and do not seem to work at all for less well off people. As in, send your kid off to a college that costs 50,000 a year for a degree, any degree, and then after four years kick them out. Put severe pressure on them to not marry until they are at least 30. This doesn’t work.

    My younger cousins who were raised in Fishtown are doing very well, and have either already moved to Belmont or are well on their way to doing so, but their parents did not take child rearing advice from the people of Belmont. :) Most of them attended affordable local colleges-many didn’t even go to college, but they learned skills which are in demand, they married young, they had kids young, they didn’t have any debt, they lived at home until they could afford to buy their own house, which really did not take long-they were all out of the house by age 24, and in homes that they owned themselves. I have 30 first cousins, and have given up trying to count all of their kids; there are a lot of them, and it seems to me that the way my cousins raised their kids worked a lot better than what the well meaning people of Belmont are trying to do. So, yeah, I am frustrated with them, but not hostile, because I know they mean well. Just frustrated :)

    • #4
  5. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    Grew up in Fishtown, but with awesome parents better than Anytown.  Now, I live in a small southern town where there’s only Beltown, small integrated neighborhoods of varying wealth next to each other.  But still, it’s falling apart within the county over school boundaries, $ taxes, development.

    There is probably a great deal to the leftist whining over inequality.  We were all sort of poor in the 1950’s to 1970’s.  Not much difference from richer and poorer in many ways.  Now, big differences despite average American living well (see: George Will’s article on being richer than a 1920’s millionaire).

    Solution?  No idea.  Honestly, only a terrible event or threat will unite us and I’d rather be divided.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five (pretty nice) houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    • #6
  7. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    If you were ten kilometers from nowhere, you weren’t in America, and we don’t know how to answer your question :)

    • #7
  8. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    If you were ten kilometers from nowhere, you weren’t in America, and we don’t know how to answer your question ?

    you win my Comment of the Day!

     

    Metric system is Communist!

    • #8
  9. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Is it possible to think that some in Belmont have encouraged government policy that keeps people in Fishtown while those in Belmont get rich off of the situation?

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    If you were ten kilometers from nowhere, you weren’t in America, and we don’t know how to answer your question ?

    • #10
  11. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    valis (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    If you were ten kilometers from nowhere, you weren’t in America, and we don’t know how to answer your question ?

    you win my Comment of the Day!

    Metric system is Communist!

    Thank you :)

    • #11
  12. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    What’s it called when you grew up on a rural road with five houses on it, ten kilometres from nowhere, with an hour-long school bus ride twice a day?”

    You must have been The second stop on my school bus. How many miles is a kilometer? We were 17 miles from the grocery store, and a pitiful one at that.

    I don’t know from Fishtown or Belmont. I just know obey your parents, quit complaining, help around the house, and eat your dinner.

    So much of social angst and tension is rooted in wanting what others have. It is not a new thing, but as old as humanity.

    • #12
  13. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    valis (View Comment):
    Metric system is Communist!

    Ackshully, didja know that American/Imperial units are defined by the Metric standards?

    You are on the metric system. You simply add a conversion step to hide that fact.

    • #13
  14. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Is it still possible to be neither an elitist nor a populist? To have sympathy for those who are hurting without hating the better-off?

    If you’re a realist. The problem is that we have blindly accepted certain aspects of political life without considering their impact  or whether or not they were implemented as sold.

    Don’t sell me “free trade” and then implement a policy of trading American labor for cheap trinkets. AEI tweeted out today that “free trade” trade has enriched every American household by $18,000. That’s just crap. You don’t enrich any household by eliminating a well-paying job. Arguing your point with misleading stats is what stokes the flames of resentment.

    But… but.. Ronald Reagan was for free trade! Yes, he was. But he was also for the dignity of work. Too many Republicans campaign on the shop floor and govern from the trading floor. Don’t tell me you’re the pure conservative upholding Reaganism when you play that game, because you’re not.

    • #14
  15. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    We didn’t trade jobs for trinkets. Everyone got to choose what they wanted to buy and people bought the cheap goods from abroad instead of more expensive domestic products. What is the matter with all of these Kansans who don’t know how much better their lives will be if they buy jeans sewn in New York vs. ones at a third the price made in Vietnam.

    Isn’t this all what these arguments amount to? If people are given the choice they will chose wrong and we will all be worse off. So the best thing is to not give people any choice. People don’t need to have more than one pair of sneakers or jeans, so long as those sneakers and jeans are made in the USA.

    Competition kills jobs we need some sort of Government Agency that can regulate all this creative destruction and insure full employment and high wages for all. Some sort of National Recovery Administration.

     

    • #15
  16. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    valis (View Comment):
    There is probably a great deal to the leftist whining over inequality.

    I’m not sure that income inequality in the US has changed that much. What really needs to be pushed is equality of opportunity. Or at least the idea that any individual can go as far as their talent and hard work will take them. This has been eroded for Fishtown whites, males, and anyone else not a member of a protected class. Individuals living in Belmont know that wealth will give them a hole card in a stacked deck, members of a favored class in Fishtown get encouragement, and the rest see a deck stacked against them. The deck might not be that stacked, but I think that the impression that it is does lasting harm. If we let the idea that income equality causes unequal outcomes, things will only get worse.

    • #16
  17. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    valis (View Comment):
    Metric system is Communist!

    Ackshully, didja know that American/Imperial units are defined by the Metric standards?

    You are on the metric system. You simply add a conversion step to hide that fact.

    Huh, funny since the Imperial system grew organically over time, EVOLVING as times changed.  But French folks made some things up and you think they came first?

    Yes, we use it for science because, as Stephen Green has noted, Math is hard.  The Imperial system evolved on a human scale, not French Revolutionary Scientism.  And I don’t add a conversion step when I look up temperatures or distances for driving, running, room size.

    Not sure where you are coming from.

    • #17
  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I am born and raised in Belmont,  and so are my kids. Mostly.

    • #18
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    ValiuthEveryone got to choose what they wanted to buy and people bought the cheap goods from abroad instead of more expensive domestic products.

    Let’s say you lose your job to outsourcing. You get a new job with less pay and fewer benefits. You still have the obligations you had with the old job so now you buy from Wal-Mart instead of Nordstroms.

    You say, well you have a choice. Do you really? No you don’t. It would be one thing to have blind faith in the market if we didn’t already have so many of layers of governing skewing it. But as we see in the sheepish and timid GOP in Washington all of these staunch so-called Reagan conservatives have no interest in that, do they? “I’m for free markets and Obamacare!”

    So, no, it’s  not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    • #19
  20. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    Muleskinner (View Comment):

    valis (View Comment):
    There is probably a great deal to the leftist whining over inequality.

    I’m not sure that income inequality in the US has changed that much. What really needs to be pushed is equality of opportunity. Or at least the idea that any individual can go as far as their talent and hard work will take them. This has been eroded for Fishtown whites, males, and anyone else not a member of a protected class. Individuals living in Belmont know that wealth will give them a hole card in a stacked deck, members of a favored class in Fishtown get encouragement, and the rest see a deck stacked against them. The deck might not be that stacked, but I think that impression that it is does lasting harm. If we let the idea that income equality causes unequal outcomes, things will only get worse.

    I agree with you.  That was a very good summary of the problem.  Poor kids get less enrichment, less real opportunities to succeed.  It is the modern tragedy that in the wealthiest society in history, so many are left behind.  I just vehemently disagree that it’s my fault.

    • #20
  21. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Valiuth: Everyone got to choose what they wanted to buy and people bought the cheap goods from abroad instead of more expensive domestic products.

    Let’s say you lose your job to outsourcing. You get a new job with less pay and fewer benefits. You still have the obligations you had with the old job so now you buy from Wal-Mart instead of Nordstroms.

    You say, well you have a choice. Do you really? No you don’t. It would be one thing to have blind faith in the market if we didn’t already have so many of layers of governing skewing it. But as we see in the sheepish and timid GOP in Washington all of these staunch so-called Reagan conservatives have no interest in that, do they? “I’m for free markets and Obamacare!”

    So, no, it’s not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    Hope someone with some leverage in DC reads your post and acts on it.

    • #21
  22. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    It’s possible to see the good in the vast majority of human beings regardless of where they are from.  It’s possible to see the good in both areas for there is good in both areas.

    • #22
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Some folks talk about people.
    Some folks talk about events.
    Some folks talk about ideas.

    Some folks are builders.
    Some folks are destroyers.

    Some folks are thoughtless and impulsive.
    Some folks consider each move before they act.

    There’s at least a little of some folks in all of us.

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    EJHill (View Comment):
    So, no, it’s not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    But we’re not bitter.

    • #24
  25. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Arahant (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):
    So, no, it’s not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    But we’re not bitter.

    When Adam Smith talked about two nations, good at different things, trading with each other for mutual benefit, I don’t think he meant one of them should uproot all their industry and move it to the other country.

    • #25
  26. valis Inactive
    valis
    @valis

    Arahant (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):
    So, no, it’s not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    But we’re not bitter.

    Maybe a little, maybe a great deal.

    • #26
  27. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    ValiuthIf people are given the choice they will chose wrong and we will all be worse off.

    And this is the worst of it. See the connotation? You chose wrong. You deserve what you got.

    If you went to college or trade school in the 80s and your job got outsourced you deserve it, ’cause you should have seen it coming. When those politicians said free trade was all about you and your company competing on an equal playing field you shoulda known that was a lie, you rube. Sure, we told you to study computers. But you had to know that guy from India was gonna come over here for less.

    • #27
  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Is it possible to think that some in Belmont have encouraged government policy that keeps people in Fishtown while those in Belmont get rich off of the situation?

    Of course that’s possible. We always thought there were – for example, regulatory schemes that were disproportionately harder on the poor.

    • #28
  29. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Valiuth: Everyone got to choose what they wanted to buy and people bought the cheap goods from abroad instead of more expensive domestic products.

    Let’s say you lose your job to outsourcing. You get a new job with less pay and fewer benefits. You still have the obligations you had with the old job so now you buy from Wal-Mart instead of Nordstroms.

    You say, well you have a choice. Do you really? No you don’t. It would be one thing to have blind faith in the market if we didn’t already have so many of layers of governing skewing it. But as we see in the sheepish and timid GOP in Washington all of these staunch so-called Reagan conservatives have no interest in that, do they? “I’m for free markets and Obamacare!”

    So, no, it’s not about managing people’s choices, it’s about lying to them, it’s about decades of political bait-and-switch, it’s about promising smaller government, good jobs and family oriented policy and delivering more government, minimum wages, less freedom and a culture that despises you.

    Only the Republicans promised smaller government but these Belmonters voted Democrat half the time. People voted for the government they got and they got what they voted for. They voted for lower taxes, higher social security, more food stamps, more regulations. They have created the very society they live in. It is all about how everything is someone else’s fault. How they can’t do nothing so some one else should do something or should have said something to them.

    A thousand excuses. Just vote for the Democrats they will fix everything by taxing the 1%. If you take the view that you need small government then you can’t expect that smaller government to guarantee you anything materially speaking. So what is the complaint? That we have a big government that doesn’t give us enough things?

     

    • #29
  30. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    We didn’t trade jobs for trinkets. Everyone got to choose what they wanted to buy and people bought the cheap goods from abroad instead of more expensive domestic products. What is the matter with all of these Kansans who don’t know how much better their lives will be if they buy jeans sowed in New York vs. ones at a third the price made in Vietnam.

    I assume you mean Keynsians because those of us conservatives in Kansas understand why trade is important and several members in the House of Representatives have critiqued trump’s statements on trade on the floor of the House of Representatives. I would know because I was there and heard it with my own ears.

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    When Adam Smith talked about two nations, good at different things, trading with each other for mutual benefit, I don’t think he meant one of them should uproot all their industry and move it to the other country.

    Adam Smith spoke to both absolute (my example) and comparative advantage. In both cases Smith argued that nations should specialize because it increases overall production by rearranging opportunity costs. As an example if my nation can make more shoes and cars than another nation but the other nation has the possibility to make a large number of shoes (it has a high opportunity cost from cars to shoes, but my nation could still make more shoes than it could if my nation focused all production on shoes) and I can adjust production to make even more cars, then more cars and shoes will be made in total than if my nation tries to make both cars and shoes.

    EJHill (View Comment):
    And this is the worst of it. See the connotation? You chose wrong. You deserve what you got.

    If you went to college or trade school in the 80s and your job got outsourced you deserve it, ’cause you should have seen it coming. When those politicians said free trade was all about you and your company competing on an equal playing field you shoulda known that was a lie, you rube. Sure, we told you to study computers. But you had to know that guy from India was gonna come over here for less.

    That is not another nation producing more computers but rather a movement of labor from India to America. It is also an issue that is a result of incredibly high regulation. I personally do not know, but I would bet that regulations (mandated health insurance, minimum wage, social security, and the like) on what a company owes to a legal resident differs from what is owed to a native citizen. It also might mean that said Indians are more productive workers too, if so then that speaks to the American not working as hard (which may or may not be the case).

    That is government action (the regulations) ruining the lives of Americans, not firms trying to be malicious. The firm is doing what it needs in order to be competitive. If anything its more advantageous to the American firm based in America for the costs of labor to be lower in America than in India because that lowers the cost of production. I doubt the CEO just woke up one morning and said to himself: let’s just hire some Indians and fire some Americans just for the kicks of it.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: To have sympathy for those who are hurting without hating the better-off?

    That would require a belief in personal agency and a desire to succeed. You would also have to lack entitlement. But if history has shown anything humans have entitlement, many people whined about the lost of agricultural jobs when industrial revolution occurred and people have whined about the lost of industrial jobs during the internet revolution. People will seek any means to throw off their own failures because no one wants to be a loser.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.