I have finally figured out what has been nagging me about Bell Hooks. I am reading her book for a master’s level class on Intercultural and International communications. I was expecting this to be another well-researched book by an expert in the field. But it isn’t. Hooks isn’t an expert. She is a writer and an ideologue. She isn’t a bad writer – if you like the gray and depressing – but she is allegedly writing non-fiction, and her construction of the facts leaves enough out, and puts enough in, to make it seem fictional in points. Of course, what she leaves out, and what she constructs from whole cloth, is guided by the ideology that makes her an ideologue.
Chapter 7 of Class Matters is titled “The Me-Me Class: The Young and the Ruthless”. Her premise here is that the fantasy that everyone can be wealthy, wanton and wasteful in consuming the world’s resources has taken over through advertising. Rather than targeting class, I think Hooks real “enemy” throughout the book is advertising – she comments on it so much. And from a certain perspective I agree with her. Advertising does seem to portray a world that isn’t realistic much of the time. It give the poor and middle class an idea that being wealthy is being able to show wealth, when being wealthy really is about management and investment and growing – things that increase the size of the pie for both yourself and others. Hooks mistakes that amassing of investable capital – needed to create more wealth for all – with hording. But I digress from the focus of this chapter.
Advertising encourages consumption. And today’s youth culture, Hooks avers, is all about consumption. And since youth of all socio-economic brackets are involved in it, it does create a form of a “classless” society since these values are shared by people of all races and genders. Hook notes: “While today’s youth are eager to live in a world where racism does not exist, they do not want to do the political work of changing themselves or society.” Advertising turns MLKs vision of community into a “multicultural multiethnic shopping spree.”
But of course, not all kids can pay to be part of the culture. Kids get devoured by envy and strife over stuff. Poor kids “wage war” against the rich by taking their stuff. Hook notes: “Children from poor backgrounds are isolated and self-isolated because being poor is always and only a cause of shame.” Once again, Hooks insists that the poor carry shame. I say, shame on her for such arrogance.
Twice Hooks says no studies have been done about something, and then to expound how the subject supports her topic. Both of those relate to how divorce affects youth’s greed. First was how staying with their divorced dads over divorced moms encourages greed. Second was greed caused by divorced dads refusing to contribute to child support. Once again, while I can see logic and reason behind both ideas, it again shows her bias against men that I mentioned in comments on earlier
She has a point about the youth culture having a certain ruthlessness today. It is a topic worthy of serious analysis. I wait for more serious analysis instead of ideologue’s ad hominems.