Class War, for Father's Day

By James Fallows

Following the "do you know what schools I've been to?" installment from yesterday:

1) A really excellent story by Peter Whoriskey in today's Washington Post about the role of rapidly-inflating CEO pay as a driver of overall inequality in the United States. The story would be worth it if only for the first two paragraphs. They dramatize how much the concept of what a CEO is "worth" has changed in one generation.

1A) The Post also has a slideshow, based on Forbes rankings, of the 20 richest people in America. To save you the gimmicky multi-click trip through the whole thing, I'll say that the surprise value is the political ramifications of the top 10, including Charles and David Koch, at the number 5 and 6 slots, with a total of about $44 billion. Above them are only #4 Christy Walton of Wal~Mart, #3 Larry Ellison, #2 Warren Buffett, and #1 Bill Gates. Waltons also hold the #7, #8, and #9 slots, ahead of Michael Bloomberg at #10.

1B) Same theme in the NYT, in a column by Gretchen Morgenson.

2) From a reader on another aspect of the education/status/employment nexus:

>>Thanks for posting the lady on the train tirade. Here is a related bit of information that takes a short explanation.

A double bass recital was performed in  Beacon, NY (a stop on the Metro-North Railroad) recently, whose main attraction was Volkan Orhon, one of the top double bassists in the world today. It was put together and hosted by Richard Milan Simons, who is a resident of Beacon. He plays the double bass, too, and the cello. They met while they attended the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music, where they both earned master's degrees. (Their duet was delightful, BTW.)

Mr. Simons is "well-educated," and it is fair to say he is far better educated than that unfortunate lady on the train. Mr. Simons also happens to be a conductor on the Metro-North Railroad. As the flyer for the recital put it: "Making him the world's only conductor-conductor." (The story would have been more poignant if he were the conductor involved in the encounter, don't your think?)

If this young lady represents the downside of our higher educational system, Mr. Simons represents the best kind of people it produces. Hard to tell which is more prevalent. We should keep in mind that "rage encounters" play well on YouTube and the internet and, I think, far beyond their significance to our day-to-day lives. Civilization and civility survive.

We all should also be careful about the assumptions we make about the education level of people by the kind of jobs they have in this new unemployment economy.<<

3) And, extending the "rage encounters" point, a West Coast reader whom I know to be genuinely well educated describes her reaction to the class-war video:

>>Technology, along with greater crowding in cities, is significantly increasing the degree to which we can badly annoy one another, and how low our flashpoints are.

A number of years ago, I expressed slightly irate concern about my assigned seat on an airliner (in the early stages of boarding), and the speed with which I was treated as a "crazy person" by the airline staff was quite frightening.<<

That is all. Happy Father's Day. (Update: actually, there's a little more. After the jump, one other reader note.)

4) From a reader, on the precipitating offense:

>>I'm one of those who hate hate hate it, when people yammer on their cell loudly on buses/trains, as if they are in their own living room. It's high time that we had some kind of national debate and agreement on cell phone etiquette. If I had magic power, I'd strike down those who blabber on and on on buses, trains, in restaurants, cafes, public bathrooms, etc.

Really, is the conversation so important and urgent, that it can't wait until they get to a more private place? It's just beyond comprehension that some people can't seem to grasp how rude and annoying they are on their cell phones while in public. Maybe your magazine can do a feature article on this in the near future. It's becoming quite an epidemic. Either that or I'm becoming an old crank.<<

Policy statement: recognizing that there are strong, quasi-religious views on both sides of the cellphones-in-public issue, I don't intend to get into further discussion of it. Again Happy Father's Day.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/class-war-for-fathers-day/240660/