NY Times’ David Brooks describes ordeal of lunching with a rube

**Written by Doug Powers

Michelle wrote years ago that NYT columnist David Brooks will “never let an opportunity pass to remind you that he is an intellectual and you are a grimy member of the unwashed masses.” Brooks’ Tuesday column proves that nothing’s changed:

I was braced by Reeves’s book, but after speaking with him a few times about it, I’ve come to think the structural barriers he emphasizes are less important than the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent.

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”

Gee, how does that “chief message” spread anyway? Hopefully later she ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon, pronounced it “Dome Purr-ig-non,” and stuck Brooks with the check.

Some of the smartest people I’ve known have had “only a high school degree,” but then, without an elitist world where smarts are measured by a piece of paper from a university instead of how many times a day somebody’s so very wrong, people like Brooks’ NYT colleague Paul Krugman wouldn’t end up with Nobel prizes.

**Written by Doug Powers

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