Friday, October 11, 2013

What is the Bourgeoisie?

Al Capp's autobiography. (Wiki.)

What is the bourgeoisie? Can you define it, or identify it, or have any vague notion of what it means in the present socio-economic context, i.e. the world we know in the year 2013?

Not really, eh. However, in the classic sense, the Marxian sense, it can be defined, and if it makes the listener vaguely uncomfortable for unknown reasons, it’s probably done its job.

(Such terms also define the speaker.)

Back in the sixties, I read a book by Toronto radio host Al Boliska. It was called 1,001 Squelches and Putdowns. 

For a radio host, and a comic one, talking about issues, answering phones, being at public functions, speaking to a great diversity of people, it was probably important to be able to control things, to be able to defend oneself ably, to be able to stop a verbal opponent dead in their tracks.

After all ladies and gentlemen, the show must go on.

Everyone thinks they are funny, and the professional radio host makes it look (or sound) easy.

Simply put, everyone and his brother thought he could and should be the centre of attention.

It was a glamour job and everyone thought they should have their own radio show!

And in the modern world that is now technically possible.

My old man had a few terms—eebie-jeebies, rubby-dubs, greasers, and he used them to say things that maybe otherwise would have been a little more unpalatable.

My old man thought rock and roll destroyed the world, incidentally, but these terms are essentially undefinable.

What in the hell is a rubby-dub? No one alive today can answer that question, but it probably is a hell of a lot better than being a little too precise in the definition. Precise definitions are never good when presenting a rather centric viewpoint, and I guess we’ve all had a laugh or two at Fox News and their continuous and ongoing efforts to subvert the journalistic/political/social processes of our neighbours to the south.

Boliska coined a term. He said in the book that you really can’t be too specific. North America has always had some social tension from immigration, inequalities of race, creed, colour, social inequities, and these can be hot-button issues; as certainly bigots have the right to listen to the radio. Some of them owned businesses of their own—bigots and immigrants alike, and it was handy to have a term, for they also bought ads and air time. His term would be a lot more offensive today, but he called them ‘Yougarians.’

It really is an ethnic slur, or at least sounds like one, but it also had some element of humour, and yes, it was undefinable, and therefore somewhat less offensive, and it allowed the radio host to tell jokes that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten on the air.

How could someone who was really offended complain to management?

“He was telling jokes about Yougarians.”

“So? Big deal. What the hell’s a Yougarian?”

There are some good lines in that book, and I’ve used a few of them myself over the years.

“He got all them holes in his forehead learning to eat with a fork,” is the best example I can come up with off the top of my head.

Whether it’s the bourgeousie or the ‘Yougarians,’ or Al Capp’s Slobbovians, it’s probably not a good idea to go off on a tangent and start mud-slinging based on any number of things. For one thing, it’s judgmental, and for another it’s going to get you pulled off the air and you’ll be down the road kicking stones and looking for another job under another handle.

In the modern context, you’ve just offended the president of Pepsi-Cola or something and that’s never good, and it’s also unnecessary and avoidable.


Back in the old days, when authors might attend one or two, or at most, a half a dozen conventions a year, it was important to be nice to everybody.

How often have we heard it?

“Be nice to everybody.”

That’s a good rule, and it is impossible to live by, and we all know it.

“Try not to have a meltdown any more often than you absolutely must.” That makes about as much sense.

The thing with social media is that the next day, or even the next hour, we can simply ignore what we just said, and, (quite frankly) set about repairing the damage we have caused.

This is not exactly conventional thinking, which in my opinion, gets conventional results.

Social media is immediate, with no seven-second delay and a producer sitting there alert by the squelch button to save our butts.

It is also continuous. I have likened Facebook for example, to a convention that goes on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, on and on and on and on. Virtually all my friends on Facebook are writers, poets, painters, musicians, artists, journalists, editors, publishers, etc.

A lot of them are using fake names, so you never can be sure who you are talking to—a strong incentive to say nothing of interest at all.

You cannot be on continously, like a performer with a seven-minute slot on late night TV. Sooner or later you will have a bad day, and if someone is telling you as an author that you can’t afford to have an opinion, that you can’t afford to express your thoughts and ideas, then that world would quickly become very repressive. Maybe that’s what they want, eh?

Facebook and other social media sites are ‘warts and all’ experiences and that’s a bit different.

I’m not advocating flame wars or no-holds-barred ad hominen attacks on the people we disagree with.

(Ad hominem means ‘personal’ as far as I know. My latin, entirely self-taught, is not that good.)

We’ve all seen those attacks, and it is surprising how quickly supposed adults can get out of hand, emotions heated and the words flying back and forth.

Part of the problem is good old fashioned bigotry, or social prejudice, a kind of economic judgementalism.

We are going to run into those people from time to time, and like many an independent publisher, I’ve had a few one-star reviews from the self-appointd defenders of the purity of literature, who in my opinion would be the least qualified to make such judgements if only we knew who they were.

The anonymity provided by the internet(s) and modern social media encourages and enables certain types of behaviour. These folks would be bigots, and seen as such, and known as such in their own hometowns. They are also just as aware as you and I that modern social media will be, in the next few short years, accelerators and enablers of social changes that will be vast. These changes will be sweeping.

Just as an example, the disabled can now break the unspoken social code of isolation and silence, rather than be the sort of untouchables they once were, unseen, unheard, and definitely and deliberately left out of the social and political process.

The world is going to change, ladies and gentlemen. The world is going to change whether it likes it or not—and that’s a big threat to the truly conservative mindset.

The Prime Minister, the Premier of this province, go on Facebook, no doubt under a pseudonym, just as ancient kings once put on a tattered cloak, grabbed a gnarly stick and pretended to be beggars, sitting there listening to the people talk in the taverns and getting a handle on political thoughts of the day.

Their ears must have burned a time or two, eh? And yet the more enlightened ones saw the value in it, and the real bastards would go back to the palace and call for the captain of the guards, and next thing you know some idiot who cracked the wrong joke at the wrong time would be groaning in the rack as hot coals were applied to the genitals, and the questioner sought answers as to who their accomplices might be.

I think feedback is useful. Without a little feedback, changes are made arbitrarily, and with little or no regard for justice or even social utility.

And now you know how I feel about the bourgeoisie; maybe even a little bit more about what that word actually means.

Just for the record, I am an honest man, a hard worker, and a capitalist, and for what it’s worth, a damned good one.

Al Boliska is all but forgotten now.

From Wiki:

 “An important part of CHUM's success was the station's unpredictable morning man Al Boliska, who joined CHUM in October 1957, after working at station CKLC in Kingston, Ontario. By 1959, Boliska had made a name for himself as a disc jockey who got listeners talking. He also made them laugh, and became known for telling what he called the ‘World's Worst Jokes.’ Boliska also did a number of stunts, such as taking part in a professional wrestling match with Whipper Billy Watson. When he lost, that led to another stunt, where Boliska stayed away from his show for several days, saying he was now too discouraged by the loss to do his show. A hypnotist was called in, and Boliska's self-esteem was restored.”

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