Joe Bageant Passes; Review of his last book on agrarian democracy

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died on March 27 following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas. According to Joe’s wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.

Here’s his last post, on January 4, 2011, announcing his cancer.

Some Fight Back

A Review of Joe Bageant’s Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir

By Michael Donnelly

This book is all about the post WWII shift from Maw and Pap’s agrarian democracy to the urban-dominated/techno/bureaucratic/ military/security/consumer Empire of today, showing how that shift and the resulting class stratification has led us to the brink of economic and ecological collapse, writes Donnelly.

Q: How do you know if you are rich, middle class or poor in America?

A: When you go to work, if your name is on the building — you’re rich; if your name is on an office door — you’re middle class; if your name is on your shirt — you’re poor…and, if someone else’s name is on your hand-me-down work shirt.

You always hear about natural-born musicians, artists, teachers, nurses, even businessmen. But what happened to the natural-born farmer and extended farm family when the rural-to-urban migration saw us go from 92% of Americans making their living (and dying) on the land in 1900 to around 2% today? What happened to the natural sense of community that engendered — that “we’re all in it together,” culture we now long for? And, what about America’s supposedly classless society? How’s that working out for ya?

Here’s a new book that answers these questions and more.

The Shower Line

Nobody writes about class in America and about America’s unacknowledged class war like Joe Bageant. Dubbed the “Sartre of Appalachia” by CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair, Joe writes about America’s largest, yet invisible to most, class — 60 million poor, undereducated white laborers. These are the folks who as Joe notes are on the other side of “the shower line” — those who pull off their sweaty work clothes and take their showers after their back-breaking day’s physical labor as opposed to those who shower and dress far more finely before heading off to work.

Joe’s first book, Deer Hunting with Jesus introduced us to many of these salt-of-the-earth folks and explained the whys and wherefores of their rather self-defeating worldview. In his latest book, a memoir cum polemic, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir Bageant delves into the origins — his own and that of the 60 million others existing on the hidden side of the great shower line.

Joe’s memoir begins in 1951 at grandparents Maw and Pap’s small farm along Shanghai (it’s an Irish term) Road in Morgan County, West Virginia. Like many a homestead along the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was a multi-generational subsistence farm (“the farm was not a business”) that had been the norm in America before the great corporate-driven rural-to-urban shift that coincided with the end of World War Two.

Read the rest of the review here.

2 responses to “Joe Bageant Passes; Review of his last book on agrarian democracy

  1. This would not be an issue if the government was not instigating it and allowing it through their policies and laws. I just read a quote that basically said when there is a battle between money and morality, money always wins. I don’t know who to attribute the quote to but that person is so right.

  2. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » Joe Bageant Passes; Review of his last book on agrarian democracy | Food Freedom

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