Margaret Wente: Class warrior

“It’s a little hard for the rest of us to muster sympathy for Quebec’s downtrodden students.” wrote the paragon of privilege Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago.

And my thought is ‘when has Margaret Wente ever mustered sympathy for anyone but herself?’

When I think about it, Wente is the perfect champion for people of her age and class.  Her writing never escapes those two limitations.

Wente grew up in Chicago, went to university in Michigan then moved to Toronto, all around the same time I grew up in Victoria.  Tuition was cheap then and she got two Arts degrees before moving on to a well paid career in journalism.

Let’s be clear.  Compared to the average student today, Wente’s been on easy street her entire life.  She benefited from a period when both the economy and social change made it easier for a person like her to succeed.

That’s no longer true.  Power has shifted.  The world has changed.  Class lines are more firmly drawn and its harder to cross them.  The state is shrinking, help is diminishing and those who have are grabbing more of what wealth is produced.

Wente writes as if this has just happened.  And students should just shut up and deal.

“They’re the sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts and victim studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills,” says the holder of two English degrees.

“The world will not be kind to them.  They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.”

But Wente has an agenda too.  The flight she’s encouraging is away from any thought of change.

The economy just is.  The trends towards greater and greater inequality just are.  The fact that Wente and her buddies happen to be amongst the few who enjoy the benefits can’t be changed.

Wente and privileged people like her have good jobs, rising incomes, excellent and secure pensions and a better life than their parents.  Wente, like too many of her generation and class, are fighting tooth and nail to keep it all, to keep all the gains they’ve made in the last thirty years at the expense of the majority.

She argues that this is just the way it is.  But that’s not true.  Decisions were made, governments elected and policy changed.  The new world of inequality was made through deliberate choices.

And Wente’s writing has consistently provided support for those choices.

It matters nothing to her that her generation and class has left behind an economic, social and ecological mess that the students she attacks will have to deal with.  Wente and her ilk have, for the first time in a long time, made our country worse for generations to come.

“The kids are on another planet” Wente says.

What she means is ‘I’m on another planet and I’m damn well not going to share it with you’.

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10 Responses to Margaret Wente: Class warrior

  1. Don F. says:

    One can only feel bewildered that with all of the gifts and priviledges bestowed upon her that at this advanced age she shows us that it has all been wasted on her. The fact that her life has been blessed is something that in her ignorance she refuses to give thanks for but chooses instead to narrow mindedly scorn others less fortunate.
    A real class act!

  2. Arleigh Chase says:

    I’ve invariably found it highly ironic that people like the Margaret Wentes of the world, the I’ve-got-mine-to-hell-with-everybody-else types are so thoroughly convinced of their own genius that they fail to grasp the one glaring fact that illuminates their career path for the skeptics amongst us. These “luminaries” have inevitably been elevated because of their stupidity and narrow-mindedness, not because they have pearls of wisdom to impart to the rest of us, but because they are willing to unquestioningly adopt the political stance of the owners of their newspapers or tv stations or law firms etc. which is that opportunity should be limited to the kind of people they already know and are comfortable with. The others are all viewed as radicals or the angry underclass who are fit only to serve the luminaries their coffee or flip their children’s burgers but little else. Apparently, Ms. Wente feels that we should assign these roles at birth because her political position completely belies even paying lip service to the notion of a meritocracy.

  3. Norm Farrell says:

    “…elevated because of their stupidity and narrow-mindedness, not because they have pearls of wisdom to impart to the rest of us, but because they are willing to unquestioningly adopt the political stance of the owners of their newspapers or tv stations…”

    Add radio stations.

    Particularly Corus Radio, the radio arm of the billionaire Shaw Family, the people whose wealth depended not on merit but on monopolies enabled by the political classes they now serve.

    Think of this when next you listen to Bill Good, Gord MacDonald, Bruce Allen, Michael Campbell, Michael Levy, Charles Adler, Roy Green and Sean Leslie.

  4. simo says:

    I’m from the same generation and when I went to university summer jobs were plentiful and paid relatively well. It was like a civic duty for employers to make work for students.

  5. Stuart says:

    Thank you Ian. Wente is one of the main reasons I question our Globe & Mail subscription. She is extraordinarily out of touch.

  6. Dan Schubart says:

    I, too, have benefitted not only from being born where I was, but also from when, have never been unemployed except by choice and am enjoying a reasonably comfortable retirement (lots of unpaid work and community activism, no bridge or shuffleboard). When I started at UBC, tuition was $457 a year. My last year, it was $462, but then they refunded my pool assessment of $5. The difference between Margaret and me, other than her profile and wealth, is that I am not so totally devoid of a sense of empathic sharing. The minute governments of all levels stop squandering tax money on gazebos and G20s, Olympics and Perimeter Roads, F-35s and Afghan missions, I will gladly contribute to higher taxes and a significant reduction in whatever paltry personal wealth I have. My largest concern is that my stepson faces a world of greatly reduced choices and opportunities in our mismanaged society, and that his children will be even further deprived on that score. By extension, I am working, unlike Margaret, toward a society where every child and his/her parents will have ample opportunities to succeed, but on terms that don’t compromise anyone else’s success. Empathy: we’re all part of the same group…

  7. kootcoot says:

    Dan Schubart – very well said…… too Ian!

  8. RS says:

    Much prefer Marg Delahunty: Princess Warrior to Margaret Wente: Class Warrior.

  9. Evan Leeson says:

    Aside from the fact I would cheer anything taking a poke at Wente, this is a really good article, Ian.

  10. Ian says:

    Thank you Evan.

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