What do the simple folk do
To help them escape when they're blue?
The shepherd who is ailing, the milkmaid who is glum
The cobbler who is wailing from nailing his thumb
When they're beset and besieged
The folk not noblessly obliged
However do they manage to shed their weary lot?
Oh, what do simple folk do we do not?
According to the U.K. Guardian, they go to–eewww!–McDonald's!
The headline tells it all: McDonald's: "You Can Sneer, But It's the Glue That Holds Communities Together."
And sneer–although ever so politely–is exactly what author Chris Arnade does for the benefit of the Guardian-reading set in this article about not-our-kind-dear Americans who think that under the golden arches is a great place to socialize with their friends over all-day breakfast.
For example, there's the assumption that working-class people hate their jobs and lead empty lives:
When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks.
They're also racial bigots:
These morning groups reflect America in another way: they are almost all segregated. There are all black groups, all white groups, and all Hispanic groups. Rarely are any mixed.
And–isn't this weird?–they think that a meal at McDonald's is actually fun:
On the morning of their wedding, Omar and Betty shared a breakfast of egg McMuffins at a small McDonald’s table, dressed in their finest clothes. Before driving to a Houston courthouse to be married, they walked into the attached child’s play area and joked about one day bringing their kids there.
Few understand celebrating at a McDonald’s, but for Omar and Betty it made sense. They don’t have a lot of money, and McDonald’s is part of their life.
But what fascinates me–and I've got to give Arnade credit for pointing this out:
They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s….
Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy….
They prefer McDonald’s to shelters and to non-profits, because McDonald’s are safer, provide more freedom, and most importantly, the chance to be social, restoring a small amount of normalcy.
The standard Guardian-reading line is that what low-income people need most is for the government or some NGO do-gooders to set up bureaucrat-staffed "community service centers" to hold their hands and provide them with a social life. Turns out that poor people, like most people, are actually capable of creating their own social lives and prefer not to have officious hoverers employed by "outreach programs" try to do that for them. The simple folk turn out not to be so simple after all.