The moral rot at the center of American life results from a normalization of pathologies--sociopathic and psychopathic states and behaviors are now "normal" or incentivized. Moral behavior is institutionally punished.
The three social classes in America as described by Smith:
The "working class" is programmed to rely on television for most of its "information" about life, and thus they are programmed to:
1. Consume copious quantities of fast foods and convenience foods, and consider indolence a luxury. As a result, they are programmed to become obese/diabetic.
2. The boys are programmed to favor football and basketball in sports, service in the Armed Forces as the only viable choice to low-skill, fitful employment, to drop out of four-year college if pressured to enter, and vocational training, often paid for by the G.I. Bill after military service.
3. Males are programmed to place identity value on their vehicles and real-world "manly" skills (working on vehicles, farm equipment, woodworking, etc.), but their programmed aspirations are aimed at impossibly narrow fields: professional sports, hip-hop and other entertainment, etc. As a result, their real-world skills are generally undeveloped or modest.
In essence, they are programmed to fail in the "knowledge economy" and in real-world practical jobs which are not glorified by the broadcast media. They accept low-level work and are dissatisfied, often turning to drugs to relieve their ennui.
4. Their interests are channeled by the media into extreme sports, mixed martial arts, auto racing, football, etc., but they are programmed to express these interests through passive video games rather than by real-world experience. Programmed to low confidence, they generally give up quickly when faced with arduous training, except when forced by institutions such as the Military.
5. Working class families have few resources to draw upon, and the mobility favored by Corporate America has shredded the social networks which once offered support (church membership, social clubs, neighborhoods, etc.) Family "help" is a sofa to sleep on at a relatives' house.
6. The girls are programmed to have sex and children early, as motherhood has positive identity value, even if they are woefully unprepared for parenting. Career choices tend to be "pink collar" type labor in Corporate America's sickcare system or government jobs; females are programmed to support their children and demand little of the fathers. Dependency on the State /Welfare in one form or another is the norm.
7. Politics holds little interest and most of the working class are programmed not to vote as it "never does any good anyway."
8. There are few books or other reading materials around the house, little to no original decorative art, few musical instruments that can actually be played with any joy or expertise; the lived environment is a cultural desert. The TV and a computer offer distraction and entertainment and little else. If they pursue social media, they are members of My Space and Facebook. They are deeply attached to their cellphones, which are perceived as markers of accessible status. Passports are unknown; foreign travel is experienced through military service only.
The "middle class" aspires to the "upper class" life they see on television and other media, but their aspirations are for the trappings of wealth rather than for the engines of wealth.
1. Though the middle class person clings mightily to various totems of "membership" in the middle class, and experiences tremendous loss of identity and self-esteem when these totems are lost, in reality their wealth is modest and they have few family resources.
2. Though they watch a lot of TV, they also consume massive quantities of other low-value media through the electronic devices they see as emblematic of the "middle class" lifestyle: laptop computers, iPods, etc. Their cellphones and other electronics are key identity markers: the higher the status of the brand, the more valuable the device. Apple products are de riguer "high status."
3. Books and reading materials around the house tend to be best sellers or materials assigned in class; few households receive newspapers or magazines other than National Geographic. If books are read, they are genre books such as mysteries. Dog-eared copies of the Harry Potter series abound. Those households which aspire to "upper class" education may subcribe to a few magazines which are viewed as totems of high-class lifestyles: The New Yorker, Saveur, etc.
4. "Education" is valued but mastery is not; the goal is to obtain the certificate or paper required by gatekeepers in the government or Corporate America, not the actual skillsets. Though education is "valued," few households (regardless of income, which is often high) save religiously enough to fund university educations; borrowing vast sums of student loans is the norm. Adult education is pursued to obtain the same gatekeeper certificates in whatever field the adults toil in. Learning for the pleasure of learning is unknown or deemed a waste of time when "we could be having fun."
"Enrichment" classes are provided to the children, but the purpose is to gain a veneer of respectability as an aspirant to upper-class membership; piano lessons are dutifully offered but nobody plays music in the house for enjoyment, so the lessons are soon dropped. Live performances are also attended occasionally as "enrichment." Foreign travel is experienced via college programs or packaged tours fit into 2-week vacations allowed by Corporate America.
5. Favored sports include soccer and volleyball for the girls, and skateboarding and baseball for the boys. Team sports are favored over individual competition, and adults spend significant time ferrying kids to various after-school sports, which are deemed "character-building."
6. Ownership of status brands is highly important; brand consciousness is acute. Target is favored over Wal-Mart, and designer-luxury brand purses, shoes, autos, etc. are highly desirable "markers" of success and identity. Most of the family income goes to paying for these "markers" of membership.
7. A four-year college degree is the goal, with an MBA or master's degree considered a higher-level enabler of a better career. The cherished goal is acceptance to an elite university which is viewed as a magical ticket to "fast track" advancement in the government or Corporate America. Meritocracy is accepted as the norm. Military service is shunned in favor of attending college right out of high school. Favored social media are related to career/corporate advancement: LinkedIn, etc. Foreign films and chic dining are valued as "markers" of high-class status.
The upper class has the confidence born of the knowledge that the family resources can always bail one out. High-paying jobs will be provided via networks; art-aspirant careers are highly valued, and family resources enable dilletante dabbling in acting, film-making, visual arts, etc.
Entrance to prep schools and family money/connections enable entrance to institutions the middle class must gain entrance to via meritocracy.
Favored careers include venture capital, high-status government positions, management of family businesses, plum slots in NGOs, etc. Noblesse Oblige is served via membership on boards of charities, the local symphony and museum, etc. These networks provide connections to business opportunities unavailable to the middle class.
Children already get passports and foreign travel to exotic locales is standard. Middle-class aspirants are viewed paternalistically or with scorn; they are worker-bees for the Corporate America/State owned or managed by the upper class. The working class is avoided except as servants, who are often immigrants.