|How We Live Now
“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind” (Thoreau 104). In “On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) In The Future Tense” David Brooks evaluates the growth of the American upper-middle class and compares the American lifestyle with other countries. Through the use of logos of statistics, the ethos of his credibility, and the pathos of sarcasm, Brooks successfully answers the question: is America really as shallow as they look?
David Brooks starts out with taking the reader on a drive through America and an evaluation on today’s upper-middle class. In the beginning of the book, Brooks shows the growth of America’s suburbs, he states, “today’s suburbs are sprawling out faster and faster and farther and farther…”(Brooks 2). Brooks then separates the many suburbs of America into three distinct categories, the Sunbelt (Nevada, Georgia, and Colorado), the Melting Pot (California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois), and finally the Heartland (Pennsylvania and the Midwest). Also, in this section, Brooks argues that “American writers and storytellers have paraded out the same clichés of suburban life” therefore arguing that “suburbia is no longer the land of ticky-tacky boxes on a hillside where everything looks the same” (Brooks 5). In the next section, Brooks argues that American upper-middle class is always striving to move upwards especially compared to other countries. Brooks states, “the United States is the rhino of the world” (Brooks 81). Brooks then separates the people of the upper-middle class into two groups, Blondes and Brunettes. Brooks argues that the Blondes of the America “floats through life on a beam of sunshine, from success to success” while the Brunettes “writes and reads books, worries, condemns and evaluates, judges, discerns and doubts” (Brooks 88-89). But Brooks asserts that the American upper-middle needs these two groups to create a balance. Brooks believes that America’s upper-middle classes materialism makes them a great force in the world.
Brooks evaluates the growth of the upper-middle class by taking the reader on a drive to show how Americans in the twenty-first century live their everyday lives. This evaluation is key to Brooks argument for several reasons. One of which being to give the reader an understanding of why people have been moving out to the suburbs of America, “90 percent of the office space built in America in the 1990s was built in suburbia…suburbs now account for more office space than the inner cities in every metro area in the country except Chicago and New York” (Brooks 2). By giving this statistic Brooks executed the evaluation that the American upper-middle classes growth is climbing and is “charting a new way of living” (Brooks 3). Secondly, Brooks makes it known that his evaluation is not based on the supposed form that many works such as The Stepford Wives, Peyton Place or American Beauty have created. Suburbia does not match with the stereotype that “suburbs are either boring and artificial or are secretly sick and psychotic” (Brooks 5). This argument shows that what literature and movies shows of suburbia is not showing the “tremendous economic, technological, and social revolutions” that being so diverse has offered to the growth of the upper-middle class (Brooks 6). Before Brooks concludes his evaluation, he points out that Americans have always had the tendency to split and multiply. This is a major factor in the growth of the upper-middle class since there is no central authority leaving people to have their lives suited to their own individual needs. This spirit of individualism exists till this day and has contributed to the growth of the upper-middle class.
David Brooks then makes a comparison between the United States upper-middle class and other countries. According to Brooks, “ During the twentieth century, the population of France increased by 52 percent, the population of Germany increased by 46 percent, and the population of the United Kingdom by 42 percent, but the population of the United States increased by 270 percent” (75). This comparison shows that Americans have a way of multiplying that other countries do not have and that is energy. Brooks makes his comparison based on how America is always in “full throttle” and how this energy then translates into not only a growth of the people but also a growth in wealth. “American gross domestic product per worker is about 30 percent greater than that of Germany or Japan” (Brooks 79). Brooks makes his comparison clear that America is “the rhino of the earth” by not only through their work effort by also in spending. Brooks states, “the U.S. is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s spending on technological research and development. American movies account for about 83 percent of world bow-office revenues” (80) and so on. According to Brooks comparison, the American upper-middle is very materialistic compared to other countries but does not truly make them shallow. The United States success is “based on the work, creativity, and the mysterious inner drive of the Patio Men and Realtor Moms, the inner-ring litigators and the bohemian software geeks” (Brooks 81). Or better known as the upper-middle class.
David Brooks first supports his claims with the logos of statistics. Just in the introduction he gives facts and figures from very reliable sources such as, Witold Rybczynski (a Canadian-American professor and writer), Robert Lang (a Virginia Tech demographer), and the Census Bureau Brooks shows the audience that he has done his research. These sources help greatly with Brooks claims because having a writer gives his input on the subject to give Brooks support and having not only the Census Bureau but as a demographer show the growth of the American upper-middle class. Since Brooks started out his argument with these sources readers are more likely to listen to him and accept his ideas.
Brooks then uses the pathos of sarcasm in order to draw the reader into his argument. He especially uses sarcasm in the evaluation of different people in the upper-middle class. Brooks opens up his evaluation claim stating, “If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good, why does He allow morons to succeed?” (86). This statement gives Brooks a sense of humor that makes the reader comfortable with him and are then more likely to favor his views. Brooks later on makes his claim clear that some of these “morons” are able to succeed because of their charisma and energy therefore making them giant forces in the world. Brooks is able to add have a sarcastic tone to his claims that allows the audience to feel comfortable with him but also does not give a bias and strengthens his argument.
Brooks ethos of his credibility is probably the most noticeable aspect of his argument. Brooks not only uses many sources from reliable sources throughout his argument that strengthens his credibility but also who he is gives him lots of power in his argument. David Brooks is widely known for not only being a journalist for many highly recognized newspapers but he is also a political and cultural commentator. With this type of background Brooks knows different cultural facts regarding the American upper-middle class. Therefore, before people even start to read Brooks argument they already know that he knows what he is talking about and has definitely done his research. Brooks effectively uses an ethos of his credibility to gain the readers attention and for the strength of his argument.
I agree with David Brooks argument that the American upper-middle class is becoming more materialistic but still remains a sting force in the world and a land of opportunity for others. Brooks evaluation describes the growth of the upper-middle class and how they are prospering and his statistics show how the American upper-middle class stays above others.
First off, when Brooks evaluates the inner ring of suburbia we are able to connect with the description whether we know people who are in the upper-middle class or we ourselves are. Some may say that since parts of Brooks evaluation has a sarcastic tone that his view on the American upper-middle class is negative but this is not true. Yes, Brooks uses a sarcastic tone but this is only to attract the reader to him. According to Brooks, “Americans are the hardest working people on the face of the earth. We work more hours per year even the Japanese. The average American works 350 hours a week-nearly ten week-longer than the average European” (76). I agree with Brooks evaluation that the upper-middle class can be materialistic but there is a dedication to family, work, and the community that keeps them “striving to move up” (Brooks 75). With this energy and dedication to their lives, the people of the upper-middle class are able to be a string force in the world.
Secondly, throughout Brooks argument he uses lots of valuable statistics that show that the growth of materialism in the upper-middle class is also resulting in a growth of success especially compared to other countries. Brooks isn’t the only to notice this, according to author Henry Van Dyke, “The Spirit of America is best known in Europe by one of its qualities-energy” (Brooks 75). Since it is known in other countries that America has an energy that propels them into the high rankings. Through America’s upper-middle class shallowness creates a success in not only their own lives but in the country overall.
David Brooks has many clear claims that are evaluated, compared and persuasive for his argument. Brooks effectively uses the logos of statistics, pathos of sarcasm, and the ethos of his credibility to drawn in the reader and keep them hooked to his argument. I agree with his claim that the American middle-class is becoming shallow but that this materialism is turning into a growing success in the twenty-first century American lifestyle.