Regular People: Who Are They? Why Don’t They Ever Speak for Themselves?

Regular people.  Normal people.  Ordinary people.  Average people.  Everyday people.  (No, not the song whose chorus is likely stuck in your head right now.)

The masses.  Salt of the earth.  The working class.

“Regular people.”

“The working class.”

We hear a lot about them in leftist discourses (of the North American variety).  Who are they?  We don’t know.  We only know them as rhetorical devices for online persuasion, as instruments to berate competitors in the marketplace of ideas.

While their true identity remains murky, we know a few things about them.  On the whole, they’re a delicate bunch.  They’re baffled by debates about identity.  They don’t understand why all those people (other regular people, but from out of town) keep taking to the streets.  They think tearing down statues is silly.  They like cops.  They hate pronouns.

We also know that they’re white, because their personhood is modified by regularity, and because of their timeless association with building the world.  Their whiteness is sensitive, too.  Emphasize things like Black liberation or U.S. imperialism and they’re liable to run into the welcoming arms of the KKK.

They are key to the success of any revolution, but lack revolutionary ambition.  They wish only to nourish the earth with the sweat of their brows and earn a fair wage for their labor.  They are simple people with a humble appetite for a world demarcated by two clear genders.  They are suspicious of erudition.  They talk in a secret language accessible only to the most authentic pundits.  They are creatures of the soil who found life through Bernie Sanders.

Regular people despise media elites.  They have no time to read Marx.  And they don’t give a shit about what happens on Twitter.  Persuading them to vote Democrat is the intellectual’s noblest pursuit.

In the end, all they really want to do is join a union.  (Preferably the AFL-CIO.)

So say media elites, anyway.  With graduate degrees.  In urban enclaves.  On Twitter.  Or to paying subscribers, because talking is the purest form of work.

You may be wondering if regular people ever raise their own voices.  They do.  Frequently.  That’s usually the point at which their champions accuse them of destroying free expression.

This column originally appeared on Steven Salaita’s blog No Flags, No Slogans.