Oppositional Culture: The Pursuit Of A Decent Life

1670 words - 7 pages

Oppositional Culture: The Pursuit of a Decent Life

To explain the social origins of the oppositional culture is to explain the why humans seek peace of mind and overall security for their own well-being. The system of oppositional culture essentially represents “two poles of value orientation” (Anderson 2000: 35). Ideally, everyone in society would associate themselves with the upper pole of value orientation, but this clearly is not the case. Society dictates how one is to behave and respond in a given environment; Anderson calls this behavior of decency – cleverly enough – the “decent” behavior which represents the upper tiers of the value orientation scale (Anderson 2000: 35). On ...view middle of the document...

An example of what Anderson would call street families being inconsiderate towards others would be the story of a woman named Maxine who lets her children play noisily outside, deals drugs throughout the night, and contribute towards the litter found on the streets (Anderson 2000:50). The decent would refer to these people as ignorant as the decent families would – in consideration for others – do their part of contributing towards the common area shared with the rest of the community. Another story of Yvette tells a story of a young girl who was sheltered her entire life from the lives of the “street” individuals including those in her extended family. As a result of this isolation, Yvette’s future was protected and her life secured. However, a simple decision of choosing to be decent is not enough to actually be decent in itself as there are a variety of factors that hinder upward social mobility from street lives to decency.
Street families often raise and subject their young to the harsh conditions of street life. With that said, the children grow up with the values and significances of what it takes to get by street-style. It is often hard to break such routines simply due to the fact that this is what has been accepted as the way of life. Another factor that may also hinder the upwards mobility is the fact that being street while moving upwards towards a decent life may be seen by the street as a form of deception to selfishly ensure their own well-being. Men especially trying to escape the street life for decency would be seen as committing an act of betrayal, “selling out,” or in the case of non-white males “acting white” (Anderson 2000: 65). In the case of Robert, the street life that he left came back to passively attack him through retaliation. The street individuals that he formerly associated himself with would drive by his new establishment of attempting to live a “legitimate” life showing him what he could have gained had he chosen to return to the life in which he held high power, gained enormous amounts of respect, and made for himself an honorable reputation status (Anderson 2000: 296). Because of this act of betrayal, the street members would disown Robert and no longer associate him with their street community therefore eliminating the street life as a fallback plan. Once Robert – or anyone seeking to leave the street life, for that matter – chooses to disassociate themselves from the street in pursuit of a decent life, they are often on their own as they have come to disrespect and betray their origins.
In addition to Robert is an individual named John who was not as successful in his pursuit for decency. John was not able to effectively code switch between lives to get where he needed to go. As mentioned earlier, code-switching juggles two identities and was exactly what Robert needed to progress into his new future. In fact, Robert accepted his new decent identity in lieu of his original street...

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