In his growing critically acclaimed documentary, Rednecks + Culchies , Irish born Director Anthony Monaghan’s gives a voice to America’s very ignored working class and poor. Another side of America is revealed through the stories of Monaghan’s construction workers , a side that is beyond skin deep and rarely seen in media and film. Based in St. Louis Mo, the documentary is both heartbreaking and inspiring but ties a common thread of humanity to a city dis-proportionally impacted by violence and harshly divided by class and race.
“If you’re aren’t born into wealth and the middle class, you’re already essentially disadvantaged because you won’t have as great of access to a good education and you may be distracted by the ills of living in a stressful environment plagued by violence, drugs and apathy,” begins Director Anthony Monaghan as he introduces me to his passion project Rednecks + Culchies. As an Irish immigrant living in the Midwestern city that has dominated world news headlines since the killing of unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, Anthony Monaghan’s perspective of the city of St. Louis comes from a unique angle that is rarely seen. I initially had my reservations but was eager to hear his angle. The budding director who only has five years of formal education owns a thriving construction company and is a self proclaimed Culchie (the Irish equivalent of what America defines as Rednecks). Monaghan had worked construction jobs around the world but never before had he encountered anything like the harsh disparities he saw in the lives of American construction workers, this inspired Rednecks + Culchies. The documentary delves inside the hidden world of Monaghan’s workers who are brilliantly skilled craftsmen, but suffer from poor work habits, drug dependency, alcohol addictions and past criminal behavior.
“There are a lot of people who have become complacent in life. They feel like they can’t advance and at times have lost their purpose and meaning because they are forgotten about in society and disposed of by Politicians with no accountability. Some of my workers really struggle with dependencies and being consistent in their lives and on the job. ” Rednecks + Culchies forces us see that the pathological and dysfunctional behavior of some of the workers stem from something much greater than mere irresponsibility or laziness but rather the side effects and psychological impact of living a life without hope. This is better explained as nihilism by Dr. Cornel West in Race Matters who defines the ordeal as “The livid experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaningless. The frightening result of this is a numbing detachment from others and a self destructive disposition towards the world.”
Ironically, when it comes to distress and poverty in the U.S, there seems to be a misconception or calculated agenda and strategy that poverty is only associated with African-Americans, Latinas and immigrants, this is numerically incorrect. While there is a definite gap in wealth, being poor is not mutually exclusive with being a minority. Rednecks + Culchies show us this. Monaghan’s workers discuss their past addictions to crack, meth and even their run-ins with the law and being imprisoned. Through all of this they also reveal their sense of being forgotten about. This validates the argument of the misrepresentation of poverty in the U.S. Even the very liberal and educated Bernie Sanders, said “White People don’t know what its like to be poor,” According to the PBS and the U. S Census Bureau the Black Upper-class had the highest rate of economic increase since the 1970’s and the Black middle class has tripled since then as well. Currently African-American women the have the highest increase in college enrollment followed by Asian men. If you leave it up to mainstream media, White people living in poverty are reduced to being a figment of our imagination. Factually,Whites are the highest recipients of welfare and food-stamps clocking in 40.2 percent of the S.N.A.P benefits as compared to 25.7% of the African-American population and 10% of the Hispanic population. Make no mistake about the fact that Race and Xenophobia are very immense issues in the U.S but unfortunately they are often utilized by the political power structure as a self-serving purpose to distract people from the underlying problem of economic hardship which is a contributing factor of the two issues. As an Irish immigrant who experienced discrimination and being treated like a second class citizen in Britain, Monaghan despises racial division and believes that making the working class invisible as a whole is a great disservice because it keeps politicians from doing their job to fix problems stemming from poverty.
On March 24th at 7p.m, Mr. Monaghan is hosting “It’s not just Black and White a “Rage against Poverty” screening presentation of his documentary at the Tivoli Theatre with all proceeds benefiting S.H.E.R.A.H a St. Louis organization providing housing, support and resources to low-income women. S.H.E.R.A.H also receives 20% of the sales of Rednecks + Culchies. Rednecks + Culchies is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be officially released on April 19.