Talkin' Class - Difficulties and Solidarity
It's difficult to talk (write) about class. Part of the difficulty comes because it's generally a verboten subject in the ostensibly classless utopia we inhabit here in Estados Unidos. We don't have a well-oiled vocabulary to deploy, or much history to draw on in framing the discussion. But let's be honest, most of the difficulty comes from the fact that any such discussion quickly becomes one that is self-implicating and/or divisive.
Here's me trying to get around that. I've given up on trying to write the One True Blog Post with my thoughts, so in the spirit of getting back in the groove of writing and posting I'm just going to start chipping away.
Having grown up in a household of modest means, and worked a lot of what you'd call "regular jobs" in my youth, I absolutely self-identify with workers as a class. That's where I come from by experience as well as ideology. My father was a college professor, but also a proponent of hard work and the seasoning effects of manual labor; frequently reminding me in a role-modal'ish way how he worked 99 days straight out in the oilfields of West Texas fresh out of high school.
Going a little further — and here departing a bit from my patrilineal line of thought, which bends conservative after all — I appreciate how much literal fortune (aka luck) has played a part in my own happy outcomes, and as such I also empathize with people who struggle in the increasingly inhospitable jungle of our late-stage capitalist economy. It sucks. Wages have been stagnant for most of my life, and the middle class is shrinking, so hard work just isn't as effective as it used to be as a way of getting ahead.
Empathizing with workers clearly contrasts with my actual position as an owner and manager, just was sympathizing with the downtrodden faces off with my own privilege. I play the role of capitalist in this drama. What's more, given this is a highly advantageous position, one which allows me (so I tell myself) to better help my family, friends, and causes I believe in, I have no plans to divest myself, even thought the juxtaposition (some would say hypocrisy) of holding one set of class values while occupying a different class position creates some moral discomfort, social frisson, and cognitive dissonance.
As for the "socio" part of "socio-economic class", having grown up with left-wing social values and lived various semi-bohemian milieus for most of my youth, I clearly identify with resistance to oppression, and empathize with marginalized or minority peoples. Again, that puts me at odds with my superficial identity as a straight white male. But it's an easy choice, especially having never been indoctrinated with any other notion than that society is an ever-imperfect, but hopefully ever-improving experiment.
Feminism is for everybody; equality is for everybody; social justice is a real thing, and it only comes about gradually as people fight for it; so you can call me a Social Justice Warrior if you like. Sounds kind of bad-ass.
While economic inequality is rightly front-and-center in any discussion of class — hats off to the Occupy movement for putting this in the spotlight; SIFUABS — I think the notion of Solidarity is just as vital. I'll again acknowledge the self-interest in this statement: given that I am increasingly on the "other side" of any numerically drawn class divide, it's certainly to my benefit to talk about Solidarity. It's certainly in my benefit to talk about how meaningful, perhaps even vital, alliances must be built across nominal classes in order to achieve change.
And that's true, but it's not really my point. My point is that the way our culture works (for all classes) massively underserves the human need for solidarity. There's got to be a huge opportunity for headway by making this a touchstone for progress. We all crave belonging, it's literally in our blood. But more and more of what we are offered by our surroundings derives its benefits from exclusivity, prestige, status. More and more of our interactions are experienced as primarily commercial exchanges, rather than human. The sociological boogyman of Anomie is directly fed and supported by many of the mechanisms of contemporary life, which is a shame.
It's a shame because people are less happy under these conditions, but it's also an opportunity because the Solidarity can be a beatific, transformative experience. Feeling for a minute that we really are all in it together and having that feeling validated and responded by your fellow humans around you is such a massively contrasting experience compared to everyone's norm, it really can get people thinking outside the box, that maybe another world really is possible.
That's what I've got at the moment, maybe one chip or two knocked off a mondo subject. I'll keep working on this as a tag and we'll see what happens.