On Becoming A Class-Traitor
As the end of the year approaches and various spreadsheets are compiled, I am increasingly forced to face the uncomfortable reality that unless something changes I will soon cease to be legitimately bohemian in economic terms. Affluence awaits. While I'm sure this is the sort of thing that parents love, and people less fortunate hate to hear me bitch about, it actually does provoke a significant amount of anxiety for me. Hence the blogging.
Clearly, I don't buy into conventional American moires about what's polite to discuss, and I frequently carry on about religion, politics, sex, drugs, and all sorts of other topics that people tend to avoid in polite company. However, aside from the details of my own romantic life, money is probably the thing I'm most trepidatious talking about. Seems like a good way to give offense and/or invite ridicule. Nevertheless, it's on my mind and I feel like getting it out in the open, so here goes.
If I Had Money I'd Buy A New BMX
I grew up, for a number of reasons, with a certain amount of classism, although I wasn't too conscious of this until I went to NYU. There was always some vague resentment towards "rich kids" and a general anti-capitalist attitude (some of which still persists), but it wasn't until I got up-close to the children of idle wealth that I realized how much it set me off.
Part of this is justifiably utilitarian -- waste is bad and a lot of people are unreasonably extravagant -- but there's a difference between inequality/decadence and being financially successful (c.f. Warren Buffet). I've come to see Classism as no different at heart than any other -ism: a prejudice; something to be overcome.
Luckily for me, over the years I've met some really awesome people who also happen to be in that tippy-top income bracket, and it's helped me transcend most of my initial negativity towards wealth. I tend to expect more from these people, but all things considered I think that's fair, and the important thing is that I'm no longer intrinsically biased or negative towards people who happen to have money
The Road To Douchebagdom Is Paved With Rationalizations
However, the prospect of leaving the lower classes myself puts me back at square one. It feeds into the overall identity issue I have -- where do I fit in? what is my purpose? -- and gives fuel to the crisis of meaning. Posessing an actual "net worth" seems weird and scary. What's next?
Self-loathing seems to be a recurring theme these days, and this feels at least as psychologically complex as living in the thick of North Brooklyn while still hating on hipsters. I made out ok with that though, and I'm pretty sure I can keep my soul and self-respect even if I do start having real money to spend. My own decadence is already cause for concern, and moving on from simple luxuries like Laphroaig will be tricky, but I think I'm up to the challenge.
The truly pressing concern about changing socioeconomic class status is the socio part. Overall I'm finding the gradual and seemingly inexorable spread of dear social relations out across the country and world -- what Bill calls "continental drift" -- making me sad, and I worry that this gulf of experience will only grow wider and harder to bridge if class becomes a factor.
For instance, while on the one hand I really enjoy not worrying about how I'm going to pay for rent and food -- ascend the pyramid, bitches! -- and I also really enjoy being able to buy beers and shit, I also find it hard to relate to other people's financial problems, both in scale and in attitude. $500 doesn't mean what it used to, and more critically there's a shift that's taken place such that I no longer look at money as an oppressive force with power over me or the world. To the extent that solidarity in the face of this is something people bond over -- and I think it is -- I'm on the outs, and I fear that's only going to be more and more the case.
For a boy already feeling semi-isolated and estranged from his peers, losing this connection is scary. It gives rise to semi-rational responses like bailing on my job or engaging in radical strategies of divestment and bumdom.
Believe In The Divinity Of Yr Forward Momentum
It seems unlikely that I'll stay poor though, barring a concerted effort or significant calamity. Much as I believe in holy poverty, I bend towards the seductively pragmatic notion that I can do more with more. That and I also want to have a family, and it helps to not be a bum when trying to raise children.
The obvious course of action is to invest in the people and things I believe in, and use the leverage of my newfound financial clout to help address the problems of continental drift. At a minimum, I can afford to travel and see people more often, and beyond that there should be lots of opportunities to put ducats to work helping to connect and integrate my world, rather than letting class-difference drive it apart.
I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I think it has its long-term manifestation in real-estate...
In the shorter term this figures in to my current quest for self-love (embrace your earning power, Koenig) and it probably means I should start getting a little more intentional and precise about how I spend my cashola. For the past year while I've been earning a good salary and enjoying cheap rent, it's been all about paying down debts and not worrying how much the groceries cost. Getting out in front of this stuff seems to demand a bit more rigor, and probably also means finding ways to justify having pure fun.