In a comment on the ‘Question of Class’ post, reader ‘Junco Partner’ asks a simple question: What do we do about it?
Before I expatriated myself three years ago, I noticed how everyone in the United States was not only deceiving themselves about their class (including many who deny class exists, almost with the same violence as the English) but were also imagining that it was a matter of time before they were rich, too.
What’s a class concious citizen on the United States to do? I ask this now after thinking long and hard on it, throwing in the towel, leaving the country, but I’d be fascinated to hear opinions.
Damned if I know, JP. How do you begin to deal with the very real issues of class in a country that denies there are any and can’t even talk about it without breaking into a cold sweat?
Americans have three distinct fantasies about class in the US that are relevant here:
1) We believe there is no class structure in the United States
We say this despite the fact that we acknowledge at least 3: lower, middle, and upper. What we appear to mean when we say this is that there’s no rigid class structure here as as there was in 19th century Britain, for example, and that we are not forever condemned to remain in whichever class we were born into. True enough legally; untrue enough in practical terms: most of us do indeed remain in the same class into which we were born.
2) We believe there are no bars to moving up
The ability of a few to break into the upper reaches doesn’t necessarily translate into freedom of movement for all, and it overlooks the tremendous if intangible class distinctions, advantages, and privileges that are used to keep the majority in their place.
3) We believe, as JP put it, that it’s only ‘a matter of time before we are rich, too.’
This fantasy is incredibly pervasive and completely ignores the overwhelming reality that no such thing is going to happen for 99.99999999999% of us. Republicans–and Lottery officials–are adept at exploiting this fantasy at every opportunity and any attempt to ground this discussion in reality is met with vicious denial. To an extent, America itself is defined by this belief and debating it is tantamount to attacking the core reason for our existence.
Taken together, these three fantasies have successfully blocked any alternative discussion that the core of American purpose is the ceation of a fair and just society rather than of a classless one. Taken together, these three fantasies have done more damage to the poor, to real social mobility, and to economic justice than almost any other set of beliefs.
What to do about it, then?
The floor is now open for discussion.
Filed under: The Class War |