There has been more and more talk of class warfare. Sometimes it is couched in humanitarian terms: income inequality, for example, or increase in income gap. Sometimes in terms of war.
Here is a more fundamental way to look at it: think of it as a natural segmentation. Income. Social. Ideological, even. We’ll keep it simple: low, middle and high. For our purpose here, these refer both to income and social lifestyle. While IFO considers herself an intellectual, and therefore outside of the class system, she also considers herself firmly Middle Class.
She’s been influenced by the book “The Status Seekers” by Vance Packard, published in 1959 and still in circulation, but without the bitterness and blame. Packard was seriously left-leaning, but an accurate journalist.
The following descriptions are GENERALIZATIONS, so please don’t say you know people who don’t fit the pattern. IFO does, too.
Low class people live in the present, which appears to them to be frozen, and in the ‘here’ which has no direction up or down. They are the epitome of the saying, “He had no chance and he muffed that, too.” They are workers or welfare recipients.
They are always tired, are overweight or too skinny (poor diet in both cases), under-educated, often have substance-abuse problems. They are very family and friend oriented – they would take the shirt off of their backs to help someone. They are also vengeance oriented, which makes them sullen and dangerous to other low class people, but warm, loving and protective of their own people.
Middle class people are future oriented and aspirational. They are managers and small business owners. They want to join the upper class, earn more money. They save avidly or conscientiously, strive after ever-higher goals for more income, or stuff, or activities. They keep their property and things in good order. Young ones are fit, but as they age, they sag a little. They yearn to see and be seen. The idea of etiquette is to follow rules they have learned.
Some do abuse mind-altering substances, but only until the abuse interferes with their upward mobility. If they don’t get off the sauce or drugs, they sink into the lethargic lower class, never to be heard from again.
There are two kinds of upper class people. New uppers are different from old uppers. No matter how much money they have, they still act like an exaggerated form of the class they came from – low or middle. IOW, they are just rich low class or rich middle class people. Think professional athletes, lottery winners, pop entertainment stars, high tech billionaires.
Old upper, or high class, people want to be invisible. They have everything they need or want and want to keep it. They think in terms of net worth, rather than savings or insurance, and legacies for future generations. They own the companies their grandfathers founded.
As Packard so tellingly related, upper class people drive old cars, wear expensive, but classic clothes that never wear out or go out of fashion, have old homes, some inherited. If any of them abuse substances, they either commit suicide or get committed or get prescriptions drugs prescribed by a doctor hired by their family.
Upper class people can be found in the ranks of large donors for numerous charitable causes. They are unfailingly gracious and polite to everyone they meet and have seemingly innate (but actually inculcated from birth) good manners. They are well-educated, fit, hard-working (but not for money), self-controlled (until they have a nervous breakdown, but that’s a topic for another discussion).
Is it any wonder that we in the middle class strive to be like them? If we know any. The problem with our increasingly stratified society today is that we don’t know each other, except by reputation as defined by the popular press – caricatures of reality.
The different classes may never encounter anyone of either of the other two. Several years ago, IFO happened to encounter a large number of upper class people. She was astounded that they looked different from everyone else she knew. Hair perfectly in place, relaxed, calm, confident, clean. What an eye-opener.
Advice based on these observations: get outside of your own circles. Get to know the other classes. Each class has different positive lessons for us. Negative lessons, too, for that matter.