Interesting documentary on class in America on KQED tonight. You know. America’s dirty little secret? That our classless society really isn’t? It was actually well-done and presented some valid arguments from both sides of this war we’re not officially having.
I was drawn to the guy who mentioned that, every time he sees a $60,000 car drive by, he wonders “what was that about?” Hit it right on the head for me. Is a $60,000 car really three times better than a $20,000 car or four times better than a $15,000 car? How much of that purchase price is primarily about the driver making a statement that says “Look at me. I can afford a $60,000 car!”
I don’t think it’s necessarily prejudice against the wealthy to look at this guy and his car and determine that we probably wouldn’t get along. It’s not that the guy is rich that bothers me. It’s the fact that his priorities and values suggest that blowing that much money on a car is a good idea. This says to me that we probably wouldn’t have that much in common.
I realize that very few wealthy people wake up in the morning wondering “how can I trample the working class today?” I also realize that too few wealthy people (and poor people, as it happens) walk around thinking how they can show respect for other people.
Also mentioned, though, was the idea of “getting above your raising”. This one, like flaunting your wealth and questionable priorities, is a disturbing class affectation, but one exhibited by the poorer classes. It’s sort of a disincentive for anyone who strives for something better, or even different. I’ve seen this one at work too, although not dramatically, and more from a geographic standpoint than an economic one.
The idea is that if you dare “abandon your roots” and try to move on to something (or someplace) which might be more suitable to your personality, you may find that family (and even some friends) back home don’t know or care how to react to you anymore. It’s not that they don’t understand your new life so much as they don’t even acknowledge that you might actually HAVE one. They don’t want to know about it, and they don’t really want to have much to do with you because you’re some sort of traitor for leaving a place which is so obviously perfect for you (because it’s perfect for them).
I’ve gotten some of this attitude from a few family members, it’s strange because I think I’m considerably less snobbish about my southern roots and surroundings now than I was when I actually lived there.
Another interesting, if a bit obvious, subject was the way class identity is largely established in high school, but that’s a subject for another time. I’m babbling and it’s time to go to bed…