A View on Classism

I’m listening to an episode of Hidden Brain while getting ready for work this morning. The title is “Voting with Your Middle Finger”.

This episode explores Trump’s voters, and the reason that they give him what seems to be unconditional support.

But the beginning of the episode really struck me because it put words to a concept that I could never articulate. The anthropologist explains that the biggest difference between the working middle class and the elitists is not only income, but how they view their work. The working middle class sees their work as a means to an end, they don’t really like their job, but they take pride in working hard. Their job title does not define them, it is simply work. The elitists identify themselves through their work; I am a professor, a lawyer, a techy, a surgeon, etc. Both groups take pride in working hard, and that’s where the gap has potential to be bridged, but when an upper-class citizen asks a working-class citizen “What do you do?” it’s an insult. When an upper-class citizen asks another upper-class citizen “What do you do?” it’s an opportunity for them to share their values, and maybe compare the amount of work that they put in. That’s a token of Americanism. How hard do you work? How many hours of overtime do you put in? How successful are you and how much do you actually deserve it? The elitists ask these questions because they see their work as significant or meaningful, the questions have an underlying tone of how much have you contributed to the world? The middle working-class citizen’s contribution to the world is not through their work. It’s through their family, the opportunities they give their children, and their day-to-day acts of goodwill.

This explanation does not account for the inbetweeners, like my parents. My dad and step mom have a household income of a little more than $200,000, and so do my mom and step dad. My step mom is an HR rep, my dad a tech project leader, my step dad an electrician, and my mom, an ex-court reporter, now types captions for Canadian news programs. They generally like their jobs, maybe not as much as they used to, but they’re thankful for their work and proud of themselves for being there. They’re college grads, well educated and good parents. I think it’s safe to say that they pride themselves more on their family than on their work.

All of this defining has made me more confused on where I want to be. I think that I would like to define myself through my work, I don’t have much of an interest in having kids but watching my parents has shown me that if it doesn’t turn out that way, I can still have a fulfilling life.