I don’t know… I don’t think I can bear another trite political appeal to pity or envy the Middle Class. If you have read any of my previous musings or verses on this topic, you know already that this is not an attack on individuals but on the concept itself. I’ve written on this subject a few times now, such a bugbear is it to me, so please consider this a continuation sparked by Media’s recent focus, forgive the gaps I haven’t covered and any repetition of what I have.
The Middle: average by conformity. I’m sick of reading and hearing about it. What is still so helpful about this label beyond a political expedience that raises life expectations but limits availability? The political middle, affirming the existence of a socio-economic level above and another below and portrayed as some goldilocks of success and comfort zones. The ‘centre ground’ – the gravitational focus of all political parties and too many think tanks. This, even though the system has been overtly maintained only at the expense of the poorest worker bees and is a Ponzi now fit to burst. We’re all serfs now.
This manmade socio-economic hierarchy makes mugs out of all of us and none so much as those who still believe in its virtue, for, at best, it is a relative measure. Consider: if the ‘lower’ working class is being forced into no work, workfare and low-waged, part-time jobs and, if that circumstance is increasing up the income chain, then the Middle, if it is to survive as a political lever, must also shift: it has to get wider, even if temporarily, simply because its bottom line starts lower down. Of course, it’s not spun like this. Rather it is assumed that the lower middle is literally falling out of its class altogether. That this is the result of neoliberal economics and ineptitude rather than the personal behaviour of those falling, shows how ridiculously crappy this whole Victorian resurgence is. To make progress I think we must demolish the middle-is-the -answer myth but how will that happen save that those in this middle realise they were sold a pup and that feeding it keeps everyone on a leash.
It says this is the standard ‘we’ expect you to strive for and the best achievement possible for the likes of common people. Just enough reward, success, status, etc to feel important, righteous and included – but no more. No higher. You have to marry into or be born into higher – which is probably why the Middle quickly developed a lower, middle and upper. The concept maddens me. Not because I’m envious of material wealth or begrudge anyone success, good luck or a good life. Not because I think no one in that class hasn’t or doesn’t work hard. Not because I’m worried that I’m inferior in intellect, character or human worth. It makes me mad that an influentially dominant section of my society expects me to be. It makes me mad because it’s such a grotesque outrage to have recognised centuries ago that this socio-economic strata was developing; to have cynically or naively encouraged and celebrated it as the panacea of progress; to still think of it as such a great concept as to be worried over as though it were the only and most precious blueprint. What measurement is being celebrated most: level of income, nature of the work or outward appearance and behaviour? All three have purchase in this special zone and take turns in dominance according to socio-political climate – outward appearance and behaviour being du jour – but they are hardly a matter of class. We did move on from the days when a hierarchy of colour and cloth were deemed necessary, didn’t we? Anyway, caste, maybe (used loosely) but not class. Real class is more like charisma: you either have it or you don’t. All the rest is engineered waffle, the justification for which is increasingly reminiscent of missionary speak – ‘civilising’ the heathens by assimilation through doctrine as received wisdom. To say the poor, the working class, the ‘troubled’ underclass must learn to act more like the middle class to ‘fit in’ is deeply offensive. But thus is the Grand Order of Patriarchy maintained.
It is not middle class to have table manners, to dress ‘appropriately’, to hold an intelligent conversation, to have self-respect, seek dignity, to be confident, feel entitled to be somewhere, have aspiration, good character, conduct, morals, loyalty, or any other state that has popped into your head – unless someone wants to suggest (beyond the comedic) that such peripheries as taste or etiquette are the direct consequence of being above a certain tax rate. These qualities are abundant in all spheres of society and those same spheres all know the absence of them. It’s just that politicians would like you to think such qualities are unique to the Middle class because they find it more convenient and palatable than to consider the domino impact on children and adults of such things as long term financial insecurity, inadequate education and inept governance. That would cost money and State effort and require losing the superiority complex. Which came first: the wholesale destabilisation of society or socio-economic fallacies..? This is not to deny the existence of those who do fit within the ‘troubled’ model – they have always existed and if this troubled number is accelerating then may I please direct you back to the last question. No, this is to decry the patronising and control freakery of blanket policy makers. Remember at school when your whole class was threatened with vicarious punishment because the teacher didn’t know what else to do..?
It isn’t that learning to fit or at least be seeming to fit in to a new environment isn’t useful – politicians do it – or sometimes essential – spies do it. Flippancy aside, what bothers me is how acceptance in one’s society is being prescribed and that I don’t believe for one minute that the powers that be give two hoots for the well-being of the not-middle-class citizens: my cynical head sees it as just another way to blame the poor for their poverty (and dissenters – the middle is all about conformity) so as to avoid addressing the real issues that prevent people from feeling they can find their own place. I think more people would ‘fit in’ naturally but also on their own terms if political will really cared about creating a fair climate and a just society.