Thursday, 18 March 2010

A touch of class

Do any of us still seriously think of ourselves as this class or that, as middle class or working class (or even upper class)? I suppose we do, when for some reason we're forced to.

If you push me, I would describe myself as middle class, though that's more a knee-jerk response than a reality. What does it actually mean apart from fairly well-off, respectable, an office worker, a law-abiding citizen?

And if you look closely, that label's a bit bogus anyway. I have relatives who were once shop assistants or machinists, or lived in seedy neighbourhoods, or were stony broke. In short who definitely came from the wrong side of the tracks. So can I really claim middle class status?

A lot of the time we only use these labels to make ourselves feel good. If I'm a sweat-soaked manual worker, I can complain about the la-di-da middle classes who never did a proper day's work in their lives. If I'm a target-driven office manager, I can moan about the feckless working classes who live on benefits at the taxpayers' expense. At least I'm a cut above the other lot.

Supposedly everyone aspires to a middle class lifestyle. But do they really or is that just another bit of advertising bollocks? What's so wonderful about a suburban semi, a crippling mortgage, a chock-full pending tray and business plans?

My aspirations are rather different. Some interesting people to hang out with, a comfortable chair to ruminate in, some tasty food and some intelligent books are quite enough to keep me happy. The des res in a leafy cul de sac is a nice fringe benefit, but only after the rest is catered for.

Middle class or working class, does it really matter?

PS: Yes, I know, there's also the Marxist option of ruling class or working class, but that doesn't make much sense nowadays either.

PIC: Jon Hamm and January Jones in Mad Men. Taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.


  1. I'll have a touch of glass any day!

    As for class.... I left all that behind when I left school!

  2. Grannymar - A touch of glass is always welcome! You mean the idea of class has never entered your mind for the whole of your adult life? Come now....

  3. I love your way of thinking Nick. Much better to be part of the happy class rather than an upper, lower or middle one.

  4. I honestly don't think in terms of class, Nick, however, and it is a big one, I have tremendous difficulty with the gap between the thinking classes and the non-thinking classes, the sheeple, the people who accept the status quo and show up at mass every Sunday and throw a supplement into the basket to fight the lawsuits.
    On a podium today, sorry.

  5. Conor - Quite so, the happy class is the one to belong to. And you don't need a mortgage or an impressive CV to join it!

    www - Ah yes, the thinking and the non-thinking classes, a very important dividing line. Amazing how many people accept what's fed to them without question.

  6. I think class these days is determined by income rather than breeding or education. My entire street is populated by 'self made' business people with little education and lots of money. I think less about our differences and more about our similarities as I get older. Perhaps it's the crippling mortgage that's bringing me down a peg or two!

  7. Baino - I think you might be right. Income is the first thing people think of now when working out their social position. Money has become more and more important, as the widespread celeb-worship demonstrates.

  8. We're peasants. Every here and there on the family tree, we've married up (or someone has married down, depending on your point-of-view) but basically we're peasants.

    I kind of like it that way. Keeps us under the radar...

  9. Megan - Good to know a peasant or two, keeps me on my toes. Amazing how often the so-called less privileged turn out to be more intelligent and practical than all those toffee-nosed halfwits.

  10. They are totally artificial classifications and in my opinion, silly. But human beings will aspire to climb the ladder and I enjoy watching the comedy.

  11. Ramana - Yes, there's something rather amusing and absurd about people trying to achieve a higher social status, just so they can look down on everyone else.

  12. interesting post, nick....

    i'll be back

  13. See you later, wiley Kylie....

  14. i'm sure you know that australia prides herself on egalitarianism and the word class isnt mentioned too often but class still exists of course. (and i have loads of it)

    seriously, we scrape into the bottom end of middle class as far as income goes but i so aspire not to be middle class in many ways. middle class has bad connotations with me.....
    ugly aspirations and new money and ostentatiousness (is that right?)
    and loss of perspective.....

    i'm a snob, arent i?

  15. Kylie - No, not a snob at all. I share all those feelings about ugly aspirations etc. People whose whole lives are devoted to climbing the social ladder and making other people look inadequate are nauseating, frankly.