More people are classifying themselves as lower class. The news is from the US but it applies to everywhere in the developed world, as we are all painfully aware of.
Roquemore is among the small but surging share of Americans who identify themselves as “lower class.” Last year, a record 8.4% of Americans put themselves in that category — more than at any other time in the four decades that the question has been asked on the General Social Survey, a project of the independent research organization Norc at the University of Chicago.
Of course, we are expected to see this: The middle class has been disappearing fast, and something needs to replace the old identity. When you are relying on food stamps, you can’t fool yourself to fit into the upper class, having the upper hand.
Cause we’re all under the upper hand
Go mad for a couple grams
And we don’t want to go outside tonight
And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland
Or sells love to another man
Let’s define “lower class” in words that are comprehensible to us. It is “no future.” I can see that it might be surprisingly liberating for some people to give up hopes of the olden days and succumb into the new reality.
When people call themselves lower class, “we’ll say, ‘You’re not lower than someone else. You just have less money,’” said Michaelann Bewsee, co-founder of Arise for Social Justice, a Massachusetts low-income rights group. But many don’t consider it insulting today, Bewsee said.
“They’re just reflecting their economic reality,” she said.
Is it only me who finds this “liberation from insulting” incredibly depressing? You can be okay having no money. But you can never, never be okay having no money AND calling yourself poor.
I am not saying you should call yourself rich no matter what. I am saying you should not give yourself away to categorization. You must not give away your identity, who you are. Only you can decide that. And when you give it up, that is the end of your life.
Ultimately what matters isn’t which social “class” we belong to—fuck that—but whether we are having enough or not. And that is a harder act than simply watching our economic status. It is about knowing who we are and what we want. Only then we know “enough.”
As William Blake said, we never know what is enough unless we know what is more than enough. We cannot label ourselves as “lower” or even “upper” and pretend that everything is covered. We need to just live class-less in order to “settle” into our enough-ness, if we are to live peacefully (or joyfully or without regret or whatever).
I believe it is time for us to stop the habit of comparison—whether we are doing better or worse compared to others. The only thing that matters is whether we are doing fine in our own terms, and labeling ourselves as “lower class” deprives us of that freedom from the beginning by putting us into a mental and social prison.
And that’s where I find hope in this otherwise grim news. Look at the numbers mentioned again: Only 8.4% are re-categorizing themselves as “lower class.” That is far smaller than the number of people who gave up identifying themselves as “middle class.” The rest of the economic refugees hasn’t decided where they belong, probably still wondering.
I believe it is a positive step. First you realize the old category has disappeared. Second you realize the other categories do not fit the new you either. (We are at this stage now.) And third—you realize that you no longer need a category. Your reality might be harsh, but your spirit has the opportunity to be freer than ever.
I truly hope that the number of self-claimed “lower class” people do not go up, regardless of our economic situation. I hope that the number of people re-identifying themselves remain low or go lower, so this useless statistics become truly useless.