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10/25/10

Only In America

We're all working class...

Americans have notions about the term working class often also associated with definitions of labor and lower end jobs, words that are also heavy with meaning relating to organized labor and unionism, farmers and farm workers. Depending on your position and place, being working class is either a noble thing or something a noble person wouldn't do. It denotes "blue collar" in the minds of many people and more specifically, working with your hands, the implication also meaning not with your brains.

It's a peculiar attitude for Americans to adopt since almost everyone, whether descended from original settlers or recent immigrants, works in this country in one fashion or another, to achieve their vision of the American Dream. The current assignation, associating working class with unionism, the labor movement and farming, is a result of mostly 20th century history. In reality, the Founding Fathers, although some of them considered themselves members of a new aristocratic class in the New World, were all people who worked at some occupation. Thomas Jefferson was a lawyer and Alexander Hamilton, an illegitimate orphaned immigrant child, worked his way up from being a clerk. Since WWII pretty much everyone has had a job, whether they call it a career, a profession or labor, it's still working for enumeration.

With few exceptions, everyone in America works to earn money to live, which may range from low end to high end. The haughtiness of a Wall Street white collar employee making a high salary looking down on a blue collar worker on Industrial Boulevard is an absurd affectation since they still both work for someone else. As we have recently witnessed, the CEO and Presidents of major banks can be fired and even if it is with a fat payout, they were still at the mercy of their employer as the boss.

That is not to say there aren't disparities between the euphemistically phrased white collar worker, pink collar worker and blue collar worker in more than just pay. Our society is naturally stratified by what type of job someone holds and the associated compensation. For all the talk about the "rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer" and resulting economic class differences, in America there still are no titled people of nobility and only a small minority live on inherited money or large sums of money they earned. Even for people of wealth, if they're smart, they must work at maintaining their assets, a job in itself based on fear of losing it all. That is still a small group. The vast majority of people, even high income earners who may have delusions about how important their career is and how much they earn, have as the average person says, a J.O.B. and work for someone else for their money. That sounds like labor to me.

In that sense, essentially we're all working class, especially in this current economic era.


[Written with a nod to Mike (7anby) of rock and confusion.]