“In the light of class oppression, must needs therefore understand the social pathology in the context of the conduct-shaping life experiences.”
This is a sentence that I used in nearly all my essays. Back then in university I was eager to include an analysis of socioeconomic status wherever possible. I felt that the main difference between me and my service users – why I was sitting across from them telling them what they needed to work on rather than the other way around – was, that I never had to work through that many stressors, especially financial ones.
And I don’t want to suggest that generally well-off people do not have to worry about paying the bills or what they can and can’t afford – but in my case, I never had to wonder where the next meal was going to come from or how I will pay for books. It’s a kind of playful worrying – will I get the chocolate chip or the lemon and poppy seed muffin? Maybe I was stressed out, but I still went home with a muffin – worst case scenario: high fibre muffin (Why anyone would eat such a muffin voluntarily still escapes me, but alright).
So ultimately, my financial worries never kept me from participation. They might’ve kept me from experiencing comfort, living luxuriously or enjoying as much as I could, but never from taking part.
Whilst on an ideological basis it always made sense to me, the traditional Marxian analysis of class did not quite fit what I was seeing. My friends who decided to stay in unqualified manual labour were doing quite alright. Of course, they knew that their wage wouldn’t suffice if they wanted to provide for their future family, but why should they worry about that now?
In my mind, the ‘working class’ was really not that afflicted with bad living conditions, but living decently. I still wasn’t quite sure where this left me, as my fierce insistence upon the importance of class slowly lost its basis – the workers did alright, didn’t they?
So, I had a hard time recognizing my privilege, until I read an article by EF1 a couple of weeks ago, which outline 6 ways to recognize said privilege. Particularly, 3 things stuck with me.
“I am able to pay for comfort”
“I have enough money to shop for fresh fruit and veg”
“I own a car or live somewhere, where there is a decent public transport system”
The funny or rather bizarre thing is, I wasn’t quite able to grasp, that this wouldn’t be absolutely normal for everyone. At the heart of this is the fact, that money is never my first consideration. I cannot have everything I want, but I have everything I need, and I have it in a way that fits in my life.
The participation-theme comes up for me time and time again. In my hometown, there is a plan to open a bar with flexible prices, so people who do not have sufficient money can enjoy a night out. Again, I think about what I can drink in a bar, how often I can go out in a week, if I really need that kebab and the way home or if I’ll just make a sandwich at home – but I never have to question my ability to go in the first place.
That money can isolate and separate people that easily, then, is I think a really really scary thought. But, it gives me an insight, why I didn’t see or recognize the difference in status. I don’t live where they do, and I don’t go to the places they do.
The word ‘Echo-chamber’ is on everybody’s radar right now – but should we maybe talk more about social stratification and separation? Because how can get along, let alone fight for a common future, if we don’t occupy the same social spaces?
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