I've spent a lot of time writing about religion, politics, gay people, music and so forth, but the great thing about reading bell hooks has been that she's opened my mind to the possibility that I also have the potential to blabber on about social class online, which is a revelation. It's quite an interesting subject, and not really a standard topic of conversation on blogs, from what I can tell. There's no 'emerging middle class' online network for me to steal ideas from, which is unfortunate. It strikes me though that class is just as directive of one's life path as is religion or politics or sexual orientation or gender, if not more so.

I for one have decided that I generally prefer to be thought of as working class, because that's how I was raised: I came from a small farming community in Ohio, and I've done my time in fast food, factories, warehouses, construction sites and cafeterias, right up through my adult years. I've got a minimal earning potential, and I resent people who drive nice cars and live in big houses. The problem is, no one actually does think of me as working class anymore. Case in point, even though I was in a similar financial situation with all the other employees, I never quite fit in on the construction site or at the warehouse because of my education. I tried to hide it, but I was always too good at the crossword puzzles we did instead of working, and I never believed in enough conspiracy theories. Nowadays, I have 1 1/2 of my own offices, a timeshare, and I blend in a little too easily in the Episcopal Church, which is a point of continual shame. My family is still mostly working/lower-middle class (though educated), and I've got a lot of good friends from the warehouse, so I like to think that people of all classes like me. The fact is though that most anyone who percieves me as being of a higher class will probably resent me at least a little, and most anyone who percieves me as being of lower social class will probably not take me quite seriously. (The good news? That's human nature, so I get to resent and look down upon other people as well.)

bell (and I'm repeatedly not capitalizing her name b/c she doesn't) seems to have been in the same boat as me in some ways (which I take pride in), though she's moved further along the extremes of the social axis. She started out as the daughter of a janitor, poor, black, female and Southern (Kentucky), and has become wealthy, famous, educated (at elite institutions) and influential (though she is still black and female, which is of course significant). I've just moved from being a lower middle class, white, male Mid-western son of a small business owner to being an educated white-male West-Coaster with significant sounding job titles, but not much money or real influence (outside of this world famous blog). She talks a lot about the conflicts and confusion there, which I can identify with: the desire for people to not feel like you're selling out, or forgetting where you came from. The pressure to not 'do better' than your friends and family. The worry that people back home will resent you, and the insidious, sinful creeping notion that you have improved yourself. The worries about people perceptions. The conflicting desires to support folks 'back home' any way you can and to concurrently not be seen as condescending. The not feeling quite at home anywhere. You really can't entirely win.

I'm lucky to have a family that is generally supportive and happy about what I've become (and what Angel has become), but I doubt that I'll make it through life without hitting some family bumps related to either education, money, or status--especially once Angel and I finally finish school and actually obtain some of the latter of those two things. (And don't think I'm blaming family and friends for this: I'm sure that I've started to become a bit of an asshole, and have actually gotten disconnected from the reality that a lot of people in my life live in currently.) I do of course take seriously my responsibility to society, family and friends, and I take seriously the notion of stewardship for what I have, but all of this stuff is bound to lead to difficulties. True Biggie: Mo Money, Mo Problems (and also mo power mo problems). Ain't nobody wants to ask for help, and ain't nobody gives help without a little bit of self-righteousness or resentment. Whatever my complaints about our non-existent welfare state, it doesn't change the reality that in the US, nobody's going to take care of you but your family and friends, and that's a big social minefield. Of course, that has been the way of the world throughout history, so deal with it Tim. (I know, right?!)

My religious transition has of course been a factor in social climbing, and it's one of the reasons that I've always been a little bit uncomfortable with the Episcopal Church--historically the Republicans at prayer, but these days the guilt-ridden white liberals at prayer. There is of course very little diversity in the Episcopal Church racially and culturally, but there is also very little diversity in terms of class. What to do what to do? More self-indulgent personal testimony online I suppose...


wes said…
wait wait wait...did i see somewhere that you have a timeshare? you know, i have this hellish pit in my backyard, and you're welcome to throw your money into it anytime you'd like. and i'll let you stay here for free--twice a year.
Tim Mathis said…
only if i can sell it at the end for the same amount of money as i threw into it.

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