I’ll continue on the subject of middle class and how it affects our society, a topic I started two days ago. I’ve thought about and the situation became clearer to me now, to the point that it appears self-explanatory.
Let’s start with definitions first. Originally middle class was comprised of small time bourgeoisie, which was probably the worst slice of the society. Proletariat was slaving away, honestly earning their bread, aristocrats were decadent but still miles ahead in their material position, proper bourgeoisie were rather obnoxious and uncouth for their new found money, and middle class was obnoxious and uncouth without money – really the bottom of the barrel.
Only a hundred years ago middle class was the main recruitment base for all kinds of fascists. I mentioned that distinct feature of middle class is constant whining. They always have something to complain about, always critical of their leaders and their servants at the same time. They complain about economy, politics, culture, religion – they imagine themselves to be perfect judges of everything they see, that’s how they validate themselves in the society. When someone comes along and shows them the way to put the rest of the society straight they jump on it – hence fascism.
As time went buy small scale businesses were consolidated into ever larger ones and employment has become the main source of income even for middle classes. To distinguish themselves from proletariat they invented white and blue collar job descriptions. Originally middle classes were vaiśyas, traders, and so one could say that being in employ made them into śudras, a step down the ladder, but white collar jobs are not quite the same.
Most of such jobs are not in executing someone’s orders but rather working in an impersonal system. Most of these people never even see the owners or their employers, and many businesses do not have owners as such, only shareholders, so working there isn’t quite like being a śudra.
Still, they are the guys that make things happen. They do not lead, they follow. They are undoubtedly a very important part of the society but they wouldn’t survive on their own, without massive corporations to provide jobs and support their financial habits, which is mostly borrowing. They are also miles below the real ruling classes.
Numerically they are very big and in a democracy the more people you can rally for your cause the stronger you are, so no one can rule successfully without getting support of the middle class.
This made middle class egos bloat beyond any reason. They truly believe that they are the only ones who matter. They usually have a decent education so they understand how things work, more or less, so they love to offer unsolicited opinions, usually critical, about everything under the sun. Add to this their weight as a voting block and they start talking about electing leaders to serve the public, ie middle classes, ie themselves.
One could say here that leaders are supposed to serve the public even in the Vedic system but there’s a key difference here – seeing the king serve the public is one thing, demanding the king to serve me is something completely different. It’s just arrogance.
This arrogance, desire to be involved in everything, relatively high level of knowledge, and the necessity to court the middle class has made ruling classes job more difficult but they’ve learned to manage anyway.
Ruling classes learned to manipulate middle classes and exploit their weaknesses and vanity. First, they give them plenty of topics for criticism, usually of their rivals, but a common enemy is also a good option. Latest example is how the whole world ganged up on Putin, even Prince Charles got involved, comparing Putin to Hitler. No wonder no one takes that sock puppet seriously there.
Secondly, they give them some projects to work on to feel like they are doing something good for the society and to feel good about themselves. Drinking Starbucks coffee as doing charity is one little example of this. Starbucks coffee is overpriced, of course, but they advertise that some of the profits go towards poor coffee farmers so Sturbucks customers think that it makes them charitable. The whole scheme was thought up to increase Starbucks own profits, of course, but that is not he message drilled into their middle class customers.
Other, far more nefarious examples, could be distracting people with nonessential issues like abortion or medicare or “change”. Abortion, of course, is a very important topic for us as devotees but for the rulers it’s just something to keep middle classes busy with while the government continues with the business of governing, which is business.
“Occupy” movement of a couple of years ago raised people’s awareness of the really important issues in the modern society but they didn’t catch on. Why? Because middle classes can’t carry anything on their own, their attention span is short, they need easily understood solutions, they need sound bites, they need emotional involvement, and all that is done through mass media. If it’s not on TV, it doesn’t exist.
Ruling classes nailed these three down – media, capital, and government. There’s like a rotating door between them, or a game of musical chairs where no one ever loses. Middle classes are totally excluded, however.
There’s a case to be made that for all the self-importance and boasting, middle classes have never ever made any real difference and haven’t contributed anything substantial to the betterment of the society.
Thirty years ago the middle class world was united around raising funds for starving Africans. They organized the famous Live Aid concert that was watched by one and a half billion people. Did it make any real difference? None whatsoever.
As usual, it didn’t address root causes of poverty, it didn’t affect the system that keeps Africans poor, and once the money run out it was back to starving. It kept the middle classes occupied for a long time, however.
Another example is that stupid “change” – every election in the US is about “change”, about going to Washington and cleaning it up. “Together we can”, they hope, but it never happens. Why? Because it’s just a topic for conversation, topic to have a political discourse about while business as usual goes on.
Now, what about us, what about our society? How does is relate to us?
Unfortunately, we have swallowed this middle class agenda hook, line, and sinker. We feel very passionate of middle class issues of the day, which are non-issues most of the time. Veganism, fanaticism, gender equality – we pick up everything that can be related to us and we make a big fuss out of it, just as middle classes would do. There’s a lot of hot air, accusations fly left and right, and nothing ever changes.
Here’s the thing – if we want to change the world we need to use issues like this to control the discussion, not to drown in it ourselves. We need to stick to our own values that should be spared public exposure and criticism and let people rave about something else.
We need to manipulate public discussion, not be manipulated ourselves. Some of us figured that out but chose to manipulate public discussion internally on matters we should not be discussing at all. They use these techniques to saw internal discord rather than advance our society’s agenda. Why? Because we forgot what that agenda was, we let ourselves to become overwhelmed by trivial issues and started chasing butterflies.
Anyway, middle class life is for losers, and if we, as devotees, can choose who to get fascinated by in the material world we should be fascinated by rulers, not by these hapless followers. That’s who we should imitate if we want to change the world, not the “chattering classes”, as they are often called in British media. “Chattering” because they are all arm-chair, internet philosophers who love to talk about everything but have absolutely no effect on the real world.
Perhaps I should end with a disclaimer – by losers here I mean people who think they can make a difference but actually they don’t. If one leads a middle class life because it’s his karma and he tries to use relative peace and comfort to advance his Kṛṣṇa consciousness than “loser” label is clearly not for him.