Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Class Consciousness and Pride

Mitt Romney's obnoxious plutocratic ramblings combined with the one year birthday of the Occupy Movement have got me ruminating about rising class consciousness in America, specifically my own. 

I was raised to believe that ours is a classless society and anyone at all can make it here with a little elbow grease and some sturdy bootstraps. My father was a salesman and my mother, a secretary. I knew that my family was deeply in debt because whenever they gave me a credit card to buy clothes, it would get repossessed by the cashier. 

Yes, like most Americans,  my family spent a lot of time worrying about money and how they would pay their bills. But we lived with most of the trappings of middle class society: a mortgaged house, financed cars, a refrigerator full of food and a large wardrobe of second-hand and bargain basement clothing. Looking back on it now, I see a lower middle class (upper working-class?) family that had bought into the American dream at the expense of their own personal peace of mind.

The upper middle class kids at school did not accept me or my group of friends but, with my rebellious nature, I perceived that as a badge of honor. It's only recently that I have begun to explore the feelings of inferiority that I've harbored and internalized. 

In personal terms, coming to terms with class and vowing to fight for equality for all is a positive thing. It is true that the early acquiring of awareness sometimes translates into resentment of those whose situation was cushier, more supportive, different. In any movement for liberation, a degree of hostility always plays a role in the early stages of consciousness.I experienced this both as an activist in the women's movement and the LGBT movement. Awakening is often born with pain. Later, realization dawns that feelings of inferiority do not indicate actual inferiority. Hopefully then it becomes possible to move on. 

The scars of our early lives follow us everywhere. Sometimes, when I'm depressed, I believe that part of me still lives in high school. The trick is to acknowledge those feelings when they arise, let them wash over me, and then to let them go. Or let them provide the impetus to do something even more productive like write about them.