Charlie's Blog: Know Your Place


Know Your Place

A person can't help their birth.

I remember a time when I was between high school and college when I was snubbed. I had two friends at my church who were getting married. They asked me and another fellow to help out with setting up for the wedding. Basically, we were tasked with the dirty work of moving tables and furniture for the reception. We did this work gladly and thought no more of it. Then, someone asked if we were going to the rehearsal dinner.

"We weren't invited," I told the someone.

"What do you mean you weren't invited? You're setting up for them. You're friends with them. You're invited."

That someone was wrong. We were not invited. Being naive, we went to the rehearsal dinner. Each place had a name card, but neither of us had one of those cards. I remember the bride turning over one of the cards and seating me. She was embarrassed over the situation. She was not a snob, but her parents were. We were good enough to slave for the wedding but not good enough to attend that dinner. It was my first taste of learning my place.

Now, the Gentle Reader may think I was angry over the snub, but I am not. I had made a huge mistake. I did not know my place. My friend and I were nobodies. We weren't good enough to be in the company of those people. I should never have gone to that rehearsal dinner uninvited. That was my fault. But my other mistake was thinking that I was actually friends with those people and helping to set up for the event. Those people were not in my social class, and I was not in theirs. They thought they were doing me the favor of letting me be their slave. I should have done them the favor of declining the "opportunity."

The Gentle Reader may confuse me as some sort of egalitarian, but I am not. I am an elitist. I don't know if it is because I grew up in the South or read too much English literature, but I believe in the class system even if my place in that system is closer to the bottom than to the top. People with low status but ambition and aspirations resent the class system. I find the class system liberating.

American society is more egalitarian than English society with its class system. We don't have royalty on this side of the pond. But if you think we don't have a class system here in the States, you are mistaken. The way I see it, there are four basic classes here in the USA.

1. The Elite

At the top of the pile, we have the elite. These are powerful politicians, CEOs, celebrities, and on and on. Financially, these people are wealthy, and you have to be a millionaire or belong to a millionaire family to be in the elite. Being a billionaire is even better.

2. The Middle Class

Underneath the elite, you have the middle class. These are people who belong to respectable white collar professions like lawyer, doctor, dentist, and businessman. There are others lower down the scale like teachers and librarians who don't make much money, but they have the luxury of not getting their hands dirty with manual labor.

3. The Working Class

Underneath the middle class, you have the working class. This would be the plumber or the yard man to the doctor and the lawyer. They work low status jobs for whatever they pay these days. When quitting time comes, they go home and pop a top on a can of cheap beer and watch sports highlights on TV.

4. The Trash Class

This is the bottom of society. These are the homeless, the criminals, the meth addicted rednecks, the drug dealing ghetto thugs, and the like. These people rarely work and opt for crime or welfare to make it in life. Their class is not tied to some accident of birth but a lack of virtue and character. This is why people can feel comfortable looking down on these people. With a work ethic, they can belong to the working class at any time they choose. They choose not to do this.

Now, we have lots of social mobility in the USA. A thug hoodlum can go from trash class to elite with a basketball scholarship and going to the NBA after he drops out of college. But we all know that he is trash. Money does not give you class, and it cannot buy you class. You discover this when that NBA thug gets arrested for beating his girlfriend or gets caught smoking dope.

A similar thing happens when a person from the working class enters the world of the middle class. He thinks he has arrived, but he can't understand why the HOA gets upset when he parks his pickup truck in the street instead of the garage. He can't understand why the country club has turned down his membership application. Our working class man is not a bad guy. He just doesn't know his place.

I am a working class man. I know my place. This locked into my mind by my late twenties as I went up one rung on the social ladder, hated it, and went back down to where I truly belong. I do not belong in the white collar world. This realization ended up making me very happy.

The reason I love the class system is because it liberates you to be who you were meant to be. Ultimately, your class is not about wealth but attitude, values, and mindset. A plumber typically makes more than a school teacher, but the school teacher is firmly in the middle class. The plumber is working class even if he becomes a millionaire doing it.

Knowing your place in the class system allows you to be a plumber. It lets you be a diesel mechanic or a landscaper. You don't have to live up to any expectations except to be honest and hard working. It also lets you drive a 20 year old pickup truck, wear comfortable work clothes, and eat at the Waffle House. It also saves you time by not applying to the snooty country club because you know you don't belong there. You can't afford it anyway.

I don't have any problem with people who belong to a superior class. Sometimes, they invite me to things, but I always decline as I recall that rehearsal dinner incident. They never ask why I decline the invite, but I am always ready to tell them that blue collar people like me shouldn't mingle with white collar people like them. I know this will provoke some pain in them because they like to believe in that egalitarian myth we have going here in the USA. But it is a myth.

In my town, we have the snooty country club and the blue collar golf course. I don't know why any working class person would play golf. Bowling is the game for them. Yet, despite sharing a love for the same game, these two classes of people choose separate places to play that game. Similarly, we have two different types of neighborhoods. One type is the white collar neighborhood with a tyrannical HOA, and the other is the blue collar neighborhood with pickup trucks parked in the driveway. These people choose to live where they live. They do not mingle.

We are not equal. Some people may rise to a higher station, but that system remains regardless of the social mobility. Likewise, if your change in status doesn't come with a change in attitude and values, you are not going to belong in your new social class. You will be a misfit hated by your peers. I have seen this happen, and it is tragic.

I do not belong in the NBA. This is because I am 5'7". Consequently, I never think about it. This is how I think about class. I was born working class, and I became what I was born to be. These things only trouble you when you think this arrangement is unfair, and you have been deprived of something that belongs to you. I know they don't belong to me.

Most people aspire to rise to a station that is higher than the one given them at birth. This explains why so many kids still pile into universities while accumulating sizable debts to train for jobs that are either non-existent or not worth the student loan debt. This problem doesn't exist at trade schools that offer cheap education for guaranteed jobs with great pay. People go to college for status not education or training. These people would be better served if they knew their place.

Knowing your place is just another way of saying be humble. I like using the phrase because it stings the pride. People will find life more agreeable if they simply knew their place and accepted their place. From the mouth of a snob, this would sound repugnant. But I am a nobody, and I have found it to be true. I like being working class. From my mouth, it is truth. Know your place and accept it.

Some people think they can find satisfaction in good food, fine clothes, lively music, and sexual pleasure. However, when they have all these things, they are not satisfied. They realize happiness is not simply having their material needs met. Thus, society has set up a system of rewards that go beyond material goods. These include titles, social recognition, status, and political power, all wrapped up in a package called self-fulfillment. Attracted by these prizes and goaded on by social pressure, people spend their short lives tiring body and mind to chase after these goals. Perhaps this gives them the feeling that they have achieved something in their lives, but in reality they have sacrificed a lot in life. They can no longer see, hear, act, feel, or think from their hearts. Everything they do is dictated by whether it can get them social gains. In the end, they've spent their lives following other people's demands and never lived a life of their own. How different is this from the life of a slave or a prisoner?