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Class Envy and Resentment (Not What You Think!)

Updated on April 30, 2019

Classes in a Classless Society

The United States of America was founded, in part, on the ideal of a classless society--that each person, regardless of wealth or social standing, would have the same rights, the same voice, and the same influence in shaping society. As everyone knows, that has not happened; the wealthy and powerful are very much in control of the world's resources and governments. A homeless or unemployed person simply does not have the same say in government as the CEO of a large corporation. And that homeless or unemployed person might, in fact, be excused for having a bit of class envy. However, many of them do not. Class envy, however, does exist--but it is definitely not what you think.

Myth: Cell Phone = Luxury

Man Listening on Cell Phone at Dock by Sailboat
Man Listening on Cell Phone at Dock by Sailboat | Source

Where is the Class Envy?

So where is this class envy? It's among those who were in the middle class who feel themselves losing ground. But their envy is not directed at the wealthiest or most powerful people on the planet; that would be understandable. Instead, it is directed at those in the lower classes who are trying to move up. Those are the people drawing so much anger.

And that anger is displayed everywhere. One has only to take a look at the plethora of comments about the poor having televisions, or refrigerators, or air conditioning, or computers, or cell phones. Somehow those in debt, those who are unemployed, or those who are homeless, don't have a "right" to a cell phone or a laptop.

The Misconceptions

When people who have stable (perhaps) jobs see a person whom they perceive as poor, or a homeless person using a cell phone or a laptop, they become quite angry. I've seen ordinary-seeming people screaming at a homeless person who was minding their own business, simply for having a cell phone. I don't understand why. Are the poor expected to open a livery stable? Or perhaps become elevator operators? Or deliver large blocks of ice door to door? Welcome to the twenty-first century, folks.

The truth is, without a computer and the internet, it is very difficult to find a job opening. Many companies advertise job openings only online, and many companies accept only online applications for job openings. Many jobs require a computer that you have to provide yourself: this is no different than many construction workers, mechanics, and other people in trades, who are expected to provide their own equipment. And you can earn money on the internet even if you are homeless, as long as you have power for your laptop and WiFi access.

And as for the cell phones, in some cases they are taking the place of land lines, and even computers and internet service. This is not speculation or improbable; I personally know homeless people who have banged out 500-word articles for a $15 payment each, sometimes at the rate of 100 articles a week. So in a week they would have repaid the investment in the cell phone (or even a laptop) and paid for their first month's service, with some left over for food and shelter, and maybe even saving some for a place to rent in the near future. In any case, if you are applying for jobs, a phone number and an email address are necessary; otherwise, how would an employer contact you to tell you that you were hired?

Why Deprive the Poor?

Businessman Climbing a Ladder Emerging From a Laptop
Businessman Climbing a Ladder Emerging From a Laptop | Source

Why is this Class Envy?

The people who are railing against the "poor" or unemployed people with cell phones and computers, in fact, want to punish these people and keep them where they are. The internet and computers are just two of a number of ways out of poverty, and this possibility that "other" people might move upwards economically threatens those who have already secured their place in the middle classes. They want to keep those "other" people "in their place" and having a cell phone or a laptop is perceived as a luxury item, when in fact it is a tool for making or saving money. That is something that those above the poor, who have developed class envy and resentment of the people below them, cannot tolerate. In fact, just as refrigerators make families richer, because it allows them to take advantage of sales and to save on gas and time, cell phones and computers do the same, because computers and cell phones save time and even allow people to work two or more jobs at once.

It's Time to Rethink the Paradigm

Cell phones and computers are hardly a luxury when the internet, an email address, and a phone number is required to find a job that pays a livable wage. Why shouldn't poor people and the unemployed have LinkedIn profiles, web sites, post their resumes online, and enjoy all the other perks that people higher up the social ladder get? Who is it, really, who wants to "keep poor people in their place"?

Just as the world changed with the advent of electricity, or the interstate highway system, the world changed with the invention of the internet and mobile technology. Don't deprive the poor of the chance to take advantage of the changes; instead, encourage them to learn to use those changes to help themselves advance! Save the class envy for those who are oppressing you--the one per cent! Quit falling for the divide and conquer tactics, and realize who the real enemy is. The one per cent is pandering to the economic insecurities of those in the 99 per cent and distracting them from the real problems we face.

Other "Luxuries"

I often hear complaints about poor people with manicured nails, expensive purses, or nice shoes.

When I worked for corporate America and went to job interviews, one piece of advice that was always stressed was to look and act as if you don't need the job. If you were a hiring manager, would you hire someone who appeared at the interview dirty, scuffed, and unprofessional? Or would you hire someone with a polished and professional appearance?

Additionally, that person with the nice shoes may not always have been poor. Perhaps they once could afford nice things and kept a few of them when they lost everything else.

In short . . .

What you think or say about a homeless or poor person reveals more about you than it does about them. When you think about someone else not "deserving" something, your own insecurities are showing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 progressivist


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