$hitf@ced,” though that last one isn't me at the moment (before 7 am and all), the other three pretty much always are.
Yesterday's blog got me thinking... a lot of what I have to learn about Virginia specifically, and the south more generally, is related to class. And I got none. I'm missing it on several fronts, but oddly this is new information to me... sort of... Let me e'splain...
Professionally, my interest is in the disparate access of people to HEALTH. That's right—if you are born poor, minority, or female you don't get to be as healthy. (I know, I know, women live longer—but they suffer more morbidity while alive and are treated more poorly by their health professionals). I've always thought this was the least fair manifestation of poverty—that you have to be in pain and then DIE far earlier than rich counterparts. It was brought home a little bit with the Oscars the other night—I was glad to see the recognition Precious got—a story of just how dang hard it can be to be poor.
My point is that I KNOW CLASS. But I know it academically.
Part of my oblivion, as I mentioned, was growing up someplace that didn't really HAVE an aristocracy. Oh, sure, there were the Kenworthys that owned the movie theaters, and the Bennets with their lumber money. There were possibly a half dozen other 'royal' families in my town of 15,000, but those were the two that had a child born in the same decade as I was (*waves at Brett*). There were a many moderately well off families, and I knew there were people who got to go on better vacations, or ride horses (the kinds of money symbols I noticed). But the primary aristocracy in a little college town are the academics, and THAT isn't aristocracy, that is meritocracy—those people have more education--something anybody can achieve.
Now their kids DID have better opportunities... they had parents who knew how to work systems, find lessons; they had the world experiences to TEACH their kids something and political savvy to help their kids navagate—don't get me wrong, those kids had advantages. But they weren't permanent, because that environment gives a lesson that ANY of us can get the education to get up there, and the 'gatekeepers' believe fundamentally that it is a fluid boundary... anyone who works hard enough can... not 'who you were born' but what you do.
I also have a stubborn streak (bet you didn't know *snort *). You see, I DON'T CARE what other people think. When I graduated from high school I had earned gold honor chords (for a 3.67 or higher). I had a friend (headed for Mt. Holyoke) who had only earned silver, and for the ceremony, I traded her one. She suggested, never thinking I'd take her up on it, but I did. Because I LIKED the nice two color effect, and who CARED if I had gold. I knew, and nobody else really mattered. I had several people sort of shocked at me there—but you earned them! Well, yeah, so? I don't suddenly get stupid for trading for an evening. If I earned them, I could earn them again.
Pacific Northwest Chic
Chic is VOLUNTEERING. Chic is going to Joshua tree to rock climb, or Colorado to Kayak, or the San Juans to camp. Chic is a completely different animal than in most of the consumer driven country.
So I had some awareness there also, that some people had grown up with money (or even 'breeding'--though that I only really could guess when people were from ELSEWHERE) but more people hid it than flaunting it. The richest people I knew tended to be people who slung beer with me at McMenamins. There was a going joke that when a person graduated from Lewis & Clark (a private college in Portland) they handed you a McApplication when you walked across the stage.
Downside of Rich
I'm going to strain a metaphor now, because I haven't for a while... Let's say we're all on a big ship. A storm (life) is coming at us. The RICH get tied to the masts... they don't need to work at all... they will stay on just fine, through no effort of their own.
The very poor are stuck top side, swabbing decks, and in large numbers, all but the strongest, smartest and most resourceful, just get washed out to sea. There is a solid middle bunch, working hard below, and completely oblivious to this dichotomy going on over their heads. They get tossed around, but if they even get WET it will be shocking. Then again, they won't see the sunshine, either.
But those topsiders—the rich... should a mast break off because the storm was just THAT BAD—are screwed... they are tied to a massive piece of wood with no way to steer. There are also a fair few who end up with destructive steaks and free THEMSELVES only to leap into the sea.
The poor who had the wherewithal to stay on board... THOSE are the people who really are the ones we should follow—the people with the grit to make it in spite of having their eyes wide open, seeing what was at stake, and plowing ahead anyway. That's my vision: A Gritocracy.