smason edit.jpg (23187 bytes)Look At It This Way
by Dr. Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways

Show Some Class

Social class goes way beyond lower, middle and upper.

What's your social class? While most think in terms of Lower/Middle/Upper, it's far more complicated. Sociologists divide each class into 3 more classes for a total of 9 distinctly different subsets. For convenience sake, these are abbreviated as L1/L2/L3, M1/M2/M3 and U1/U2/U3.

Examples from the bottom up are:

L1s are unskilled laborers (field hands)
L2s are semiskilled (factory workers)
L3s are trained and often licensed (plumbers).

A tenth grouping - Working class - may be inserted here but anyone who says they're "Working Class" is automatically put into one of the Lower classes.

M1s (store clerks) usually earn less than L3s but have more schooling. They see themselves as superior to plumbers...who usually agree. L3s, in turn, see their lack of education as a personal failing and encourage their children to go to college. Unfortunately, this first generation to pursue a degree often mistakes Training (a specific approach that teaches one to earn a living) for Education (a general approach that teaches one to live). This leaves both father and son bewildered when the Junior College graduate winds up in a white collar but meager wage job.
M2s (electrical engineers) may still not make as much as L3s (electrical contractors) but they carry far more prestige.
M3s (physicians) are near the top of the must-work-to-eat hierarchy.

U1s (new money celebrities - Ringo Star)
U2s (older families with money - Kennedys)
U3s (established fortune crowd - Rockefellers) the hierarchy is based not on cash but on breeding over many generations. Ringo may have far more in the bank than one of the Rockefellers but it will take several generations before any of his kin are invited to the same parties.

People in each group share beliefs and attitudes with others in the same group but not with those in adjacent groups. Take something as seemingly universal as time. The higher your class the further ahead you think. Lower classes live in the present. Wages are typically quoted as dollars per hour, day or week. The middle class looks further ahead. Wages are quoted in monthly or yearly figures. Upper classes see way ahead. Their grants and foundations will carry the family name into the next century.

Ideas of parenting vary from class to class. The Lower groups see providing toys as sufficient nurturing and expect early maturation. The Middle groups believe there's virtue in working and sacrificing for children. Consequently, their kids remain kids for a long time before beginning the next cycle of work and sacrifice. The Upper classes are there mostly to provide the insights and connections their progeny will enjoy as adults.

Education is seen differently. The lower classes see it as a means to more money for less work. The middle classes also see education as a means to more money but not necessarily less work. Curiously, the Middle classes see 3.5 years of college as a total failure if the student drops out short of a diploma, which serves as an entry card. The Upper classes, having little need for money or entry cards, see limited effort as an altogether acceptable way of life.

The role of women improves from the Lower to the Upper classes. While women are considered inferior to their mates at the bottom and equal to them in the Middle, the Upper classes often come close to being a matriarchy. The Feminist Movement, with its emphasis on equality, is a Middle class phenomenon. The Lowers can't handle it and the Uppers don't need it.

As for spending money, L1/L2 spend it like a drunken sailor. A day's labor for a night's fun seems a good exchange. The upper two classes, U2/U3, are not terribly interested in making or spending money. It's important simply that they have it. The middle classes, M1 through M3, are the one's who fuel our consumer economy. In potlatch fashion they spend as a means of demonstrating worth. This is the group with the $10,000 Rolex that keeps the same time as a $10 Timex. Just as the L3 Building Contractor sees education as a means of moving up but then mistakes it for training, so too does the U1 Celebrity see money as a means of moving up but then mistakes it for wealth.

Look At It This Way
If you find it impossible to agree with someone, consider his or her place in the hierarchy. Talk to someone in an adjacent class and the different beliefs/attitudes will be obvious. Talk to someone several classes away and you may as well tete-a-tete with the cat.

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