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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Using People With Class

People, at times unintentionally, step on those on the lower rungs as they climb certain ladders of success. Americans would choose to deny this ugly fact; however, evidence of injury abounds. Granted, many people tend to think that social class is either equal or unequal while focusing on a narrow aspect of the phenomenon, so they make judgments based on limited personal experiences. Yet, the urge to achieve is so great that many people use and abuse others in lower classes to climb the proverbial "ladder of success." Today, it may be difficult to distinguish people’s status in terms of the things they have, clothes they wear, or color of their skin (Scott. J & Leonhardt. D, 2005). However, it is still true that our society is affected significantly through the influence of class. Liebau (2005) notes that race, gender, religion, and even sexual preference, are not the stumbling blocks that they might have been just 50 years ago. Class distinctions in America are so complicated and subtle that foreign visitors often miss the little clues of their existence. Sociologist Paul Blumberg calls it "America's forbidden thought." A tendency to get very anxious suggests people are middle class and nervous about slipping down a rung or two. On the other hand, upper-class people love to bring up the topic of class: the more attention paid to it, the better off they seem to be. Those nearer the top perceive that taste, values, ideals, style, and behavior are indispensable criteria of class, regardless of money, occupation, or education (Paul Fussell, "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System). Most people commonly claim that good education and hard work are more important in the United States than a wealthy background to help the lower classes raise their economic status and move to the upper class (Scott. J & Leonhardt. D, 2005). Still, inequalities in income make it very difficult for many to achieve mobility by overcoming a poor background. The fact remains that the lower class, which consists of about 20% of the population, is under a lack of wealth, power, and educational opportunities. Many feel defeated. There exists a dark side of the naturally co-operative instinct. To place trust in others and anticipate thatequal trust will be reciprocated is at the heart of cooperation. Russian playwright Anton Chekov said "You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible." People who abuse this trust or deliberately take advantage of people's vulnerability or dependency often do so for selfish personal gain. This behavior is apparent in relationships, in the workplace, and in the school yard. It invariably involves a combination of the abuse of power, the deployment of deceit, and betrayal of trust. The self-serving individuals who have little care for the feelings and consequences of their actions for others often prey on those with less -- less money, less power, less social status. Their narcissistic character traits make them what Eric Fromm would call "life thwarters." Psychologists call this a Fundamental Attribution Error, where others blame the person more than they blame the situation. People who take advantage of others are highly skilled at manipulating situations. They are masters of making others gullible and later ask themselves,"How could they do that to me?" Social interactions engage a powerful brain circuit that releases the neurochemical oxytocin when people are trusted and induces a desire to reciprocate the trust they have been shown--even with strangers. The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. People feel good when they help others--this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. Even though it is morally wrong to take advantage of the poor and lower classes, other people and institutions like loan companies and check-cashing stores do so for gain and profit. Some love to enslave the poor and underprivileged. Thus, so-called dupes and flunkies serve greedy masters as menial servants and "yes men" for little or no advantage. Some call such treatment just "a natural fact of life." But, stripping people of basic dignity, no matter their class, is undeniably criminal behavior. “What a pitiful situation it is when the persons who are ignorant of their rights are also poor, and are left in that state of not knowing the truth. Some are ignorant of their rights and privileges and no one dares to help them," says Archbishop Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales. To many in the lower class, the impression that people can readily earn their way upward is a myth, and disillusion and bitterness become strong when they find themselves trapped in a class system that others have half-persuaded them isn't really important. Somewhere early in middle life, these people discover certain limits have been placed on their capacity to ascend socially by (things taught as irrelevant) heredity, early environment, and social class of their immediate forebears. They despair and essentially lose their desire for an American dream. They become fairly easy prey for any upper-class "life-thwarters." Many are more than happy to use the poor for an advantage. Oscar Wilde said, "The brotherhood of man is not a mere poet's dream: it is a most depressing and humiliating reality." It's as if in our heart of hearts we don't want agglomerations but distinctions.
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