In the last few weeks in amongst all the Dirty Politics war I’ve also witnessed the phrase “middle class” getting thrown around… hurled about as a sort of insult. Spat out, even.
I am middle class. Sufferingly so. It’s something I was born into, something I can’t change. My parents raised us in a “nice” house in a “nice” area, I went to “good” schools. I did extra curricular activities like brownies, dancing, flute, piano, singing, rowing, tennis, netball and Speech and Drama. Dad worked really hard full time, Mum worked really hard part time. We were raised to live in society, within a set of values and norms. We were educated, I got a degree, my brothers didn’t, we have all enjoyed successful careers and steady, paid employment. Likewise, I expect it will be the same for my children.
Another demographic being singled out this election is the Youth – who are apparently disengaged and disenfranchised from the political arena.
I don’t understand the concept of a group labelled ‘Youth’ as much as I don’t understand Middle Class being used as an insult. I don’t get it. I’m a child of the 80s so not hugely ‘past it’. My cousins and younger brother are youthish. They’re still part of society. They’re still part of the family. They’re still enjoying the benefits of the community we live in. They will also mature, marry, settle down – get old. Young people are not a subset of society. They are exist in it as much as we do, spending their time growing and learning to become the leaders of the next society, to live and fulfill their potential.
Some of them, statistically the largest part, are also middle class. Being propped up by their middle class parents – tuition, health care, housing subsidies, mental health care. On a personal note, if my (amazing, steady, strong, sensible and highly aspirational in every way) Father hadn’t supported me (and probably my siblings, but I can’t speak for them) in the way he has so many times there’s every chance we’d have ended up needing additional help from the state. It’s what you do for your children when you can afford to. It’s sufferingly middle class.
And then I wonder – if you aren’t middle class, what are you? Upper class? High class? Classy? Ideally, I’d be a multi-millionaire. I won’t pretend. It would be very nice. It doesn’t appear to be in my foreseeable future and I’m too cheap to buy a Lotto ticket (it’s just normalized gambling anyway) and how many people really do just stumble across an extra million or two? Changing my financial status for the significantly better is realistically ruled out. My husband and I are destined to work hard as employees till we are old enough to retire – hopefully earlier than 75 which is what I expect the retirement age will be by the time we get there. Suffering, middle class.
Then the other way is down – in terms of income and quality of life. Increased dependence on the state.
A quarter of children in NZ live in poverty. Children, who will grow into the youth demographic, who in turn become the Mums and Dads of a generation. Wouldn’t it be great if they could be lifted out of their suffering and poverty into the middle class? Perhaps it isn’t such a shameful state of being, after all.