Remove superlatives!

Dear people! Stop using the term “lower class” for our economically disadvantaged class. This type of expression reeks of privilege and haughtiness.

Because I’m a small-time blogger and read many blogs to hone my own writing skills, I have a little critique of the commonly-used expressions and phrases in social writing and modern journalism . One such expression is “upper class” or “lower class”.

Now let’s be honest! Myself or no one I know would be truly offended at being called someone from the higher echelons of society. That’s inarguably a compliment in and of itself.

But calling someone lower class individual! Trust me! This type of commentary is much more common than we’d expect and will become acceptable if we didn’t actively try to address it now.

First of all, socioeconomic stratification is done in order to see what affects academic excellence, career paths, mental illnesses, mortality and morbidity, and higher chance of illegal or criminal activity. This is why sociologists have done this categorization. It’s not to make snap judgements on people’s status in society based on what they do or where they live.

SES is affected by many things which include income (combined and individual), education and occupation. But it gets more complex.

While education is an important part of an individual’s SES, their occupation is just as important. And their success in their field of occupation is also something to consider while classifying them. So while a chef, by straightforward categorization, would probably land in a lower SES than a physician, a chef like Gordon Ramsey (just by virtue of how he excels at his occupation) would likely land much higher than a physician who hasn’t had the time to complete residency training or fellowship. See the complexity? It’s not so straightforward.

A housewife might think that her house help belongs to a lower SES but depending on what the house help makes and how much financial autonomy they both practice , the house help may make it to a higher SES and may even have children who have better self-esteem and a better projected future chance at academic success. This is because a lower SES person may, just by virtue of being around other SES, see better and more effective parenting styles and incorporate them into their parenting and end up jumping up many SES and landing close to their employer in how they run their family despite an economic difference. They may learn to have a more permissive style of parenting and may actually be raising kids with better communication skills and language development.

Why we can’t identify their constant measures to improve their parenting and hence their SES? Because we have been raised to judge and grade people based on their education, money and many times, the color of their skin. Being a minority can also make us fall in a much lower perceived SES. The concept of “model minority” is something I have wanted to discuss and how that makes it tougher for other minorities to have true representation and addressing of their social problems. But that demands an entirely separate blog post.

This is a complex system and the basis of it is actually arbitrary. What we should do is try to blur the class lines, not make them stronger, by constant citing and writing of it in modern journalism. There shouldn’t be any hierarchical patterns in society because once formed, they’re very difficult to break. Hierarchy will however form, in my opinion, just because it’s almost how the world functions and is also, somewhat, natural in how it originates. But creating hierarchy consciously should be avoided because that can really make us, people who perceive themselves as a higher SES, have overinflated egos. And it can make them, the lower SES, a victim of a constant power struggle that they won’t ever be able to get ahead of. Our house help’s son or daughter should be empowered to reach as high in life as they can. It’s for all of our benefit.

One good way to change the way we think is to remove the concept of “society” and think of ourselves more like a “community”.

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