14 June 2008

Class, Shame & Aspiration

So I set out to "learn how to behave," to acquire what Marx called "cultural capital," or what's more simply called learning to "pass." This aspiration, celebrated in the phrase "upward mobility" is rooted in shame and, in its undermining of authentic selfhood, creates the vulnerability required by all manner of predators from child molesters to military recruiters to advertisers and financial institutions. After all, aspiration is not an identity but the rejection of one's identity.

* * *

Everyone in my family called themselves middle-class, all my aunts and uncles, each and every household, whether anyone had a job or not, regardless of what kind of work they did when there was work, regardless of whether or not they had "a pot to piss in."

We never used the term "working class." My father called us working people....
~ Richard Hoffman, at Mnemosyne's Memes

[via wood s lot]

2 comments:

gwensmom said...

I love it that military recruiters are in the same "predator" category of child molesters.

Helquin said...

The comparison makes even more sense in the author's original context, where he relates how he was sexually exploited by a high school coach who held the key to his athletic scholarship to college. Because I've been somewhat preoccupied with the issue of class lately, the blog post really resonated with me -- especially with regard to how the arts portray (or, more often, betray) the realities of working class life.