Sights

Taking Attendance: Class in America

An Oxford professor is meeting an American former graduate student and asking him what he’s working on these days. “My thesis is on the survival of the class system in the United States.” “Oh really, that’s interesting: one didn’t think there was a class system in the United States.” “Nobody does. That’s how it survives.” – Recounted by Christopher Hitchens in this memoir Hitch-22.

What does inequality look like in America? It doesn’t take long to find out. In fact, if you were to ask most citizens to describe the divide between the have and have-nots, few would have trouble providing examples. And yet, as pointed out by Margaret Talbot in today’s Daily Comment for The New Yorker, the discussion of class division in America’s current age of the extremes is often ignored.

However, for the “compromise President” [note: I use the title in a intellectually supportive tone, conscious of President Obama’s belief that government shouldn’t suffer the throes of faction currently witnessed between the elephants and donkeys] it might be time to, as one of blog’s commentators said it, “Stop running and start arguing! Start challenging! Start screaming at the top of your lungs!”

While economic prognostication is not my forte, I do know that growing inequality complicates everything from the education, to the availability of health care and the relevance of politics for addressing the conflicts of either, and all, of the most important spheres. Worse, inequality, when entrenched, segments societies into factions that can only make decisions in their interests. And why not? The system certainly won’t look out for them. But it is this hopelessness of inequality —the acquiescence to classism— that debate ends all together. And that is a stasis neither the Republicans or the Democrats can, or should, consent to.

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