Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There you go, bringing class into it again!

There's a lot of talk about "class warfare" going 'round about these days among politicos, and among Christians of this or that sort.

While it is sometimes useful to speak in shorthand about "oligarchies" or "elites" or the "poor" or "the working class" or "middle class" some such, I think too much adherence to such classifications is dehumanizing in our speech and outlook.

Thus, hurling epithets that someone or some group is a "fascist" or "bourgeois" or "capitalist pig" or "commie" or "tea-partier" (or the more cruel and crass "tea-bagger") is to abstract humans, especially when applied to individuals and small groups of people.

This is the issue I have with many ideological arguments, such as Marxism. It takes humans and crams them into a classification system to an extreme and tries to explain all of human history through the lens of this system in rigid terms.

I am not denying the existence of class structures - and in times and places such structures were given force of law. But this ought not mean that we should use the language of such classifications in our daily discourse - for it dehumanizes our neighbor.

In my day-to-day life, I do not constantly evaluate the neighbor across the fence or the neighbor up the road as to whether he is a "prole" or a "liberal democrat," or a "toff" or some such. We talk and we look out for the other's animals. We may not agree on politics or religion or a whole host of other things. Our differences may be the result of the inculcation of mores and worldview that come about because of social norms and tendencies causing us to move in socio-economic groups which, however veiled, are class lines in our society. But a man is more than that, and is not so bound to his class (even if there is a law assigning him to a caste) that the entire tide of history is inexorably set but such classifications.

So I think we would do well to have care in our ease of use of classifications. Let us use them when we must, but always with recognition that, like a photo made of dots of color, when viewed up close such things lose meaning.



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