Because I’m not a social scientist in any but the most amateur way I don’t feel bad mixing poor and working class but furthermore in Alberta it’s easy to find working class guys who are rich, poor people who think they’re rich, rich people who came up from being poor and kept the mindsets, and probably other social variants as well. I don’t actually want to classify people, I enjoy exploring various mindsets.
I spend extremely little time around rich kids, (rich compared to me meaning middle class) so I notice the seemingly intrinsic little differences.
One external thing is access to a network. Everything rich people need, including information, is a contact away. The sheer difference between going anonymously to a doctor and going to a doctor referred by your uncle who’s also a doctor could literally be life and death. On even the lower level though you notice what it’s like to see them being treated like someone when they go most places.
And I’ll be the odd man out and say that I think strong work ethic is evenly split along class lines. There are lazy poor people and spoiled rich kids just as much as there’s two jobs to pay for community college and there’s making sure you get into med school while padding your transcript with a dozen extracurriculars and I think it’s unfair to think that because the rewards are greater the struggle is any exhausting in the moments.
But more so this is about the mindset instilled by parents. I think the poor person’s definition of good is character driven – good is the dignity with which they endure.
You can hear it in the Paulo Nutini song Simple Things:
‘You’re never gonna hear him grumble and groan, Cause it’s the people in the line that have built his home’
Working class pride is in humility.
And while I respect that sentiment, meeting people who take visible pride in how humble they are is often annoying. Maybe just because I always find them in bars.
The poor mentality is that problems happen and how you cope with them defines you. The less you complain, the more of a good characteristic you have.
You see this mindset go right when a parent works years at a job they hate so their kids can go to school and dream of never hating their job. You can see the mindset go wrong when people are sick or in pain or have a rash or whatever for days before they tell their friends, a week before they decide it’s a problem, and another week before they see a doctor. To be fair that hesitation is also because the doctor is going to make you feel stupid for not coming in right away and they’re going to treat you like an anonymous poor person.
the rich mentality on the other hand is that the quicker, better, smarter you are at getting a problem out of your life the better off you are. So not only do they have access to doctors through social connection, they often have a relationship with their doctor because they see them a lot, even for small things that get cleared up easily.
For a last point on doctors I have to paraphrase something Malcolm Gladwell pointed out. In What The Dog Saw he quotes a true social scientist who studied the parenting style of rich people and poor people and one anecdote from that study talks about poor parents letting their kid go to the doctor by herself while rich parents not only were driving their child but also prepping her; telling her on the drive to think of questions she has for the doctor.
Which I think touches on a pivotal difference that I see in the cultural mirror of fiction. We all absorb the feeling that rich families are cold, distant, always disappointed in the kids, and hiding tons of addictions while poor families have flaws and fights but are bastions of unconditional love. Which is in no way supported by data. I assume it’s a product of poor people being the main consumers of escapist fiction so by evolution it’s come to pander to their fantasies, both in the image of the poor-but-together family and the idea that being rich is freedom from consequences.
So the instinct to hate rich kids, or even just to slander someone by calling them a rich kid, is something I’m getting away from. I want to adopt traits like ambition and resourcefulness, I don’t think simplicity is an emotional end game.
Finally, my current outlook is that happiness comes from overcoming obstacles and while it’s easy to say that rich people have fewer or zero obstacles that’s extremely unlikely. Aiming to get into Harvard starting in grade 5 is a massive obstacle, a ton of pressure, and achieving it probably feels pretty great. I think the bigger problem in society and for each of us personally is a tendency to not overcome obstacles, to consider them permanent, consider them built into the fabric of society, and then to pride or pity ourselves while using escapism to short circuit defeated feelings of ambition.