by Marc Romyjos
You’re partly toeing the poverty line because immediate spending is painfully deferred (and you have shame, so you don’t run to mum and dad), but you’re still middle class because you can afford to have savings, which you’re not supposed to touch because…you’re middle class, and the future is middle ground of lucky stars and black holes. The liminality of being middle class is a dizzying situation of shuttling these poles.
Personally, such sentiment is not necessarily borne on a tendency towards conspicuous consumption (see Thorstein Veblen, pls.), and the perpetual dissatisfaction it brings about. It’s a forward-looking conditioning that’s convenient to invoke when you’re (sorry for being such a nag) middle class with confusing prospects and questionable assets, whichever mood you’re coming from. To illustrate, the liminality approximates the feeling of disenfranchisement at being broke until the next paycheck (which further confuses your already confused state). Yeah, life’s not fair but you’re the whiner. (and why do you whine? etc. etc.)
Now, in the spirit of being schooled in the social sciences, one has to take to heart the social and psychological costs of being grease droplet for the GDP. This task should not have to call forth scholarly traditions anymore; one feels the economic squeeze right down to the soul if one ever had so much as a concern for not dying young and haplessly unaccomplished, or if one indulges in existentialist crises with materialist framings, always with the luxury of the project of self-fashioning. And yet one can not curse one’s lucky stars.
So, due to the (seemingly unjustified) disaffected constructs of that state of being, the contradictions of being middle class need to be addressed for posterity’s sake, just as scores of clueless college graduates are being carted off to the workplace without the good measure of raising their heads to the how and the why of stressful employment. I don’t have to guess that economic independence had been built up among them as the next logical step to education. There’s always the option to be financially parasitic, but that won’t transmit well in the next alumni homecoming, for one, and the crying need for consumption and full control.
This leads me to conclude thus, in careless metaphors: middle class education is the wraith-like thingie (downsizing intended, for lack of word and feeling) that stalks your worker bee conscience. It is simultaneously the seat of pride and obligation, of ethics and excessive self-interest. It is your passport to grander horizons, but it roots you to a single paradigm, and worse comes to worst, to overzealous one-track aspirations. I am led to believe that (quality) education is the comeuppance of being middle class, but education as we know and have it in this demographic region could be both so interesting and illusory.
Consider the attendant exposures and socializations in the full availment of this costly fundamental right. As lucky stars would have it, responsible parentage and a growing preference for retail transactions in the market for education, at the very least, give the middle class student real chances to study in what they call “exclusive schools”.
By definition these are usually privately owned and run institutions that automatically target the financially capable market. But aside from being magnets for the affluent, these institutions, propelled by profit and expansion, adjust their payment schemes to accommodate the large midsection of the economic landscape. Regular employees of government and private companies, through the good graces of educational plans, can now afford to send their children to exclusive schools, even without making a killing with the sale of office supplies. As tuition payments also come in tranches, spending space for mid-income families expands, and the household budget need not be so strangulated all the time. But my hypothesis is that these installments do not really sweeten the costs of sending children to school, especially if one thinks of the number of payments made in the stretch of thirteen years or more, excluding allowance and other miscellaneous expenses. The lapse of time further adds to anxiety over the investment; and I suppose middle-income spenders are more prone to lose sleep over the returns.
That the class and financial questions set up the disconnect between cultivated aspirations and possibilities with regard to future lifestyle choices and more relevantly, self-images is the basic premise. For what does exclusive schooling give a middle class student but the romanticized view of a future easily conquerable, at the least, by skill, talent and industry? “Exclusive schools” are self-groomed to be elitist without an outright declaration of their class-ist orientations. By connotation they’re quite solemn about demographic filters such as sex and religion, but all these ideological exclusions could very well be transmuted to performance. The student is constantly made to believe, by unabashed declaration of the school’s well-dispersed marketeers, that he/she is studying in one of the best institutions of the land. Moreover, her socializations within hardly help in the grounding to austerity — she is likely to stare economic disparities in the face with well-heeled schoolmates.
Alas, pride built up on educational background impacts most tragically after all requisites for future formal employment have been turned in. Self-misplacement is the deferred cost of betting on “elite” education. There is harshness in the “real world” cliche that only its banality can subdue. The middle class graduate from “one of the best” is more likely to meet this shattering reality more spot on than her affluent schoolmates, and she is also less likely to be accepting of obstructions to self-improvement than her underprivileged counterparts. She has the unsure confidence of being furnished with some bankable knowledge, but is tethered to her going rates in the job market. Such is a result of the messy dovetails of the obligations to deliver decent returns on a costly education by ensuring lifelong security, and what i presume to be an aversion to boredom, regiment and self-commodification in the desire for leisure and the absence of chances to feel so deprived — without reasonable cause.