In my urban intervention class the other day, we were talking about poverty and inequality in cities. The general assumption that you have of the “middle class” is the majority of the population that lies in the middle with incomes usually defined between $2 to $10 per person per day (in PPP terms). Hence, you would imagine the bell curve.
I would guess that most people would define themselves as belonging in the middle class, but are you really?
I mean, if you have a car, a smartphone, you eat out a lot, you hang out with your friends in cafes (though not necessarily expensive), are you not living above the middle class line? The definition of the middle class is indeed tricky, and us wonks sometimes have high hopes with the “middle class” as the harbingers of change (with the assumption that they are sufficiently educated and demands better government services with the taxes they pay).
However, the “true” middle class may lie largely just above the poverty line hence they are struggling to stay above it and thus most of the middle class are ignorant and largely only care about themselves (i.e. caring about policies that will benefit them), as any self-maximizing individuals should be. I guess there are exceptions of the good Samaritans, but how many of them are really there?
Then there are those who say that they are the middle class, but in fact they live pretty much well-off compared to the rest of the population. They are in the illusion that they belong to the middle class because they still see people who are wealthier than them, while the truth is they’re pretty much upper class.
To quote Sedláček in his interview with Der Spiegel:
We are clearly not communists by nature, but we are definitely communitarians. Only a truly egomaniacal person can live happily in a society in which he is the only rich one. Man has a need for fairness and, therefore, for a fair distribution of wealth.
It’s okay to be rich, seriously. But let’s just be honest and say that you are, instead of pretending that you’re middle class and sneer about others not having the same consciousness as you are. If you do, you’re not trying to build equality but instead you’ve distanced yourself from the masses and have become the new elites that you’ve despised.