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Friday, 29 January 2016

To dream extravagant dreams



But he had always been a man of imagination, seeing things on too grand a scale, transforming his shady dealings as an adventurer into poems; and this time, with this really colossal and prosperous enterprise, he had been carried off into extravagant dreams of conquest, to so crazy, so vast an idea, that he did not even clearly formulate it to himself.
Emile Zola - L’Argent (1890)

If anyone is incautious or dishonest enough to become enmeshed in a false position they commonly do as Zola’s anti-hero did – they do not clearly formulate the position to themselves. Middle class folk seem to do it all the time.

The middle classes have a tendency to enmeshed themselves in worthless abstractions, extravagant dreams where they cannot afford to clearly formulate the dream to themselves. Ordinary working people and the elite classes seem to be far more likely to focus on concrete realities such as family, friends, money, land, possessions and so on. They are essentially pragmatic. Devious perhaps, but pragmatic.

It seems to be the middle of the social sandwich where pragmatism becomes more scarce, where insecurity seems to rock the mental boat. Middle class people seem more likely to enmesh themselves in abstractions such as the environment, equality, gender politics, racism and the latest fashionable finger-pointing meme.

As journalists, pundits and ‘experts’ their voices dominate the public domain promoting the malign, harming the benign. What has made a large slice of the middle classes so profoundly stupid, so culturally destructive, so gullible and unaware of their longer term interests?

Which longer term interests? The possible demise of the middle class would be a good starting point. 

8 comments:

Michael said...

Someone wrote a triangle about this, and for the life of me, I cannot recall who...

You are better placed to answer my quandary, although I may well remember it in the small hours, and try and beat you to it!

Michael said...

Maslow!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

Something like your post anyway...

Roger said...

Who is middle class these days? To live comfortably in a leafy suburb, send ones kids to minor private school, attend the theatre/opera fairly regularly. This state would accord to what would seem to be the middle class of 150 years back. To live that way today would probably require an income in the region £120K. But I am sure many people on about £40K would consider themseves middle class, the reason being that they don't heave coal or dig up roads.

I suspect government is keen to spread the word 'middle class' downwards as far as possible to avoid upset and to garner votes.

Demetrius said...

The great question is "what car do you drive?".

Roger said...

The advertisers have us all much more finely graduated. A friend doing research had a list of about 20 categories and traipsing round the worse parts of his patch he added 'zz' meaning 'totally and utterly f*&cked', probably not Mr Cameron's demographic.

A K Haart said...

Michael - 05:36? I hope it didn't keep you awake trying to recall the thing. I'm like that. I think the physiological is much the most important.

Roger - I agree with you about spreading the middle class downwards. I have a post about it in the pipeline. Decades ago I did a piece of research on advertising, something to do with giving scientists a broader education. It was one of the most interesting things I ever did.

Demetrius - a Skoda.. oops.

James Higham said...

Zola, no less. Big guns coming out now.

A K Haart said...

James - he's very quotable, I have lots more.