When it comes to stuff that really burns our biscuits, money problems are right up at the top of the list. The gap between the haves and the have-nots keeps widening all the time, with Statista reporting that over the past 30 years, the share of the wealth held by the top 10% has jumped from 60.6% to 70%. As to those fabled 1% — not the outlaw biker kind, but the ones at the very tip-top of our nation’s economic pyramid — they currently hold over 32% of the country’s moolah. Of course we’re all pretty torqued off at them about this, and they’re no doubt crying into their Dom Perignon about it.
When it comes to true, burning class rage, though, it’s not the Bill Gateses and the Jeff Bezoses of the world at whom we rant and curse (unless, of course, our computers are glitchy or our deliveries run late). No, the ones who really get us riled up to the sticking-pins-in-voodoo-dolls point are those who are just a step or two up the ladder from us, or are at least close enough to be sharing our orbit.
It’s a (lower) middle class thing
As Washington Monthly explains it, true class rage simmers within the middle class, where, again, the wealth gap is widening. The upper middle class control far more of the wealth now than they did a few decades ago, while the “true middles” and lower middles have even smaller pieces of the pie. The media, of course, seems determined to pitch everything directly at the “uppers,” so anyone with a TV or computer is fed a steady diet of commercials for luxury vacations, expensive restaurants, pricey home remodeling services, and diamond jewelry.
Of course, let’s not forget those fun pitches for retirement planning and “wealth management” services that start with the premise that it’s simply impossible to retire without a bare minimum of a million dollars in the bank. For many of us at the lower end of the middle-class spectrum, this is something beyond all of our wildest dreams. The words “million” and “dollars” simply don’t belong in the same sentence, as our entire lifetime’s earnings, even assuming we live rent-free and food falls from the heavens, still wouldn’t begin to approach such a sum. “Wealth management?,” we scream at our car radios. (These being the only form of audio we have in our 20-year-old beaters.) “What about poverty management? That’s what we could use some help with!!”
Why it’s hard to be friends across class lines
Class rage may be at its most uncomfortable in instances where we are forced into contact with those outside our economic spectrum. One oft-cited manifesto on the topic was dictated to The Cut by a woman who works in the publishing industry in New York. She’s middle-aged, single, and pays her own way in the world, and is irritated by the fact that many of her coworkers, while earning salaries similar to her own, have trust finds, family money, or hubby bucks that let them take for granted a standard of living that is far above hers.
While we all like to think we’re democratic at heart and base our friendships on character alone, the fact is, it’s hard to relate to someone who has such an economic advantage over us. What can you say to someone who’s agonizing over whether to vacation in the Bahamas or Bermuda while you’re worrying you’ll get sick and be unable to afford your crappy health insurance plan’s insanely high deductible? Even more galling, though, can be when the economically privileged humblebrag about embracing creative pursuits regardless of their lack of remuneration. Yes, it’s easy not to sell out when you don’t have to. When you’re struggling to make rent, though, artistic integrity is a luxury you can’t afford, as are making only “ethical” purchasing choices and raising your children the “right” way, as determined by those who can afford the very best.
How to tame your class rage
Jezebel notes a number of things likely to trigger class rage, including people boasting of their prestigious educations or discussing world travel as if it’s a thing that everyone simply must do. (It’s just so broadening, don’t you know?) They note that there are a few different approaches you can take to handle this. One is to attempt to educate the bourgeoisie about how we proles really live, but be warned this might not go well — a discussion about The Cut‘s class rage article on DC Urban Moms and Dads brought out a lot of defensiveness among typically well-off forum members such as the person who wrote “I knew I wanted a certain lifestyle. So I went in to a high paying field. And made a good salary and met my spouse who was in a similar high paying field,” and another who said, “I shouldn’t have to feel bad about what I was given.”
Another way you can deal with tone-deaf remarks is deflecting them with humor, perhaps a (half) witticism like “I’m just taking the bus because my Lamborghini’s in the shop and my chauffeur’s busy getting the yacht detailed.” Cultivating a certain degree of reverse snobbism is also a valid option. Remember, your real-life education in the proverbial “School of Hard Knocks” is a valuable asset that all their money will never be able to buy them — plus, you’ll be in way better shape come the zombie apocalypse!