Since when can humans be sorted, classified, ordered, and arranged in different classes? Lower class, working-class, middle-class, and upper class. Just like some sort of a commodity that is sorted and ranked according to its usefulness or monetary value. Stuff can have a monetary value but somehow the value of humans is now also being measured in monetary terms. We even refer to the people we employ as human capital. The higher their income-generating potential the more valuable they are and the more we are prepared to invest in them.
We are obsessed with labelling and fitting people into boxes. Sociologists and economists and other disciplines developed a classification system to help us sort people into these different classes using three criteria, cash, credentials, and culture. First (cash), we need to see your bank balance. For the second (credentials) we need to see your résumé. For the third (culture), we need to determine your preferences and tastes. Once we know all that we are sorted. We know your needs, we can now sell the right stuff to the right people and make more money. It is all about the economy, or as James Carville, Bill Clinton`s strategist famously said: “ It`s the economy, stupid”.
Well, thanks to the global lockdown this economy is now in trouble and it will impact all of us and create havoc with our neatly designed classification system. Some upper- class people will find themselves in the middle-class bracket and many middle-class people will drop to a lower class and people currently indicated as poor will even suffer more. A large scale re-classification will happen. Many of us will find ourselves in a new bracket with a new label.
Do not buy into that! Let`s not allow ourselves to be labelled. Labels hurt. Our value as a human being can never be determined by one’s income bracket. So perhaps the time has come to jump of the sorting table. We are not apples or potatoes or some commodity. We should never use these labels to describe ourselves. We need to “de-class”. To be neither poor, nor rich, nor middle class. To rather embrace our uniqueness and be in a class of our own. We are after all unique and beautiful beings that should rather be judged by our character and values than by our income.
Going forward, we will all be confronted with the money issue in some way or the other. Some will lose everything. That does not make you poor, you just lost your stuff and can start afresh. Some of us will have to downscale and live a more simple life. That is no downgrade and does not make us losers. Some will lose their jobs. A job and a job title does not determine who we are. Jobless is not a title. It is a description of someone who is between jobs.
Perhaps this pandemic wants us to discover a new way of being human. That it is indeed possible to be happy without the trimmings of all our stuff. That it is possible to have very little in terms of material riches but still be spiritually fulfilled. Some people seem to get that. They escaped from the classification table. They are neither lower nor upper class. They are in a class of their own. They seem to know the secret to everyday happiness – gratitude, humbleness, decent work, honesty, grit, grace, patience, wonderment, contentment. They laugh, they love, they play, they dance, they sing and they share and they fill their days with meaning. Some of them are seriously wealthy, some not, but that seems to be irrelevant.
Perhaps this crisis will help us to discover who we really are and to get rid of all the silly tags and labels we took on.