Over the past several years there has been immeasurable talk, discussions, and debates regarding the middle class.
Some question if the middle class has simply evaporated. Certainly they haven’t all left on the holiday of a lifetime with suitcases filled with the monetary bounty from years of working. Wouldn’t they leave a change of address? Are they hiding?
Does the middle class even exist anymore?
Where are all of these hard working individuals who have contributed and been dedicated workers their whole lives?
There are those who enter into the discussion who don’t see a problem. Some even say, what’s the problem with the middle class? It’s strong, thriving, running smoothly, and everything is the same as it has for decades. We have the facts, they say.
These camps of thinkers believe there has been no change. There is absolutely no acknowledgement of the slowing and diminution of this segment of society. Some simply avoid the subject all together.
However, the middle class has been devalued as a major influence on culture and society as a whole. Their voices, concerns or needs are rarely heard.
The world it seems has turned into “them and us.” The “haves” that represents one or two percentage of the population, and those others, who make up the remainder.
How does this schism of strongly divergent opinions, viewpoints, and awareness evolve?
It starts early. We begin forming perceptions of the world around us when we are children. We formulate our ideas or even ideals of “who people are” as we ourselves grow and develop.
We form perceptions in the most unexpected places. Children are impressionable little sponges. They are always the silent witness in a room.
Consciously or unconsciously we gather information and form our opinions in thousands of ways.
It may be surprising to discover where, as children, we might have learned to devalue the importance of a person based on what they do for a living.
Amazingly one place might be children’s nursery rhymes. Yes, you read that right. Nursery rhymes! These little stories introduced us to many concepts, ideas, the rights and wrongs of behavior, and allegories for life itself.
A classic example of a children’s nursery rhyme with a subtle message is “Tinker Tailor.” It is a counting game, nursery rhyme and fortune telling song traditionally played in England. It is a game to indicate what “you will be when you grow up.”
This little rhyme was introduced in 1883. The more modern lyrics from the American adaptation are likely what most of us are familiar with: “Rich man, Poor man, Beggar man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.”
As benign as the rhyme seems, it signals that some “titles/jobs” are better than others, a subliminal message that the value of individuals is gauged differently.
The idea that anyone is somehow better or more important in society because of the “position” they hold is pejorative and offensive. ALL participating and contributing members in the work force matter. The title “working-man” applies to all.
Each and every one of us is important. We all make up the tapestry of life. We are all meaningful. Every worker is contributing to successful commerce. Every worker fulfills and meets responsibilities in the workforce while fostering the health of the economy.
My use of Tinker-Tailor nursery rhymes, as an example, is lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, how we learn, perceive, or form opinions is etched in our minds for a lifetime and comes from many places.
The fallacy that those in jobs that consist of the “backbone” of any society are any less significant, meaningful, and/or respected for what they do is unacceptable.
This fallacy must be rethought.
Most workers today will never be in a position to financially retire. This newly unfortunate phenomenon is unlike previous generations in the past decades
This will mean that many “so-called” retirees will be entering the work force in vast numbers. Getting jobs and working in positions and capacities new from their formative work years.
Many will work part time and many more will be forced to endure hours of back-breaking physical labor. Many will enter this “new playing field” of employment as a necessity — attempting to meet the constantly-growing demands of everyday expenses.
This shift in the “aging” of our population is important to all of us. This change in the structure and diluted middle class will produce a changing look in the familiar places we shop, local business we support, and in our communities.
Every person employed is a “working man or woman.” All need the respect and honor they deserve for their honest working ethic. In a changing world we all must become more aware and understanding. Take the time to see those workers in the grocery stories, pharmacy, bakery, home supply stores, and your local neighborhood store. These are our neighbors, friends, retired teachers and valued members of the community.
The face of the working man may be changing — but, their value and their contributions cannot be overlooked or under appreciated.
Honor those around you for their hard efforts, achievements and accomplishments. In today’s world, we are all “the working man.” Say a simple hello and ask about their day. It might make someone’s day brighter. Who knows it could be both of you
Lesli Moore Dahlke
Author The Best Is Yet To Come (2011)