Way back in the day, I belonged to a very rigorous political collective, which contained several Marxists. They policed everyone, as Marxists are wont to do, proclaiming themselves the keepers of Advanced Political Thought and Revolutionary Consciousness, also known as Class Consciousness. I actually bought this for awhile. I was young and stupid.
And then, I found out several of these people were rich kids. Kids of privilege. Kids who were basically slumming. I had been utterly fooled by the boho, hippie lifestyle, the fashionable thinness that I had mistaken for semi-starvation, and the gung-ho talk of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and the government. I had never met people OF the class they wanted to overthrow; it made no sense to me. I was stunned. And: Class consciousness? I asked them (during one of their interminable meetings), wasn’t it impossible for rich kids to have the proper class consciousness? Aren’t you irreparably tainted? After all, one of their heroes, Chairman Mao, thought so, and sent the grown children of the rich to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.
Rather than answer me, they kicked me out of the collective for other manifestations of political incorrectness.
Why, you ask, is she telling us this?
Because it was one of the turning points of my life, the moment I Got It: The reason these people thought they could be the Best Marxists of Them All, was because they came from families who communicated to them from the time of their birth, that they were the best, always right, the people who should be in charge. Thus, when they entered the Left, they took charge of that too, not missing a beat. Of course they did. You didn’t really expect them to let poor or working class people lead them, didya? They know best, they are educated, they can quote Herbert Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci at you. They looked down on me, rather as rich kids had always looked down on me. Of course they did.
there is a lot to think about there, without even getting into the rest of the post about feminism, particularly while i’m reflecting on some of the things brought up in the comments on this recent post about me being high-and-mighty in my anti-consumerist ways. i didn’t grow up a trustfund kid, and i’m not slumming it, but a lot of it probably still applies. i knew a lot of those kids in college (e.g. those who used summer break to follow Phish around Europe because they didn’t need to get a job), and i still do now, and yeah: it took me a while to realize that it’s easy to preach revolution when you’ve got a cushy pad to fall back on if the world crumbles.
i have recently been more aware of how my own personal wealth has affected my morality (aside: interesting article/video on morality and intention here). i have even considered that perhaps i make too much money for my own good. that i am staying with my job not because i really believe in the work or that it is the best use of my time and energy, but because leaving would almost inevitably mean a pay cut, and taking a paycut would mean giving up a lot of extra benefits that i have in my life now. things i didn’t have growing up. that if i left my job to work for a nonprofit or somesuch and took a paycut, maybe i would remember some of the things that i have been forgetting about being poor, and maybe i wouldn’t be so bold about making statements such as that the financial collapse might be good for us as a culture. but oh, then, how privileged it that, thinking that taking a paycut would be good for yourself morally?
“nothing is more bourgeois than being afraid to look bourgeois.”