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OrdinaryTimes 1.29-MuddleClass

Give any half-way decent economist or shameless politician a podium and you’ll elicit enthusiastic support for the middle class, a concept nobody’s not in favor of. Some polling shows that many more than half of US households believe themselves to be a part of this vast, undefinable middle. We all support a chicken in every pot, which was once the symbol of the cherished space, but no more. Now, it seems, the flat screen television better symbolizes this space, along with a two car garage and granite countertops. This land where everyone’s supposed to want to own their own home and aspire to hold down a middle management position has long been fundamental to our mythos.

This myth belongs in a consumer economy held hostage to the ability and willingness of everyone to acquire stuff. Advertising encourages this desire; television, too, where we peek into lifestyles few of us even suspected we wanted to emulate until we saw some actors pretending their surroundings represented normal.

Our government, too, seems to focus their policies as if this mythical middle ground were a tangible target and somehow fairly represented the aspirations of most citizens. Tax breaks if you’re married, own your own home (even if some bank owns most of it), or have children. Woe to the single childless renter.

It might be safe to say that most government employees earn middle class paychecks, so I suppose it’s only reasonable that their policies would support their native class and encourage anyone beneath it to climb aboard. I asked The Muse if we belonged, and she said we didn’t. No flat screen television, and no desire to ever own one. No garage. Only one decade-old car and again, no desire to downgrade into a newer, more complicated model. We rent. Kids all grown up. We might belong to the vast, under-appreciated muddle class.

I suspect that the majority belongs. We’ve learned that the economy baits and switches, and we don’t rely upon it to supply our happiness in any form. We no more believe in flat screen technology than we believe in flat Earth theology. We live on an edge, unconvinced that our acquisitions or possessions could provide security from anything. We get ahead by refusing to compete.

We call ourselves MuddleClass in recognition that we might all be muddling through. Some luckier, some more skilled, some even gifted, but each in extremis somehow. None of us are sustainable, each ultimately disposable; still somehow sacred. We have no choice but to live one blinded step at a time whether we follow the crowds or blaze our own trail. Few of any of us seem to inhabit that much-touted middle. We’re muddling through however certain we imagine ourselves to be. Me, too.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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