I rewatched the movie The Fighter the other day, which is a dramatized retelling of the story of the boxer Micky Ward. Ward’s role in professional boxing was to serve as a stepping stone for other boxers. He got a small amount of money to get beaten up, and the other guy got another win under his belt. His underclass mother poorly manages his supposed boxing career, happy to make money off his back, and his family is shaming him into training with his crackhead half-brother. In the movie, and in real life, Ward eventually became a champion, but only after wrestling out of the suffocating clutch his family had on him. The Fighter is a pretty good movie, and one of the rare ones from Hollywood that attempt to realistically depict destructive social environments.
I don’t expect many of you to have grown up in the underclass, with family members who have spent time in jail and who frequently consume drugs. Yet, the effect that your family may drag you down, if not clip your wings, is all too real. This is not only a problem of the underclass as well as the working class, with their well-known crab mentality. Let me go through how negative influence from your environment can seriously mess up your life, going through the various social strata. I focus on the influence of your family, but the family you were born into also determines your peer groups and thus your friends for easily the first two decades of your life. Everything I write about with regards to family therefore also applies to one’s extended family, circle of friends, and wider peer group.
First, if you are born into the underclass you are pretty much fucked. Welfare dependency is a way of life there. In our advanced Western democracies, we have been nurturing a class of people who have been living off welfare for multiple generations. Imagine growing up in an environment in which nobody in your entire family has a job! You can bet that anybody in this social class who wants to better himself will face severe hostility. For instance, in the black community, there is the concept of “acting white”, i.e. going to school and doing your homework. Similarly, in the lower strata of society among whites, kids who want to make an effort get teased or even beaten up. In German, for instance, there is the insult ‘Streber’, which literally translates to ‘striver’, i.e. if you strive to succeed, you are the object of ridicule. This concept is so mind-boggling that you probably have a hard time grasping it if you haven’t been exposed to it in real life.
The reason behind those hostilities is deep resentment. I don’t think anybody likes being at the bottom of society. Furthermore, despite all the clamoring about societal or “structural” injustices, I think that people at the bottom have some understanding that they are where they are due to their own insufficiencies. Sure, there may be reasons that were outside of the control of the individual, such as having been born with low intelligence, debilitating sickness, or disability. Nonetheless, if you are at the bottom, you are probably quite aware that you did not end up at the bottom by pure chance. Therefore, seeing someone in your immediate environment trying to succeed is easily perceived as a grave injury. Obviously, if Joe Leech’s son manages to do well in school and get a decent job, why couldn’t Joe? Having someone successful in one’s family is thus an attack on one’s self-image. They would all be happier if they could share their misery.
In the working class, similar issues appear. You may be aware that some corners of the Internet promote “going into trades”. Yet, that kind of advice strangely enough only seems to come from people who don’t work in the trades, or have a relatively low-skilled job themselves. Don’t get me wrong, if you are smart, hard-working, and a bit lucky, you can do very well for yourself by learning a trade. However, this is not the norm. The average tradesman, and even more so the average low-skilled white-collar worker, does not have an enviable life. The work is monotonous and unpleasant. There is even a short-hand for such jobs. They are referred to as 3D jobs, but this has nothing to do with computer vision, but instead stands for “dirty, dangerous and demeaning.”
Just like the single-mother welfare queen is likely to discourage her daughter to work hard in school, so does the beaten-down tradesman feel the need to dissuade his son from wanting to go into a field that does not grind him to a pulp. There is a catchphrase that captures this resentment: “Do you think you are better than us?” Again, this is not some kind of nonsense that only exists in movies. It is taken from real life. You can also easily see that the underlying problem is insecurity due to real (not just perceived) low social status. Put yourself in the shoes of some tradesman who has spent two decades ruining his back by doing repetitive work. That kind of work is part of his self-image and he may even buy into bullshit such as that kind of work being “honorable”, which, for whatever bizarre reason, is a label that is only ever applied to manual labor. His life objectively sucks, and then his son tells him that he wants to become a nurse, or accountant, or any other job that is useful and reasonably well-paid, yet not out of reach if you don’t have a rocket-scientist level IQ. If it isn’t a blow to the father’s ego at that point, you can rest assured that the father will feel great inferiority once he learns that his son’s first paycheck, right out of college, is twice as high as his, 25-years into his career.
In the middle class, the situation is a bit different. Here, here is a strong focus on educational achievement. Yet, middle-class parents can mess up your life just as well. This seems to affects daughters and sons much differently. I have encountered a lot of women from solidly middle-class backgrounds whose parents encouraged them to study whatever they wanted. This is often mocked by the phrase, “any degree is a good degree”. That was indeed the case when it was quite uncommon to go to college. Yet, today this is horrible advice. We have modified society to take those women into account. You’ll find them in various positions that were created for diversity hires. Heck, there are entire departments that seem to have little other justification. Also, the government is, to a large extent, a giant workfare program for women with a B.A. degree in b.s.
I contrast, the sons of middle-class parents don’t quite have that kind of safety net. However, the kind of encouragement they get may likewise be targeted for a reality that no longer exists. For instance, law used to be a very lucrative field. Today, law is still lucrative, if you went to a top school and did well. For the majority of graduates, this is no longer the case. I have seen a lot of bright, young men getting pushed into career paths that worked out well for their fathers, without taking into account that we now live in an entirely different world. You can now say that this is not relevant because if you’re smart and hard-working, you’ll succeed anyway. That’s also the kind of b.s. justification I have often heard in real life. Yet, this is a poor argument that you can easily mock by encouraging young men and women to go to Hollywood and become movie stars. The reason is that you need to look at the expected outcome, and ignore the outliers. If your career success depends on being in the top few percent and/or getting lucky breaks, then your choice of career is a risky one.
The general problem I see with the middle-class is that these people embrace education. Yet, formal education is becoming an increasingly worse value proposition. Today, a degree costs a lot more money than it used to and opens up fewer paths. There is a glut of graduates in the labor market. The baristas and waitresses you bang tend to have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. The funny thing is that if I hadn’t spent so much time chasing tail, I would not even be aware of this enormous misallocation of resources on a societal level. Even worse is that degrees will become more and more useless as many jobs will disappear due to automation, and there are no new fields where the excess labor could go to, unlike in earlier times. If you are aware of that, as a parent, you would encourage your kids to go into fields that are difficult or impossible to outsource. Oh, and drop your boomer mindset of telling them that life is a ride on the gravy train. Those days are long gone.
Lastly, if you’re part of the upper class, then you can obviously do whatever you want. In those corners, your biggest dangers are presumably your parents swallowing the woke propaganda their ilk is pushing, which might make their offspring not realize that the world can be a pretty dangerous place. I’m thinking of the blonde daughter of some UK aristocrat who traveled to Africa on her own. She ended up getting gang-raped and killed by having her head smashed in with a rock. That’s probably the worst part of being part of the upper class, i.e. being completely out of touch with reality. This is not at all uncommon and seems to commonly afflict women. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of similar stories online.
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