Whenever we talk of concepts like social classes, we do so only in terms of wealth or income. The upper class is rich, the middle class lives comfortably but struggles, and the poor live in hopeless squalor. But is there any meaning or purpose to such analysis?
The problem with this type of analysis is that we don't look at ourselves. We aren't honest about where we fit and how our own thoughts and behaviors put us where we are. Instead, we conceive of society's failures and accomplishments as something external to ourselves. This kind of analysis leaves out the part that might actually be useful. In fact, any intellectual exercise which ignores the possibility of self-analysis and self-understanding is a waste of time and energy. That's because the only thing we have any control over in this world is ourselves -- what we do, how we think, and how we react to what happens to us.
My search for truth has me observing and trying to make sense out of society. I have lived in, participated in, and functioned in many different cultures in many different countries. I have noticed that we seem to be living in a 3-tier class system.
The first is the Ruling Class. The Ruling Class is proportionately small in terms of numbers, but they control the vast majority of wealth and resources. The Ruling Class exists above and outside of the rules that govern the rest of us. In fact, they create the rules that govern the rest of us (yet they do not apply these rules to themselves). They write the laws, they print the money that the rest of us work so hard for, they almost fully control what the rest of us foolishly call "democracy", and they control the resources.
Most of the Ruling Class are born into the Ruling Class, while some of them enter through the secret societies of Harvard, Yale, or other elite universities. If you happen to be a member of the Ruling Class, you know you are a member of the Ruling Class. If you are past University age and still don't know for sure, then you never will become a member. If you are a member, you have been taught that your loyalty is only to other members of the Ruling Class. You take care of each other and your primary purpose is to maintain your position. Your power is limitless. You feel entitled to extract wealth from the other classes and from nature itself. In fact, you feel morally justified in anything you do because, after all, you are the elite. You deserve it because you are part of the club. You may be, in fact, stealing from the Productive Class and ruining the lives of the Dependent Class, but you reason that you are above them and superior to them, so it doesn't really matter. Everything you are and everything you do is justified because this is your natural place in society. You are the elite. Occasionally you do something charitable or just, and just as the Ruling Class has done through the ages...you expect your peasants to be grateful.
Your fear is that things get out of control. You have to keep order, you have to keep people satisfied to at least a minimum level so they don't rise up against you. You have to keep them believing in the system you oversee, or at least make sure they are too afraid to do anything about it, or else it could all fall apart and you will have failed.
Next, there is the Productive Class. The Productive Class is larger than the Ruling Class, but still a proportionately small group of people who invent, build, create, and maintain much of what we all enjoy. This is an educated, skilled, strategic group of people who create much of the value that the other two classes benefit from. If you are a member of the Productive Class, you understand that you get paid based on the amount of value you create for society. Your pay is proportionate to the extent that you create something useful for lots of people, something enjoyable, something practical, or something desirable. You also earn a living by serving the Ruling Class...by helping them extract wealth and by helping them keep society in order.
You serve the interests of the Ruling Class even though you do not fully share in the benefits. Your income and wealth is only a small portion of that which you create (in other words, you are exploited). But you are alright with being exploited because, you reason, that's just how the world works. You don't want to rock the boat because you are trying to enjoy your ride on the boat. You don't feel entitled to more; rather, you feel proud of what you have accomplished through hard work and merit. You don't dwell on what should be, you are grateful for what is. If there is more to be had, you'll get it through your own abilities.
If you are a member of this class, your life will be rewarding and you will find a great deal of satisfaction. These are the highly-successful entrepreneurs, the celebrities who boast a life-long career of meaningful and high-quality work. These are the people who bosses love because they always earn their paycheck. You are self-sufficient, capable, and will always be able to satisfy your material needs because you are always going to be useful to others. You will also find a great deal of satisfaction in your mastery of specific skills and in your accomplishments. You will, however, be frustrated with other people around you who seem not to do anything productive, who always seem to want something from you, and who may even seem lazy.
Finally, there is the Dependent Class. This class is largest in number but poorest in terms of resources and wealth. If you are a member of the Dependent Class, you feel that you should be rich, you should be famous, and you should be given everything you want. Your sense of self-worth is strong but has little connection to reality. Much of the Dependent Class is employed, but mostly in jobs which they find frustating and unacceptable. They get paid a small amount for the relatively little value created through work that they don't much care about. The Dependent Class feels that their employer owes them more money and benefits, that the government also owes them, and they adore the Ruling Class because the Ruling Class seems to have everything they should have.
The Dependent Class wants to be rich and famous without any patience or effort. They want it all, now! They want to be discovered and in extremely rare cases they are, but their celebrity or success is short-lived. Not only is their 15 minutes of fame fleeting, it is meaningless and has little long-lasting value to others. They want to be actors, models, rock stars, and reality TV stars for no particular purpose. If it doesn't happen, it is by no fault of their own. Possessing few relevant skills or acceptional traits, putting forth only the minimum amount of work, few members of the Dependent Class realizes his or her dreams.
These are the young women who want to marry rich, the drifters, the unproductive artists, the bored employees, the partying rich kids, the university students who don't study, the unemployed, the guy at the bar every night, or the guy who moves on the latest get-rich-quick scheme as easily as changing shoes. In Europe, these are the guys scheming to get EU funds (rather than just starting a business that creates value). The Dependent Class complains that life isn't fair, just as they frustrate the Productive Class with their impracticality and ineffectiveness. But the Dependent Class is, in fact, useful to the other classes because they make eager consumers, they are the die-hard fans, and the true believers. The Dependent Class is the consumer of culture and, aside from that, they do all the low-value jobs that nobody else wants to do. In exchange, they are fed religion, sports, and reality TV in order to make their present-day reality seem bearable.
The whole system works because the lower two classes hate each other. The Dependent Class sneers at the Productive Class because they are suckers, sell-outs, and they just don't get it. The Productive Class hates the Dependent Class and tells them to "get a job". Meanwhile, the Ruling Class could care less...as long as both classes continue to obey and worship them. Everything is fine as long as they are able to keep everything in order and continue to rule, to exploit, and to control the rest of us. The Ruling Class is fine if the lower two classes are pointing fingers at each other, because at least they aren't pointing fingers at them.
This heirarchy exists in every country of the world (though the relative size of each class varies slightly country-by-country). The interesting question is: where do you mostly fit? Are you part of the Productive Class or the Dependent Class? Which class do you consciously want to be a part of? How might you change your thoughts and behaviors to make that a reality?
I'm not suggesting that a person's class accurately describes a person's worth. Any discussion of class is only a discussion of economics. Every person on this planet is a unique individual, possessing his or her unique value and identity entirely outside of social status or economics. The degree that we actualize our authentic selves is the degree to which we transcend class and circumstance. So this analysis of our 3-teir class system is only an analysis of exactly that...it has only to do with our economic standing and how our thoughts, beliefs, and actions affect it. Your actual worth, as a human being, has little to do with your class. Sometimes truth can be harsh, other times it can be depressing. In this case it is both. But is it still not worth considering?