Friday, 5 April 2013

So which class are you?

The normally "politically correct" BBC this week launched the Great British Class Indicator which tries to persuade us that there is such a concept as "class". Then it attempts to tell us that there are not three classes but seven classes in the UK.  I was surprised by this, as most people had come to the conclusion that we are living in a "classless society" -  possibly taken in both its senses. Personally, I struggle to see the relevance of talking about "class", though I do accept that there are differences in "degree" in people.  Shakespeare talked about "the base" and "the noble".

I cannot see the relevance of "class" tested by: who you mix with, whether you go to the opera, how many "gigs" you attend, how much is in your bank account and estate etc.  There is no measure for moral qualities or good manners - which are integral to "class" in reality. There is no question on whether or how much people read and its quality, the number of languages someone can understand, musical ability, artistic and craft abilities, and so on.  In other words, how skilful, gifted and learned someone is, which for me is also integral to a measure of what sets some people "apart".

This BBC class test puts Lord Sugar (who prides himself on his working class roots), drug-taking pop stars and the Queen in the "elite class". So clearly it is mostly about money, even though it claims that it is not.  It puts penniless Mozart and Jesus Christ in the bottom class so it does not value greatness, sainthood, creativity, inspiration and global influence. It has no value.

Recently, I have been pulling together my family tree. I have learned that whether one lives in relative poverty or wealth hangs on very tenuous things, far more tenuous that most of us realise. People may think they are "middle class" because they live in a nice house: this may be because because their parents and/or grandparents' Wills gave all their money in one direction.  Many of my ancestors had fourteen or more children. If the parents were quite wealthy, the children were not.

The Government is talking about not doing the 2021 Census, to save money but it is important that families realise how fragile their wealth and education is to break down any sense of being from a "superior class".  I would prefer the question "Which class has your family been in, over the last two hundred years?"  I could answer that quite firmly: "It goes up and down".

There are two ways of getting money in your bank account, both of which are noted and accepted in the Bible.  That is inheriting it (legally) and earning and saving it (legally). There is the third way of winning it, via the Lottery, but then that might fall under inheriting it. The ability to earn money may - or may not - have something in common with objective accomplishment, level of cultural refinement, longevity of achievement or moral qualities.  The ability to inherit money relies heavily on the levels of sexism and passing whims of one's ancestors.  So, basically there is no direct "cause and effect" in having or earning money, per se.

What really counts for me are qualities that will often only come to light, in worldly terms, a hundred years after we are dead, if someone bothers to study our life:

  • Was this person honest? 
  • Did they manage to leave some kind of (non-financial) legacy?
  • Was this person workshy, if they were not disabled - and jobs were available?
  • Were they a good and faithful mother/father&wife/husband? 
  • Did they work with integrity?
  • Did they protect the weak and steward the natural world?
  • Was this person developing themselves, mentally and spiritually, even if they were not working?
  • How was this person contributing to their society?
  • Was this person self-giving or selfish?
  • Would you have wanted to meet this person and congratulate them?

In Christian terms, there are just two classes: the sheep and the goats. 

  • The sheep are true, faithful, self-giving, developing the fruits of the Spirit, namely goodness, kindness, self-control, perseverance and so on.  
  • The goats are "people of the lie" at heart, self-centred, idolatrous, rebellious, unkind, deceitful,  often in secret.

Strictly speaking, the test of real "class" as opposed to imagined class is : idolatry.

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