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The Middle Class: Caught In Between

No one likes the middle class.
They’re like a teacher’s pet trying too hard to please the teacher.
Their masters look down on them with amused contempt.  Servile creatures who sell their souls for larger crumbs.
The working class despises their eagerness to sell out everyone else and envies their standard of living.
Confounded, the middle class tries harder to please yet still finds itself caught in the middle surrounded by enemies.
When things start going bad, they make excellent scapegoats while their masters stay in comfort.
The middle class is a buffer state, the first line of defense for people who matter.

Other than being in the middle of the hierarchy, there’s nothing middle about the middle class.  They’ve always been a minority, perhaps less than 20% of the population even in the best of times.  These are the people who’ve left behind the working class lifestyle, but are far as ever from any real power.  The middle class are the low level functionaries who typically rely on the good graces of the rich for their relatively privileged lifestyle. They are owned people like the workers but live under greater supervision with more responsibilities and expectations.
While a prole wanders from one job to the next knowing it will be the same as the last, losing a job for the middle class person can be a major life crisis that threatens to cast him back down into the seething mass of the working class.

The mentality of the middle class is one of anxiety, like that of a rodent or a deer.  They know they’re among the few who’ve managed to get ahead and are terrified of falling from grace.  If they fall, their family falls with them.  They’ve lost the ability to function in the rougher prole society.  Their sheltered helicopter-parented kids are easy targets in a prole school district.  They’re like cops getting sent to prison if they fail.  For them, there’s no going back.
Paul Fussell in his book, Class, had the insight to notice that they like everything to be bland and inoffensive from their food to entertainment.  So complete is their subservience and desire to avoid offense that it controls their lives even when they’re not working.  They try to imitate their superiors by being verbose and using lots of long words that disguise their real meaning, especially if it’s something possibly disagreeable.  Just think of the grey and boring names we associate with corporate jargon.  If a middle class person tells you their job title, it’s not clear what they actually do.

Peasants have revolts, the upper middle class, revolutions. The middle class has no rebellion.  Their fortunes are tied to the ruling order and they fear losing what they have too much to participate in upheaval.  They’ll usually still be fed when most proles are starving so will have even less incentive to betray their masters and join the destitute multitudes.

Like proles, middle classers are devoid of imagination and ideas.  Curiosity is alien to them.  The ideal middle class person needs to have enough brains to acquire skills and be likable to the right people, but any more than that is dangerous to the blind loyalty required of them.
They’re perfectly plain in looks possessing neither intellect or stupidity.  They’re the insipid gruel of humanity lacking in flavor or personality content to work at the same desk for a lifetime.
Proles are passive and impotent but at least they are passionate.
Proles are collectivist, they stick to the ways of their own kind.
The middle classers are conformist, their culture is their failure to imitate their betters.  They have no love for themselves, they care only for fashions handed down from above.

The lack of of identity and stuffiness of middle class culture makes it the first zone of society with potential for unsocialized malcontents to break off in search of meaning and belonging in life.  At present the middle class is shrinking from an all-time high to return to more normal historic levels.  Plenty of middle class children have failed to get the same status as their parents and find themselves alienated.
Middle class people are harmless to rulers as long as they stay that way.  But if too many of them slip towards proledom their better brains and higher initiative can cause some problems as they bring their resentments down with them and begin to inspire popular anger.

The Masses Crave Discipline

I was briefly doing some reading on dog training once because I was visiting my parents and they had a young puppy full of energy with little discipline.  It was difficult to even take the young animal for a walk because he would zip every which way with no sense of direction and constantly fight against the tugging of the leash.
I soon discovered the ideas of a guy called Cesar Milan on the web, a fellow who I understand had a TV show.
It soon struck me that his kind of ideas didn’t just seem dog-like to me.  I’d never found a finer manual in the art of herding people.

We have only to see Britain’s adulation for its royal family or Americans’ worship of the Kennedys to understand that the typical human psychologically requires a master as surely as any dog.  People feel happy and safe when there is a dominating presence at the head of their tribe.  They become miserable and anxious in the absence of discipline and leadership.

One has only to observe groups of kids.  A classroom with a strong and competent teacher is well behaved and happy.  A class with a weak teacher is obnoxious and miserable.
One would think that the kids with greater freedom would be happier, but the opposite is true.
Over the years I’ve had stints as a substitute teacher and an English teacher.  I’ve worked in tourist venues where groups of kids pass through constantly.  Everywhere I’ve gone, the kids without leadership have bratty sneers on their faces and while they may smile, it’s always a snide expression of mockery and contempt.  They’re unhappy, insecure, and bored.
Investigating dog psychology on the internet, I read how canine misbehavior is an attempt to get attention and test the leadership of the master.  The dog is begging to be shown rules and leadership just as it begs for food.  After all, social creatures require rules and structure as they do food or water.
It struck me that all those kids are exactly the same way.  Their misbehavior when not disciplined is just an escalating plea for leadership.  They immediately become happy and compliant again when their misbehavior is punished and they are decisively cast down into their proper place.

Dogs, according to the likes of Cesar Milan, experience a great deal of stress when despite their pleas, no leadership is forthcoming.  The dog starts to see itself as the incipient alpha bearing full responsibility for the wellbeing of the pack.  This crushing stress, combined with perceiving the need to assert itself as leader, mere misbehavior can escalate into outright aggression.  This is the point where the master loses control of the situation irrevocably.

Here,  I reflected, rulers of people do not fall from internal disputes as long as they show strength and leadership.  However, the moment a ruler makes concessions, the end is near.  We can reflect on Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union, or Mubarak in Egypt.  We can compare the outcome of President Jackson’s quick and decisive suppression of secession movements in South Carolina, with the concessions and indecisiveness of Buchanan.
It is an eternal law of dealing with the masses: the strongman is rewarded with obedience, the kind man with rebellion and overthrow.

American foreign policy would have been greatly improved had its formulators understood the human craving for discipline.  They would have immediately had an astute and accurate understanding of what an Iraq without Saddam would be like.  Now, faced with all the problems that the strongman kept in check, they’re forced to unhappily enter an alliance with the Iranians just to feebly attempt to restore what they already had—and willfully undid—because they chose to make real world policy while living in a fantasy land.

If anything, the colonialists of the British Empire had no illusions about the subservient and base nature of humanity.  With incomparably less wealth, technology, and personnel they managed to govern most of the planet.  A few jungle and desert zones capable of resisting the entire might of the United States caused no unusual problems for the British whose only advantage over the American superpower was a shrewd understanding of people.

Enlightenment thought teaches us humans are perfect rational agents, who need only be set free.  But even the most casual glance at the psychology of real, ordinary people quickly informs us:  One of the cruelest things that can be done to a man is to set him free.  At heart, man wants to be ruled.

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