Notes From The Margin

March 22, 2008

We are the middle class….

We were having a chat this afternoon about a Laugh it Off skit from this year’s prodution called “We are the middle class…” which while being very funny takes a very sharp aim at those members of the middle class who have “the big ride” but no money to put gas in it, or who have platinum credit cards (which are maxed out) or who drive soooves (SUV’s).

I was thinking that the middle class in Barbados is perhaps the most hated socio economic group in the islands social milieu. They are constantly pilloried by the “working class” for “forgetting where they came from”, by the “upper classes” for being “social climbers”, by Cave Hill academics as being “petite bourgeois”, by politicians as being somehow “not as bajan” as the “working” class. There is constantly the insinuation that somehow they ought to be ashamed of wanting to live in a nice house, in nice neighborhood and to drive a nice car, or that they did something illegal or immoral to achieve whatever they have.

This goes further, the tax structure in Barbados shields the poor (hell it even gives a reverse tax credit to the poor) and those in the “upper classes” have all sorts of advice from accountants on how to avoid (note I did NOT say evade) paying taxes. The result of this is that income tax in Barbados is paid by the poor sod who works as an employee for a salary (given the exemptions usually a supervisors salary or higher) in short income tax is paid by the middle class.

And no politician dares to be caught giving concessions to the middle class! The poor or “working” class are the politician’s stock in trade in getting the media spotlight. Concessions are given for investment by businesses “to promote growth in employment” but when was the last time you heard a politician crowing about how he was going to help out the guys in the middle?

 The thing is…..

when I think about the middle class people that I know, they are almost all diligent people who work damn hard for a living, they pay their taxes and follow the rules. They do without so that they have something to put away for the future. They are likely to live not just for their future but for their children’s future. They (in many cases) went to UWI in Cave Hill although some were fortunate enough to travel overseas to study (even if only to Jamaica or Trinidad).

Despite being most often accused of “forgetting where they come from” I’ve found that most of them are well aware of where they came from, but more often than not their focus is on “where they are going” and if you follow their lives and careers there is a steady progression towards that goal.

So rather than bashing the middle class, perhaps the next time you hear this type of conversation going on try to relate it to people that you know rather than some amorphous group, ask yourself who are the middle class?

You might be surprised to find out that WE are the middle class..

Marginal

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6 Comments »

  1. I took a class on poverty for work, and they also discussed the middle and upper class. They stressed the same point you did, what distinguishes the middle class from the other classes is they WORK. Middle class is the steam engine for this country.

    Comment by Gayle — March 22, 2008 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  2. […] Notes From The Margin has some thoughts on the Barbadian middle class… Share This […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Barbados: Middle Class — March 24, 2008 @ 9:36 am | Reply

  3. Marginal:

    I applaud your effort to keep trying to say something relevant to the concerns of your readers in your blog. However, to paraphrase Grouch Marx: “I’ve read many interesting pieces, but this was not one.”

    Attempts to use the term “middle class”, which is an essentially Victorian concept, as an analytical construct, are bedevilled by the lack of precision that usually attaches to the term. This is made more problematic by the difficulties surrounding class analysis as a whole. Can we describe the “middle class” other than by comparison with those above, and below? How should we establish the boundaries of each? These are obvious questions that arise. Perhaps, as I infer from your piece, the middle class is really the “muddle class”.

    To sum up, some of us would rather be counted among the “drinking (obviously I don’t mean water) classes”, but as Oscar Wilde cogently observed, work is our curse.

    Let me leave you with a little ditty:

    Count me among the drinking classes,
    If I seem a little drunk,
    For when I’ve had too many glasses
    I soon fall off my bunk.
    So please stay up while I stay down,
    Then I will sup
    And act a clown.
    I’ll take you all around the town
    By sending you this JUNK!!!

    Comment by Linchh — March 25, 2008 @ 5:00 am | Reply

  4. Linchh,

    If I were you I would stick to economics and not attempt my hand at further poetry 🙂

    The post is essentially about perceptions, which are difficult to analyze in any quantitative sense. However perhaps as an economist you might want to consider the implications for development. When progression to a higher standard of living is public seen as something negative or to be jeered at, what does it say about our future as a society?

    Further, there’s a well known Bajan saying about “Crabs in a barrel”. How does this affect our growth in the future?

    Marginal

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — March 25, 2008 @ 9:15 am | Reply

  5. Marginal:

    Many years ago, Sir Richard Haynes, as a neophyte politician made the observation that in politics perceptions are more important than reality. He was roundly criticised by Tom Adams, and his cohorts, but many perceptive(?)commentators felt that he was on to something.

    Your invitation to consider what role people’s desires, hopes, and fears play in the development of a country is a tall order, but Lord Keynes, who started a revolution in economic thought many years ago recognised the importance of “animal spirits” which is the colourful name that he gave to one of the essential ingredients of economic prosperity: confidence. According to Keynes, animal spirits are a particular sort of confidence, “naive optimism”. He meant this in the sense that, for entrepreneurs in particular, “the thought of ultimate loss which often overtakes pioneers, as experience undoubtedly tells us and them, is put aside as a healthy man puts aside the expectation of death”. Where these animal spirits come from is something of a mystery. Certainly, attempts by politicians and others to talk up confidence by making optimistic noises about economic prospects have rarely done much good.

    We may mock the attempts of others to acquire the trappings of the ‘good life’ but this is the stuff of which capitalist economies are based.

    As for my efforts at “poetry”, since I am retired, I don’t have to worry about the risks attendant on quitting my day job.

    Comment by Linchh — March 25, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

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