It’s one of those things of which I was mildly aware for decades, mostly through the medium of novels with an English setting … but now it has become painfully and bitterly obvious that there is an American class system, and in it’s present incarnation, malignant. We had always prided ourselves on being relatively class/caste fluid, a place where one might go from rags to riches through striking it rich, developing a better mousetrap, investing cannily, and still be on the same social level as ‘old money’. This new divide is bitter, hostile, and possibly lethal. It’s the social and political authoritarians, who crave power over the rest of us, pitted against the working and middle classes – those who have a degree of control over our own lives, enough income to be at least tenuously comfortable, the leisure and energy to take part in public matters, even if only in a small way. The middle class have the effrontery to believe that yes, we ought to be able to control our own lives, rather than have every aspect controlled by the authoritarians.
A thriving middle class, of competent and relatively prosperous citizens is a direct and immediate threat to power-jealous authoritarians. The parties may change names; used to be royalists and feudal nobility threatened by the power of independent merchants and guildsmen, 19th century aristocrats dismayed by the wealth and confidence of the new bourgeoisie, Stalin demolishing the kulaks – the marginally-to-substantially-more prosperous peasantry, or in our current situation – our existing conservative middle class. The American oligarchs are afraid of the middle class, the working business owners, the independent-minded residents of flyover country, all those ordinary people who voted for Trump and sill have Trump posters and flags out there.
Being somewhat economically secure, the middle class and independent working class have the time and energy to demand a voice in matters – such as what our children are being taught in school, and whether we must wear masks to go into a restaurant. This is anathema to authoritarians, even seen as an existential threat to their authority, authority which they would very much prefer to go unquestioned. So it appears to be the belief of the American oligarchy that the middle class must be destroyed, calumniated as terrorists, defanged, impoverished, made dependent, fearful … so as not to interfere with the grand and aggrandizing schemes of the authoritarian ruling class. It’s a terribly short-sighted strategy, since history has frequently demonstrated that a stable, secure and politically-engaged middle and working class tends to be a guarantor that a nation will be in turn – a stable, secure and relatively long-lasting entity, given no powerful external enemy. An authoritarian oligarchy: jealously reserving power to those inside the structure is almost guaranteed to eventually become rigid, unstable and fragile, liable to fall apart once it begins to shut out rivals for power.
So, that is where we are at present, I think – with our ruling class increasingly hysterical, and prone to lash out against perceived threats, especially from a still-independent-minded middle class. Discuss as you wish.