You’re at a party and someone asks “what do you do?” This question will always come up as a conversation starter, but why, and what do they mean?
I think people genuinely ask to make conversation. The question they are looking for an answer to is “what you do for a living?”
Even when the question is posed innocently, the answer can bring judgment. I prefer to be vague about my day job simply because it is the last thing I want to talk about when I’m not in work.
It is a question I personally try to avoid asking. Yes, it is an easy fall back when you are feeling awkward or you are not sure what to talk about. But it’s also easy to ask “what do you do for fun?” or “what do you do in your spare time?”
I love people and I love talking to people, but I really want to know about the person, rather than how they earn a living. That is not what defines a person. There is so much more to us than how we earn our keep but that can define us from other people’s perspectives as they draw conclusions on our interests, earnings, class, etc.
Class. What is class anyway?
It depends on how you look at it.
Class as a noun can be defined as:
“The system of ordering a society in which people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status.”
Do we judge people based on their class? Do we decide to be friends with people based on their class? Yes, I think we do.
I have had people from backgrounds of great wealth and status accept me and welcome me with open arms and I have had people look down on me and keep their distance due to what, I assume, they perceived as a difference in status.
On the other spectrum, I have shared meals with people who make less than a dollar a day and they treated me like they would treat any other person.
Why is that?
We often hear the terms upper, lower and middle class.
What is lower class? Lower suggests inferior but we must be careful with the words we use as there is great power in words. Right speech is an important thing. When we use the term lower class we infer inferiority but this is not correct. Lower class or working class does not mean inferior class.
There is nothing inferior about someone who does not have opportunities like education, for example. This doesn’t make them inferior. It means they have a tougher life because it will be more difficult to support themselves and get a job that pays enough to support their family. They may not be able to afford to send their children to college or even afford the food to keep their family healthy.
It doesn’t mean they are inferior but means their opportunities will be fewer and their lives will be tougher. Because of grit and strength this is something that people can overcome but it will be a more difficult path than that of somebody from “higher class.”
In my opinion, the terms; upper, lower and middle are outdated. These classes are simply different. There is no higher or lower, better or worse. Higher and lower opportunity maybe.
As I mentioned, there is power in words and the above terms are outdated to me. Maybe phrases like the following would be more acceptable:
- Limited social / economic opportunity
- Intermediary social / economic opportunity
- Established social / economic opportunity
Another definition I found for class was:
“Stylishness in appearance or behavior” or “showing stylish excellence”
I would like to think that people with Limited social and economic opportunities are folks that show their “stylish excellence,” in a different way. A stronger way, with more grit and determination than any of the rest of have been given the opportunity to dig deep enough to find.