I've been feeling disheartened that the American people don't put more trust in their working classes anymore. It seems as if all the elections and the political agendas are now working against the benefit of the working class. My experience of the working classes in my own home city included a large portion - the largest portion by far - of very clean-living, hard-working people who wanted their children to have good educations, and at least a possibility for a good future, better, or even equal, to what they had. Lots of people seemed to feel that a life basically like their parents' wasn't so bad. They lived in brick houses with three or more bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, a bathroom or two, garage, maybe a utility room or a sun-porch, whatever. A patch of lawn, a back yard. Nothing too grand, but comfortable. The parents worked for the most part in factories. This was not work they were nuts about, but it provided a good living for the whole family and also a sense of camaraderie within the community.
As a teenager, I had the opportunity to work for people with 'old money' who had, I suppose, become somewhat marooned in our neighborhood. They had family ties with state government bigwigs, and entertainment sub-moguls, etcetera. I became aware that they had more problems with alcohol than the working class people I lived among. I would have thought - according to our stereotypes - that just the opposite would have been the case. But in fact, as I began to move through more and more 'higher echelon' levels of society, I discovered a pervasive alcohol problem. I also observed a very heavy alcohol problem among the very poor, the chronically unemployed people, the ones we think of as living 'below the poverty line'. Their substance abuse problems were certainly complicated by the fact that they were so very poor.
But the working class didn't have drinking problems in my experience. At least, in our immediate neighborhood - mostly factory workers - no one, not a single person, had a drinking problem. What, a beer or two, perhaps, in the evening. There was a block, several blocks away, that had a high unemployment rate, a higher unwed pregnancy rate, etc, and people there were known to have drinking problems, but were still considered to be members of the 'working-class' and not of the 'underclass.' Perhaps this is because they were white, I'm not really sure. We are talking about the fifties here, by the way.
Yet these more upper class people of my acquaintance were into their private bars every evening at five o'clock, and drank hard liquor for the rest of the evening. I noticed that they became very inebriated at parties, in a way I'd never seen among my working class neighbors, not even on Fourth of July. Perhaps since the big explosion in drug and alcohol use since the nineteen sixties all that has changed, and the working class may not be as abstemious as they once were. I don't know, but once again, most of the working class people I know today do not have drinking problems.
The people in the working-class sections of our neighborhood did have money problems, however. They often couldn't do the things they wanted to do, or at least, not right away. They had to save for things. They couldn't just try something and maybe blow off some money. There was an undertone of dissatisfaction at times. I should think it would drive anyone to drink. But that's the funny thing, they didn't drink. They just worked hard and in the evenings rested.
Anyway, one always hears about the drinking problems of the lower classes, but nothing about the drinking problems of the rich - why is this? Drinking problems are not restricted to lower income levels, that is certainly abundantly clear.
Just reflecting on this, and wondering and worrying - as I often do - that the opportunity to be working-class in this way is shrinking in our country. Why? Is it because no one in power cares about the working calss, or because those who can make a difference aren't aware that there is a way of being 'of modest means' and still wholesome, solid citizens who contribute richly to our social fabric? Do they despise the working class based on stereotypes or on bad experiences with someone? Is it just a matter of economics? (By the way, I doubt that.) Maybe the motto today is - not 'let them eat cake' - but 'let them take drugs.' I despise 'leaders' who think like this, I don't care how royal their pedigree.
Anyway, I just had to say that.