The business world is always selling us something. And thank God!
Buying and selling is a huge part of our culture. Measuring the value of what we own and what that means to us and those around us is also central to our social experience and identity. America is about progress and the pursuit of happiness is at its very essence; we must always strive to have things and be places. Understanding our place in the American social hierarchy may not be as simple as counting our possessions though. We are all Americans but we are not all equal–not even close. Being an American is real. But what about the so called “Middle Class”? Have you seen it? Do you possess a piece of it? Are you standing in it? If you can make a good argument that you are in it, will your children share as lofty an address?
Today’s NYTs clamors about yet another elusive metaphor that we have lived by: The Middle Class. Illusive and metaphor because we cannot be sure if it really ever existed, at least not in all its Hollywood and public media glory. Like the nuclear family propelled and burned into the public mind by popular TV shows like “Father Knows Best,” the middle class is a very inclusive category which most Americans strive to get into; and yet another very important segment labors to stay above and beyond it (including today’s infamous top 1%).
For hundreds of years the extended family and agrarian life dominated gender relations, work, time and leisure. The modern middle class and Levittowns (Levittown was the first suburb and is considered the “archetype” for America’s suburbs America’s.) are an economic creation buttressed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue cultures. The Nuclear family of “Mom, DAD and Children,” can be similarly understood as an ideal. Nevertheless, in perhaps a nostalgic way, today’s popular media considers the Middle Class in danger of disappearing, if nothing else, from our imaginations. In historical terms the middle class was here for about a relative minute. Gone so soon?
“In Manhattan, the upscale clothing retailer Barneys will replace the bankrupt discounter Loehmann’s, whose Chelsea store closes in a few weeks. Across the country, Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants are struggling, while fine-dining chains like Capital Grille are thriving. And at General Electric, the increase in demand for high-end dishwashers and refrigerators dwarfs sales growth of mass-market models.”