The PBS documentary People Like Us illuminates a lot of interesting points about class in America. It explains how we organize ourselves into “tribes” based on similar interests and levels of income. These tribes do not remain static over the course of our lives. As we grow and change, the members of our tribe also change. We join new tribes and leave old ones. More often than not these tribes are based on race and income level. Interestingly, Americans, while living in this dynamic class structure, refuse to acknowledge that it exists; clinging hopelessly instead to the false ideal of “American Equality” endlessly perpetuated by socialization.
An important theme discussed throughout the video was whether or not a person could move from one class to another. This is the idea of moving between social stratifications. While I believe that anyone can move between different classes, because things are only impossible until they’re not, it is very difficult and often the exception to the rule. The social class in which you are raised is such an integral part of your early socialization, it makes it extremely difficult to change those ingrained habits and beliefs to match those of a person raised in a higher (or even lower) class.
I think the ultimate lesson to be learned from this movie is that class, like time and the truth, is relative. We see what we are taught to see. Through the glasses of socialization, formed during childhood, we are conditioned with a view of the world that will forever control how we fit into it.
Class is experienced relative to the person observing it.
The poor never get a break…
I’m currently reading The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. The current section is all about the concept of time from the point of view of entropy, which is a way to measure the tendency of a physical system to move from an orderly to disorderly state. It is the second law of thermodynamics and was initially intended to be used in the analysis, design and management of large scale systems and processes where a measurement of the probabilities are needed to calculate the likely-hood of losing efficiency to heat. But it was later discovered by physicists that the equations could also be used to measure the probabilities of any complex system to always move from a state of order to disorder. It occurred to me that the ideas of entropy could just as easily be applied to sociology – since society, at its most basic, is just a large complex system made up of individual human beings (as opposed to individual machines or atoms and molecules). I think there is a kind of social entropy that is constantly at work, forever moving an orderly group of individuals to a state of chaos and disorder.
Chuck Lorre has been writing for television shows for almost 40 years. All of his shows end with what he calls a “vanity card.” They are short messages that are like blog posts that he’s been writing since before blogs existed. Sometimes they’re stories he makes up, other times it’s just a thought he had earlier that week. Some are funny and some are sad; but every so often there’s one that really makes you think. This weeks episode of The Big Bang Theory ended with a vanity card that I think speaks to everything I’ve been learning about in class: society, culture and how socialization affects who we are and how we see the world. I thought I’d share it with all of you…
My very first freelance article was published on Smashing Magazine a few weeks ago. It’s an introduction to and walk through of how the WordPress Toolbar works.
Inside the WordPress Toolbar on Smashing Magazine ➠