How does one define class? By integrity and decency? By economic status alone?
Among the list of definitions for class at Dictionary.Com , these are listed:
1. a social stratum sharing basic economic, political, or cultural characteristics, and having the same social position: Artisans form a distinct class in some societies.
2. the system of dividing society; caste.
3. social rank, especially high rank.
the members of a given group in society, regarded as a single entity.
4. any division of persons or things according to rank or grade: Hotels were listed by class, with the most luxurious ones listed first.
5. excellence; exceptional merit: She’s a good performer, but she lacks class.
It’s obvious one can be of high economic status and still lack decency to the point of being a Class A jerk. Just read current headlines.
The worn aphorism of judging a book by its cover was never made more clear to me than when I worked in a convenience store many years ago. Now, I have no way of knowing the social status of the two gentlemen in my story and all I have are my own first impressions, but here goes;
A fifty-ish man in a suit and tie came in, snarling for a pack of cigarettes. Clean-cut, dressed nice, and maybe was simply in a hurry or having a bad day, but he came off as a rude jerk to me.
Same day, a tough-looking biker type wearing all things Harley Davidson with tats up and down his arms comes in, smiles, and actually uses words like “please” and “thank you” when asking for a pack of cigarettes. He also had a pleasant smile.
If class is based on economic status alone, that makes it pretty fluid, right? A financially strapped college student sits on a low rung, but if Fortune smiles upon her, she could eventually rise out of student loan debt and emerge among the “upper” class. Likewise, another student of somewhat substantial means may end up flipping burgers because he just can’t find a job in his field.
Even a Marxist society can’t get away from SOME social hierarchy–a natural pecking order seems inevitable no matter the culture.
I’ve met people of varying social levels with just as varied degrees of rectitude. I hope that I can learn from everyone I interact with. And if they think of me, I hope maybe they think to themselves, “That Peni Jo is one classy dame.”