Back in high school history classes, we learnt about how back in medieval times, feudal systems shaped society greatly. The Pope had the greatest power, then the king, knights, the archbishops, down to the slaves who hardly had any power at all.
A similar example is Japan during the Edo period, there was the Emperor, then the shogun, the daimyo, the samurai, and so on.
It seems that nowadays, social classes don’t affect us so much. Of course with the concept of liberal capitalism and occupations with varying income, there is a system of classes to a certain degree, but much less harsh compared to the graphs we saw in our history books. We are told, just like with gender and racial issues, that discrimination doesn’t exist “much” anymore. Most of us are taught in school that we, as the people of today, are all regarded as equal human beings with a universal set of rights. Even though you may be a janitor with less income than a doctor or a lawyer, you have the right to send your child to the same school as theirs.
By sending your child to the same school, you are giving them the equal chance to get a high income job, and move up into a higher social class.
But isn’t this too idealistic? A little too “Hollywood”?
In reality, we all know that changing classes isn’t as simple as that. If you have higher income, you will send your child to a private school with a good reputation. Your child will be surrounded by people with a similar background, with a higher guarantee of getting a “good” job and making future connections. Your child will be raised knowing the social conduct to fit in such crowd. On the other hand, the janitor’s child, even if they managed to get a well-paying job, would not have been raised knowing how to act with other private school graduates.
A great example of modern day class discrimination can be seen in a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster, “Pretty Woman” (1990). When prostitute Vivian, played by Julia Roberts, walks into a store on Rodeo Drive, despite the fact she had the money, was told –“I don’t think we have anything for you. You’re obviously in the wrong place. Please leave.” Ouch.
So although the difference in social classes today may not be as extreme as historic feudal systems, we may all dream of it, but it’s still damn hard to move up the class ladder like Vivian does in “Pretty Woman”. What are the chances of a successful businessman agreeing to pay you three grand to be an escort one day?
But I would like to end this post with a quote from the same film – “Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”
by Marina Sata Khan