Sunday, September 21, 2003

The global middle-class is the global missing class

The rising tide of this global progress, we are told, will lift all boats. The trouble is that some of our boats are anchored; anchored by place, tradition, identity, a sense of belonging. Anchored boats are not lifted by rising tides; they are overwhelmed, and sunk with all hands.

Dear oh dear, Paul Kingsnorth. The real “trouble” with “global progress” is not its brushed aluminium homogeneity – it is that there is no such thing.

Yes, there is a (numerically tiny) “globocracy”, which you somehow seem to be both on the 5-star inside, and the placard-brandishing outside of. And then there are quite a lot of newly rich people – and alongside them, a far, far larger number of the newly, or recently-industrialised poor. To term any of these groups a new or huge “middle class” is a travesty; the three groups are crowded at either polarity of the wealth spectrum, with nowhere else to go.

I would like to think, Paul, that your street theatre outside globocrat summits was at least on the side of, say, Chinese factory workers living and working in toxic time-bombs, and in absolute poverty to boot. But when you can’t even recognise the first world’s analogue to the Chinese factory worker – a uni graduate cum “career” casual waiter – standing in front of you, I doubt it. The “impeccably polite, bow-tied waiters” are part of the new breed of servants – an occupational class that has only recently emerged in the West, after half a century’s dormancy.

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