Saturday, May 13, 2006

The leisure class has the working class surrounded!

One of the reasons I’m such an ardent fan of fiction is that writers of said fiction generally manage to integrate little nuggets of wisdom into their stories, often in unexpected but always delightful ways. I’ve come to think of these valuable nuggets as learning tools, something to expand my knowledge or at least help me to see reality from a new perspective.

Last night, as I was reading Free Fall, a compelling page-turner of a novel by Kyle Mills, an author previously unknown to me, I came across this priceless gem: There’s a leisure class at both ends of the social spectrum.

It took a few moments for the truth of that simple statement to sink in, and when it did I realized I’d never before given the matter so much as even one brain cell’s worth of critical thought. But yes, Mills is absolutely right; there is a leisure class at each end of the social spectrum.

At the upper end you have the idle rich, who survive on a mixture of greed, power and, more often than we like to imagine, ill-gotten gains. People at this end of the spectrum don’t have to work. They let their money do the work. It’s the capitalist’s version of “let your fingers do the walking.” Hey! There’s no point in lifting a finger if you don’t have to.

The leisure class at the lower end of the social spectrum consists of the idle poor, an underclass of citizens who can’t work, or, for whatever reasons, choose not to. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking the road less traveled, or of following the course of least resistance, and sometimes it’s a matter of having no choice at all.

Caught between these two leisure classes is the working class, but that’s to be expected. Somebody’s got to do the work.