This piece was written for Women’s Republic by a guest writer, Habibah Makhdoom. You can contact her on Twitter at @habibahmakhdoom.
We rarely consider the conversation of people from middle/lower class backgrounds impelled to comprise their aspirations for the sake of having a secure future. Adults and/or children’s creativity and desires are habitually suppressed and are told to follow the conventional route so that they are not destined to repeat and carry forward the same economic struggle their parents may have faced. Whilst this notion of feeding a preordained career of promised financial security might mean well in theory, the consequences of this inhibition is unspoken of. The discussion of classism does not cover the topic of predestined careers and discouragements of dreams and passions.
There is unexpressed isolation of restrained ambition that people from middle/lower backgrounds endure. This is under the pretense that everything is fine since the journey they have taken is fiscally appropriate and conventional. However, the system of social inequality has many layers, some external and some internal, which cannot be seen or heard. When we analyze the state of affairs, we merely discuss foreordain careers. This is a colossal grey area that is yet to be unraveled in order to truly grasp the internal suppression individuals live through. In the race of pursuing prosaic careers, they leave behind their escapism and passion and switch on survival mode. 1
Dreams and aspirations, one might believe, is a human’s fundamental right. But how many have the actual liberty to fulfill that ambition? There are a hundred and one follow up questions one asks themselves before they pursue their desire.
‘Would this pay the bills?’
‘Would this help my family and me?’
Individuals from middle/lower class backgrounds, more times than those from affluent backgrounds, consider the career of financial security, primary and their true and actual goals, secondary. This placement of aspirations can sometimes become a subconscious move. Or occasionally, they will tell themselves that this is just the ‘mature’ or ‘right’ thing to do. The pursuant of being pecuniary comfortable robs people from many luxuries, and the most common and significant one of them is their passion. The system of policies and practices have compelled people to not have the free rein to choose a career where their true happiness lies under the consternation of further poverty and not evolving from their current situation.
It is a real privilege to have the latitude to seek and explore pools of ambitions and different career avenues without the crippling fear of loss of finance, time running out, or losing out on other and ‘safer’ opportunities. Individuals living in financial difficulties are confined to stick to career paths where economic security is guaranteed and to be absolved from one less burden. There is no opening to failing and trying again or to attempt a multitude of options in an attempt to find their niche.
Even in those occurrences where lower-class individuals decide to abdicate their livelihood for the sake of their passion, those environments are frequently consumed by aristocrats. Due to the ample time these groups have to explore avenues, the upper class occupy spaces and leave no room for anyone else.
When someone from a lower social and economic background has managed to determine a space for themselves, this becomes a success story – that they passed some merit, therefore, are eligible to be amongst the elite. This occupation of space is due to the advantage of the upper-class buying time, one which poor people certainly cannot afford to spend.
Having hobbies can be viewed as an elitist artifact, simply due to social categorization. When examining affluent settings, the discussion of the latest art and/or literature seems to be one of the popular discussions – whether that be the latest exhibition they went to or the last book they read. Their mention of being engaged in one thing or another is never not declared. Simply because they have the time to read and socialize – to partake in additional entertainment. Yet if a middle/lower-class person suggests they have never heard of some famous artist or read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ then they are illiterates that lack substance within their life.
However, that is simply a false narrative. Individuals from middle/lower-class backgrounds are often so consumed with surviving, they simply cannot waste their limited time on things that are not monetary. Even within this, there is unjust and yet this is unheard of. We instead shame the uncultured. Consequently, social inequality brings forward a much deeper and complex structure that is not illustrated as frequently.
Opportunities and passion rarely come to those from middle and low-class backgrounds. They do not have the flexibility to indulge in ‘risky’ career paths and wait for the day their circumstances will change. There is a limited room made to be available for people of low-class background since these spaces have been inhabited by elites, who have had the advantage of setting off first. Oftentimes, the exploration and finding talent is conducted at a much later stage in a poor person’s life and in turn, make their desires the ‘plan b’ or the side job. And this will only occur on the chance they find themselves in a comfortable economic situation.
The harshness of this system has left people from disadvantaged backgrounds with extreme hardships. We explore and discuss the tangible disparities of social inequality, but rarely do we tackle the conversation of the not so obvious topics where people are left to suppress and compromise their dreams just for the sake of holding on to another day. There is an extreme unfairness and sadness in this. Social inequality has robbed people from enjoying the simple things in life, and these cultural and/or professional environments inevitably become the socialites’ spots. However, that simply is not true. The elite do not own them; they simply just have the blanket of financial security and time.
1. I concur these orthodox careers are privileged careers, and there is no denying that. I recognize education itself is a real advantage, but that is another layer of social inequality, which is not the discussion of this article.