Consumerism, conformism, and anxiety. These are three words I have tried hard to avoid in recent years. And yet, after watching this excellent video essay by J.J. McCullough on What is Middle Class?, I can say that these three words truly capture a lot of the culture I find myself steeped in, for better and worse.
Getting super identified over specific brands? Check. Finding pride in little material luxuries? Check.
One of the things I have struggled with is the tension between wanting to achieve "greatness" and finding gratitude towards with the simpler things. The idea that this tension between achieving individuality and reaching common goals is a "middle class" idea is an interesting one. It makes me wonder what individualist goals the other middle class immigrant families I grew up around were trying to achieve.
Wow do I remember the social anxieties experienced growing up. Careful deliberation around which tableware to buy, especially the useless ones meant only for display. And the strict adherence to avoiding the slang that my parents would use when talking to friends and family; having children speak in slang is, of course, a sign of being low class.
I find so much of my introspection these days attempts to wholesale reject these characteristics that are so emblematic of the world around me. My real takeaway from this video is that it is possible to appreciate middle class culture as what it is, without adopting the values as my own. Perhaps one day, I will be able to let go of some of these values more completely. But until then... Coke over Pepsi, PS over Xbox, and Mac over PC any day — come at me.