I've been reading the book Liberating Memory: Our Work and Our Working-Class Consciousness, edited by Janet Zandy. It calls to the stand "middle-class assimiliation" and "working-class amnesia".
Now I've been brought up by pragmatic and immigrant parents, who prevailed upon my brother and me to do real labor... to have tangible contribution to the society. Any layer of abstraction beyond that - e.g. armchair musings about the nature of labor and capital - would be something else masquerading as labor. Joe Kenehan, the union organizer in the movie Matewan, says it more eloquently than any self-important quasi-Marxian analysis: "Ain't but two sides to this world: them that work and them that don't; You work; They don't."
One extension of my cultivation brings to question the necessity of the said assimilation. If we had to work twice as hard as everyone else to gain entrance into the middle class, wouldn't that be sacrifice enough already? Would we have to further dilute our element (which of course is fire!) by talking as they do, rationalizing as they do, and, however well-meaning, patronizing as they do? What does that do to my solidarity with the sisters and brothers on the way, to whom I'm duty bound?
My social spaces are increasingly enveloped by the middle class now... and this liberal yet unexpectedly classist atmosphere that I felt when I first moved to Pasadena is fast becoming imperceptible to me. And that sensory loss scares the hell out of me. Is it really useful for a former prole to spend all day playing catch-up, only to stutter and be perpetually one step behind in those ridiculous hipsterisms, witticisms, and analyses? Or do I let loose the street cred and expose them as being pretentious or, worse, irrelevant? I have been living in a state of bifurcation, negotiating between this game of bourgeois catch-up and the amnesia of my upbringing, hoping no one on either sides of the class line would notice. And it's been downright dehumanizing. I must choose!
Or must I choose? I think I am in agreement with Paul Fussell's "X way out" as the best exit from this trap. The middle class sets up this culture-capitalist system with a manufactured supremacy, and it infantilizes all who refuse to participate.
But our most powerful weapon is our refusal. The current and former members of the working class must, in addition to all the other bullshit we gotta deal with on a daily basis, defend our cultural space. "Defend Brooklyn!" Otherwise we will continue to be colonized by a culture that is perpetually unreachable, and spuriously priced.