Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scenes from the Class Struggle in Hamilton

When I walk to the library to study, I'm crossing from one side of town to the other. A lengthy bridge separates the steel mill-centered, blue collar east from the University-based, professional class west end of town. The two areas are so different as to seem like different countries. You go from the developing world to the post-industrialized West.
A few things I've noticed about the upscale end of town:
1. Everyone jogs and everyone exercises. Most people can be seen wearing exercise clothes of some sort at all times. You never see teenaged goths. They're all athletes. Exercise is their hair shirt- it's how they discipline their bodies to justify their life on earth. They're flagellants. Needless to say, if I lived here, I'd be fat.
2. Every other store has a benefit of some sort going on to aid people in some distant land. "Benefit Concert for the Congo", "Car Wash for Haiti", "Parade for Rwanda", "Back rubs for Swaziland", etc. etc. The strangeness of this becomes apparent when you walk through the crumbling, drug-addled, half-condemned end of town just across the bridge. You don't have to go to Haiti to find abject poverty and limited futures! These people have a need to ''give back'' to the poor of the world, tempered by a fear of interaction with those poor. Eventually someone will get the idea to invent a fictional impoverished nation to bilk these people for and get rich.
3. Some of the angriest people on earth are upper class, middle aged, white women. They look nearly as embittered and hostile as Palestinian protesters. They storm through the local shops like generals from some conquering army, with their rage and discontent carved into their faces, as if by penknife. You can tell that, if you got in their way, they would rip out your steaming, beating heart with their bare hands and feed it to their pedigree afghan hound. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen- pure contempt radiates from these women. Claire tells me that it goes back to their compulsive exercising, a desperate attempt to retain their upper class status in the face of younger competitors for the affections of their husbands/benefactors. Believe me- if someone could appeal to these women politically, they could bring down society in fiery revolution.

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