In defense of classism

usually this word describes a group with above-average means mistreating a group with lesser means. the rich calling the poor lazy, someone with a Mercedes mocking someone who takes the bus.

but this hated word, classism, shares a pattern with every other ~ism: the impact cuts both ways.

what is hate

differences are a sufficient (although not necessary) fuel for hatred. you’ll never hate someone who is exactly like you.

if you hate a competiting company that imitates yours, what you really hate is the difference in character and morality of that company’s executive team, as yours would “never do that to someone else.”

hatred tends to dissipate in step-function with the differences that fuel it. for example a [barely] Korean speaking foreigner in Seoul gets more respect than a non-speaking foreigner, all other things being equal.

making differences disappear

if hatred between groups decreases as the opposing members become more similar, it follows that people on both sides of a conflict will attempt to win over the hearts of their adversaries.

this summarizes most acts of evangelism. a Christian believes life is better with Christ, so they recruit disciples to spread the Good News. if everyone on earth was a God-fearing Christian, theoretically there would be no murder or injustice, because there would be no difference in moral code. atheists evangelize for the same end goal, by the way, just with a different message.

so we have a situation where the “winning” side is rewarded credit for making peace, which in essence is the absence of hatred, or in practice the reduction of differences.

(yes, this argument can also be used to declare that homogeneity – not “diversity” – is a strength)

siblings of classism

let’s broaden our definition of classism to incorporate more variables than simply the zeroes in your bank account. below are examples of mental, physical, and spiritual classism, which again cut both ways.

mental wealth classism

if i have an abundance mindset, but you have a scarcity mindset, i may pity you and you may find me arrogant. when i say “you can do it,” you say “it can’t be done.” when i attribute success to hard work, you’ll attribute it to luck and rigged systems (that can’t be fixed). to eliminate these differences i’ll attempt to open your mind, while you will attempt to close mine.

physical wealth classism

if i’m in good shape, but you’re fat and sick, i may encourage you to cut back on calories. when i say “your body needs movement,” you say “i have a condition” or “i’m too busy.” when i attribute feeling good to eating right and exercising, you’ll attribute it to miracle genes. to eliminate these differences i’ll attempt to motivate you, while you rationalize that now is not a good time.

spiritual wealth classism

if i’m excited to tackle the day, but you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, i may encourage you to meditate or read a book about an underdog with a comeback. when i say “happiness is already inside of you,” you’ll explain that X, Y, and Z still need to happen before you can tap into it. when i attribute inner peace to intentional expressions of gratitude, you’ll attribute misery to forces outside of your control. to eliminate these differences i’ll ask you to articulate what an ideal life looks like, while you quip in response “it must be nice…”

pick a goal

there are billions of us. differences and hatred will never go away. fortunately we only have to control ourselves, and this grants us the freedom to choose a path:

  1. bask in hatred
  2. live as a stoic
  3. resolve differences

the first option is our base case; it’s how most people already live.

if the 2nd option sounds viable, consider the contemporary “father of stoicism” Ryan Holiday’s stoic public, emotional temper tantrum at his father voting for the wrong party.

to me the choice is clear: we need to surround ourselves with like-minded people. we do this by actively seeking and recruiting our tribe. or as Seth Godin describes it from a marketing standpoint, “people like us do things like this.

embracing classism

we learn early on that fear is a useful tool, instructing us to run away from the lion. faith is also useful, convincing us a chair will hold our weight because another chair did too. and don’t forget bad memories, or why most young boys only stick their fingers in the electrical socket once.

alongside these pesky emotions, a similar set of B-side benefits also comes packaged with mental, physical, spiritual, and financial forms of classism.

you’ll notice these benefits by first recognizing that our opposing group’s attitude towards us would be better with fewer differences. either they become more like us, or we become more like them.

of course on a case by case basis, if don’t care how another group feels about us, no further action is required. but on some occasions you will care, and that’s when you need a playbook.

as a new homeowner, one thing i suddenly care about is the opinion of my neighbors. i’d prefer to be regarded as a good neighbor, or what Tucker Max calls “safe people,” because i believe this judgment will benefit my family. so if i sense hatred from one of the 5-10 people who live on my street, i’d like to examine the underlying differences to see what can be done.

to start, practice tunnel vision. what do your adversaries’ stated differences mean, versus who the adversary is or in what tone these differences are conveyed. my friend Aancod once said, “Hitler told people to stop smoking.” is this bad advice?

now apply this to classism in fitness. while most people agree that fat-shaming is rude, which side of the debate will have the last laugh? the ripped Chads, or the body positivity models? who will live longer, spend less time in the hospital, take less medication, and have a lower chance of heart attack?

to touch on this essay’s title manifestation, financial classism, which faction’s victory (poor or rich) in removing differences would leave the world better off? should everyone be struggling “together,” or would it be nice if the poverty threshold included air conditioning, property ownership, healthy food, and freedom of mobility?

again, ignoring hatred is a smart choice in many cases. but in occasions where direct confrontation is necessary, we’ll achieve better outcomes if we approach ~ism’s from the perspective of reducing differences. and only if we can’t fight fire with water, should we consider fighting with a bigger fire.

why i wrote this

there will always be more people out-of- shape than in-, poor than rich, uneducated than educated.

but the baseline standards of those former, larger groups can be shifted in a way that benefits the whole, despite the inevitable differences that will never fully go away.

i’ve never apologized for telling someone to believe in themselves, work harder, or lift weight. it’s how i make the world a better place.