Culture of Wealth

I was born in Beirut, in a rather wealthy family that can be considered middle class by the local standards. It gave me an opportunity to be ‘in between’ the upper class and the poorer people. However, it is not easy for me to draw the line between people based on their economic well-being, though the functioning of a society is based on such a division. As I was influenced by Muslim ideology, I believe that all of people are equal to God and any financial, gender or racial differences do not allow anyone to discriminate and oppress anyone else . I realize that this idea of brotherhood was imposed on me by Islam and I like the idea of brothers’ cooperation and mutual help that can provide a good and wealthy life. Even though I recognize that this is the ideology that has been affecting my views and beliefs since childhood, I cannot ignore it even now. I do not consider my family and myself a member of either upper or managerial class. Some consider Beirut to be a city of rich people, but it is still possible to identify the dominant class that owns the markets, restaurants boutiques, and firms. For example, when I was a child, I encountered children of both rich and poor families. We played together independently from our parents’ levels of income, which may be considered a form of social cohesion among small children.

Now I understand that I was raised in a culture of quite wealthy people, and I have always considered myself a person of middle-class, who can possibly become wealthier but cannot become poorer. Therefore, now I am determined to earn more and communicate with the representatives of an upper class. Domhoff wrote that upper-class people transform economic power into status power (p. 45). In Beirut my parents’ friends were very quite rich, and later on top of maintaining their business they also became active in political decisions and charities. Even though it is commonly believed that rich people are usually bad and poor people are good, I think that it is possible to be both a rich and a good person. Therefore, I would like to be an active citizen who has earned enough money to invest in education, science and culture of my society.

As soon as our family moved to Paris, this city was so much different from Beirut that I was feeling lonely there, especially without my friends in Beirut. However, among the French-speaking Europeans I found children from Beirut as well. To me Paris seemed poorer than Beirut and at first I did not comprehend its atmosphere. In Paris I still considered myself a middle-class person and still noticed the upper-class and poorer people. In school I was studying in a class where children had different cultural and religious backgrounds, This has contributed to the fact that it is not difficult for me to communicate with people whose education, culture of origin, language, religion, economic status and political views differ from mine. I noticed that I am tolerant to differences and for this I am grateful to my family and my school friends. In school I had both friends and enemies who had various social statuses. Therefore, it would be fair to say that the hierarchical structure of the society has been obvious for me since my childhood. In childhood I believed that people should be equal as I witnessed violence and discrimination, but now I understand that a capitalist society necessitates a hierarchichal structure. A perspective of class-dominance does not seem to me very attractive, but to be honest, both in my childhood and now I would prefer to ‘be on the top’ of hierarchy, even though it may sound impolite.

When I grew up, I still had exchanges with both rich and poor people. I have noticed that rich people feel satisfied even if they are in trouble. But the poorer people frequently ignore the positive changes and are rather focused on damages and losses that they experience. Communication with them reminds communication with victims who are not aware of what is going on and therefore have no clear vision of the situation. According to Mills, people without it “do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world. They cannot cope with their personal troubles in such ways as to control the structural transformations that usually lie behind them” (Mills, p. 1). When I recognized that some people spoil their own lives due to their unawareness and indifference, I decided to study and work on myself even more in order to have a sociological imagination. Those who do not have any sociological awareness and education do not comprehend the ways in which the society is functioning and the ways in which they could improve their own positions. When I was a teenager, I made a decision not to be manipulated by anyone any more. Now it sounds naïve as I live in a society that controls, directs and motivates me: even some social upheavals that seem to be spontaneous at first are actually prepared by dominant power structures and power institutions. I would not say that I decided to reproduce capitalist class power and to oppress others so that I would not be oppressed. Perhaps, in my teen years I decided to be ‘outside the system of oppression and dominance’, which is still very naïve and impossible. I think that income, social status and fame actually make a person serve these features. I do not want to become a monopolist, though the phenomenon of monopoly is both the foundation and the problem of a capitalist economy (Harvey, p. 134). I agree with Harvey who states that “the increasing concentration and centralization of incomes within the capitalist class permitted it to exercise disproportionate influence and control over the media (public opinion) and the capitalist state apparatus” (p. 173). But what I learnt from it is that I must not necessarily be oppressive or oppressed. I can recognize what is happing inside and outside of my community and relate it to the global processes that occur in the world. I can decide on my own which way my personal history takes in the context of the global history and act accordingly.

Now I am a citizen of Switzerland and I am completely satisfied with the place that I live in. I have social interactions that fulfil my interests and people that I love. I am in the middle of a society from the economic point of view and it satisfies me completely. As I was influenced not only by the western, but also by the eastern civilization, I was also taught to be grateful to God for what I have and what I am. On the one hand, the capitalist society is making me work and study harder in order to raise the value of my labour and to make the society that I am working in more flourishing and skilled. And I respond to this manipulation, willing to provide myself and my future family with all what is necessary. On the other hand, sometimes I am trying to stop my attempts to work too much because I think that life is more than a race for money, fame, and social status. Life in Paris taught me to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me and that appreciation of beauty is not a waste of time.

In Switzerland I have found many good friends who share my values, beliefs and preferences, despite the differences in ethnicity and upbringing. I am involved in various social relationships, including a romantic relationship and a lot of friendship ones. I enjoy spending time with my friends, but I have no opportunity to give them a lot of my time due to a tight schedule. There is a stamp that young people, especially men, prefer spending their free time in noisy parties involving alcohol, cigarettes and accidental sexual encounters. I would say that even though sometimes it is necessary for me to laugh and have fun on noisy gatherings, reading books and walking in deserted places is actually the best anti-depressant for me. Taking into account the fact that I am influenced by my peers who enjoy all-night parties and my desire to keep my relationships with them, sometimes I agree to come to the gatherings, even when I do not want to. A need to be acknowledged is making me do it, but I am now trying to differentiate my personal desires from the desire to be a part of a group.

In order to comprehend my current social status it is worth considering my identity on a micro and a meso level. On a micro level I would identify myself as a middle-class heterosexual male. On a meso level I would call myself a multilingual student of an oriental ethnicity who shares the European values and worldview. I was fortunate enough to encounter different cultures and different people so that I am a product of each of the societies that I have lived in. However, it is important to point out that it is wrong to say that people are the products of their cultures, as they are more than just the components they are made of. I would not like to share a reductionist point of view, but having analyzed my social biography I agree that the social identity is a result of power institutions and social interactions that dominate in a particular society. I think that I am able to analyze all of this due to my education, desire to self develop and to challenge myself.

Live Chat
Online