Class conflict at UC Davis
23/11/2011 § 5 Comments
I was dismayed but not shocked at what happened at Berkeley. Not for nothing is it called Bezerkley. UC Davis, on the other hand? Davis is a cow town. Middle of nowhere. Land grant university. Famous for its bike lanes. I had at least one friend get ticketed for bicycling under the influence — it’s that kind of place.
This picture and ones like it are becoming iconic (although I’m not sure what they are iconic of).
Back in October, TVHE had some home truths for the Occupy movement in NZ, and some of those points apply to the US situation, too. This photo demonstrates how complex the economic and political situation really is, and how naive/narcissistic the Occupiers are.
The photo contains clear class markers that show the gulf between the policeman and the students.
- The beer gut and the moustache mark the policeman as working class. Fat is a class issue, and has been linked to poverty and low levels of knowledge/education. The moustache is a signifier of working-class masculinity — at least in the US.
- The students have upper middle class markers. Just to take the woman’s legs in jeans in the middle: she is wearing duck boots. These are preppy shoes, ‘preppy’ meaning ‘prep school kids’ or those who aspire to be them. That style is sold by the likes of L.L. Bean, not K-Mart or Target. She is also, of course, slim.
- And let’s not forget, these are UC students — the students who did well in high school and are being prepared for successful careers (California has a clear pecking order of tertiary institutions).
Why am I pointing out these details? They show the complexity of the situation. This isn’t simply a conflict between the 99% and the 1%. Society has many cleavages, and the Occupy movement is causing fractures along several of them. Income/wealth is one of them, but class, gender, age, ethnicity, geography, education, and attitude towards hierarchy are also in play.
The other cleavage, frankly, is expectations. These students expect/expected something more than they think they are getting. We can argue about the rightness of their expectations another time. These students believe that they should have a bright future with interesting, well-paid work and secure employment. Because those expectations are not being met, they are willing to fight the power and take a face-full of pepper spray. Those expectations are a privilege of the upper middle class. The biggest class marker of all is the demand to have their expectations met.