Social Values And Norms

Comparing Upper and Lower Class Societies

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Generally, comparisons between classes in society tend to focus on the differences rather than the similarities. Probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what it means to be in a upper or lower class society is the financial status of the two groups. Upper class societies are generally more wealthy; lower class societies tend to have less and may even face poverty. Another typical characteristic used to compare upper and lower class societies relates to their value and character as individuals. Although very prejudicial, upper class people are generally viewed as having more education, morals, honesty and integrity than lower classes; lower class societies are generally expected to have more social problems such as teenage pregnancy, child abuse, unemployment, and divorce. These are probably the most typical comparisons made between upper class and lower class societies. Many of these comparison are valid. But the real question is, what do the distinctions between the classes mean to us and how do these differences influence our behavior.

If our comparison is rooted in judgmental values, then our actions are most likely to be directed towards distancing ourself from the other class. The other class may even be viewed as a threat to our own well being. Each class has their own perception of the other. The poor will tell you that money does not make you happy and may feel that upper class societies are pompous and proud. The wealthy build their homes in gated communities, protecting themselves from the threats of "other classes". It is clear that each class appears to feel more comfortable surrounded by individuals in the same situation. Therefore, it may be that the very notion of comparing classes creates a separation between people economically, socially, and maybe even spiritually. Possibly, the process of comparing the differences between classes is the very action that creates them. If so, then as these comparisons are made and perpetuated, the gap between the classes enlarges and the opportunities for each group decline.

If it is true that by comparing differences between societies actually serves to separate people, then what is our responsibility, regardless of our class? I believe our responsibility is to look for the similarities between us and take action to reduce the differences.

So, what are the similarities? Well, we all share this earth and the resources on it. Certainly the rich get more than their share and the poor get less, but in the end, we share the same planet. We are also the same species. Although black or white, tall or short; we are the same species and as such, have many of the same needs. We all have a need for food, water, protection from the elements, and good health. Without sufficient amounts of these things, we die and that is also the ultimate and final similarity. We all face death. Some because of their social status may live a little longer because they have better food, water, and protection from the elements, but eventually, all face death.

And because we all have the same fate, at some point, we are all brought to the same level. As long as there has been recorded history, man has asked and answered the same question. What happens to me when I die. The diversity of answers is astounding. Within almost every society on earth, there is a belief that death does not represent the end of us. Certainly there are dissenters within every society; those that believe there is no God. But the prevailing belief, and the thing most similar, is the belief that death is not the end.

As societies, we not only tend to believe there is a God, we also tend to believe our perceptions are true and that we are favored by God over other people. Taken to an extreme, societies have believed that other groups of humans are bad and should be destroyed. Wars have been and continue to be fought over beliefs about God. In response to this, some have said that God, or religion, has caused this. But in the final analysis, it is clear that it is through man's attempt to discern the differences between peoples that has cause the distraction, sorrow and death in this world.

If the dominant few of life after death is accurate and there is a God, then we are all children of God. History seems to support the notion that God is no respecter of societies. Societies have risen and fallen. Within almost every civilization, great societies have emerged and been destroyed. Certainly, no one society has been favored by God.

It seems clear that we as humans should look for the similarities between us rather than the differences and when we see actual differences, such as poverty and despair, our actions should be to do what we can to reduce those differences. The poor represent an opportunity for service and growth for the more affluent. Help for the more affluent provides an opportunity for those of us who have less to develop an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. Certain, any of us who have been helped by another can find opportunities to help someone else who has less.

Comparisons between people should only be made in order to provide an opportunity to share blessings with each other.

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