Social stratification and our dependence on class has separated and ostracized us from each other alongside Capitalism’s firm grip around the throat of our class driven societies, like in America and the UK. Class follows us everywhere we go in life, the fact is, we will probably never move up from the class bracket we were born into, doesn’t matter if you’re driven and determined, you may get promoted but chances are it will never be enough to take you up the ladder. It forces us all into a box. A box that many never escape, relegating many to the working class, sometimes unbeknownst to them. It is used to divide us and to suppress people to the bottom, making those at the top feel strong and superior. The same is done in closed systems of social stratification like in India, the main difference between these two systems being open systems gives the people false hope, that they can one day move class bracket, but in a closed system this is taken away. Once you’re born, you’re stuck in that bracket forever.
In open systems we continue living like this because no one’s willing to give up a little to make the world a more equal place, by continuing to live in a class driven society, we are ignoring the cries for help by those at the bottom, clawing onto the illusion of our own success and our want to move up the ladder. People yell at the government and protest about the troubles that directly affect them. Yet don’t bother standing up for each other, for injustices or for new ways to help those less fortunate. One example of this is in modern Ireland is that many would rather pay for private health insurance than pay extra taxes to support our public health system. As a people, we are selfish, most only pretending to care about the worries and difficulties of others. “Ordinary people are now convinced that there is no alternative to the morality of the acquisitive society”. (Marshall et al 1993) We’ve become materialistic, only caring about appearances and issues that directly affect us. Class has pushed this idea, created a cruel, barbaric and unjust world and by accepting it we have agreed that to survive we must live in a hierarchically driven discriminatory society, where those at the bottom are rejected and suppressed.
The United States is an example of a country with an open system of social stratification, capitalist through and through. Where people given hope by the American dream, yet it’s all a lie. Many don’t realize it; it just stays fantasy that gets them through their gruelling everyday lives. It’s what America is best known for, ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’. But there’s a bitter truth, many don’t succeed, most are still suppressed, forgotten about and kept in their place. One of the best examples of this in America today is Flint Michigan’s water crisis.
It began in 2014, when the people of Flints source of water was switched from Lake Huron so a new pipeline could be built for the auto mobile company. Quickly problems began occurring, with dirty brown water flooding into people’s homes, but residents were assured it was safe. Soon after the town of Flint began experiencing mass illnesses, growths of rashes and hair loss, most frightening of all lead was being found in their blood. The Governor caught wind of this launched an investigation into the issue, yet reports were hidden and tampered with. When they discovered the water began to erode the parts being made in the factory their water supply was changed back, but the people supply was not, they were continually exposed and force to use contaminated water. (Moore 2019) From this reaction it’s clear that the government only cared about those on top and profit.
Flint is a majority black, poor and working-class area, who were unheard and unanswered by those above them, those who swore to protect them. Barak Obama as president, visited Flint in 2016 to witness the crisis, there was hope again, finally change seemed on the horizon, but once again their plight was ignored.
…. after he’d praised the volunteers who helped in the city’s water crisis, and before he argued the crisis shows the limits of private action — he started coughing. His next words were probably inevitable: ‘Can I get some water?’ After he took a (filtered) sip of the city’s infamous water, contaminated with lead since September 2015. (Nelson 2016)
The man they had all been waiting for, a president who had experienced their struggles first-hand, rose up in class rank and grabbed that American dream. A true success story for social stratification. But within that story lies the issue of social stratification, its hierarchical ways cause division, a create feelings of superiority in those on top and leads to the total abandonment and dismissal of those struggling and living within the working-class bracket.
India is the opposite the United States, it uses the Caste system or a closed system. People can’t move up and down the hierarchical class ladder, they’re stuck. “The caste system is a classification of people into four hierarchically ranked castes called varnas. They are classified according to occupation and determine access to wealth, power, and privilege.” (Siddique,2011) These different ranks have names, the ranking system begins with the Brahmans, then the Vaishyas, the Shudras and at the bottom are the untouchables.
The Indian Caste System is historically one of the main dimensions where people in India are socially differentiated through class, religion, region, tribe, gender, and language. Although this or other forms of differentiation exist in all human societies, it becomes a problem when one or more of these dimensions overlap each other and become the sole basis of systematic ranking and unequal access to valued resources like wealth, income, power and prestige (Sekhon, 2000)
Class holds people back, crushing them to the bottom. As Sekhon said social stratification groups people and forces them into ranks based on their social and economic differences. It leads to those at the bottom in the case of India, the untouchables being ostracized, rejected by their own countrymen just because they were born into a family that does ’unclean’ work. Its discriminatory, cruel and became known as India’s the hidden apartheid. The untouchables are mistreated by the police force, coerced to work in disgusting, demeaning conditions and are paid little for it. (Narula,1999) Its clear, while it’s a different type of system to America the injustices persist. It continues to perpetuate and back up the theory that social stratification is a corrupt unjust system.
The U.K’s experiences perpetuates the idea that the system of social stratification and class continue to effect the poor working class bracket negatively, one of the most recent, shocking displays of the effects was the Grenfell Tower fire, poor, working class people ignored for years. A building ‘refurbished’ with improper cladding, that was against regulation. The ignorance of those at the top and their rejections of the concerns of the residents of Grenfell led to 72 deaths, one of which was the death of a six-month-old child, who died in their mother’s arms as she tried to escape the flames. (Visual Journalism Team 2019)
Critics have accused the local authority of neglecting the tower because of indifference toward its low-income, immigrant residents – prompting a wider public debate about Britain’s yawning rich-poor divide and class prejudice among officials. (Shirbon 2019)
Those at the bottom getting hurt for the progression of those at the top, they’re not cared about or listened to, just forced to do the jobs and tasks that others refuse to. Left to burn in unsuitable housing after being ignored for years, it seems the system can only bring pain, there is power to be gained, and once you get a taste you want more and more, no matter what. Climb further and further up. That’s what social stratification does, it corrupts. Ireland today lives in the same unequal class driven society. Subjecting many in Ireland to the pain, torment and struggle that a class system brings upon those at the bottom of it.
Yet, unfortunately, we can’t live without it, we can’t all be completely equal as that would mean a communist world, which would never work. While places like Cuba display that a kind of communist regime that works well for them, they essentially live in a dictatorship, which as history in Russia and Germany leads to deception, duplicity and power grabbing.
So, what is the answer? We clearly need class, while it may seem as a ‘evil’ system, we find hope in countries like Sweden. Some label Sweden as a democratic socialist country.
“However, the country is, in fact, very pro-capitalism, but does it with redistribution through taxes. Personal income is taxed at a rate of 61.85 percent, plus a 7 percent social security tax rate for employees. On top of these taxes, Sweden also has a 25 percent consumption tax.” (Henschen 2018)
They should be what others strive for, social stratification, “the division of a society into a number of strata, hierarchically arranged groupings” (O’Mahony, 2019) where those at the bottom are assisted and paid enough for them to live a happy, fulfilling life. In Sweden while everyone is not equal, those at the bottom have hope, they’re not completely struggling. Everyone has the same access to healthcare, unemployment insurance and absence from work benefits to name a few (Henschen 2018). Social stratification is necessary for modern society to function, people must do the jobs at the bottom, it’s a fact of life. And in our modern lives we want to spend our extra money on material things. We’re not perfect, we never will be, we just need to do it differently, not be as greedy and power grabbing. Social stratification can and has gone wrong in societies today. Leading to anger, superiority and divisions. However, we rely on it. We just need to be more caring, compassionate and make some sacrifices so the people, at the very bottom stop having to.