I grew up in Asia for 13 years and was taught to always respect my elders, no matter who they were or what position they held in an organization. I could be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, but if an employee 20 years my senior who worked in the mailroom wanted to talk, I would gladly take him out to lunch and listen to his story.
When I came to the States as a 14 year old freshman in high school, I was shocked by the lack of respect many students had for their teachers and parents. I would have gotten a beating if I talked backed as vociferously or argued as stubbornly as some of my classmates. But being an independent thinker is what America is all about, except for when you end up living off your parents. Then it’s kind of a “have your cake and eat it too” moment going on.
If you spend time listening to people who have less than you, I think you’ll realize that not many want a hand out. They only want a chance at a level playing field to get ahead. There’s no desire for pity or free passes. Most people want to make it on their own.
There will always be a disconnect between races, sexes, and economic classes because we can’t fully understand what we don’t know. I’m not a woman, so I won’t ever fully understand how women feel in society. I’m not white, so I won’t know what it feels like to be a majority who might be unfairly criticized for just being a majority.
But I have been moderately poor and decently rich before, and the one thing I’ve noticed is that everybody wants respect. When you come down to someone else’s field and act disrespectful, conflict will occur no matter how much of a right you have to play.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
I want to highlight an excellent comment from an older reader, John, about class conflict. He is white, came from a poor family, served in the Marine Corps, and has grown his way out of poverty. He is sharing his own background and reaction to the video and commentary of a post I wrote, The Cause Of Conflict: Money, Entitlement, And Poor Etiquette.
I have a strong opinion on this topic because I was a kid who lived “on the other side of the tracks.” Due to school zoning in the city I lived in, I was required to attend the public school where the well to do kids went in elementary school. I probably got a better education overall as a result – but I got harassed and treated badly far too often by those pampered, entitled children.
These were the years 1970 to 1976. I’ve been around a while. I am Caucasian. The poor white neighborhood I grew up in bordered the poor black neighborhood. While I can never truly know what it feels like emotionally to be black in a predominately white community, I can empathize and know extremely well what it feels like to be the poor kid amongst the arrogance of wealth, privilege and entitlement.
I am impressed with these kids in San Francisco for the way they handled the situation without violence. By the time I reached fifth grade, I was fed up with the rich kids mouth running and I discovered the most effective way to end it was with a swift fist into the mouth of the abusers. I do not advocate violence – but if you push the wrong person too far – you might pay a heavy price, up to and including your life.
Too many people in the upper income echelons disrespect the hard working people in the blue collar working class and absolutely do not understand what life for them is like. This is clear reading the replies here as well as my firsthand life’s experiences. I have read many commenters here in this and other threads throw around the term “jealously” when describing the cause of conflict between the “haves” and the “have not’s.” That is seldom the true underlying issue. The real issue is the lack of respect between human beings. When these moneyed interests enter an old neighborhood and begin the gentrification process and heartlessly begin dislocating longtime residents, conflict and resentment is the natural result.
I escaped my childhood poverty by joining the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1982-1986. I traveled the world and learned life, trade and work skills that support me to this day. I witnessed poverty overseas that probably 99% of Americans have no comprehension of. Until you have put your boots on the ground, walked among the poor and smelled the poverty, you cannot fully understand. Sam mentioned how world travel is a very good thing and expands ones understanding – it is true. I will never forget where I came from and I will always empathize with the hard scrabbling working classes of the world.
These arrogant men in the video were out of line in the way they acted toward the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the park and apparently are clueless as to how lucky they are to have not been severely beaten down. There are far better ways to handle situations like that. Again, I am very proud of the way the locals took the high road. There is much we all can learn from this discussion.
Regarding the Mission Playground video, for those of you who think that the locals playing are in the wrong, I’d like you to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you’d react to getting booted off your long-time field by a bunch of rude strangers.
If the techies approached you with respect, surely you would be more amenable to making way. But if they disrespect your traditional ways, then I can’t imagine you’d be very happy about the situation.
THE WEALTH GAP WILL BE HARD TO BREAK
From reading the comments in the Mission Playground post, I’ve come to the conclusion that the wealth gap will be almost impossible to bridge because everybody is siding along racial and economic lines. We will always have a bias for taking care of people who are like us.
When you’re hammering at the glass ceiling at work wondering why the hell you can’t get through despite your excellent performance reviews, know that the reason why you can’t ascend is because you’re not the right age or gender or don’t have the appropriate educational pedigree. You’ll never know the real reason why you didn’t get paid and promoted. Just know that there’s way more to getting ahead than doing a great job.
People like to chide that my belief about seeing the world and that speaking different languages is a misguided endeavor. And you wonder why some countries hate the United States so much. We’re the only country with our amount of wealth who expect everything and everyone to conform to our standards. But if you go to Europe or Asia, they’ve got a tremendous fascination with expanding beyond their own cultures.
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