So, should one decide to fight classism and, if one decides to fight it, how is one to be a rebel against classism in any meaningful way given it is a necessary aspect of human society? I contemplate these questions through the backdoor by viewing the latter question of the meaninglessness of the struggle as an existentialist question; in this form I get guidance in answering it through its contemplation by many working class philosophers before me, the most memorable being Albert Camus.
As discussed earlier, classism was, is, and always will be an aspect of human society; unfortunately, even to the working class, classism is a necessary evil in its battle with an even greater power and evil: the natural world. Humanity always has, is, and always will be in a fight for survival with the natural world though the success of our modern technological society usually allows us to ignore this struggle. An example is the 2011 Japan Tsunami Disaster. The natural aspect of it consisting of the tsunami killed (by drowning and associated physical trauma) approximately 20,000 people and injured six thousand; the human failures at the nuclear reactors damaged by the tsunami killed no one and injured few. Yet, the only concern and fear shown by American intelligentsia and their worship of nature as a false religion is for the supposed threat of man-made nuclear power and not for the basically evil nature — from the human perspective — of the natural world. As ancient civilizations learned long ago, humanity cannot win battles in its struggle with the natural world by fighting it as individuals, it requires a polis. (I do not consider living as small groups of hunter/gathers waiting for the end as surviving this struggle but as surrendering to it.)
There is a whole universe out there to be discovered, explored, and conquered, individuals cannot do that alone. Unfortunately, God or whoever or whatever is the reason there is something instead of nothing has written the rulebook of nature so that the only way to organize humanity to fight nature’s constant threats to our existence is in the same way a modern military fights its battles: a hierarchy of power or classes of power. The days of hoplites fighting individual battles are gone forever. The individual rebel or guerilla may get the glory in modern romance and win some battles but in the end in reality, the organized, disciplined, motivated, hierarchical military units have always won and always will win the war. Valiant individual efforts and heroism are not enough to win a war with humans nor with the natural world. To discover, explore, and conquer nature, we need the necessarily existing social class hierarchy of power to work to serve these purposes against the power of nature.
How does one deal with this absurdity of fighting a meaningless battle, of fighting a battle one is destined to lose? For Camus’ characters it became a choice between suicide and accepting the battle as an end in itself, of being happy in the freedom of the absurdity:
It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still.
After Camus’ characters make their existentialist choice to accept absurdity and the struggle with it as the means to give meaning to a meaningless existence, his examples of this struggle working in practice fall into two categories: the artist and the conqueror. The first is essentially a surrender to classism by having the individual accept their powerlessness and fate; it is a solitary, self-centered struggle for individual happiness: the benefit of being an artist is that regardless of the condition of the world and society around the artist, the artist can be happy as long as their individual creation before them is what they consider to be beauty — ignoring the fact that on the societal level, beauty is always defined as that for which the rich are willing to pay a lot to obtain or possess.
However, the choice to fight classism is a social fight. It is a battle both for and against society and not just an individual battle for survival. One should choose this fight as a leap of faith in humanity. If one is to fight classism, it cannot be solely as an artist — unless the artistic acts are a technique for achieving the second option: being a conqueror. A conqueror is anyone who waives promises of eternity to engage in human history, choosing action over contemplation while constantly aware that nothing can last and no victory is final. Though his examples of a conqueror are usually more glorified historically, as even Camus admitted, “a sub-clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror” if they share the same consciousness of the struggle against the cosmos.
What does it mean to conquer classism given it is a necessary evil? One acts as a conqueror of classism when one acts to limit it to being a pragmatic necessary evil instead of a pure evil that is an end in itself intended to keep society stagnant letting be the powers-that-be. Just as with a military hierarchy, there must be some merit to social class placement or, instead of supporting society’s battle with nature, it will hinder it and threaten human existence — i.e., North Korea. In the military, war is the test of the hierarchy. For classism, the test is the working individual who decides to fight it and win battles knowing that the war will be lost. Classism is supposed to serve our entire society and all its classes so that all will materially and economically progress and prosper (though by necessity it helps the upper classes relatively more) by giving us a hierarchy of power that works to achieve some victory in our battle with the power of nature. Giving ignorant racist Mr. Coates a “genius” award and treating classist coward Prince Jones as a hero simply because they give ignorant rich white people what they want to hear while ruining the careers and lives of workers such as Carlton B. Jones who deserve more praise for their successes and good intentions than disgrace for their honest mistakes serves only classism as a pure evil.
By choosing to fight classism, one by necessity chooses also to fight irrational racism because such racism keeps out of the necessary hierarchy or classes of power simply because of their skin color qualified individuals needed to fight the battle against nature. Notice that the converse is not true as Mr. Coates and so many other sycophant “black bodies” have proven: they nominally fight racism solely to become friends of the powers-that-be and join in their class so that they can look down and spit on Carlton B. Jones and other workers — their racist fake fight against racism serves only to better their economic and other interests and to foster racism and classism but has no pragmatic value for society.
There are more specific examples of fighting classism for the sake of battle that I hope to cover some day. For now, therefore in conclusion, to the question of which is worse, classism or racism, the answer is classism.