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     Volume 4 Issue 2 | July 2, 2004 |


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Middle Class
Fact or Myth?

Ershad Khandker

Middle Class Hypocrisy. I often see this sentence spoken about in an air of dismissive- ness accompanied by an Atel-like (a scholar in inverted) gesture of the hand and a contortion of the facial muscles to indicate total disgust for the so-called little people that we middle class people are supposed to be. Yes, like so many of the readers, my own family is middle class. We certainly are not rich and neither are we poor. Let me look at the definition of the term in the dictionary lying near me. It says that a middle class person is " a member of society occupying an intermediate social and economic position". Okay, lets say the definition is a proper one. But are middle class people hypocrites? Hard to believe that the amazing people I have lived with, family and friends are hypocrites.

Lets look at my Dad. A gold medal student from Dhaka University, he hailed from a gentile family of Sonargaon, that was upwardly mobile although not quite able to buy the luxuries of life in the 1930s. Funny and effervescent, he could endear himself to people of all walks of life. A student of the department of economics, he never smoked or touched liquor. He retired as a member of the planning commission, the highest civil service position in Bangladesh. A widely traveled man, he was known for his honesty and we remember a unique gesture that is unthinkable these days. The driver of the car given to my dad by the government knew that at the end of the day, the petrol meter should be checked, and the amount over the allowable limit clearly written so that only the remaining balance amount could be taken from the petrol pump the next day! Once he returned from an overseas trip and surprised us by giving us nice clothes, tasteful and quite pricey, yet we found out that the clothes had been bought with money saved by eating at cheap places outside the Hilton Hotel that the government had booked for him.

The example of honesty and ambition is quite the habit of the so called hypocrite middle class people for the middle class are known as the backbone of the consumerism that is so much the latent motivator for economic development. The demand for higher living motivates the middle class to work hard, attain higher education, and look toward making a better life for him or herself. This quest for better life is very much the embryo that leads to the demand, supply and manufacture cycle, leading to innovation and entrepreneurship. As middle class people work harder with honesty and dedication, and demand more from life, others look to supply to meet that demand. Factories come up, jobs are created and more families reach the much aspired for middle class status. This cycle is very much the secret of success of countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, other tiger economies.

I just described the contribution of the middle class to the creation of manufacturing industries and jobs and wealth. What of education? Well, as I write this piece, it is some one-week to go for my MBA brother to take up his position in England as an expatriate manager of the HSBC bank. I have six sisters and three brothers who are all educated and well placed in life, strewn all over the world. As I write this piece, I think of our house in the earlier days when we all lived together with my dad, the head of the family, teaching us the need to be honest, hard working and to create a bright future. Now, with branches in Canada, Australia, America and the world over, the same man hailing from Sonargaon has created a family tree that gives to the country a lot in hard work, foreign currency, taxation and above a love for a brighter future. Middle class hypocrisy? The term is a misnomer that needs to be thrown in the dustbin.

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