I was having lunch the other day at a friend’s house. His parents were asking me what I think of Valapaiso and Viña del Mar. I was talking about how I like each in its own way. They were slightly surprised, assuming that as an American I would clearly have a preference for the more upscale, planned city of Viña del Mar. They liked Viña better.
They also talked about something I hadn’t really thought much about; they prosed that Valparaiso becoming a World Heritage Site is a bad thing. They look at is as glorifying poverty; failing to see the misery people live in and rather romanticize their lives, their housing, and their squaller. Furthermore, they see it as a way to not have to confront the poverty or work to change the lives of those in this country with the least. I am not sure that I totally area, but I do see their point.
Another disagreement in the conversation arose when I was talking about reasons I like Cerro Polanco. One of the reasons is the close quarters that the different social classes live in (in harmony) on the hill. Next to my house, which people refer to as the castle, you can find people squatting in shanty houses, up the road you can find almost every degree in between. Again, said friends did not like this– they are about as far left as you can get and anti-social classes as a concept.
However, here, I stick by my point. Living together, the people come to a better understanding of the other. I come from an area within the US (like most areas within the US) that is extremely segregated by both class and race. I believe that it is easy for a child to grow up in their communities and never befriend someone of a different social status; in some cases, even see them up close. This distance gives weight, even validity, to stereotypes and prejudices.
The other day Mombian pointed out that people who know 2 or more LGBT individuals are more likely to vote in favor of protections for LGBT people regardless of their (the voter’s) political affiliation. I assume that something similar must be true when talking about classes. An upper or middle class person who has made friends with or knows someone who has demonstrated how hard it is to survive on minimum wage, is probably more likely to vote for an increase in minimum wage. Granted, this is just my extrapolation of how life should work, who knows if it is true.
Finally, I feel I need to put a plug in for a book that I really enjoyed Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. If you haven’t thought about minimum wage or class issues in America, it really is a good read. Not to mention it is entertaining.