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It’s Just My Job Five Days a Week

October 13th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Life, The Big Top

There is a part in “Catcher In the Rye” where Holden is talking to one of his peers and in the midst of their conversation the kid asks Holden, “Are you Catholic.” This question depresses Holden because he sees the question for what it really is: class profiling.

This happens to everyone in life and it happens all the time; people are asked to provide religious, class, and professional resumes upon demand. The rationale is: if you don’t appear on our radar screen, you won’t be part of our social scene.

American adults are most commonly pegged to their jobs. “What do you do?” is really a disguised inquiry as to the “level” of your job and will this job carry enough prestige and class status to allow continuing a social relationship.

Middle class and working class people tend to ask this question without subterfuge. There really isn’t a class-status-determining motive so much as there is true curiosity as to what you do for two reasons: do we have enough job sympathy with one another to make common cause and, are you self-sufficient? Working Americans aren’t so interested about what you do but how well do you do it. Do you work hard enough? Do you manage to prevail over unjust working conditions in America to keep your head above water?   Can you provide a decent life for your family? For paycheck Americans, it’s about discovering commonality, not establishing class distinctions. This is true because these Americans have to “earn their own way” along the same economic path.

America’s “professional” classes are the most class anxious and most in need of establishing a cordon sanitaire around their class pretensions. They arrange their lives from childhood to death. Address, school, marriage, career, are all arranged in a preconfigured pattern to assure class status. These are the people for whom jobs are unthinkable. They have careers as befit their class and they will, rest assured, judge all others according to career. These are the people who are going to take a perfectly good conversation and ask, tacitly or directly, “Are you Catholic”?

It’s nobody’s goddamn business what I do for a living and if I don’t volunteer the information I consider it pretty damn rude to be asked. It’s like those old WWII movies where the Gestapo agent barks,” Papers! Show me your papers!” So I have come up with a ploy that turns the tables on career interrogators and puts them in their place. It goes usually something like this.

“So what do you do, my man?”

“Balneology,” I reply, and then excuse myself.

First, the poor class baiting bastard that just asked me has no clue whatsoever just what balneology is. Second, my abrupt departure after having declared myself a balneologist is going to cause a slight tremor of anxiety in my interrogator because a balneologist just dismissed him without explanation.

 So, here’s the list of occupations I provide to class status detectives that leaves them confused, anxious, and belittled because they have no clue what these occupations are. It humbles them because these occupations could threaten their class status and their reflexive smugness and they also call into question the value and utility of their arranged education.

  • Balneology: balneologist: the science of bathing, especially in mineral waters, as therapeutic treatment
  • Threnodist: composer of a threnody; song of lamentation, especially at a person’s death
  • Demophile: a friend of the people
  • Heldentenor: a tenor with voice and physique fitted to sing Wagnerian roles
  • Axiology: axiologist: the study of the nature, types, criteria, and status of human values
  • Traducianist: a believer in the doctrine that both the body and soul are propagated by the human parents
  • Pansophist: a claimant or pretender to universal knowledge
  • Venereologist: a person who treats or studies venereal diseases (use this one around lawyers, not doctors)
  • Deontology: the science of duty and moral obligation
  • Deipnosophist: a person who converses learnedly at dinner
  • Ophiolatry: ophiolatrist: the worship of snakes
  • Theogony: theogonist: genealogical account of the gods
  • Kapellmeister: the director of an orchestra, choir, or combination of both.
  • Exonumia: exonumist catalogues, handbills, commemorative tokens, etc. that are not considered true numismatic objects such as coins paper money, etc.

It’s also fun to construct certain phrases to employ when engaged in conversation that will preempt the question, “What is that?”

 “As a Pansophist I don’t claim to know everything! “We Deipnosophists usually save that for the second course, of course.”

Feel free to borrow any of these occupations and share your experiences. As a Demophile I welcome your replies.

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