I used to listen to The Urban Exchange Podcast a year ago. It was funny at times but some topics I really just don’t understand. It was my source of “filtered” news from the Philippines. I don’t regularly read the local newspapers unless there is an article that catches my attention. Journal articles and working papers are now my sources of news.

The word “bourgeois” was mentioned a lot in their season premiere (found here for those who would like to listen). It is unfortunate that this word has become a pejorative for some aspect of social and economic life. It is equally unfortunate that this pejorative means different things to different people. What they do not know is that we should not be ashamed or even feel guilty of being bourgeois. See the etymology in Wikipedia. You might be surprised. For German folk, it is closely related to buerger (which you might have encountered when going to the Buergerberatung, usually in the city hall). The meaning is that a buerger is a citizen, plain and simple. An unfortunate artifact of the French Revolution is the distortion of its meaning (which still persists today). After reading its historical meaning, we should be proud that we are bourgeois. Bourgeois is not equal to elitist. Sure, we could have refined taste but just because one enjoys and understands the finer things in life better does not mean that the person is elitist. There is such a thing as being a democratic elitist. This is different from being a hipster douche.

Social classes are here to stay. It is one of the consequences of our freedom to associate. When you were young, you might have entertained the thought that we should strive for equality (in almost every aspect and almost at any cost). Somehow this would lead to having peace for ourselves. History has already played this game to no avail (this is putting it mildly–check out Russia after the revolution). Or if you are unconvinced, think of an extreme example. Equalize every person’s penis. See who has the last laugh.

We should not feel guilty of being bourgeois. A lot of the bourgeoisie are responsible for the evolution of high culture, scientific progress and wealth. We may quibble about how earnings are distributed across social classes but all of us are trying to find a way to live life to its fullest. Having more money is beside the point. It just means that the chosen industry is doing much better now. Things might change in the future depending on market conditions and we may see reversals of fortune. At the end of the day, being bourgeois is a departure from back-breaking work to a life refining one’s craft, caring for one’s family, helping other people and having time for oneself.

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