Looking at Class

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Australia and New Zealand Pre-World Conference, February 2017

You were born into a particular class—owning class, middle class (which is sort of a pseudo class), or working class. If you are owning class, you own stuff. You own the means of production, and all the laws in our societies justify your getting a lot of what’s produced.

Oppressive classes have not been somebody’s evil mental construction. They have been formed by economic forces and by distress patterns—in particular, the pattern of being afraid for one’s own survival and wanting to have more to feel a little safer.

Now you don’t have that pattern, I’m sure. You don’t want more, do you? Or you don’t want much more—just a little. And I’m sure that having it would take care of all the patterns you have about wanting more, right? Of course not, and that’s the problem. No amount of material resource can undo a distress pattern. The only thing that can undo it is discharge. Until it is discharged, we have no idea how much resource makes sense. We can try to figure it out, but all the feelings are still there.

For most people discharge hasn’t happened; it hasn’t been possible. People have recognized and fought against the injustices of class societies, and sometimes overthrown the societies and set up new ones. But then the same patterns have reappeared and an unfortunately similar structure has developed, with some people benefiting and most people being exploited. The exploitation can’t end thoroughly until the patterns are discharged enough that people feel confident about their survival and understand patterns.

What is security? What would security be for you? It’s hard to feel secure until we work on it. As near as I can tell [perceive], security is having other people who can think about us. That’s what makes existence secure. A certain amount of material resource is useful, but we can have a very good life in meager circumstances. Having a lot of material resource is not the key to a good life.

The old way of changing society was to get rid of the horrible ruling class. That’s how you’d get rid of the patterns. You’d kill the people who acted them out—who were in a position to act them out. Then the new set of rulers would come in or slowly develop and, oddly enough, would have the same patterns, because people still had those patterns. Everybody in the society has them. And they reassert themselves unless you get rid of them, and we know how to do that.


So what class are you? What’s your class background? How proud of your people are you? How embarrassed, how ashamed, how secretive are you? How much money do you make? We have to look at and work on all the distresses that are tangled in these places.

You had no choice about the class you were born into. You were born into it. And the patterns you got you had no choice about either. Are your patterns, the patterns of your class, worse than those of other classes? You might think so, or you might think the others are worse, but they are all patterns; they are all irrationalities. Some are more isolated and meaner than others, but they are all rigidities that keep us from finding good solutions collectively.

It’s all right whatever class you were born into. It’s all right whatever set of patterns you have from that. It’s all right whatever class you are. You have to stop being ashamed, secretive, and defensive about your class background. You get to be proud of your people, whoever they were, whatever mistakes they made, whatever struggles they went through, however many people they oppressed along the way. You get to talk about them and discharge all the hurts that came down the line to you. And you get to be pleased with the possibilities you have from your position and think about how to use that position not in isolation but in concert with others.

We want Co-Counselors in every position in every class that exists. We want people thinking in all these positions. That’s the key: thinking. There are things we can do from the position of any class that we can’t do from the position of the others. There is a usefulness there—if we can think and not just be swept along by the distresses of that class and the society.

A lot of the people who have brought about [made happen] the biggest, most revolutionary changes have overcome their class patterns to do it. It’s clearly possible, even without discharge. And we have this great tool with which to continually clear our minds, figure out what makes sense, and figure out what we can do from the particular position we are in. So we get to clear our minds from our distresses about class.

We have to reach a point fairly soon where we can work collectively across classes. One class alone can’t change society. The working class will lead us—because from their position they have the clearest picture of how things work—but all of us have to move forward together.


The other thing, of course, is that we don’t need an owning class anymore. The owning class served a purpose. It collected resource and had the slack and leisure to learn about the universe. We have all benefited tremendously from the understanding of the universe made possible by exploitation. We don’t get to say that it was all bad or all a mistake. However, we have reached a point where we don’t need an owning class anymore. There’s enough resource for everyone to have a good life, and enough slack to do research and study the universe, without exploiting anybody. The owning class served a certain purpose, but it isn’t needed now.

(The owning class is not an evil set of people. It is people who were born into a certain class and had a certain set of patterns installed on them to perpetuate that class. And those patterns are hellish. Having more material resource is not worth having the patterns. If you don’t have much material resource, you wonder if it’s worth it. I can tell you, having had enough contact with people who grew up owning class, that it’s not. It’s simply not. It’s not a place you want to be.)

We also don’t need a middle class. The middle class has played the role of managing things for the owning class, keeping the working class confused, and absorbing the upset of the working class at being exploited, thus protecting the owning class from it.

The old saying is that the working class is the only class with a future. It’s fine if you are owning class or middle class, but you have no future in that class.

We will always need people doing the work. There will always be a need for that. And one of the most interesting things in the world is work. To change the environment, to make things happen, to do things that benefit the lives of other people is fascinating.

Work changes tremendously as things get automated. But under capitalism the benefits of that go to the owning class, not to the people doing the work. This has made it hard to think about progress—progress that could make work less hard on people. The benefit has to go to everybody who does the work.


So how do we work on class? Well, it’s confusing. Capitalism confuses us, and keeps us confused, so it can survive. One of the ways it confuses us is with all the other oppressions—with racism, sexism, and the many others. They exist only to enable economic exploitation. If there were no money to be made from oppressing and dividing people, it wouldn’t happen. All the other oppressions keep capitalism working, and to end them capitalism needs to end. (Capitalism is just the current form of exploitative society. Feudalism was no better. If we were living under feudalism, we would be opposed to feudalism.)

Let’s do a mini-session about our class backgrounds. I don’t care what your class background is. I don’t care at all. I care that you overcome it. I don’t care where you start. You start where you start, and all of it can be overcome. We can work together from our different positions, and there will be a need for that.

You have to be pleased with your ancestors, with your background, with your class. Find somebody you dare to be pleased about yourself with and talk about your ancestors. Who put you in your class? How did you get there? What pleases you about the ancestors who put you there?

Working on class is very important. Economic exploitation underlies all the other oppressions. The other oppressions are there to maintain it, and distract us from it.

Some of the other oppressions get much more press [much more attention]. For example, in the recent U.S. presidential election there was much talk about racism and sexism, but we won’t understand what happened in that election unless we look at class. The political establishment in the United States doesn’t offer anything real to working-class people, so they were vulnerable to manipulations of every sort. Class issues drove that election. The other oppressions were factors, but they weren’t the crucial factors.

There’s enough resource and understanding now to have a society in which everyone has a good life without exploiting anybody or damaging the environment. Class oppression is no longer necessary or useful in any way. But we have to understand it. Otherwise it gets reinstalled again in spite of our best efforts. So we need to work on class. How are we going to do that?

Well, I have a proposal. I propose that you each find another trusted Co-Counselor from a different class background and commit yourself to working openly on your class distress with him or her. That will scare the hell out of you. It will also be very educational, both ways. You will each see the confusion that people from another part of society have to operate in and will get to help them through it as an ally.

We have always worked on oppression in separate constituency groups. That has been important, but it is not the final step. It has to be temporary; we have to come back together. In some way we’ve been afraid to come back together. We haven’t known when it is safe enough. Given how rapidly society is collapsing, I think we have to hurry things up a little on class. Also, we now have more resource and understanding, and better relationships, so we can take on [face and do something about] distresses more cleanly and openly than we’ve ever been able to. So I want to challenge you to take on class in this way.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 189, October 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00