He had tweeted, “Your boyfriend is an Uber driver”, and to be sure the mockery was not lost on his audience, he posted “laughing in tears emojis” along with his tweet. In his opinion, Uber driving was not a profession to be proud of and a girl whose boyfriend drove an Uber should hide her face in shame.
It’s the zeitgeist of our time: the derision of those we perceive as unimportant or lacking material possessions.
One of the things I find both amusing and vexatious is how people who believe they are doing well in life money-shame others. This behaviour is particularly manifested when they are criticised—a celebrity is called out on his bad behaviour—and his retort is to label the critic broke. They are broke, therefore, they should not have the temerity to challenge one who’s well-off materially.
Funny isn’t it? But that’s the sort of society we have found ourselves. The most marginalised set of people are those who are perceived as penurious; in our speeches and body language, we tell the lower class to be voiceless.
We poke fun with innuendoes like, “How can a poor man claim he has ideas when a rich man is talking?” Over and over again we elevate riches above enduring qualities like hard work, character, kindness and honesty. In this part of the world, no one cares about the source of the rich man’s income—you only need to flaunt what you have—and we will shut up even when you aren’t making any sense.
Blue collar workers in the mould of artisans, petty traders, and those in the lower rung of the white collar employment ladder are treated with scorn. They are shamed and maligned because we view them as unimportant; after all, they do not possess the kind of cash that should make us give them more than a fleeting look.
What’s even more puzzling is that the perpetrators of this obnoxious disposition are the bourgeoisie of the society; people who are merely getting by. Individuals who are only one terminal illness away from poverty.
Because of our worship of money, our society is littered with people who continually feel inadequate even when they earn a decent living. A browse through the streets of social media and they see their contemporaries who have no traceable source of income living a life they can only fantasise about, yet are accorded the utmost respect. People who hold legitimate jobs and work incredibly hard every day of the year are intimidated because no one dignifies their hustle.
It’s easy to hold the notion that no one should feel less important because they do not have as much financial muscle as the next person, but when are constantly derided and mocked for being poor in spite of your hard work, you’ll understand that it takes a truckload of mental strength to keep your head up under those circumstances.
But if these are the shoes you wear at the moment, this is what I am about to reiterate.
Never be ashamed of your hustle. You should be super proud of the job you do to put clothes on your back and food on the table of your family. Hold your head high and take pride in the work of your hands, and do not let anybody look down on you because of their warped impression of what a source of income should look like. As a matter of fact, you’d be amazed to discover that those who denigrate you on the premise of what you earn are doing worse than you are.
It’s an age-long diversionary tactic: Deflect attention to others as an escape from your uneventful life. The truth is, the people who have arrived at a place of wealth through sheer hard work will never pooh-pooh the efforts of others who are about their legitimate hustle. Anyone who appreciates moral values would instead be inspired by the subjugated masses who despite the unsavoury conditions they contend with, still trudge on.
I derive plenty of inspiration from street sweepers and garbage collectors—they earn next to nothing—yet display incredible dedication to their jobs. Before the crack of dawn, the street sweepers are up, riddling the nooks and crannies of neighbourhoods of our collective filth; and in the process, endanger their lives as they keep a watchful eye on oncoming vehicles. Refuse collectors have to deal with the putrid smell of accumulated garbage for stipends that can barely feed them let alone other members of their family.
The need to recognise and respect dignity in labour is a phenomenon that is fast losing its essence in our modern day world. Worse, in a third world country where the appearance of wealth is all that matters. If we hope to put an end to the desperate pursuit of riches via fraud, rituals, armed robbery and other social vices, we must begin by placing a premium on honest work.
No one should ever be made to feel small on the basis of their (legal) source of income.