Being Bougie

A police officer, a firefighter, a teacher, and a businessman were having a discussion about unions.

No, that's not the opening line of a joke. It happened earlier this week when a few of my closest friends and I got together (via WhatsApp) to catch-up.

We were having a friendly but spirited discussion about the benefits and disadvantages of a unionized workforce, and as a self-proclaimed capitalist, I was highly outnumbered by my three unionized-employee friends.

At one point, one of my friends (who calls himself a social democrat) tried to goad me by declaring the following: "you do realize you are part of the proletariat", followed by a shocked emoticon.

It was an interesting comment.

In Marxism, the proletariat is the working class who do not own any means of production. In contrast, the bourgeoisie is the capitalist class, the wealthy, who own most of the means of production.

My friend pointed out the fact that I've spent most of my career working for large corporations that I did not own. He argued I was part of the proletariat because I don't own a factory.

It's true, I've spent most of my career as an employee (although for the past decade, I'd likely have been classified as "management" for the purposes of any labour distinction). I do not own a factory. And, sadly, my bank statements would confirm that I won't be mistaken as "wealthy" anytime soon.

But I do own a means of production. And if you're reading this, so do you.

It used to be that you needed a factory to be bourgeoisie. But today, factories don't represent the only "means of production".

We live in a knowledge society. If you have a functioning mind, you own a means of production. You also probably have access to laptops, smartphones, and the internet. MailChimp. Instagram. YouTube. Etsy. Amazon, AliBaba, and Shopify. The list goes on, and on, and on.

You likely already have everything you need to start monetizing your ideas and your effort if you choose to do so. The first step is realizing it's possible.

This isn't a post glorifying entrepreneurship. Starting a business is difficult, and despite what the media might like you to believe, the failure rate is high.

But make no mistake: we live in a knowledge economy, and you do own a means of production.

You're using it right now.

It's never been easier to be "bougie".

That's something worth remembering now more than ever.

- dp