Middle class ‘mentally under-developed’
BB madness: Two women are apparently overcome with emotion while waiting to buy BlackBerry Bellagio smartphones at Pacific Place mall in Jakarta on Friday. The smartphones were on offer at half price — Rp 2.3 million (US$253) — to the first 1,000 customers, attracting a crowd of thousands. JP/Ricky YudhistiraIt sometimes happens that poor people have to push and shove each other, and often they become victims of fatal stampedes just to get a small package of alms during religious holidays such as Idul Adha or Christmas.
But according to a sociologist, what happened on Friday — the need to indulge in luxury commodities — has apparently made the city’s middle class willing to use any necessary means, even at the cost of their own lives, just to fulfill some need for personal satisfaction.
The latest incident, in which dozens of the city’s middle class were injured after standing in line for long hours to get their hands on the newest BlackBerry Bellagio on Friday, shows how far these people were willing to go to be the first to have the latest edition of the gadget.
The smartphone was sold at Pacific Place mall in Sudirman, South Jakarta, on Friday for only Rp 2.3 million (US$253), half its original market price of Rp 4.6 million. Hundreds of smartphone enthusiasts flocked to the shopping center since Thursday night just to line up for the phone.
BlackBerry, which does not have a manufacturer here, was launching its Bellagio smartphone for sale in Indonesia.
After the long wait, dozens of the enthusiasts suffered from cramps, stiffness, and some even had broken bones. The police then decided to stop the event after more and more people were turning up injured.
Professor of sociology at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Sulfikar “Joel” Amir, told The Jakarta Post that what happened on Friday showed that the city’s middle class had not sufficiently developed its rational capabilities.
“This phenomenon is the materialization of what Marx once called material veneration, in which commodities become like a new God. Middle-class people somehow feel some kind of a satisfaction for queuing up for the latest commodity.
“They are like the people who go to religious temples to worship,” Joel said.
“For [Jakarta’s middle-class], gadgets represent not only their social status but also their own personal satisfaction for being the most up-to-date people among their peers,” he added.
Joel said that there was a similarity between the phenomenon of middle-class queuing for the latest social commodities and the members of the lower classes who risked their lives waiting in lines for hours to get their hands on staple food stocks such as rice.
“The similarity of both of these phenomena indicates a major concern in each class’ needs for survival. The difference is that while the lower class queues for survival in biological terms — if they do not eat then they die — the middle class sacrifices to wait in line to fulfill their psychological needs to be acknowledged as members of an elite circle that is the most up to date on everything,” he said.
Previously, Jakarta’s malls have been flooded by the middle class lining up for discounted commodities ranging from fashion products such as Crocs sandals to electronic gadgets such as iPads and smartphones.
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