Social classes

The Haves and the Have-Nots

A quick reminder about SINs

System Identification Numbers or SINs are the single main ID number that a legal citizen is known by; a combination taxpayer reference, voter enrolment, driver’s licence, passport, and more. SINs are an international standard; they are issued to their citizens by most of the nations in the world as well as the largest corporations – those who have acquired extraterritoriality and so have international recognition as nation-states in their own right.

Without a SIN, you cannot own a bank account, work, pay taxes, or vote. You have some (severely curtailed) civil rights, but the legal system is not obliged to grant you representation or protection.

Some people are born SINless, typically because their parents are already in that state. Others become SINless when the corp that issued their SIN withdraws it – this is a common threat used to keep the wageslaves in line.

There is a thriving black market in forged and faked SINs, mostly by hacking various databases to insert new entries. Unconvincing fake SINs cost about a week’s wages, but provide only a fig-leaf of legitimacy. Convincing ones cost far more.

See SINs & Licences for more.

Class by class

The unhoused

Around 5-10% of the population have no permanent residence and no steady income at all. They live in their vehicles, squats, tent cities, or just migrate around the sprawl trying to find whatever corner they can to shelter from the rain. They are mostly SINless, as the threadbare welfare programs for SINners are still usually enough to stop them from falling this far. They subsist on handouts from charitable policlubs, dumpster diving, panhandling, and the occasional odd job. Substance and BTL abuse is rife as they desperately seek to escape their day-to-day existence.

The precariat

The precariat is the first class in history to be losing acquired rights - cultural, civil, social, economic, and political.
— Guy Standing

The precariat make up about 20-30% of the population and are approximately evenly split between the SINless and those with a national SIN. Their defining characteristic is under-employment and economic precarity. They juggle multiple menial jobs, fighting to get enough shifts to make rent. They compete with each other for spot-work via various smartlink apps, the modern day equivalent of day labourers gathering at the side of the road and desperately pitching for work. They are cleaners, construction workers, taxi drivers, krillburger flippers, soykaf servers; some of them turn to petty crime to get by.

They live in shoebox apartments crammed into enormous buildings in poor parts of town. Power and water brown-outs are common due to failing infrastructure. Muggings, burglaries, and thefts are comparatively low; these people have nothing to steal. But violent and antisocial crime is endemic as pent-up anger leads to lashing out.

The lower classes who are SINless have mostly managed to purchase a low-grade fake SIN. It wouldn’t pass any real checks but is enough that unscrupulous landlords and employers will turn a blind eye… but SIN checks in better neighbourhoods mean the SINless are effectively cordoned in the places society cannot see them.

Working patterns amongst the precariat are low, typically 20-30 hours per week, as there isn’t enough work to go around. Most of their work comes from gig economy apps and word-of-mouth casual work. They can rarely afford any sort of personal vehicle; they get around by bus, light transit rail, and the ever-popular bicycle.

The precariat have a lot more time and energy to spare than the wageslaves. For many, this energy turns into anger at their lot in life. If a revolution were ever to come, to tear this rotten system out by the roots, it would start here.

The wageslaves

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
— Frank Wilhoit

The bulk of the population, 60% or so, are the wageslaves: ordinary working stiffs. In a former time, we would have called these “middle class”, and their existence would be characterised as both safe and comfortable. Now, their most defining characteristic is an overworked and hollowed-out numbness.

Most wageslaves either toil for a smaller corp under a national SIN, or they work for a true megacorp and have a corp-issued SIN. The latter group is further divided into those born into the corp or (rather fewer) those hired into it but required to sacrifice their national SIN in the process. The corp never misses an opportunity to remind its wageslaves that the corp can make them SINless on a whim, effectively casting them out of society. The overall atmosphere is of indentured servitude imposed by the threat of statelessness. More senior level wageslaves, who have proven themselves to their megacorp patron many times over, can aspire to a higher tier of SIN that allows their partners and children to benefit also. Their children transfer to corp-owned schooling, becoming indoctrinated in turn.

Wageslaves crowd the city. Most of them live crammed into towering apartment blocks in areas that at least see occasional rentacop patrols. They generally commute by public mass transit, although a large minority own a reasonably well-kept personal vehicle. The most affluent wageslaves can choose to escape the inner city to one of the pockets of single-occupant housing that still linger in the outer suburbs.

The wageslave’s common working pattern is the infamous “996” – 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. Many of them get by only by abusing advanced stimulants and, for those lucky to afford it, sleep regulator cyberware. Outside of work, they mostly immerse themselves in consumerism, sports, social media, gaming – anything to distract and numb themselves. This is how the powers that be prefer it. The wageslaves are kept anaesthetised so they cannot become a threat.

The corpos

Little by little the agents have taken over the world. They don’t do anything, they don’t make anything, they just stand and take their cut.
— Jean Giraud, aka Mœbius

The difference between a wageslave and a corpo-in-the-making is belief: the corpos are the true believers in the corp’s mission, the ones prepared to dedicate their lives to not just existing inside the corp but advancing. This almost inevitably involves total moral compromise. In return, they get a life of genuine comfort and some actual measure of security. They escape the soul crushing 996 working pattern, usually by concocting excuses to leave the office like offsite meetings.

Corpos make up around 10% of the population. Some of them start as wageslaves, and claw themselves upward on merit and a callous willingness to do what it takes. Most, however, are born into it: the sons and daughters of other corpos, groomed from an early age. Nepotism is rife in the megacorps.

The odd corpo is genuinely talented. They’re the engineers who can lead a research lab to pioneering breakthroughs; the managers who genuinely inspire their reports; the military strategists who lead battalions to victory in Desert Wars. But these are the rare exceptions. Most of them are just dickheads in nice suits.

The early-career corpo may be indistinguishable from a wageslaves in socio-economic terms - working the same hours, living in the same apartments, commuting by the same trains. But the corpo won’t stay that way for long. By mid-career, they’re earning 10-20× the money a wageslave does; they’ll have a penthouse downtown, maybe a vacation place upstate, and pondering a boat. Successful late-career corpos are rich, callous, shallow, and cruel; moulded by the system in the process of ascending it, their humanity flensed away by the climb.

The klept

And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.
— William Gibson, Count Zero

The klept are the one percent of the one percent, the apex predators of capitalism. They are the CEOs, the political leaders, and the dragons. The oyabuns, dons, and pakhans. The social media influencers, the elite socialites, and the stars of screen and stage. They control wealth and power sufficient to become immune to the law; the lines between legal and illegal behaviour become hopelessly blurred.

Some are world-famous and instantly recognisable, but many more are utterly anonymous. You could pass one of them on the street and never know, unless you noted their discreet and lethal personal security squad. But know that that brief shared reality - the pavement under your feet, the sky over your head - is the only thing that unites you with that person. They live in a world you cannot imagine, and it holds none of your petty constraints and concerns. They have as much in common with you as you do with a shark or a piece of moon rock.