It’s very easy. The bottom is made up by the majority that sells its time and labor (mental or physical or both) in exchange for a monthly salary. These people make between 300 euro and 1000 euro a month, which is a survival wage. The second layer consists of a tiny number of people who have an above average salary. These are people who run departments in big companies for example. They live well compared to the rest, but they are still selling their time in exchange for money. The third layer -a tiny one- ears far more, because they have found a way to cater to the rich. They offer something that the rich like and are willing to pay top dollar for. The rich can be found in the fourth layer. These are -at least in comparison to other Slovaks- fabulously wealthy.

How they got to be so wealthy is an other matter, but it often has something to do with decisions they or their family took right after the fall of communism. In a way it’s a vulture class like the very rich often form. I admire the third layer the most, those who have been very creative and have set up businesses, schools, services that get the cash of the rich into their own pockets. You could say that the same layers exist in any society, but being Belgian I can tell you that the discrepancy between the haves and the have nots is far more visible in Slovakia than in Belgium.

In many ways the purchasing power of the majority of Slovaks is very limited because the salaries are a lot lower than in the west, and on top of that prices are often a lot higher. Curiously, Slovaks live in the illusion that their low wages are balanced because of the lower prices. This is a myth. Most supermarkets in Belgium offer better quality for less money than over here in Slovakia. Restaurants are cheaper in Slovakia and so is public transportation. But your phone bill, the bill for gas and electricity, fees for banking services are all remarkably higher.

A society in denial

This general denial of the situation as it is plays directly into the hands of the people on the top, because they have a willing labor force that doesn’t complain about low wages, because they think everything in this country is cheaper. It isn’t. Unless you go to small villages or smaller cities in the east of the country, but there wages are even lower than in the capital Bratislava.

Slovaks in general are a cheerful people, in part because they don’t realize their own misery or because somehow they have sustained a different, less materialistic value system than in the west-perhaps due to communism and the still dominant Catholic Church- yes, those two enemies had certain values in common.

Still, the vulture class is very visible and all to willing to show off its richess. As is the case in most countries these days politicans are in bed with the vultures, and this is publicly known. Right now there are some small, but vital protests going on against the Prime Minister and his shielding of corrupt politicians. The media are quite outspoken against corruption, but in general most Slovaks are too busy leading their hard knock life or too focussed on the pleasures a capitalist distraction society has to offer to care or do much about this dynamic.

class warfare