Monday, September 1, 2008

not so egalitarian

ive been accused and not just lately of being a little too egalitarian in my tastes. As in supposedly its really easy to make me happy, and apparently i'm not so discriminating in my tastes. Well fuck you too.
I have parameters. In fact i'm quite shockingly discriminatory. So heres the list: what i don't find attractive in people/ and conversely what i really go for.

What i don't like:
1. Pretentiousness: as in people pretending to be who they are not. Now the interesting thing is that pretentiousness in very easy to catch out, so you have to wonder why people bother, but they do all the time and with people who are clearly looking at them with a 'why do you even bother' expression on their faces.
See its fine to be not into certain kinds of things, but its NOT fine to pretend you are: As in I play guitar but have not tuned my guitar in four years (right, of course you play). Oh please, leave it be and discuss instead the relative merits of SRK vs Aamir. Theres much to be said there, and most of it is interesting. AND you might be able to tell me things i don't already know, which is always a little bit of a frisson:)

2. Snobbishness: This needs some definition. There are certain kinds of snobbishness that are violently annoying and other kinds that are sort of cute. Snobbishness based on material possession is violently annoying, as in phone, car, house based type of snobbery. In Delhi you also have the name dropping variety (oh so and so is my friend: no problem if its the truth, very annoying if the name dropper met them thrice at social occasions). In Delhi they also ask you where you live, as in 'where do you live' (the only appropriate answer being 'up your ass'), sometimes they also ask 'how much do you earn' (appropriate answer 'why, are you trying to buy me?'). As far as i'm concerned/ and this is very subjective of course/ the only vaugely acceptable kind of snobbery is the snobbery of knowledge. If someone really knows more about something, if theyve actually taken the time and energy to read about it, to think about it, and they grind underfoot someone who is pretending to know: well thats not snobbery in my book. Thats an unpleasant exposition of knowledge. Could be better and more thoughtfully done, but needs to be done, particularly for the people in category 1 (pretentious)

3. People very conscious of hierarchy: This is the kind of person who will behave with you based on their perception of your social position vis a vis them. So if a person thinks you inhabit a position in the hierarchy above them, they will treat you with a certain kind of oiliness (i cant think of it as respect, i think of it as grease). If on the other hand, they think that you are below them, well, buckle down and expect nothing to surprise you. All sorts of strange behavior will be evident, from blantantly abusive to mildly slighting. Now one needs to qualify this, because grease is spread and not equally/ over a largish spectrum.

So lets explain the grease spectrum. First, grease.

Grease is roll over and show tummy in face of superior dog. social submission. your might makes you right etc. its hard to explain this, but think of when you have seen such ingratiating behaviours expressed around a top dog and you'll see what i mean. Not all grease behavious are as obnoxious of course, people are free to agree with who they please. Constant agreement with figures of power is ok if somewhat annoying behavior.
The offensiveness of grease lies in two factors: firstly, how much/ how consistent. This also depends on the person on whom the grease is being applied i.e. the top dog. I have very high respect for top dogs who cant abide grease, but many seem to live off the stuff.
Secondly, and this is a little complicated so stay with me, the offensiveness of grease is directly proportionate with how the person applying the grease is likely to behave with others of less social power. So someone who is generally sort of ingratiating and constantly socially submissive is ok. annoying but ok. But someone who rolls over at a flick of a wrist from the top dog and then abuses the driver is not. NOT NOT NOT. correct me if i'm wrong, but there seems to be way too many of these types around.

Those located at the high power end of the spectrum (the base of the triangle) experience interaction very differently from people located at the low power end of the spectrum (the squiggly/ rocky road part). It is the people responsible for this phenomenon who are pet objects of hatred for me.

These are the people who you overhear at restaurants discussing their expense habits (how much, where, when, with whom) and their social lives (where, when, with whom) and bring children they cant be bothered to look after. So theres a maid, and she runs after the child. She sits at another place (may or may not be a table) and is rarely fed at the restaurant. Sometimes someone at the table takes a pause from the scintillating conversation to yell at her.
You could imagine scenarios in which people like this invite the boss to have six more drinks, take out for evenings peers who are aspirational, and argue and threaten to sack the maid if she asks for a raise or a holiday.
So you see, going back to the grease spectrum, the maid and the driver fall at the rocky road end of the spectrum, no grease, not even the mild lubrication of politeness just very very uneven territory. You bet i'm not egalitarian. I really dislike this sort of people.

Because hierarchy and place in the hierarchy is so very important, their perspective of the world is often indexed on what their betters think of the world. So if their betters at point A have a high opinion of x (person) y (writer) and z (car), this will pretty much be their opinon. Its a safe way to be until the better (who is, in social science jargon) the opinion leader changes their mind. very embarrasing.
A weltenschang based on a twisted and seamier take on Pico Della Mirandola. We can all rise to the angels (money/ Pg 3) or sink to the animals (anyone anywhere near the rapidly sinking poverty line) so be careful: Get closer to the angels, and distance yourself from the animals, and thats why its so necessary to be conscious of hierarchy. after all if the world was flat, what would one do with the SUVs?

4. The morally judgemental Lets see, how do you recognize these people? well firstly theyre boring as shit. I mean, really i sometimes think that moral judgement is the recourse of the truly boring. These are people whose world is bounded by the kind of rules that have symbolic meaning only to others who think like them and to some hypothetical others.
Much is indexed on what these hypothetical others are likely to think. So for example "how can she wear that on the road, what will people think". So who are these people? id really like to meet the silent goggling masses who are waiting around to agree with the one with the moral judgement. Unfortunately they probably do exist, and this forms the backbone of the world the OwMJ (One with Moral Judgement)inhabits.