Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Class – The Lack Thereof

“Money makes the world go round.”

“It's all about the money.”

“Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man's world.” - ABBA

So much has been said, written and sung about money. We all know the importance of money. After all we all have to work for it (well most of us anyway). What I don't understand is how those who have it want to flaunt it. When I was growing up money was something no one talked about. We knew there were kids who's parents were 'loaded' and then there were those who weren't that well off. But no one talked about it. No one showed off about it. No one flaunted what they had bought and where they went and what they ate and where they stayed on holiday and so on.

Nowadays however it seems a lot of people's sense of self-worth comes from exactly what they are worth. (Some go to the extent of letting you know vaguely in whatever way they can about how many zeros you can assume there bank balance has. Or balances as the case probably is. Just a ball park figure you understand?) Well I don't understand. I don't want to know what you own, where you shop, what you bought or where your kids go to school. What I do want to know is if you have some worthwhile, intelligent conversation to make. If you have some slight amount of general knowledge and if you can look beyond the end of your nose.

I love meeting 'rich' people. With the exception of a few (I actually counted them on fewer than the fingers on one hand), they all give me a great sense of superiority (though that is clearly not their intention mostly). One lovely lady who I met for the first (and last) time ever, was telling me about her husband's place in the world and how her kids go to the 'best' school in town. She paused for a nano-second to ask where my son went. When I told her she said, without missing a beat, 'That's a good school for the middle class'. One could give her the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps she was uncouth and did not know what to say in civilized society. Perhaps like Eliza Doolittle yelling 'Move your bloomin' arse!' at the Royal Ascot. Or perhaps for the more cynically minded (or the first-hand witness) that was supposed to be a put down. Needless to say I was a little rude to the lady, ended my conversation and moved on.

This is what the so-called upper class (read 'Got money. Lots of it and won't let you forget it') is like - without any class what so ever. There are the pompous gentlemen who either sit around living off what their fathers worked for, or may even have worked for it themselves but pretend they have been well off forever (the nouveau riche). Even worse are the spouses of said gentlemen. These are the ones who spend the day preening themselves, while knowing nothing of the world or anything apart from their clothes, shoes, bags, jewelers, tailors, drivers, maids, cooks...well you see where I am going with this. These are the ones who live off the accomplishments of their fathers and after marriage, their husbands and think that they are 'the shit' (which they are, not in the way they think, but more literally).

Keeping up with the Jones' is another aspect of our society which wears my patience thin. So someone bought a new car, a new phone, went on holiday somewhere. Let's all jump on the bandwagon shall we? Can anyone say 'Baa'? As a very small example, when HRH (my son) started school, when ever it was a child's birthday usually parents of the child would bring in a cake and goody bags for the class and have an in-school party. When the school year began, the goody bags were the usual small-scale affairs that they usually are, that is, a small plastic bag with the usually assortment of sweets, toffees, pencils, erasers etc.

As the school year progressed though there was a rise in the level of each goody bag and its contents. By the end of the year some child's parents had replaced the goody bag entirely, with a big box (price PKR 300/- as printed at the bottom of the box), stuffed with imported chocolates, expensive toys and so forth – for each child in a class of twenty. Needless to say many 3 year olds were rather excited. A few of the mothers I spoke to were not. There was grumbling of how they would have to do the same, how it wasn't right and how they would have to compete with this.

The school took notice and a letter was sent out saying please refrain from sending such elaborate giveaways and from then on goody bags were inspected by school staff to ensure they did not contain anything expensive. So the next goody bag to arrive had reverted back to the initial usual standard. HRH on inspecting it in the car and casting it's contents aside, said to me, “Where's the rest of it?” I said there was no more and how great this was; to which he replied, “This is boring.” Is this the kind of competitive-ness we want our kids to emulate? I certainly don't. But I hear this is what kids nowadays talk about in school; which car you got dropped off/picked up in, where you vacation in the summer and where you buy your designer clothes from.

Class is not about how much you own or plan to purchase. It's about showing some. This 'showing class' is more or less equivalent to 'not showing off' (which includes refraining from setting your Facebook status to a poll on which car you should buy next, an Aston Martin or a Maserati). If you've got it, DON'T flaunt it. It's a) not nice to show off; b) others won't like you better just because you drive a fancy car and c) grow up. Do not take Jerry Maguire's line 'Show me the money!' literally. This category of people makes me feel bad for all that education gone to waste. Usually they go to great schools and colleges and have traveled the world over (no I don't mean just London) and yet have acquired none of the culture that even a laboratory petri dish possesses. They still don't know how to converse or conduct themselves in civilized society. However, since they do still socialize with others either people have a better tolerance level than I do, or must have a better way of hiding their disgust.

I think all I'm trying to say is, get over yourselves people. Life's too short. Live the life you want to. But it's always a good thing to try and broaden your horizons. And don't think you are superior to anyone due to your zeros.

Show some class.

“I don't care too much for money, money cant buy me love.” - The Beatles

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