Ethics and you Education

The club of humankind

Could there be a reason for institutional insistence on uniforms? The navy or a school? Yes, it is a sign of public equalisation — because in such a crowd, apart from your height and the shape of your nose, there is very little to distinguish one from another. A sameness descends on the group as a whole. When we are released from such uniformity, very slowly, manners of dress or choice of accessories begin to announce both personality and class. A space opens up which is filled by a creature called the social snob. If there is something which tests everyone’s self control and directs their aversion for a person it is the minor vice of snobbery.

Who has not come across a snob at some time or the other? He/she not only acts as if he/she is a superior class of person, he/she actually believes it. He/she doesn’t even have to say anything. His/her attitude and bearing speak for him/her. He/she lets on a couple of things about himself/herself: where he/she schooled, the people he/she knows, his/her address and lifestyle, his/her possessions, and frequent references to foreign travel.

Looking beyond

It seems that some people can feel good about themselves only if they can look down on everyone else. Another form of snobbery is the casual statement thrown across the room to a social ‘equal’ about similar expensive tastes or experiences to let the others in the room know where they stand. We have all met such people. Initially we might be a little irritated and sometimes hurt because it is human to feel crushed when excluded.

After we have seen something of life, we realise that this air of superiority based on something that is quite superficial deserves pity rather than anger. A pair of shoes, crockery, a branded handbag — are these the achievements of life? What if a criminal had the same possessions and sat in the same room? Would that announce that you are both from the same ‘club’ of humans.

Are we in any way guilty of such conduct? Of course not we say. But think again. Did you find yourself suppressing a chuckle when you found someone making a grammatical mistake never mind that it is not his mother tongue or yours?

Or how many times has your group mentioned a book that others in the group have not read? Did you feel the tiniest sense of satisfaction that you and your friends have read and thought about something that others standing by had not? The point is — does having read this book make you a better person?

Think again.

We all strive to live according to the spiritual laws of this universe. Doing the right thing, being charitable, helping others, observing traffic rules, giving up your seat for an older person. Do we do these things? Of course we do. But do we then feel a glow of superiority?

Think about it.

The next time we come across a social snob, let us, instead of judging him/her, check whether we are guilty of emotional snobbery.

And then let’s resolve to improve ourselves.

The writer is Series Editor, Living in Harmony, (Oxford University Press).

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2021 10:32:16 AM |

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