Recently, I was involved in a conversation with another person who used demeaning language about public housing tenants. The person in question referred to the government as ‘putting them’ in certain areas. As the flavour of the conversation continued, I wincingly objected, only to be told, ‘well you know what I mean!’ No, I didn’t know what he meant but I was getting a very clear view of his biased view toward anyone who happened to live in government housing.
Okay, I can get on my high horse easily and perhaps the person in the conversation hadn’t bothered to think through the ramifications of generalising groups of people. The offending person lives in a lovely home of which he privately owns. So, why deride others less materially fortunate? Was his behaviour an attempt to remain superior in his own perception of self, because somehow, despite the material advantages he didn’t feel so good about himself anyway? Or did he, heaven forbid, actually think that some people are of less worth than others according to their monetary and living arrangements? Of course he did! That became obvious to me as the conversation proceeded.
The referencing troubled me and the human devaluing made me angry. I actually expect more in this day and age! ‘Well hello’, I am hearing you say as you read this, ‘what planet are you from?’ One of the difficult aspects of these encounters can be, what to do about it. If I say nothing I feel I’m colluding with the suggested innuendo and if I object I stand the chance of offending (I usually do!) and causing a difficult social situation…! But really, I get tired (oh so tired!) of the aspiring well off and the well off middle classes building their own self-esteem at the expense of undervaluing others.
As I ponder this issue I am reminded of an occasion many years ago, when I attended a lecture by a very prominent psychologist/medical practitioner. As well as being very competent, experienced and respected in the particular work that she practised, she was also hilariously funny and down to earth. She relayed a story about her ‘very snobbish’ mother who had a particular saying when enquiring about others. She would ask ‘are they PLUs’ dear?’ In other words ‘are they people like us?’ Says it all really! For some people they hold clear notions about what divides us as human beings. It might be the schools we send our kids to, the amount of money we earn, the cars we drive and the houses we live in, all of which equate to nothing more than material wealth and opportunity. But, unfortunately in our society, the worth of many people and families still seems to be made according to the above criteria.
I’m still angry!!