Nobody likes snobs, but the fact is, most of us are snobbish to some extent. Most of us have the need to feel (or to become) superior in some way, and snobbery is indeed quite effortless. For one thing, it does not take wealth, power, prestige, pedigree, fame, or social status for a person to be snobbish against some other people. No matter what place you occupy, there are people who are "beneath" you. For another, there is the distinction between, as Joseph Epstein puts it, downward-looking snobbery and upward-looking snobbery. If downward-looking snobbery does not work for you, that means upward-looking snobbery is more readily available to you.

Epstein wrote a whole book on snobbery. It's a good read, entertaining and at times insightful. I like the way he defines "snobbery":

For a beginning or working definition, then, I take the snob to be someone out to impress his betters or depress those he takes to be his inferiors, and sometimes both; someone with an exaggerated respect for social position, wealth, and all the accouterments of status; someone who accepts what he reckons to be the world's valuation on people and things, and acts --- sometimes cruelly, sometimes ridiculously --- on that reckoning; someone, finally, whose pride and accomplishment never come from within but always await the approving judgment of others. People not content with their place in the world, not reconciled with themselves, are especially susceptible to snobbery. The problem here is that at one time or another, and in varying degrees, this may well include us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment