Mon | Sep 25, 2023

Snobbery or standards?

Published:Monday | March 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

'Show me your friends and I'll show you who you are'. 'If the blackbird was not among the crows, it would not have got shot'. Two sayings which look at association from different angles, the former a statement of how an opinion is formed, the latter an explanation - or warning - of the dangers of running with the crowd, even if you are not quite like them.

As our children make their way through the education system (they are currently at about the midway mark in primary school), friendship is going to become more of an issue. So will, naturally, what these friends indicate about them and what are the situations they are likely to find themselves in with their pals.

While I certainly have no right to determine who their friends are and will not attempt to impose my opinions on them (which would most likely have the opposite of the intended result, anyway), I can't help thinking about the wider issues of class. I ask myself if, in their formations of friendship in the school system, our children will find themselves unwittingly perpetuating the class system by the friendships they form or if it will simply be a matter of maintaining a standard and not getting into trouble.

It is only natural that they would associate mainly with those who pursue the same interests - including high academic standards - as themselves and with whom they also find common ground in family set-up. Where does that leave the children who are not performing well in school as they have to this point - and which, barring an exceptional turn of events, will continue - who do not come from a stable home and who are not well-behaved?

Is not forming a friendship with them indicative of snobbery or is it simple maintenance of a high standard throughout all areas of their lives?

I don't know if I am in the minority, thinking about these matters. But I abhor the class system, which pigeonholes individuals and wires the cage door shut, requiring extreme effort for them to break out. I do not want my children to be a part of its regeneration. However, I do realise - from bitter experience - that many of those who are pigeonholed as lower class will not miss an opportunity to be nasty or a nuisance to those from what they perceive as a higher class who form unexpected friendships with them.

In other words, they take the opportunity to humiliate and hurt those perceived to be from a higher class and who form friendships with them.


On the other hand, I have found that many a child from the supposed upper class is a nasty piece of work. Among Professor Rex Nettleford's famous summations of the world we live in is "a bhuttu in a Benz is still a bhuttu". Since he said that, the ranks of upscale motor vehicles have expanded past the 'B' couple, Benz and BMW, but the bhuttuism remains the same. And Mama Bhuttu and Papa Bhuttu breed Baby Bhuttu, which grows up steeped in the ways of bhuttudom.

At the same time, I would really like our children to be in touch with and experience the multiple sides of Jamaica, as I have through working as an entertainment journalist for about a decade now.

So where does it all lead to? I do not want our children to be among the crows in any socio-economic bracket, yet I do not want them to be a part of maintaining the awful class system. We are long past the stage of parent slapping child and commanding them "no play wid dem pickney deh, dem fambily no good!" or "mek sure you and that boy is friend, cause him come from good fambily!"

I suspect that with their varied interests they will encounter different people and there will be a natural selection process, without them even realising it. And at the end of it all, I further suspect, I will find that their level of snobbishness or maintenance of standards will be determined by how they have been raised.

So, maybe I do have a significant role to play, after all.