The first pecking order I became aware of was in housing. My family lived in a semi-detached house (known as a duplex in north America). At some point I began to realize that I went to school with some people who lived in detached houses, some who lived in council houses (social housing), and some who lived in flats (apartments). Without anyone actually saying anything, I realized that some homes had more status than others.
Students at my primary and secondary schools all wore uniforms, so it wasn’t immediately apparent which of us came from families with higher social status and which did not. We didn’t wear jewellery, so the only methods we had to personalize our outfits were with our haircuts and, for the girls, our hemlines. Generally speaking, we didn’t know much about our families’ relative wealth.
The second pecking order I realized, with some dismay, was gender. I left school just before my 17th birthday and became employed as a secretary. Being a female teenager in the late 60’s meant having a fast and sometimes dirty introduction to male dominance. Some of my employment memories came to mind when I first saw the TV show Mad Men. It was so close to my bad experiences that I could not watch the whole episode, far less the whole series.
It was in my late teens that I realized how significant regional accents were in England. I was blessed with a northwest London accent, which meant that I could get by in most social situations. There was one time, though, that I felt I had been pegged negatively. I was visiting friends in Oxford and staying over with some people I didn’t know. In the morning, when we were making the beds, a young woman expressed her surprise that I knew how to make “hospital” corners. Her tone made it clear that she did not think I was classy enough to know how to tuck in sheets properly, but the only thing she knew about me was the way I talked.
For most of my early life, the BBC was the only radio station and my source for music, news, commentary, and comedy. In the 1960’s, though, the pirate radio stations introduced us to not only different content, but also different accents. It was only then that it dawned on me how many accents had been excluded from my world, and how many regional experiences had been silenced.
Recently, I have been thinking about how pecking orders have changed over the years and how some of us are still hanging on to old ones while new ones have taken over.
Members of the British aristocracy still have status, but it’s a bit difficult to pull rank when you can’t afford to get the roof fixed. I’m a bit out of touch with who ranks high in the UK these days, but I know it has less to do with accents and more to do with money and fame. Similarly in north America, we vote into power the famous and we socially elevate people with money.
It doesn’t seem to matter if those people are well-educated or if they have good morals or if their ethical standards have been proven. We put them above us, regardless.
Some of us were raised to believe that it mattered if we had good manners, if we cared about others, if we worked hard, if we paid our bills, if we valued our families. Today it seems clear that those things don’t necessarily provide social standing any more. At least, not the kind of standing needed to be a leader. What our leaders today have in spades are connections, influence, and media savvy. Oh, and having pots of money doesn’t hurt, either. In fact, with enough of those things, you can get away with adultery, tax fraud, significant indebtedness, and pedophilia.
If I am confused about the pecking order now, how much more difficult must it be for young people. How does anyone know how to get ahead, or even to maintain social respect? All the markers of success have changed and many of the routes to get there have disappeared or changed beyond recognition.
I thought life was confusing when I stopped wearing a school uniform, but that is nothing compared to the bewilderment today. Some of our leaders may feel smug if they have gotten away with bad behaviour, but I wonder if they know what they have done to the aspirations of others. And, if they know, I wonder if they care.
I couldn’t watch Madmen either. I think you are a bit hard on our politicians, although Justin is rich, and he’s had a few scandals – or what we Canadians call scandals.
I agree that our Canadian politicians look better when compared to some others. The latest scandal about the WE organization left me with a bad taste in my mouth, though.
Yes, I agree.
Anne, I thoroughly relate to your perceptions of socioeconomic inequality. In the U.S. it has been changing and widening over the last 30-40 years, becoming glaringly obvious on many levels, and not just among races. 😦
If you would like a wonderful 2-season series that can restore your hope in developing human virtues, I highly recommend The Kindness Diaries on Netflix… ❤️
I LOVED both seasons, all episodes. Good natured, kind people are still found everywhere in the world! If we just focus on spreading all of humanity’s best virtues more… then perhaps there is realistic hope we can RE-balance the socioeconomic disparity. This most definitely requires all of us to rediscover all those most noble principles and endless kindness, doesn’t it? 🙂
Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely look into The Kindness Diaries.
In my more optimistic moments I, too, have faith in humanity’s best virtues. When I read too much news, though, I begin to lose faith.
I completely relate to you on that as well. 🙄 It is pretty sad that (apparently) what SELLS best/most in news/journalism today, on TV and social-media, are the negative, horrid, scandalous stories or violence, civil unrest/protests, etc, and frankly humanity’s WORST behaviors instead of a lot more of our best. It should be the other way around.
But alas, the popular idiom/proverb seems to stand true throughout humanity’s history. And I would gladly say throughout Man’s history, not women’s. My insertions are in brackets… 😉
Most all of humanity’s most noble virtues have nothing to do with money or power, but those inner traits of constant selflessness for starters, which then spread infectiously to those around us. Now THAT is a pandemic I can energetically get behind!!! 😛 😉
Being mostly housebound these days has meant that I spend more time reading news online, which is probably not in my best interests. Humanity’s more noble virtues are sadly lacking from my news feed. However, I am glad that I do know enough good people who live honest lives and who show admirable selflessness sometimes. My faith in humanity is not entirely lost.
Good Anne! Mine is not completely lost either. Let’s remind each other of our species’ better qualities every now then. Deal? 😁
Don’t trust Prof. Taboo. He grows naughty-shaped vegetables.
Hahaha. But those are the best kind!
On the subject of accents …
My dad was in the RAF and he was posted to RAF Sealand just outside Chester ( from a RAF base ”darn souf”) and while standing in line to enter a physics lesson on my first day of secondary school some kid heard me speak and asked if I was ”forun?”
”…cos you sound Australian or Canadian or something.,”
How those two accents are remotely similar is beyond me but such was the provincialism of most of the kids at the school almost anything different was regarded as foreign.
You must remember the film Shirley Valentine, and the scene where she is discussing her Scouse hubby and she remarks that ”Joe thought you needed a passport to go to Chester.”
That’s a good story, Ark! When I went away to college in Manchester, it was like a foreign country to me and my family.
I can believe it.
That is a hilarious clip! I’m still chuckling. “I apologize if I offended anyone. I did not mean to be happy.” 🙂
(fertilizes his Passiflora quadrangularis Erotica with Miracle Grow MAX!) 😆
Good post Anne, it’s the values we teach and the values we model that matter most.
Not everyone will get that…
Thanks, June. Let’s all start voting for people based on their record, not their popularity.
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