Almost everyone, or, it is submitted, the largest proportion of people, are obsessed with appearances. They want the visual trappings of success, and, if they are not successful, they buy it anyway in order to be seen to be successful. What is success? In this savage age – at the time of writing we are in a Gatsby Curve, not seen since the days of, well, the seminal novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald- success is governed by the accumulation of money, preferably in vast quantities, generally to someone else’s detriment. Though there is nothing wrong with achieving something despite humble upbringing, it is appreciated that talent, if used and developed, can achieve success in the arts, literature, sport, music and even business. There is, however, a downside: in the Western world, and in the growing Asian economies, those who are not financially successful are viewed with contempt, and are stigmatised, are belittled as lazy. Even working in the public service is seen as contemptible.
There are those, then, who like to show themselves as somehow superior to their peers, or former peers. ‘Look at me, look at my big house, my cars, my sun-tan from my second holiday in the Caribbean, The Seychelles ‘ they say, in not so many words, but in the visual signs that they see themselves as a superior being arising from their spending power. Their money enabled them to buy ‘things’, which depreciate over time, to obtain an orangey sun-tan which fades quickly. Nevertheless, their bank balances – or credit limits – will not buy respectability, even if they can get seats at the opera – sung in a language they don’t understand and have never bothered to learn.
Without manners, culture, being well-read, appreciating culture, the only place wealth can buy is a vacuum, even if one lives in a new-build faux-Georgian-Tudoresque pastiche mansion. The newly rich, asserting their superiority will despise the so-called unsuccessful (including struggling young professionals, students, nurses, police officers, civil servants, anyone on a fixed salary, the unemployed), and their visceral hatred will be reserved for those who toil to make their lives more comfortable: shop staff, street cleaners and waiters. Especially waiters. In a restaurant in the non-Francophone world where a ‘French’ restaurant can command high menu prices, the vulgar nouve will treat the staff like minions, shouting the ultra-rude term ‘Garçon’ rather than ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’. Monsieur or Madame could well have a good degree, or have a PhD. The vulgarian will boast to their dining companions about their latest deals, and try and name-drop if they can.
These types make little effort to cultivate how they speak or address others. Why should they, they would? They are as rude as on the day they were born. Whether one can see them or hear them, anyone who is reasonably educated, cultured, will not be impressed. One can’t carry one’s degree certificates on a sandwich board. Anyway, that would be vulgar. In a material world, however, vulgarity- flaunting it – and the money that purchases it, is everything.
*From: Society, Manners (Reflections)