January 22, 2017

Intellectual Snobbery

On the whole I think the snobbery of my childhood, the snobbery of birth, that is, is more palatable than the other snobberies: the snobbery of wealth, and today's intellectual snobbery.
Intellectual snobbery seems today to breed a particular form of envy and venom. Parents are determined that their offspring shall shine. "We've made great sacrifices for you to have a good education," they say. The child is burdened with guilt if he does not fulfill their hopes. Everyone is so sure that it is all a matter of opportunity--not of natural aptitude.
I think late Victorian parents were more realistic and had really more consideration for their children and for what would make a happy and successful life for them. There was much less keeping up with the Joneses. Nowadays I often feel that it is for one's own prestige that one wants one's children to succeed. The Victorians looked dispassionately at their offspring and made up their minds about their capacities. A. was obviously going to be "the pretty one." B. was "the clever one." C. was going to be plain and was definitely not intellectual. Good works would be C.'s best chance. And so on. Sometimes, of course, they were wrong, but on the whole it worked. There is an enormous relief in not being expected to produce something that you haven't got.
The general standpoint in my young days had a certain humility. You accepted what you were. You had assets and you had liabilities. Like a hand at cards, having been dealt it, you sorted your cards and decided how best to play them. There was, I am almost sure, less envy and resentment of those more gifted or better off. If some young friends had expensive or exciting toys one did not expect or demand to have them oneself. I might say to my mother, "Freda has a wonderful doll's house. I wish I had one like that," and my mother would reply placidly, "Yes, it's nice for Freda. Of course her parents are much richer than we are." Nowadays it seems to be "Marylyn has got a bicycle, why can't I have one?" as though it were one's right.
~Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Sadly enough, it doesn't seem like things have reversed since then...

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