An article has been circulating in the Internet: Rachel Jablow’s “Has Our Culture Killed Class?”
It’s a thought-provoking piece about how the young’s social media behavior and permissive fashion choices are breeding a culture of ill manners, self-absorption and a terrible lack of “class.”
We are probably the most analyzed and criticized generation for having been spawned at a time of consumerism, which supposedly makes us materialistic; advanced technology, which supposedly makes us smarter and quicker; and the Internet, which, well, makes us.
Is class obsolete?
“Class,” in the true sense of the word, refers to a person’s position in society. Because they’re supposedly richer and smarter, the privileged are taught how to act in a more refined manner to differentiate themselves from commoners.
Men and women have separate behavioral norms. Men offer to dance, women curtsy to accept, and so on. They’re a more educated lot, and live comfortably enough to act more particularly.
The royal courts had to develop a system of social conduct so parties, which they had very often, would be pleasant and harmonious.
Etiquette actually came from the Old French word “estiquette,” which means ticket, a reference to small cards with written instructions on the proper way to behave in an event. Manners were developed for practical reasons at a time when personal interaction was more imperative.
But today, we see families not talking at the dinner table, because everyone’s on his/her smartphone. A teenager would chat his sibling up on Facebook instead of going to the next bedroom to talk face to face. Two people converse without looking at each other, because they’re simultaneously checking Instagram.
Indeed, the previous generations are quick to condemn this behavior. But then, they didn’t have the distractions we do.
Young people are rude the same way people in New York tend to be rude: they don’t mean it, they just live in such a fast-paced world.
Bridging the gap
Technology dissolves the notion of “class.” Though the rich and the poor today are still a world apart, the gap between them is seemingly narrowing down, thanks to technology.
Technology is becoming cheaper and more available. Cigarette vendors have smartphones. A truck driver and a CEO use the same Google. Anyone can tweet Obama.
Even the traditional lines between sexes are blurred. Because of technology, today’s young are very much exposed, hence liberal and gender-fluid. Heck, men wear skinny jeans and short shorts now! They don’t pay for women’s drinks at the bar anymore. They seldom open the door or pull out the chair for them. It’s not necessarily because they’re jerks, they just treat women like equals.
Women, who are now as exposed and educated as men, are beginning to enjoy the same privileges in the workplace. They’re in high-impact positions in government, legislation and corporate management. They may feel like dressing and acting as liberally as they want because they can finally afford to. They have their own place in the world, unlike the French women in the 18th-century parties. Judge a girl bragging about her Chanel online and she won’t care. She probably paid for it. Of course, she’ll flaunt it.
The Internet also blurs the line between the smart and the stupid, and today the two forcibly coexist in social media networks. One misinformed post, and people will think you’re ignorant. Argue with a kid about something and he’ll pull a “You’re wrong, I Googled it!” on you, he may never listen to you again.
Some idiot may beat you in an online debate because he researched more quickly than you, and even if you looked more intimidating and spoke better, people wouldn’t know that in an online forum. Credibility has become vague.
From etiquette to ethics
Class and manners are an outdated argument. In an era of intangible interaction, it’s not a matter of etiquette anymore, but of ethics.
Etiquette and “acting with class” have evolved from being an obligatory formality to a personal choice. It’s not about being well-mannered, but simply being kind. You say “thank you” or hold the door out for someone not because you have to, but because it is the right thing to do.
A woman must keep her goods private not out of modesty (which I think is sexist), but because of temperance.
Jablow criticizes the flamboyant, immodest behavior of the young on social media when posting photos. But what I love most about my generation is that we are tolerant, hence our support for gender and racial equality and our disapproval of human rights violations, such as bullying.
If a girl wants to look like a slut in that bikini-clad, duck-faced selfie, I say let her. What’s with the hate? There are “Block” and “Hide” buttons for that now.
We care less about what our peers wear and more about what our peers are contributing to the community. A typical millennial, for example, would condemn a polite, modest-wearing but corrupt politician more than a provocatively clothed environmental advocate.
If a woman goes to church in a sheer top and a leopard-print bra, of course she’ll be deemed the town tramp. The key is to wear these clothes in the right place at the right time. And in an era of healthier diets, various workouts and very erratic weather due to global warming (which, by the way, isn’t our fault), less clothing—less, not skanky—does not seem too inappropriate. Again, it’s all about ethics and what’s appropriate.
The situation can be seen from a proactive perspective. Our consumerist appreciation of luxury brands isn’t always materialistic, it can also denote ambition and aspiration. It’s not always “if they can have it, I can have it too,” but maybe “someday, I will have it too,” to motivate people to work harder.
We should stop judging people by their selfies, mannerisms and first impressions, but by their ideas, intellect and involvement in the community. Our generation may be narcissistic, but it is also broad-minded and visionary, and in my opinion, that’s more noteworthy.