Friday, July 21, 2006

Snobbery

You can thank my friend Shelly for this post. During an IRC chat last night, we started talking about the different things we liked to write. I recalled how much fun I had writing essays in college, and that some of them were quite humorous. She asked if we would ever see them posted on my blog.

Your wish is my command. I found my little plastic file box full of multi-colored floppy disks shoved under the nether regions of my desk, the whole thing covered in dust. And cat hair. Gross.

Disks perfectly preserved, the relics of a by-gone day (so by-gone that the computer I use now didn't even come with an A-Drive when I bought it three years ago). I found the essay I had mentioned, written in the spring of 2002. As I reread those words, I found my fingers inching toward the delete key, the space bar, and various other editing tools.

I refrained, and instead, present this essay in its final grade glory (I don't remember what the grade was, but this is the draft I turned in). Minor caveat: the Christian references are not meant as any sort of bashing against Christians or non-Christians. I attended a private Christian college, so most of our papers had this theme.


Kelly M.
ENG 304W
Final Draft
The Snob in All of Us
Everyone has been accused or accused someone else of being a snob at one time or another. If you're shaking your head and thinking "not me," you are either a shut-in or in denial. Snobbery affects all of us, even when we don't realize it. While we all think of that Barbie girl from high school who made fun of our faded sweaters and holey jeans, the word "snob" has not always carried a direct negative connotation. Let's take a closer look at what this word really means.

According to my tiny, desk-sized Webster's dictionary, a snob is "a person who considers himself better than anyone else and who looks down on those he considers to be his inferiors." I know a lot of Christians like that. Unsatisfied with this definition, I turned to that from which great knowledge comes: The Internet. After scrolling down past the ample "Try your search for snob at" listings, Dictionary.Com provided me with a number of satisfying definitions from, among other sources, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. My little desk-size will now retire to its shelf in shame to gather dust.

So what is a snob? According to the internet--which is never wrong--a snob is, 1) a townsman, 2) a journeyman shoemaker, and 3) a workman who accepts lower than the usual wages, or who refuses to strike when his fellows do. Certainly not the definitions we think of today. If they were answers on Jeopardy, we would likely come up with the questions, 1) What is a citizen? 2) What is a traveling cobbler? and 3) What is a scab?

Ah, but hidden amongst numerous pop-up ads, I found a much more satisfactory definition of a snob. "One who tends to patronize, rebuff or ignore people regarded as social inferiors." Sound like anyone you know? If I listed names, there would be no room for the remainder of my essay, so we'll leave that as a rhetorical question. Combined with Webster's previous definition, we can now define snobbery as the act of looking down on someone because you feel they are inferior to you. Yet snobbery is not only limited to looking down on people. The things you can patronize, rebuff or ignore are limitless. A snob resides in all of us.

Now don't confuse snobbery with personal preference. "I like GAP clothing because it fits me better" is a personal preference. All well and good. "I can't believe you buy your clothes at Wal-Mart. Lerner New York is the ONLY place to shop." That is snobbery at its capitalist best. I knew a girl like that my first year of college. The idea of wearing the Kathy Ireland K-Mart collection made her break out in hives.

I've already succeeded in weeding out the clothing snobs amongst us (you know who you are). I was recently clued-in to the existence of fish snobs. Really. A student here on campus--we'll call him Jarod--said he will not waste his time with fish that do not hold his attention. Jarod is very careful about the fish he allows to live in his tank. Strange? Perhaps. I suppose there is a moral lesson here about discrimination, but I'll leave that to the philosophers out there.

In the art world, there exists what I will call the Thomas Kincade snobs. You see, there is a belief in the art world that you cannot be truly appreciated as an artist until after you are dead. For examples, please type "Picasso, Pablo" or "Van Gogh, Vincent" into your favorite net browser and hit Search. Among this sect of artists, it was once commented that there is only so much oxygen in the art world and people such as Kincade and Christian Reese Lassen suck it all up. I suppose it would do me well not to tell them I am a big Lassen fan. I even have one of his calendars.

The truly amazing thing about snobbery is that it does not discriminate. The word "snob" can be applied to anyone, regardless of gender, race, horoscope or shoe size. Especially Christians. And if that offends you, don't read further, because I can assure you it doesn't get any nicer. And if you're waiting for lightning to strike me dead, you're out of luck. Yes, Christians are snobs. Some Christians are culture snobs. I speak specifically of those people who will not go see a movie/read a book/watch a TV show, but declare it moral garbage on the grounds that it "isn't Christian." After I clue them into the fact that Christian is a noun and not an adjective, I will ask if being a snob is considered "Christian?" If Aunt Bessie and Uncle Remus condemn "Lord of the Rings" as supernatural filth unworthy of their attention (or the three hours it takes to watch the entire thing), are they not rebuffing what they consider inferior? Snob.

This element of snobbery is most readily found in the ever-present argument between pre- and post-millennialists, fundamentalists and liberals. Should we engage culture? Post-millennial liberals will nod, give a hearty YES, and then show scripturally supported reasons why we should. Pre-millennial fundamentalists will shudder, cast you from their inner circle for uttering such nonsense, and then show scripturally supported reasons why we should not. Enaging culture? Puh-lease. As if Jesus ever went out onto the street to converse with average folk or eat dinner with his Gentile neighbors.

Perhaps what irks these Christian snobs the most is popular culture's ability to flourish no matter how much they denounce, rebuff, patronize, or ignore it. Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the Christian Culture Snob Sect, Harry Potter is here to stay. But I suppose it is the duty of the snob to hold their ground and never give in to that which is inferior.

Unfortunately, with snobbery always comes those discriminated against, rising up in anger and/or defense. For every Evangelical Weekly article telling us why our children should not read Harry Potter, thirty more elementary age kids are rediscovering their love of reading in the land of Quidditch and Hogwart's Academy (that's in England for those of you who don't care to read Harry, but quickly enough offer up your opinion that it is garbage). Some artists hate Thomas Kincade, yet thousands of average folk collect his paintings, calendars, throws and greeting cards. You may love shopping at DKNY, but I find the prices at Wal-Mart much more appealing. And once, if you are lucky enough, the high school Barbie will trip over her trendy shoes and fall on her perfectly painted face.

Snobbery is not always easy to pinpoint. For the easy-going individual, nothing appears out of the ordinary. Ce la vi, to each his own, and all that jazz. But beneath that casual exterior, faded jeans, and Salvation Army T-shirt is a firey intolerance for brand labels. A lover of poetry may have the deeply hidden hatred for that insidious, five-line gremlin called the limerick. Snobbery is harder to pinpoint in some people, but everyone has something to hide. Even if they won't admit it.

2 comments:

Zonk said...

The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch, Acts tells us (quick, where? :P)- but it doesn't say by whom. Since the moniker means 'little Christs', and was used as a descriptive term for followers of a particular teacher ('Socratites', 'Platoites', etc)the usual feeling is that they were so called by the public and I tend to agree.

Maybe.

Or maybe they called themselves that. Pride is one of the hardest weeds to eradicate in the garden of Life.

And of course there are things which all good Christians should refrain from. Aren't there? Just once we don't become better known for what we are against than what we are for.

I don't agree that this is true especially of Christians; it's true of all people. Christians, however, more easily fall under the condemnation of hypocrisy for having this problem, since we preach against it...

And we can, and must, condemn that which is evil in culture. That is not snobbery, it's preaching. Just so long as we don't thing we are better.

I have a friend, in the ministry, and he puts it this way: we're all sinners, so we may or may not be better than the unsaved; but we are better off...

I wonder if Aunt Bessie and Uncle Remus would recognize the Christian symbology (largely Catholic)in LOTR? Or the recurring redemptive motif in Harry Potter? Everybody dies to save Harry...which is why Snape will die to save him, too. JKR in an unguarded moment referred to Snape's character as 'redemptive'...

Don't even start with Narnia, ROFL.

Our problem, and I think you tickled it out with this essay, is that we think too much of ourselves.

I'm very tempted to ask which college :B - but I won't.

:D:D:D

-Kelly M. said...

Wow! Thank you for that great rebuttal, Zonk. I haven't had these sort of discussions in years.

You're right, and you reiterated my point. It's not snobbery as long as we don't think that we are better.

:-)