Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preppy pitfall
“In a true democracy,” Lisa Birnbach wrote, “everyone can be upper-class and live in Connecticut.”
Of course good points about the upper-class attitude and style include a kind of modesty (not showing off, because you feel no need to and it wouldn’t be nice to the less fortunate — at least residual Christian charity, detachment and humility from socially responsible old WASPs) as well as quality and good taste. I’m happy for Martha Stewart: a discarded wife who rather than feel sorry for herself realised she’d spent 20 years learning how to be what many non-upper housewives wanted to be (a Connecticut society wife) and that she could handsomely and legitimately turn a profit by mass-producing and selling some of the trappings. (Birnbach and her friends were snarkier in their bestselling book: both selling the trappings and sending up their own class, telling the non-uppers it’s really better to talk, dress, act and think for yourself.) But here a WSJ article via Elena Maria Vidal suggests a down side of this early-’80s fad among non-uppers: egalitarianism really, the ‘self-esteem’ kick and entitlement for all, essentially being a spoiled brat: ‘I deserve to live like the Kennedys without doing the work to get there’ (part of their legend: the plucky immigrants who worked hard) — living on credit (buying a house you can’t really afford, sometimes egged on by race-based government policy) or the taxpayers, the world, are your trust fund.

Then of course it causes an equally unhealthy reaction: cutthroat competition, trying to set up a new class barrier.

No, while a true democracy is class-mobile it means all have the chance to be upper-class.

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