A photo article on ‘things posh people like’ is currently doing the rounds on the social media networks. It cites such accoutrements as ‘upturned collars,’ ‘expensive pets’ and ‘blazers,’ and pokes fun at ‘insanely long surnames’ and the tendency of the rich to ‘make lists of other posh people, most of whom you’ve never heard of.’ In short, it’s funny. Or at least it is to people like me, who regard themselves as middle class and consider this self-classification a prerequisite for being permitted to relentlessly mock the upper classes, with whom we obviously share no common ground.
For most people, identifying with a social class provides a meaningful form of identity. The ‘upper classes’ are easier to mock because they’re perceived as ‘having it all’ – something the lower and middle classes doubtless envy (even if they’re quite certain they wouldn’t behave in the same way should they themselves come into a substantial sum of money).
The stereotypical posh kids who are depicted on programmes like Made in Chelsea do little to make being ‘upper class’ look classy, parading around in sports cars and having friends over for champagne tea served by the maid before indulging in a spot of croquet and a polo tournament. They portray a life of undeserved over-privilege, which is both offensive and alienating to Joe Bloggs on the street, who’s struggling to put food on the table at the end of each long day.
But whilst ‘posh’ is easy to mock, isn’t it a kind of inverse snobbery that operates when the ‘lower classes’ club together to mock the way the upper classes look and act? Perhaps, but it’s human nature to seek out those most similar to ourselves and form a bond as a way of reaffirming our place in society. There’s strength in numbers, as the saying goes.
But whether we’re rich or poor, posh or common as muck, we mustn’t forget that we are all human beings – our outward circumstances may be different but inside we’re all the same, with the same insecurities and fears. So what if some of us like wearing tweed and others double denim? The chances are deep down we’ve got more in common than we realise – or perhaps that we’re prepared to accept.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to meet a man about a peafowl….