Status and its symbols

I nickname this blog Writing for Me in part because I work out what I’m thinking and feeling by verbalising it. Writing is a sort of speaking out loud without interruptions, and it gives me the space to change my mind as I unravel something in my mind and heart.

The issue I’m currently wrestling with is status – or more precisely status symbols. I like to think I’m not a snob, and that possessions don’t matter to me, but of course that is my subjective take on it, my perspective which is not without bias

I know I do judge people – even though even acknowledging that makes me feel ashamed and that makes me feel very uncomfortable – but the things I judge others for are rarely -if ever- about material things, thoughI recognise I do applaud – somewhat subconsciously, below the radar – those who chose to live a simpler, more environmentally conscious way of life.

What I do use as a barometer of sorts is the values people have, and how they treat others.

  • Are they friendly? Are they honest? Are they kind?
  • Do they demonstrate integrity? Is what they do consistent with what they say they believe to be right?
  • Do they share of what they have – their time, possessions, views? Do they extend hospitality?  Do they help others, for example?

For me these are the things which  really are important. way more important than whether the person owns or rents their home, whether they live in a house or a flat, whether they have a large well-kept garden or cultivate a wild jungle or have no yard at all … and I am honestly far more interested in what someone reads, their views on current events and how they spend their free time rather than what kind of car, bike or phone they have, or whether their clothing is a famous brand or the latest fashion – or not!

It is true historically that as people aspired to high status they often sought also its symbols. These change in value or meaning over time, and will differ among countries and cultural regions, based on their economy and technology, but keeping up with – and exceeding – the Joneses seems to have been something important in almost every era, albeit manifested in different ways. Before the advent of the printing press, for example, the owning of hand written, hand illustrated books was a status symbol, while later on having one’s own library of first editions – beautifully bound – was one way of demonstrating one’s elevated place in society. Today keeping up with the Joneses  is seen in other ways, and seems to still matter – but should it? And can it be manifested in better, newer, less materialistic ways I wonder.

My husband and I live simply – mostly by choice, although not having had a regular income for years has forced us to evaluate our perceived needs a lot. We eat rather well at home,we  but rarely eat out. We go for long walks with the dogs to a huge variety of nearby places, but rarely go to events unless they are free, public events that are dog friendly. I love people watching, and walking the dogs in urban settings gives me ample opportunity to do just that. Countryside walks are the opposite, they enable us to get away from the hustle and bustle of town life, and enjoy the nature, its beauty and the peace it offers. Most of my favourite clothing – accumulated over time – has been purchased in secondhand stores or charity shops. I do this not primarily to help the charity (though that is a side benefit) but because other people discard fabulous items. It also saves me wrestling with my conscience about the use of sweatshops and the conditions of workers -predominantly women – in places like India and Bangladesh etc. We drive an 8 year old car which we’ve treated well, and use regularly but sensibly, and most recently choosing to drive at more economical speeds, enjoying the journey not only looking to the destination!

There is a sort of reverse snobbery in this, I know, and that makes me uneasy because on one hand I really don’t want to impose my /our values on others, while on the other of course I do hope that we live in such a way that others might want to emulate those things in our lives that resonate with them.

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