Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Question of Class

There was a time when Low Income did not mean Low Class. They were not one and the same! I know some rich people who are totally Low Class, gutter trash and I know some poor people who are Full of Class.

Class is not defined by your financial standing, as money cannot buy class. which is like putting lipstick on a pig - it is still a pig or in this case a low class, trash with money and still no class. Class is defined in my book as how one sees one self, how one carries one self. It is manners and respect for your fellow man; it is an understanding of who you are and where you are going in life and how you intend to get there. This is not your old time European concept of class.

Breaking Down The Social Barriers
In the 1970's, Michael Manley started the movement to break down the old colonial social barriers. His belief was that if we removed the social barriers that seemed to hold good people back, then people in the lower spectrum of society would have easier access to joining their brothers and sisters in the upper spectrum of society. It was a noble movement started with good intentions, trying to create a more egalitarian society based on social justice, trying to give everyone almost equal access to basic needs. However the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.

In many cases he did not consider the strength of low class culture in the lower end of the social spectrum. This is because it is not only misery that loves company but bad behaving, dysfunctional ,low class people also love company. They love nothing more than to spread their influence, like the forces of the dark-side swaggering its way through society, infecting good people thus exposing good people to their dysfunction and dragging them down to their level. It turned out to be an exchange of souls in many cases as people in the lower end of the spectrum got a chance to move up to mix with the upper end of the spectrum. In a lot cases those on the upper end of the spectrum were dragged down by low class, ambition-less people - especially in the case of the young where to be low class and without ambition became cool.

But to put the blame totally on the people in the lower end of the social spectrum would be wrong because people in the upper end of social spectrum resented having to mix with people in the lower end of the social spectrum as they set out to alienate these people. Cries of we do not want our children to mix with those low class people rang out all across Jamaica, resulting in a clash of subcultures. In the end a lot of people who would not have access to education and able to experience a different way of life got that education and experience. Friendships formed and bonds created between people who were never destined to meet.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do or try to Burn it Down?
A druggist from the ghetto bought the open land on the hill and proceeded to build his settlement, a four house compound in which he moved himself and his family. The problem is not that these individuals moved uptown, the problem is that the individuals failed to conform to life on the hill as they proceeded to recreate the ghetto, similar to a virus infestation trying to take over the body.

On a daily basis massive amount of people would hangout, inside and outside of the druggist compound, his posse and extended posse would stand around watching each and every one as they go about their daily business, some would smoke weed while others would shout things at passing cars, they were truly some of the worst cut throats I have ever seen.

Then the druggist started keeping regular dancehall events, at first we thought it was a one off thing but later realized he had a fix schedule, Wednesday and Saturday nights was the norm, music so loud that one could hear the glass and plates rattle and vibrate in the cabinet, with people shouting rubbish over the microphone, it was also very hard to sleep during this "dutty-rub-up" event. A delegation from the neighbourhood association decided to have a word but the druggist would not have it, he had more money than God and felt that he could do whatever he wanted, where and when ever he wanted and no one could stop him.

It was then that the power brokers on the hill decided to up the ante with a series of well organised raids on the druggist compound by the security forces. This went on for a while as the druggist and his multitude of followers came under the microscope of the law. These raids turned out not to be conducive to his druggist activities and in the end both he and his followers was forced to move back from whence they came. The compound was later sold to families who understood the meaning and importance of Peace, Quiet and maintaining ones Property Value.

Identifying and Appreciating Class
One of the classiest individual I knew was a gardener who worked for the family. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke, his outlook on life impressed me and I spent many hours talking to him as a boy, about his work and life in general. In all the years he worked for us, he was never late, he never turned up at the house dressed in his gardening cloths and he never leave the house in his gardening cloths, he had a sense of style that transcends time. He had great respect for himself, others and his profession. He was a proud gardener, a landscape engineer and what he did to our yard was pure art, how he managed to shape those unruly bushes with his clipper and machete was amazing to me.

His dedication to his work and how he relates to everyone earned him a lot of respect and trust from almost every house on the street, so much so, that as a result of his good reputation and goodwill he was hired by almost every house on the street and on a given day he would take care of the gardens of at least 3 houses per day. He would start early, moving from one house to the next, watching him work was a pleasure, a true artist at work, he would make a change to the garden, then step back and examine his work from many angles then return to make various adjustments as he snipped and clipped various edges, every cut done with a sense of purpose and at the end of the day he would clean up after himself leaving our yard in a state of pure perfection. He did brilliant work and was so admired by all that he was always remembered at Christmas time. He went on to create a business and hired some boys to help him service his customers because he had more work than he could handle by himself, everybody wanted him. Sadly he died and everyone on the street went to his funeral, he was missed by all and was a true gentleman.

We went on to hire some of the worse people to look after the yard, some stole from us and others had no pride in their work and themselves. Some would not even bother to show up on the agreed date or show up on time and would leave before the work was done. Their work left a lot to be desired, slam, bam, thank you ma'am pay me, one came to work but was found in another house having sex with the helper, in the bed of the people who hire the helper. They did not view what they were doing as a business, they had no love for gardening and I think actually hated it and the people who hired them, these people looked down on themselves and simply had no class.

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