MaNnErs aNd MoNeYPosted: January 8, 2014
On our illustration course we were recently set a task to illustrate an online article article from The New York Times by Daniel Goodman called The Great Divide: Rich People Just Care Less (from October 5th, 2013). The article describes and comments on some research and outcomes of studies examining the effect of power/status/money/class on conversing with others. Somewhat predictably, the studies explored showed that people shoved in a room together would arrange themselves according to status by means of the more powerful person showing “fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing”. “higher-status people are more likely to express disregard through facial expressions (…) and interrupt or look past the other speaker.”
Later on in the post, it is described how the studies indicate that poor people are “better attuned to interpersonal relations with those of the same strata, and the more powerful- than the rich are, because they have to be”.
It’s not clear in the article whether the study mentioned in context with the last quote heavily points towards that theory or whether Goodman reads it in such a way based on his own cynical view. I myself am of the opinion that people essentially want to be polite and good to each-other in most social situations, but general burdens and worries might distract the mind and manifest themselves as slight distraction or even rudeness. I also find the quote to be weak because i don’t believe very many rich people that would take part in such a study would see themselves as an established “rich” person. And so their self inflicted social-segregation into polite and impolite shouldn’t be attributed to how rich they are, but to other factors, such as how ambitious they are. To my mind, this theory certainly fits the kind of people who go out, not to socialize, but to “network”
Goodman, towards the end of his article writes that he fears “the expansion of (…) a gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes.” The struggle to keep an element of empathy in a competitive, capitalist society such as the world is now all absorbed in, is an old one. It seems apparent that class differences are less obvious than they were in Britain fifty years ago but it also is very apparent that money only travels up the ladder as the gap between the rich and poor grows, and grows and grows. But if the 99 percent (as the recent world Occupy Movement protest against money-inequality labelled itself) stand together as the poorer side of society, then maybe it’s a good track record that only 1 percent have their manners completely quashed by greed?