Wednesday, February 13, 2013
WSJ Wednesday: Downton Abbey and Class Warfare
The Wall Street Journal has become the only paper I read. Why? Because like the geek that I am, I enjoy politics, business news, book reviews, and the chance to look at some mansions every once in a while--which they feature in their own special section.
In the Saturday/Sunday, February 2 - 3, 2013 edition of the Journal, I found an article that capitalized on my love of politics and my favorite current television show, Downton Abbey. Raymond Zhong, an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe, sat down with Julian Fellowes, the creator and writer of Downton Abbey, to discuss its appeal, but also some of the criticism it garners. Fellowes says he doesn't understand the accusation of snobbery, because he feels it's the opposite of that partially because all of the characters are taken seriously: upstairs and downstairs. In addition, his mother came from an upper-middle-class family, but his paternal aunts always looked down on her because of she was descended from traders and farmers. One can assume this would impact his work.
Now that I've gone the scenic route in finding a focus for my article, I found a few things that Fellowes said about Americans thought-provoking. "...I think politicians try to encourage us to think in a hostile sense [of] people who have a different circumstance to our own. Which I find very unproductive and uncreative."
The man doesn't even live here, but he knows us so well. Actually, I think he was more referring to life across the pond, but it definitely applies to America, too. All political parties use class as a source of division. Instead of helping Americans to find their common ground, they seek to divide us to further their own agendas.
But then Fellowes says something that makes me shake my head. "...the impression I get is that there is not the kind of obligation to dislike those who are better off or be frightened of those who are worse off...The Americans, I think, are better at seeing themselves as a kind of community--that the important thing is to be an American."
Well, we might be better at it than the people of Great Britain, but if anything, the Tea Party movement, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and union versus non-union scuffles are just some ways in which we are made to feel some type of obligation to dislike those who are different than you. I'm fairly certain most people have heard about the 1% versus the 99%. If that isn't divisive, I don't know what is.
But I think my favorite comment by Fellowes is about history and our pasts. "..you'd go into the attics of some of these houses and there would be lines of bedrooms, and in some cases, there'd be nameplates, and it would say 'Mary' on it, and inside was an old iron bedstead. And you had a real sense, then, of a life that you just missed..."
As a lover of history and a believer in preservation, I am fascinated by this concept of "a life that you just missed." We all come into this world with hopes and dreams. We aspire to leave our mark on the world in even the tiniest of ways. And those that come after us, preserve whatever legacy we leave behind. I think that's all been lost in a world that focuses more on what divides us--the haves and the have-nots as it is often said--because we aren't taught to cherish what we have anymore. We're taught to always want more. That's a concern for a mother of two young children: how to steer our daughters' focus from never being satisfied to feeling blessed. It's a regular battle, because I grew up with next to nothing. Even with the challenges our family deals with living primarily on one income, I'm grateful because I already have been blessed with more than I had as a kid, and because I don't take things for granted. I'm not unhappy because Bill Gates and Donald Trump or even Cam Neely have more than I do.
What a better world this might be if could find a way to focus on common goals rather than be torn apart by our differences. How would that change the political arena? Could you imagine a world where Democrats aren't labeled as bleeding-hearts and Republicans aren't accused of only caring about the wealthy? Could they then be more productive in improving our economy and in building a better world for future generations? I fear what I hope for is an impossible to reach utopia.