God forbid we should ever see a return of a day and age like that. when I think of the countless generations of people who were...*used up*.... to maintain the facade of class and caste at the whim of the devolved descendants of decrepit "nobility..." I cannot help but empathize with those frenchmen who wanted to, quote, "Strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest."
It's little wonder that Communism--- with its empty promises of the end of castes and classes--- seized the imagination of so many bitter people who, under the old system, would be born scullery maids and footmen and die as the same.
It's no wonder at all that so many people of the "lower classes"--- the ones that actually WORKED for a living--- fled to America. Better to die in some wilderness infested with wild Indians and grizzly bears than to die polishing the boots of some ass of a nobleman. And little wonder at all that even now Europe holds America in such contempt. Scratch the surface, and you will see that underneath it all, in their eyes we are still nothing but the offspring of uppity, runaway house-servants whom they should have given a proper thrashing. We with our broad, vulgar amusements, coarse appetites, and appalling lack of blue blood in our veins.
An interesting realization, that rampant, uncontrolled lassez-faire capitalism, "wild west" culture, and what Jeff Foxworthy refers to as "a glorious lack of sophistication" delivered on the promises that collectivism and caste system merely promised.
Of course, it's far easier to romanticize the good old days of upstairs-downstairs so long as you imagine YOURSELF as the nobility, and SOMEONE ELSE as the drudge who will live their whole lives as your servant, wreck their hands and backs scrubbing your floors, and die on a pittance that would be a fraction of what you'd pay for the upkeep of your horse... and who won't offend your sensibilities by crossing your line of sight too much in the meanwhile.
I recall reading an old Agatha Christie novel and being grossly offended that the cast of the novel spoke the post mortem of the murder victim---a young woman--- as "having paid the price for having aspirations above her station in life."
Such attitudes could only be expected in, say, the mid-1800s.... Her books are of a much more recent vintage, though, written mostly in the decates between 1920 and 1970.... one is only left to wonder how much of that grotesque class-elitist attitude still trickles like backwashed sewage through England's cultural veins.'
Quite a bit, one suspects--- they still have Kings and Queens, despite the fact that the royal family is so useless to their national image that they would serve their country better if they were submitted to a taxidermist, stuffed and mounted on display--- and their "house of nobles", still determined in the 21st century by family lineage, is filled with prats who think wearing powdered wigs while engaged in government business makes them look dignified.
They have gone from barbarian Rule of Kings to corrupt bureaucratic ossifaction without even the benefit of an intervening moment of democracy.
Little can be said for the French, but at least they beheaded their kings BEFORE they became too inbred to have chins, and threw the renfaire dead-sheep hats away along with the corpses.
Why do I digress on that? Because I have readers both in America and in Europe. And it dawns on me that the average reader doesn't grasp this basic equation:
The Old Worlders are offended by America's undignified lack of class.... While Americans are just as offended by the Old World's obsession with class.
The typical European doesn't grasp that America sees it's relative "classlessness" (in both senses of the word) as a VIRTUE. Nor, for that matter, WHY we see it that way. Our "glorious lack of sophistication" is generally taken by Americans as a self-evident proof that no matter how much money you have, you can't lord it over another American except by his own consent, and that consent ain't forthcoming. Typical evidence: Movies and TV shows such as "Green Acres," "Beverly Hillbillies," "Doc Hollywood," "the Simple Life," "Caddyshack" and more.... where the wealthy, famous and citified (those who would, in Europe, be higher-caste) are dropped into a rural setting, shown to be buffoons, and (for all their "classiness") to be grossly lacking in a more important characteristic: basic human dignity--- and respect for the basic human dignity of others.
We of course have those in our country--- unsurprisingly, the hollywood elite, the darlings (and overlords) of America's media and visible culture---- who pander to the Old World's nose-crinkling at America's classlessness. Typical proofs: Movies such as "King Ralph" and "Mr. Baseball," where the obnoxious, crude American goes to a foreign land, humiliates himself, and "learns his proper place." King Ralph ends the movie apologizing to the House of Lords for being such a poor king; Mr. Baseball, by the end of the movie, has memorized the appropriate ritual apologies in Japanese to repeat to his teammates for his "arrogance and inconsiderate behavior."
Neither wordview is flawless. Classlessness has the flaw that there is little, culturally, to aspire to when the people at the "top" are as crass and tacky as those at the bottom of the ladder (gangsta rap, anyone?).... and obsession with classlessness, wilfully aspiring to it, can lead to such follies as were seen in the French revolution and the Communist uprising.
But obsession with class.... culture or caste, either kind.... leads not just to elitism and arrogance, but to cultural fossilization (see either the caste system of India, ancient China, or Japan) and to the crushing of human hope and the erasure of human worth.
Of the two, the first is the lesser of two evils. As a review of what the average lower-class servant went through their entire lives readily reveals---- a trailer-park dwelling, truck driving redneck, in all his poverty, enjoys a better standard of life than the average Edwardian house-servant, if for no better reason than that he is not consigned to grievous overwork, and mandatory invisibility for the sake of "class." And if you sneer at his lifestyle, his curler-clad wife won't even take the cigarette out of her mouth to tell you to kiss her backside.
I'll take "classless America" over Paris or London any day of the week, thanks just the same.