Nihal Arthanayake on being bored of bigotry — off the record
Are you a snob? Do you ever look down your nose at someone and utter under your breath the words ‘What doooo you look like?’ or ‘Ugh, you have no manners’? Is it inevitable that each and every one of us will be a snob at some point during our day? Or is snobbery just another, more anodyne, form of bigotry?
It is very easy for others to exploit our feelings of superiority. Refugees, people on benefits, ‘chavs’, reality TV stars, all face the ire of London’s metropolitan elite and the journalists and commentators who ply their trade by being as squiffy as possible about our fellow human beings.
Who hasn’t watched an episode of Jeremy Kyle and thought, ‘There go I but for the grace of a good education, good dentist and parents who love me’?
Snobbery is a mechanism that helps us to strengthen the foundations of our own sense of self.
EVERYTHING TO PROVE
Not long ago, I was on the receiving end of someone else’s superiority complex. This individual tried to talk down to me; I wondered what made them resort to this tactic. Perhaps their default position was to elevate themselves in times of conflict. They got angry very quickly. My reaction was to smile. I have enough confidence to know who and what I am: an Essex comprehensive schoolboy, who has managed to be quite successful in my chosen field.
For a long time I suffered from ‘impostor syndrome’; the feeling that at any moment I’d feel a tap on my shoulder and someone would say ‘OK mate, you’ve had a bit of fun, but now you can leave.’
In my game you still get the odd oxygen thief who, through social media, will try and tell me that I have only got the job because of political correctness. It is melanin that secured my post.
It just makes me angry that ethnic minorities still have to possess an extra layer of thick skin.
If a person’s world is, psychologically, a very small one, the parameters they set for themselves must eventually become suffocating. In this binary world their achievements are magnified so much they inevitably lose touch with reality.
This state of being should be known as the Hyacinth Bucket Syndrome (if you are aware of 90s sitcom Keeping Up Appearances you’ll know what I am talking about). Hyacinth was the quintessential suburban snob. She insisted her surname was pronounced ‘Bouquet’, not Bucket, and was embarrassed by her unkempt family, who seemed to be having a happy life, while she was panicked about what others thought of her.
Like anyone, I have my own insecurities, but I am not trying to eradicate them off the back of people I regard to be inferior. I should set up a charity to help those people realise their own ambitions instead.
Nihal hosts Afternoon Edition on BBC Radio 5 live, Mon-Thurs, 1pm-4pm, and the Asian Network’s Big Debate on Fridays, 10am-4pm.
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