Sunday, August 06, 2006

An aristocracy of effort

From time-to-time, work travel finds me in Qantas' rather exclusive Chairman's Lounge. I'm not a member, but several work colleagues are. If we're travelling together, the less senior staff get added to the mix. The Chairman's Lounge is an invitation only exercise in exclusivity. It's free, but only a select few ever get past the gate. In that sense, it's different from the Qantas Club, which anyone may join after stumping up the required fee.

On Friday - for whatever reason - the Chairman's Lounge was closed. This meant the good members of the Chairman's Lounge were instructed to proceed to the Qantas Club. The latter is much larger, has less plushy chairs, and noxious coloured carpet. 'Oh dear,' one senior colleague commented. 'This is all a bit slummy, isn't it?'

I didn't agree. In fact, I didn't say anything. My aspirational, liberarian antennae were tingling. The Qantas club was full of people. Busy people. My sort of people. Thrusting businessmen cutting deals on mobile phones. People in jeans talking up property developments. Two tradies with pocket levels and tape measures hanging from their belts haggling over a set of plans. Many women. Many young people. All races, even a fairly obvious Aborigine (one of the tradies). Yes, there was bling. Yes, the combination of free alcohol and Friday afternoon meant voices were loud, hand gestures expansive. But this place was clearly full of the people who power Australia's economic engine room.

In the Chairman's lounge, old white men sit and read high falutin' newspapers and talk in hushed tones. Obsequeious staff attend to their every whim. Its members are an aristocracy of the invited. The vulgar hoi polloi of the Qantas club, by contrast, are an aristocracy of effort, of aspiration, of risk.

My colleague repeated the 'slummy' comment as we left. Emboldened by the free booze I'd consumed, I replied.

'It must be awfully difficult to share with people who have to pay their way, the aspirational hoi polloi'.

He looked at me, shocked. 'I think I'd have rather stayed out here, with the non-Qantus Club people.'

I didn't say anything, but this is what I thought: 'The poor and the invited aristocrats are all right, then. But not the achieving bourgeoisie'.


At August 07, 2006 10:24 pm, Anonymous mikey said...

nicely put sl.

At August 08, 2006 2:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well technically, the rich folk who acquire their riches through honest means are rightly reaping the rewards for their entrepreneural smarts and/or hard work.

Often, they (businesspeople and others) are the goose that lays the golden egg of jobs (for people who are - for whatever reason - not so ambitious).

As a personal thing however, I don't particularly enjoy being around people who have tastes that are aristocratic in nature. I'm uncomfortable in overly formal environments! I've come across a few stuck-up types in my time at private school, but so far law school is actually quite non-elitist in that respect. Which should be comforting for the broader public...

At August 09, 2006 9:38 am, Anonymous Anarchron said...

A very interesting read. However, there is nothing that we can really do about it. The world is an unequal and unjust place. All those who have tried to change it have all failed.

Philosophies such as Socialism/Marxism, were created with the intention of bringing about equality to all have failed. We live in a hyporcitical world, where one is "more" equal than another. Just look at the US. Why is there such an uproar when someone mentions something "anti-semitic" (Mel Gibson) whereas people turn a blind eye when someone calls a black a nigger or anti-asian sentiments?

In fact, one merely has to peel back the glossy images of private school promotional materials to find that the reality is not so rosy. I know this for a fact as I can't wait to get the hell out of MGS.

At August 10, 2006 12:00 am, Anonymous mikey said...

Don't give up yet anonymous. There are plenty of things to go on with regarding equality (not the pure, homogenous kind) and even socialism is still a going concern in some parts of the world where it hasnt acquired such a stigmitism.

And if that doesnt interest you the libertarians too offer a few ways forward. though as Sukrit says, it does tend to encourages a certain level of 'goose that laid the golden egg smugness.' But one day we can all be that goose, right?

But basically I think if we continually ridicule this snobby elite, we'll have more effect than any philosophical system. So go in harder next time sl. Unless it jeopardises your job prospects.

At August 10, 2006 12:01 am, Anonymous mikey said...

Err...i mean anachron. Not that i was subconsciously looking down upon you or anything.


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