Do people living in Melbourne really need to be classified according to physical appearance, class, personal tastes and interests? If so, what advantages does society gain by fostering different subgroups of people? The advantages might be that of a culturally diverse and artistically-enriched society however wouldn’t we be better off without all the invisible walls? It would get boring if we were all the same, this I understand, but surely there is a way we can all be different without having labels attributed to our personalities, vocabularies and attire.
We all associate with people who are similar to us and it feels natural to do so. Is it this grouping together that inadvertently creates these subgroups, or is Melbourne a classless, undivided society? I’d like to think we are living in an undivided society, but I personally feel that we have a long way to go before that is the case. There is a huge divide between the privately educated and the publically educated, the wealthy and the affluent and the unemployed and the struggling. The catalyst for this division is not only the difference in the amount of money we have sitting in our bank accounts, but also in how we think about the world and how we think about thinking itself. Open-mindedness is available to all of us, yet only some of us know this having tapped into it.
Chess players go to chess clubs, boys who play cricket make friends with other boys who play cricket, the nerds stick with the nerds, the cheerleaders befriend other cheerleaders, the science students study with other science students, and the money-makers converse with other money-makers.
But why? Is it because we bond with others better when we have common interests? Or, is it because we are so conditioned in our beliefs about the world around us that the fear of stepping outside our academic/working class/spiritual/religious/hippy/unenlightened comfort zones stops us from integrating with the kinds of people we think we could never befriend, marry, or live with?
We travel overseas, study overseas, and even live overseas; as exchange students or on working visas, and when overseas we communicate and hang out with all kinds of different people of different nationalities, and many of us have even fallen in love with foreigners. But why is it that in Melbourne we still judge each other based on what car we drive, and where we live, and whether we have been privately educated – stopping us from even saying hello on the train or in the street?
Why can’t we apply this same overseas open-mindedness to our own little city that we live in? Wouldn’t all the hours spent travelling on public transport be so much more pleasant and kinder if we all just stopped being so damn closed minded and antisocial?
Who gave us this judgemental quality? Our parents? God? Did God create humans to judge each other? Is it our way of figuring out how we are faring against everyone else? Does it give us peace of mind when we come up being similar? Or does it instil anxiety in us to notice that we are so different? Do we feel more fulfilled after our little evaluation? Or, do we feel we have fallen behind and are now lacking in something?
If we judge others so that we can compare ourselves to others, then we are all doing the same thing. Is a comparison really the best method we have of measuring our success against someone else’s? I would say it is the quickest and most efficient way, but because success comes in many shapes and forms, there has to be a better way to measure our success that doesn’t include trying to keep up with our counterparts, just so that we fit in better and are more widely accepted by our peers. If our neighbours or our colleagues don’t like our cars, our hairstyles, or our choices in clothing, even expressing their disapproval subtly, why are we instantly second-guessing ourselves and running into town to upgrade whatever we own? Or importing it from America or Germany or Italy? Why are we never happy with what we have? Is it because we don’t like to disappoint others, or do we like to avoid criticism and judgement any way we can?
In a consumerist society, why is it that expensive cars and the careers with which afforded these, architecturally-designed homes, masters’ degrees and high ATAR scores reflect success? Is it because, collectively, we’ve been led to believe that if one doesn’t possess these things then they have failed in life? Thousands of families and individuals worldwide can afford these things so how is it an indication of success? It’s mostly the result of lots of hard work, input and good business transactions, which does not equate to success – these things are just a sum of actions, with the outcome being the acquisition and accumulation of material goods.
What about all of the other things that suggest success? All of the other things that consumerism camouflages? Or have we become too blinded by money to see them? If we weren’t a consumeristic society, what other kind of society could we be?