Monday, September 17, 2012

genteel incuriosity

When my daughter Olivia was perhaps five, she joined a bowling league with a group of her peers. The kids were barely big enough to heft even the lightest of bowling balls and their lanes were always buffered by bumpers that assured the ball would not end up in one gutter or the other.

The kids loved it ... the lights, the noise, the opportunity to wreak controlled havoc at the other end of the lane ... pee-wee demolition derby .... eeeeeehaw!

At the time, my wife was working as a bookkeeper at a church in Longmeadow, Mass., a community broadly known for its affluence. Stately oak and maple trees graced its main drag and set back from those trees were equally stately colonial houses in which a nouveau riche presided. These were not the old aristocracy whose assumptions of social standing were ingrained and devolved from an approving and understanding God. These were people who relied on their stuff ... the money, the country clubs, the civic organizations, the knowledge of table etiquette, the right colleges, the merchandise ... and a barely-concealed I've-got-it-and-you-don't aura.

At the end of six or seven weeks, Olivia's bowling league wrapped things up with a small party at the alleys. There was cake and fruit juice and ... trophies. Olivia won some kind of first place plastic statuette. My wife and I thought it was a hoot -- a midget kid winning a bowling trophy. We were pleased that she was pleased, but pleased as well that she was not pleased as a means of putting anyone else in their place. She was happy. We were happy. What a hoot!

But when my wife retailed this story to a co-worker at the church, thinking the woman might get a smile out of the circumstances, the woman looked her straight in the eye with some seriousness and commented ...

"Oh ... bowling."

I'm not sure which burns my flapjacks worse -- the out-and-out-ignorance of a man or woman who might employ words like "nigger," "spic," "kike" without embarrassment or the genteel incuriosity of a man or woman unwilling to employ the blessings of background to see some wider world ... a person for whom status trumps all else and everything is seen as a means of ensuring or elevating that status. What doesn't elevate that status is unworthy of investigation ... let the rest of the world suck and egg or eat cake or something.

By way of example, I don't much care for NASCAR races and will snicker in agreement if someone points out that the event consists of a bunch of cars going very fast and making one left turn after another. Duller than dishwater in my book. But I would not for a moment put my assessment above the enjoyment that others may derive from it -- even beefy guys sporting tattoos who may or may not use words like "nigger," "spic" and "kike" without embarrassment.

I find the ignorance of genteel incuriosity astounding, insidious ... and in the end, saddening. To be so disproportionately well-educated and well-situated and then not employ those gifts for anything other than affirming a world full of merchandise ...

Talk about creating hell in pursuit of heaven!

A dismissive ignorance is hardly the basis for an informed opinion.

Genteel incuriosity may recoil at the use of the word "nigger," but too often it misses the "niggers" it creates.

No comments:

Post a Comment