According to a snippet of a TV show I saw last night, the attitude towards and backlash against the class divide in England began even before the advent of World War I.
The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 provided evidence that those below decks fared sometimes disastrously worse than those above. 92% of the 168 men in second class perished compared to 68% of the 175 in first class. The disparity had an impact that added to other simmering social conditions.
The advent of electricity and the telephone and the typewriter and demand for improved labor conditions all chipped away at a society in which the privileged were assured and numbed by their privilege and those serving them were getting no better than they deserved.
As the 'guns of August' in 1914 inched closer, those to-the-manor-born went forward with all the regalia that had accompanied them heretofore -- coming out parties, tailors, tails at dinner time, summer retreats ... you know, the "Downton Abbey" stuff. Those "below stairs" knew their place and kept to it, though a sense of discontent simmered with the industrial changes.
My mother once said that "the greatest change in the 20th century was the loss of servants." I think she had a point and to the extent that she did, anyone might imagine that those accustomed to servants would most-emphatically not-be-amused.
As much as anything, the war and technology collapsed the world of the manor house. But that doesn't mean the world of the manor, however revised and tawdry, doesn't have its latter-day exponents.
The smart-home concept is known in tech circles as the Internet of Things. Current iterations primarily include our ability to control gadgets such as lights and security alarms or view data remotely through a smartphone app. At the International CES gadget show inAcquisitiveness, with its American spin, is the new aristocracy. The aristocracy of Edwardian England did have a sense of noblesse oblige, meaning that those in the catbird seat were compelled by 'decency' to look out for those less fortunate. And they did ... in much the same way a good horseman would look after his horses.
Las Vegasthis week, manufacturers will promote more devices and functionality. Some gadgets will be able to talk directly with one another, not just to an app. The four-day show opens to the public Tuesday.
Aristocracy in its acquisitive format generally lacks any sense of moral compulsion or compass. It's enough that I have mine and it's up to you to see yourself up the ladder to "first class." Acquisitiveness does however create the kind of third-world disparities making themselves felt in the United States. In its pell-mell rush to third-world status, there are signs of 'hope' that serve to underscore extant disparities in the U.S.
In Detroit, an economically-distressed community, there is a move afoot to convert cast-off ship containers into homes to repopulate a blighted landscape.
Come spring, the house-in-progress will be delivered to Detroit'sNorth End neighborhood and secured on a foundation where a blighted home once stood. After finishing touches and final inspections, the 40-foot-long former container will feature 320 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen, and will serve as home base for a university-student caretakers of a neighborhood farm and agricultural research activities.The story does not say there will be apps-galore to ease the burden of this agrarian class, but there is a sense that those in the catbird seat are grudgingly willing to do something about the ragamuffins below decks. 320 square feet is about the right size for servants' quarters, and if they can grow their own food, it's a win-win situation for the new -- if less discreetly rapacious -- Edwardians... they get servants who do not require too much maintenance.
One difference between the earlier aristocracy and today's accumulators is that those in the catbird seat have learned to embrace, rather than shy from, war. Perpetual war -- topped off with the whipped cream and cherry of "terrorism" -- means that those below decks are kept in check if not in thrall: World War I holds no horror when the horror is kept simmering by those in the catbird seat. The only difficulty with this scenario -- or at least I imagine it -- is that the horror, when it arises, will take place not on some distant shore, but rather in our own third-world back yard.
Do they have an app for that?