[This post is dedicated to the playwright from Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing
, who was gifted, but liked listening to The Monkees’ I’m a Believer
Psychologists have found out that the music young people listen to can tell (almost exactly) who they are. In simple terms, if you’re a jazz aficionado, you’re probably a very brainy person. If you like pop, you don’t like overcomplicating things. If you like dance or soul, your tongue is likely to be your enemy. If, however, you’re a fan of gangsta rap, it’s very possible that you’re timid by nature.
Music, claims an article by Lane Jennings in The Futurist (vol. 39, 2005), is forming the communities, and portals like Last.fm and, of course, My Space, certainly prove the point. But, personally, I have reservations about the idea that it is iPods and iTunes that are causing this change. Rather, they ferment or even bring to the surface the long-existing tendency. And we’ve become more aware of it because fans don’t have to travel miles to the annual meeting of Ella Fitzgerald or ABBA fan clubs – they can simply meet online as often as they like.
To test the findings, follow this link, to listen to The Wicked and Unfaithful Song of Marcel Duchamp to His Queen. The text of the poem was written by Paul Carroll, and was put to music by John Austin. Feel free to tell us what it made you discover about yourself.
[In case if the link doesn’t work, please go to www.toutfait.com, to ‘Music’ folder, and look for ‘The Wicked and Unfaithful Song…’ in the list of works. I do hope, however, that the above link will take you there directly].
Another researcher’s findings (in the article by Kathy Lane in The Mail on Sunday, April 2004) have revealed that in England your eating habits stand for your social status. Apparently, if you’re an upper-middle-class person you won’t be seen dead eating bacon and chip butties, prawn cocktail with Marie-Rose sauce, or rice salads with sweetcorn – typically working-class or lower-middle-class foods. [Strictly speaking, you may indulge in any of these, but only if you’re socially secure enough to be eccentric].
Then, of course, we can bring the whole bunch of food advice in the picture, and it will turn out that the lower classes shop for ready-made foods in cheap supermarkets, while the upper branches shop for organic and ‘healthy’ foods in more expensive stores, or even have their friendly butcher and greengrocer.
It all looks kind of funny and superficial if we take this simply as the reflection of class differences in food consumption. However, I was astounded to read a booklet containing advice on healthy eating for those who suffer from MS (multiple sclerosis). This is the list of products they were not supposed to have: lard, butter, cream of soups, caffein, and – most importantly – fish in batter and chips.
Why ‘most importantly’? Because all of us who’ve been to England at least once already know that fish in batter and chips are one of the favourite English meals, especially in the North. As a matter of fact, the statistics show that the Northerners are more often affected by MS that the Southerners. I asked a representative of one MS Care Centre in South Manchester, if the food guidelines for the MS sufferers can also be used as general guidelines for MS prevention. His answer was ‘yes’. ‘Then doesn’t it look like’, I asked, ‘that the favourite Northern food may also be the cause of MS?’ I would like to be wrong, but I felt that his ‘yes’ to my question contained a lot of astonishment.
So, eating habits evidently define much more than just your social status, which sounds quite commonsensical, and is exactly what Jamie Oliver has been uttering for a long while. Perhaps, then, it is time to do something about it?
What you say and how you say it is also manifestant of your class background. Two years ago I was returning to Manchester from my research spell in London. It was an evening train, and in the carriage there was this group of young office workers, two men and two women. They were talking loudly, and eventually I heard one man, speaking in RP [Received Pronunciation, also known as the Queen’s English], explaining to a woman, how he could tell her social background. She referred to her father as ‘Dad’, which gave away her not-so-high social status. If she was posh, he explained, she’d call her parent ‘Father’.
Until now we may be thinking that everything that is written here may or may not be true. In the end of the day, the egalitarians will say that people must not be judged by the music they listen or by the words they use in their speech. On the other hand, all people like coming together in groups, and the entering criteria must be defined. So, whether one likes this or not, if there are people who want to be ‘upper-middle-class’, there will always be those who don’t fall into the category.
However, reading habits is my most favourite example of how little reading tells about who you are. To define people by their bookshelf is totally futile, because they may be buying books simply to decorate the room or to impress the visitors. Such thing as the entire edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica standing in the most prominent place in someone’s study never means that the owner has actually read it.
Then there are people who read Dan Brown and Gabriel Garcia Marquez with the same degree of pleasure. There are also people who we’d assume are very cultivated because they listen to Antonio Caldara (an Italian Baroque composer) and read Martin Heidegger. I’d imagine that reading Heidegger’s musings on language would at least make one more attentive and sensitive to their own speech. And yet, I’ve been proved wrong.