Thursday, April 11, 2013

Exclusivity...Do Not Like...

If you've ever seen "Inside the Actors Studio", you know about The Questionnaire". This is a set of ten questions that host James Lipton poses to each of his guests at the conclusion of his interview with them, before they take questions of the audience, which is made up of students in acting, writing, and directing. Lipton's set of questions is an adaptation from a similar list created by French television presenter Bernard Pivot, which was itself inspired by something called the Proust Questionnaire (go look it up).

What, you're probably asking yourself now, does this have to do with anything?

I was reading something yesterday that reminded me of the second question of Lipton's list: "What is your least favorite word?" The reminder came because I ran into one of my least favorite words (what? I'm a writer, I have more than one least favorite, as well as more than one favorite, word). That word is "exclusive".

Merriam-Webster online offers several definitions of the word "exclusive". The very first one is "Excluding or having power to exclude". Others include "Excluding others from participation", "snobbishly aloof", and "accepting or soliciting only a socially restricted patronage (as of the upper class)".

Now, I ask you, how is any of this good? Leaving people out - because of how much money they have, or because of their religion or ethnic background or how they wear their hair or for any other arbitrary reason - is not, as far as I'm concerned, something to be proud of. Yet many people are. They talk about the exclusive club they belong to, or to the exclusive restaurant they ate at last week, or the exclusive college they attended as if these are good things.

They aren't, really. They're all just ways of people trying to assert that they're better than others, are entitled to special stuff that others don't deserve, and are just more deserving than all but a few others they want to be assoicated with.

I guess my point of view on this comes from the fact that I'm more of a "the more the merrier" kind of person. I like diversity. I like being around a lot of different kinds of people. I was also raised to believe that no one is any better than anyone else just because of where their ancestors came from or how much money they have or what social class they belong to or which political party or religion they espouse or what job they have (or don't have).

I know that this isn't always a popular point of view. We live in a culture here in the United States where, for all of our insistence that we don't have a "class system", many of us spend a lot of time trying to collect what I think of as "presitge points" and striving to be considered part of some elite. It used to be called "keeping up with the Joneses". Maybe it still is. It has a lot to do with being seen in the right places, with the right people, and presenting the appearance of having a lot of material stuff, whether we do or not. The truth is, our capitalist economy encourages things like conspicuous consumption, and that feeds into the "exclusivity" mindset as well.

It all just irritates me. I suppose some would say that is just because I'm near the bottom of the ladder. I don't have the means to engage in conspicuous consumption. I don't know a lot of powerful people. I didn't go to an Ivy League university. Perhaps worst of all, from others' point of view, I don't aspire to the ladder of "ever more". I don't want all the money, all the things, all the power. I don't aspire to belonging to the country club. I don't aspire to being part of the jet set (wow, that's a Sixties phrase, isn't it?). I don't want a position of power so that I can tell other people how to live their lives. I just want to be able to earn a living, to be able to have a roof over my head and food on the table and clothes to wear. They don't have to be the fanciest clothes, or the fanciest food, or a roof in the most prestigious neighborhood.

No, I don't think exclusivity is a neat thing.

I much prefer including as many people as want to be included in any particular thing. It's much more interesting.

Now, back to the list. Here is the complete list of Lipton's questions:

1.What is your favorite word?
2.What is your least favorite word?
3.What turns you on?
4.What turns you off?
5.What sound or noise do you love?
6.What sound or noise do you hate?
7.What is your favorite curse word?
8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
9.What profession would you not like to do?
10.If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

My question to all of you is, how would you answer these questions? Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll post my answers tomorrow.

No comments: