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snobs and yobs

A yob is someone who appears aggressively low status. A snob is someone high status. But actually the yob employs 'high status' tricks- noise, aggression to counter the implied higher status of the snob. It's important to see that status is not about 'social standing', it is about the human pecking order in any interaction at the moment it happens. Quiet snobs often act 'low status'- all averted eyes and crumpled posture, whilst a cocky yob just oozes 'high status'...unless he gets over awed.

Both hope to maintain as permanent their status (and the all important attention that comes with it). Status can get you attention, and being the centre of attention can accrue status so we confuse them. But attention is a human need, whereas status is not, it's just a mechanism for getting attention. Which is why status manipulation gets you even more attention than playing a single status role- Prince plays pauper, rapper crim meets royalty. So called status anxiety is usually a fear that you won't get your all important attention fix by employing your usual behavioural tropes.

But some folk realise there are more ways to get attention than straitjacketing yourself into some boneheaded social role. Beyond real and demonstrable competence status is a fiction, the emperor's new clothes- which is why all attempts to dethrone set-status roles are a form of truth telling...and often hilarious. When I give talks to kids there is always one who wants to know how you go to the loo in the desert. Dethrone the expert- it's hilarious. We know it's true because it is funny. Humour is evolution's gift for keeping us on track with truth. It's a reward for seeing things as they really are. The role of the fool in the medieval court was precise- a truth teller who could disrupt the inanities of fixed status without damaging the functionality of the King.

Real friendship occurs when status is a fluid game and not a fixed 'reality'. The real secret lies in the fact that status games get you way more attention than do fixed status roles. You act 'low status' by bringing someone a cup of tea in the morning. You act high status by putting on a posh voice. You get attention both times- a lot more than being repetitively predictably high or low status. But there are limits. I remember I once acted low status by being the car park attendant at a party. It seemed immensely funny until someone actually thought it was real and gave me the 'normal' attention allowance of such a role instead of the vastly enhanced attention you get by paying status games. I was fuming!

It's worth playing status games for fun and observational value. Today I was walking along and a couple were talking loudly and acting 'high status' in their new walking boots and goretex gear as they approached me dressed as I was in old clothes . Normally such behaviour works to shrink me into a low status role- observer, bystander, not the main role. Instead I sort of raised myself up and looked imperiously about owning all I saw, my head held very still, my stride full of vim; and sure enough they ceased their chatter and sort of humbled past me- gratefully returning my was, in short, amazing.

Yobs and snobs are, like most of us, in thrall to set patterns of behaviour. They understand one thing better than a 'normal' person though: there is no neutral position. You are, at any moment, either higher or lower status than those you are mixing with, but it can vary a lot within even one conversation. Nothing is really ever set in stone. The secret I suspect is not to try and hang on to it- just allow status to wax and wane as required.

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