Social Class, Tea, and Shame

In his typically intricate way, Andrew Sayer (in The Moral Significance of Class) writes:

The struggle of subordinated groups for self-respect is particularly likely to lead to contradictory dispositions and opinions. They may try to make a virtue out of their position and their toughness and fortitude in bearing burdens, at the same time as they feel shame about having to bear those burdens. …

Such mixtures of shame and defensiveness and defiant pride are typical of situations in which people have to seek self-respect in circumstances that are not of their own choosing. …The shame that can sometimes be a product of situations beyond actors’ control is vitally important for understanding the experience of class.

He goes on to describe how challenges to self-respect can come in forms as subtle as slightly grimaced smiles or “physical drawing back” from an object of distaste.

I thought of such dynamics as I wondered about how those who just wanted a cup of tea might have blogged their own version of being served their “cuppa” by this educated young woman who chose to work for a time as a waitress in their cafe.

If only those complex, contradictory feelings of defensiveness and defiant pride were clear enough to name as they occur. And if only it were clear how one can possibly respond to those many slightly grimaced smiles.

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