Sherlock and Social Class

I’ve been catching up on the BBC’s Sherlock series, and without giving anything away, there was a point in last night’s binge-streaming where, even though it was clear from the Netflix menu that there were many more episodes, it appeared as if All Was Lost for our hero.  Without saying too much for those who have not yet indulged, gravity seemed very obviously to have done Sherlock in for good.

And of course there were more episodes.  That’s not a spoiler.   So what happened?

The writers are teasing the audience by playing out various possible scenarios.  SPOILER:  I’ll try to be vague, but do jump down the the Education and Class point below if you’re concerned.

In one scenario, a huge team of co-conspirators had been waiting in the wings to seamlessly put everything in place and then disappear from view.

One possible scenario included a huge cushion, invisible to almost everyone, in place at the key moment and then whisked out of sight.

So before this gets too obvious, let me get to my point.

The Education and Class part:

Earlier in the evening, I’d been at a dinner with a group of great people.  One young woman was describing with some awe  a project at work.  The details were amazing.  The scope of the work was impressive.  The location where this will all be is perfect.  The rare opportunity for this young woman to stretch her professional wings was clear.  The whole venture was obviously a pretty big adventure.    So I finally asked: “Who’s the client”.

My young acquaintance  described a woman who had recently moved here from the East Coast, who has some success in an arts field and is now opening an innovative small  business in that field.

“She’s just going for it”,  my young friend said, and around the table there were thoughtful nods, and not a few quiet sighs (including mine) as we thought about how we never did just “go for it”.

The young woman’s husband honored the quiet for a few seconds and then said,

“And of course there’s her husband who works for [major local tech company].

And the young woman added “yeah, and he’s no older than me”.

So social class (or at least the possession of wealth) operates a whole lot like that teaser in the Sherlock episode I watched last night.  It seemed so clear that Sherlock was all alone out there.  There was no other obvious explanation.   And it’s only by digging a bit more deeply, asking questions, refusing to believe that what actually happens there before our eyes, lifting the curtain in the possibility that the power of the wizard is overblown — only then does wealth and  social class becomes visible.

What looks like someone bravely “going for it” in ways that we might never be brave enough to do may actually be the tip of the iceberg of a complex system of support that ensures that we’ll survive, that having a huge cushion makes it easier to leap, that while it’s great fun to watch all of this unfold on a TV show, it is less fun to share in a moment of quiet self-doubt around a dinner table as people wonder why they didn’t just “go for it”.

Sherlock tends to gloat.  Much of this is deserved.

But he *knows* that the difference between himself and others is the big blue cushion that was in place.

The wealthy sometimes aren’t that self-aware.

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