Welcome to our Downton Abbey.

In reliving the period from before the First World War to the mid 1920s, the television series Downton Abbey was often criticized for not being more critical of the pomp and puffery of the British class system, of the time. Instead, the series showed the interdependence of the classes in artificially sustaining the declining class system. I think there is a similar class schism becoming apparent in North American society during the current coronavirus concern.

And yes, there is a class structure in North America of the 21st Century. I am no anthropologist, but a lecture I sat through as a very young person, has stuck with me all my life. The lecturer had colored charts to show the gradual movement of upper-class Torontonians over the years since Confederation. With today’s more ethnically split upper class, there would have to be more colors used in the charts.

But it is the many pockets in the Greater Toronto Area of desperation and impoverishment, that need our attention. And just think of the conditions in the city without those disappearing pockets? How often have you actually looked at that clerk completing your store transaction? That person probably works for our disgusting minimum wage. Do you know who the person is who empties your waste basket at work? When was the last time you really looked at the people doing the menial work that keeps our modern society from drowning in its own waste?

And has it ever been more important to recognize those people cleaning our hospitals and public spaces? We have to start caring. We have to be concerned. We are not all sitting around at home, bored out of our minds. Who is keeping the food stuffs moving? Who is growing the food? Who are the people keeping the lights on? Our phones and Internet working? We have a long way to go before the robots take over.

In the Downton Abbey series, we saw how the people below stairs supported those above, and vice-versa. When later anthropologists speak of our generations’ one per cent, will they be as kind to them?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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