“Privilege is toxic.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
“Privilege is toxic.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
‘The Wanted Posters at the post office: you’re there, you got your package, you’re trying to mail something, this guy’s wanted in 12 states. Yeah, now what? Ok, I check the guy standing in line behind me, if it’s not him, that’s pretty much all I can do.
Why don’t they just hold on to this guy when they’re taking his picture.
“The guy’s there with you!”
“Come out from behind the camera and grab him!”
“No, we don’t do that. We take their picture, we let them go.”
“That’s how we get the front and side shot.”
“The front is his face, the side is him leaving.”‘
– Seinfeld, J. (1998). I’m Telling You For The Last Time. Broadhurst Theatre, New York: Universal Records.
‘There are many things we can point to as proof that the human being is not smart. The helmet is my personal favourite. The fact that we had to invent the helmet: why did we invent the helmet? Well, because we were participating in many activities that were cracking our heads. We looked at the situation. We chose not to avoid these activities but to just make little plastic hats so that we can continue our head cracking lifestyles.
The only thing dumber than the helmet, is the helmet law, the point of which is to protect a brain that is functioning so poorly it’s not even trying to stop the cracking of the head that it’s in.’
‘I saw a thing, actually a study that said: speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing. Number two, was death. Death is number two? This means, to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.’
‘I’ll tell you what I like about Chinese people: they’re hanging in there with the chop sticks, aren’t they? You know they’ve seen the fork. They’re staying with the sticks. I’m impressed by that.
I don’t know how they missed it. A Chinese farmer, gets up, works in the field with the shovel all day… Shovel… Spoon… Come on… There it is! You’re not ploughing 40 acres with a couple of pool cues.’
‘I’m very impressed with this seedless watermelon product that they have for us. They’ve done it. We now have seedless watermelon. Pretty amazing. What are they planting to grow the seedless watermelon, I wonder? The melons aren’t humping’, are they? They must be planting something. How does this work? And what kind of scientists do this type of work? I read this thing was 15 years in development. In the laboratories with gene splicing or, you know, whatever they do there… I mean, other scientists are working on AIDS, cancer, heart disease. These guys are going: “No, I’m going to devote myself to melon. I think that’s much more important. Sure thousands are dying needlessly but this… that’s gotta stop. Have you ever tried to pick a wet one off the floor, it’s almost impossible. I really think we should devote the money to these studies.”‘
George: Why would I spend seven dollars to see a movie that I could watch on TV?
Kramer: Well, why go to a fine restaurant, when you can just stick something in the microwave? Why go to the park and fly a kite, when you can just pop a pill?
– Seinfeld (1995) Season 7, Episode 10; “The Gum” [pc. 710]
Psychologists agree: Snobbery is not a question of tastes—no matter how old-fashioned or expensive. What makes someone a snob is the tendency to look down on others and treat them with condescension, says Leon Seltzer, a clinical psychologist in Del Mar, California.
Snobbery comes from the inside out; it’s about how you view other people. It’s one thing to spend your Saturdays at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, quite another to look down on the people at the multiplex around the corner.
At its most extreme, snobbery can be a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, a condition marked by grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a preoccupation with power and prestige. But unlike the garden-variety snob, narcissists have impaired relationships because they’re unable to enter anyone else’s world.
“People who hold important positions in society are commonly labelled “somebodies,” and their inverse “nobodies”-both of which are, of course, nonsensical descriptors, for we are all, by necessity, individuals with distinct identities and comparable claims on existence. Such words are nevertheless an apt vehicle for conveying the disparate treatment accorded to different groups.” – Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety
What drives someone to treat others as inferior? Conventional wisdom holds that overtly snobbish behaviour is born of insecurity. But research shows that snobs have no doubts about themselves; they genuinely believe they’re better than others, says John Mayer, a psychologist at the University of New Hampshire. Far from being insecure, they have higher self-esteem than others—though they’re unusually sensitive to criticism and rejection.
Snobbery may also be tied to valuing hierarchy and a drive to belong to the better group, which is distinguished from hoi polloi. People who behave snobbishly, says Ilan Shrira, a psychologist at the University of Florida, may exhibit “high social dominance orientation”—a belief that some groups of people are innately superior to others and should therefore hold more power in society. Snobs are more likely to prefer a stratified class system to an egalitarian one that allows for greater social mobility, explains Shrira. People who are snobby do not like to rub elbows with those they believe are their inferiors, he says.
Hyacinth: (to the postman) “I hope that’s a first-class stamp. I object to having second-class stamps thrust through my letterbox. I should have thought postmen would be trained to recognise first-class stamp houses.” – Clarke. R. (1993) Keeping Up Appearances
To tell if a superior demeanour indicates a more serious underlying problem, look out for all the characteristics listed below that make up a Hyacinth Bucket-like (pronounced “Bouquet”) personality:
Taken too far, snobbery can be isolating and lead to what Ilan Shrira calls the Seinfeld effect, referring to the television character’s tendency to latch on to any possible reason to break up with someone. “The problem arises when you’re unable to form satisfying relationships or achieve other goals,” he says. Someone who’s unable to relate to people unless they share identical taste in books, film, music, wine, and art may have a hard time finding a partner who meets their exacting qualifications.