Chapter one (part sample)
KEEPING UP WITH THE SMITHS, THE JONESES, THE CHANS AND THE FLOREANIS
Let us begin by putting to rest once and for all this silly nonsense, still occasionally trotted out and bandied about by the drab and the dreary, that Australia is some sort of classless society and Australians don't give a damn about such things as social status and keeping up appearances. Of course we have a social system. And of course how we present ourselves in the social arena is important to us, all of us, in one way or another. An egalitarian society we may be, but this certainly doesn't mean we all march to the same drum-beat.
After all, why else do we feverishly battle for recognition in the business, professional or artistic fields; buy new cars we can't really afford; move to smarter suburbs; wrestle with the problems of wine lists and how to pronounce those wretched French and Italian dishes, and anguish over what is in and what is out in the fashion world? Yes, we do it because we have always had this innate need to express ourselves. To make our mark. To knock the stuffing out of that mob next door, dammit! It is part of human nature. There is more to life than plain existence.
However, in Australia today there are some folk who can become decidedly twitchy whenever a class system is mentioned. Not that they are uneasy with the system itself, mind you. They know a pecking order exists, and they certainly want a piece of the action, it is just that the terms social status and class are, in themselves, too snooty sounding, too pretentious, smacking too much of them-and-us for their egalitarian ears. It is as if the forces of damnation will be upon them if they dare broach such topics.
As a result, these discerning souls have found a way round this tricky problem for them by viewing the Australian social mores in terms of lifestyle. Ah yes, a quality lifestyle, that's something to which we can all aspire, say these true-blues now feeling very pleased with having sufficiently muddied the social waters and come up with a more acceptable means of portraying themselves. Which is fine, and maybe more in keeping with our 21stcentury views. But it makes no difference: social status, class and lifestyle (in a social sense) remain one and the same thing. Changing the name does not change the rules. Lifestyle is simply another way of determining the modern social set-up or, if you prefer, how we all scrub up.
And 'lifestyle' is of course the overall title (and aim) of this little book.
Nevertheless, in the text I've remained, in the main, with the
conventional social form, principally because it is still the only clear way of
defining the various lifestyles and what makes them tick.
Thus we have an upper-middle-class lifestyle, a middle-class lifestyle
and so on. And not forgetting, of
course, that wondrous mode of living that is often the
dream of many: the lifestyle of the rich and famous…
To sum up
Yes, it is our lifestyle that announces who we are and what we are like. It reveals our personalities and reinforces our sense of identity.
And come on, aren’t you more than a little curious to find out how you shape up against the rest of the mob, in this great adventure we call life?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here is a photograph of Peter …
… and this is how he got that way:
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