As someone who's constantly swerving between working and middle class, I'm obsessed with taste. And by that I mean I'm obsessed with what exactly 'good' taste consists of. There was a time when I thought those with Good Taste took a second look and generally understood what others didn't. They got it. And they got it in a way a pure plebeian fellow like myself would never understand. But, the more I asked around, the more I found that good taste is nothing more a combination of consensus opinion, shared knowledge (AKA friend glue), ethnocentricity, pre-held beliefs and prejudices. Basically, Good Taste is usually just a confirmation that hey, you're an ok person. You get it. You're in.
Also, what I've started to realise lately is how much ethnocentricity played into these beliefs. As a child of immigrants my cultural capital isn't viewed as important, just exotic. Something you ask about when you feeling wacky, but nothing more. I often heard people state that they're into 'French culture'. What they want to say is 'I'm smart, so I'm into French culture'. It's the shortcut to sophistication. And people say this in a way I've never heard anyone talk about Nigerian culture (or any African country for that matter). When people do look at other cultures they usually do a "look at these nutters!!!' take on it (See: any issue of Vice). But when the culture is a, for lack of a better word, proven one*, everything is looked at with respect.
I've always wondered why this was so. What makes one culture more sophisticated than another, other than your view of it? And just how much does people's unspoken prejudices and beliefs play into how they accept culture in totality? That's what I aim to look at with this ongoing series which I'll be updating semi-regularly.
*proven as in respected by the right people
Next up in series: Bret Easton Ellis