Monday, July 6, 2009
A Simplified Perspective
Perspective may be defined as "a reference from which to sense, categorize or measure experience, cohesively forming a coherent belief, typically for comparing with another." Human perspective leads to a value system and an associated belief system. An individual point of view, or perspective, would take into account those things that a person wants, needs or feels. For example, the eye employs a perspective to relay relative significance to the brain for subjective interpretations based on personal experience. To simplify understanding of this concept, I think of social perspective on three broad levels of interpretation. Many view societal class as low, middle, or high. Certainly, people form perspectives about these classes of people according to their income, occupation, education, and family background. Just as important, people within a class develop these perspectives of themselves as they adopt stylistic traits of manners and reputations associated with their class. In America, people often move from class to class as they acquire or lose the necessary commodities to enter new ranks; however, to remain a member of a particular class, they must continue to display qualities that justify the favor or detriment of such entry. As temporary or permanent members of a low, middle, or high rank, these same people invariably form views of the powerful and the powerless around them. Lows must look up to see different perspectives. They are the class below average eye level. Most know that products below eye level in a store usually receive their position as less powerful "unbrand" stocks. In addition to being unrecognizable, Lows fall fairly easy prey to those more careless individuals who may stumble over them because they inadvertently "got in the way." To constantly look down upon Lows, the middle and the high perspectives risk loss of dignity and respect. The Lows justify their distrust of the other perspectives' desires to credit their existence in terms of anything but fear and pity. To be living as a "low life" connotes degrees of failure and surviving a "meat and potatoes" existence through basic, instinctual behaviors. Middles, on the other hand, operate at eye level. A comfort zone existence allows them to have associates in the other classes but to consider themselves as average Joes. True, their perspective must adjust to low and high (up and down) concerns, but being in the middle insulates them from positions they often view as extremes. Middles tend to understand part of their daily environment is spent dealing with the Lows at their feet and the Highs above their head. Occasionally glancing up and down to check social classes, they don't usually fear a fall while generally believing a rise just "isn't in the cards." In addition, their attention to and their concentration on the many changing sights at eye-level perspective is the necessary view to safeguard their immediate survival. From a viewpoint of strength in numbers, Middles may see themselves as opinion makers, but seldom confront the reality that they constantly look up to the Highs for leadership, critical opinion, and expertise while stubbornly dispelling the Lows as know-nothings. Highs get most of their perspective by looking down at the Middles and the Lows. Even when Highs examine the view of other Highs, they enviously look up to find something above that they might lack. Highs find the perspective of Lows at their feet very difficult to perceive because of their distance from the subject. Constantly aware of the eye-level Middles desirous of rising above, highs realize their lofty existence status depends on a keen observance and reaction to those things that differentiate them from their nearest class competition. Highs' unique, above-eye-level view often makes them feel as if their station makes them the providers of privileges and rules that keep the rest of society civil and cultured. Highs also gain prestige and influence as they share their powers of knowledge with others for a handsome price. Lows, Middles, and Highs stratify society from within and from without. Most public attention is given to those who manage a move involving the two extreme levels-- either high to low, or low to high. These dramatic changes create interest because of the unlikelihood of their occurrence. Whether these events represent the American tragedy or the American dream, others note the mechanics of the shifts. The vehicles of change seem to be stereotypical as gluttony and desire fatten falls and industry and intelligence fuel advancement. Perspective from any point of view does not have to involve displeasure or hatred of an apparent class system. My preference is that people accept an acknowledgement of their personal perspective as only one look from within a class and only one look about another class. Human nature does drive prejudices and stereotypes about others, but these broad views do no justice to the individual being judged or to the judge himself.