There is a natural inclination in human nature that leads us to automatically divide society into castes based a supposed belief of their nature or character or abilities. Nature or character are of course subjective perceptions leading to individualised divisions in a surrounding social group that differs from person to person. On the other hand, the judgement of abilities and the divisions that lead from it are based on observations. Humans are either thinkers or doers – they are either practical or theoretical. Each has a different capacity, a different potential and most importantly a different purpose. Accordingly, we deem some worthy and disregard the rest.
The distinction between who we value the most in society and who we don’t is a fine line created on surface judgements – what a person does in their society and what they contribute to it define how society perceives them. In an online commentary in The Times entitled “The Practical and the Theoretical”, Jason Stanley gives the example that the world of a university professor is always considered in stark contrast to the world of a plumber because they are employed in such different capacities in their daily life. The professor serves to know the truths of the world, the great ideas and theories that keep the world functioning and progressing. The plumber’s qualifications don’t serve politics or economics but practical knowledge of physical actions of carpentering. So the plumber is rendered insignificant and invaluable by the rest of society because his contribution isn’t considered as meaningful.
This begs the question, why does society diminish the value of the plumber’s skill? Why does society exercise the cliché of worshipping those who have the knowledge of literature, politics, economics, history and philosophy? Perhaps the reason for this is that the plumber’s skill is not rooted in any intellectual though (and intellect is of course considered man’s most valuable asset), but an automatic knowledge. The tennis player too(another one of Stanley’s examples) doesn’t reflect on instructions or theory but hits the ball as it comes. Both react and act, re-adjusting their reactions and actions as the situation comes. The physical nature of their work does not require the mind but practical knowledge and experience thus deeming the jock dumb and the plumber useless. However, what we as a self-absorbed, egotistical and overly judgemental species forget, is that the plumber and the tennis player are just as valuable and worthy as the professor or the philosopher. Their practical knowledge of action is based on a learned theoretical knowledge that has been mastered to the point of automatic impulse – it is too a manifestation of intelligence, albeit a different kind of intelligence. Besides, whilst the plumber may not know philosophy, the professor may not know the workings of a car, but she is not refused worth because of that.
The barrier of society that splits people as worthy or not worthy according to their aptness is then based of false, or at least misguided, assumptions. Just because a plumber doesn’t know what GDP is or who invented the theory of relativity does not render him useless, dumb or insignificant. Such barriers only highlight what knowledge or ability certain people don’t have. Such barriers only serve to alienate and divide a society which should realise its interdependency depends on these very contrasting capacities of knowledge. Both the rich, successful entrepreneur and the common cleaner, the theoretical physicist and the corner-shop repairman, the acclaimed scholar and the cab driver all add to the community in one way or another. The only difference is that one is recognised whilst the other is not. It seems then that the divisions in society are a creation of our own.