The pandemic has given rise to two types of snobs. I should say two more, actually, for the range of snobs is wide. Now we can add to that list the mask-wearing snob, and the mask-resisting snob.
The former thinks he is saving the world. The latter expects the world to save him. Both these groups, however, keep changing sides depending on which of the two have fewer adherents. For that is the snob’s dream – to belong to a smaller, and therefore more exclusive group.
For long it was thought that snobbery was a class issue, and later, a money issue. The French writer Balzac wrote, "A man may be despised, but not his money." Then not having money allowed a snob to look down on people who did have it. "It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money," wrote Albert Camus more than a century later – the time it took for the definition to change angles.
Cultural snobs are easier to imagine. It is the difference between following Kim Kardashian and Alice Munro; between kitsch and ‘art’. Language snobs make sure they do not end a sentence with ‘with’. Or any other preposition.
You get the idea: snobs look down on people who do things they want to do, enjoy stuff they want to enjoy.
The mask-wearer thinks wearing a mask makes him (or her, let’s not forget her) mature, intelligent, in control, altruistic, post-modern, post-viral. And superior. And he thinks the non-wearer is immature, a danger to humanity, cares only for looking good, selfish, pre-modern, pre-viral, and desperately in need of psychological assistance.
The anti-mask person thinks the wearer is old, has co-morbidities, is an adherent of fake news, needlessly scared of something he can’t see. He himself, meanwhile is mature, intelligent, post-modern. And superior
This feeling of superiority creates snobs. Everybody is a snob in some way or the other.
When the American President said, "Science knows nothing," he was being an intellectual snob and when he said that he had up-played the virus, he was being a language snob – for snobbery can be anti-thought too. That is overstandable.
I am a mask-wearing snob. My heart leaps – rather like Wordsworth’s did when he saw a rainbow – when I see an uncovered face. What also leaps is my fist, which seems to develop a mind of its own and wants to make forceful contact with the unattended nose or lips.
The garden variety snob – say, the musical kind – is to be pitied rather than censured. But the mask-averse snob? He should be forced to watch reruns of Keeping Up with The Kardashians till he begs for mercy – through a mask.