“Social status can be determined in two ways; one way is through personal achievements and the other is through inheritance. There is another one called an inherent status that is generated through physical attributes like good looks, strength and athletic ability on one side, and disabilities on the other.
Social status is also coupled with status symbols which can vary from one society to another. It reflects status and a perceived indicator of wealth. Many luxury goods are considered as status symbols; clothing and possessions are among them. People aspiring to high status pursue symbols whose values vary. For example before books were printed using machines, collections of hand-copied and hand-bound books were status symbols. But later when books were more easily available their importance as status symbols waned...”
“What are you reading, Shelley?” Joy Perera watching a local soap on TV asked her husband Shelton who was reading out aloud an article that had appeared in that day’s issue of the Daily Dodger.
“Ah, that’s what Dr Emerson of the School of Social Elevation Studies of Chicago says about status and status symbols. It’s interesting I must say,” said Shelton Perera the proprietor of the Wallside Restaurant and Bar. “See what else he says. ‘Status symbols unerringly point to cultural values in a society. For instance in a commercially-based society having money, there is a propensity to buy houses, cars and modern gadgetry as status symbols. In academic circles, publications and senior positions in prestigious learning institutions are marks of high status. Awards and decorations earned by officers in the armed forces bring them status in the services. There are other symbols that bring about status. The condition and looks of the body is one; so dieting and work outs at a gym, breast implants, botox injections, liposuction, plastic surgery, manicures, coloured contact lenses, tattoos, hairdos are also considerations in status-seeking itineraries. Luxury goods are also in the picture’, “Shelton continued to read what Dr Emerson had to say. “Examples include, cars like BMWs, Jaguars, high-end SUVs, houses, country retreats, jewellery, following brands like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Chanel, Rolex and Cartier. Collections of art and antiques also make that list. They are all used as status symbols by the rich and those who wish to give the impression they are rich.”
“Rich or pretending to be rich why do people need symbols at all?” asked Joy. “People are not idiots, they can see the real money bags miles away.”
"Even a hamudurwo has succumbed to the charms of a baby jumbo he says somebody left at his asapu door"
“Sure, rich people in this country are easy to spot because they develop common tastes in ‘status symbol building’. And you know what? Status symbol building comes naturally to people who inherit such a capacity but it becomes a status hunt for those who have missed silver spoons and are desperate to make good,” laughed Shelton.
“Huh, like the ones who buy Land Cruisers on hire purchase and park them in front of their shops before they open for business,” observed Joy.
“Oh yes! In acquiring status symbols, people follow a general pattern in acquiring them; cars, the areas they live, houses, clothes and stuff, clubs, cocktail circuits, where they shop and with whom they are seen or photographed with etc., etc., But there are other people who aim to rise above the ordinary by going after exotic status symbols that place them in a superior bracket; or so they think.”
“And what are those….?” Joy asked.
“Elephants, Darlo, elephants, they are the latest status fad.”
Jumbos top the list
“Hooot, hoooot,” Ooty an owl blinked at Tommo a pussycat his pal and working partner at Shelton Perera’s establishment. “For a moment I thought bossa was referring to the development of stomachs, the bigger the better as status symbols. Ha-ha-ha, perhaps jumbos as status symbols are much dearer.”
“You are funny, but enlighten me...,” meeoowed pussy half asleep under a chair in the lounge of the Perera house.
“I was listening to bossa reading the papers. That Emerson was a suddha governor no?” The bird sounded mysterious; as if he was on to a classified secret. “No wonder he did not talk about elephants, our governor’s latest status chase. Supplying baby elephants to governors who wish to tie them to a tree in a back yard for a pompoms show; “I own an elephant; his name is Weeraya,” is a thriving business now. There are baby elephant snatchers who even kill elephant mothers to sell the small fellows to status chasers at fantastic prices; millions I have heard.”
“Purshsh, I can’t understand such cruelty,” said pussy. “What are the politiccas, wild life fellows and cops doing?”
“Thuhoot, most of them are in the jumbo game; the money is so good. Why even a hamudurwo has succumbed to the charms of a baby jumbo he says somebody left at his asapu door.”
“Ha-ha-haaaa, that’s a funny one, must have been for something religious,” pussy laughed some more.
“It’s not only a monk; even a magistrate and a judge are in the picture; damn shame, I say I am sure there are politiccas as guilty but there’s a hush-hush and a news blackout on their home-garden orphanages. That’s nothing surprising, don’t you think? Anyway, when such dramas are unfolding and elephants are crashing into villages when cramped for space resulting in elephant-human mini-wars, other governors are chasing after elephants for pageants also called peraheras. They say they can’t have them without elephants.”
“Meeooow, how many peraheras do our governors have anyway?”
“Thuhooooot! God knows. The Kandy Perahera is the most important one, but there are heaps of Devale peraheras spread throughout the country. The elephants must be getting calluses just marching never-ending miles in those hyped up parades,” hooted the bird.
“There is no question of stopping them–they have long histories and are of cultural importance,” purred pussy.
“Agreed, so what to do then?” The
“Simple; very simple; first ban all elephants being kept in the back gardens of wallawwas, in temples, estates and houses of politiccas and other biggies collecting live status symbols just to show how important and rich they are. Also ban them being used for work like pulling, pushing and loading logs and things and performing in zoo circuses. I heard that jumbos are poked and pricked no end when being trained to sit on tiny stools, stand on one leg, march trunk to tail, clamber on a neigbhour’s back and dance an elephant twist in slow motion. It is demeaning; elephants are majestic animals and have rights. If elephants are a must for our governors’ peraheras there should be an elephant to take part in them. Call it a special perahera brigade if you like. In fact there should be more than one brigade so that the jumbos can be rotated without marching a few available ones from one perahera to another literally out of their minds. And they should be rested, fed, bathed and looked after. The government has to take that responsibility. Elephants are national assets, and should not be left in the hands of governors who only treat them as ego-boosting trophies,” purred pussy.
“Thuhoot; so what’s keeping our governors’ lokkas doing what has to be done? Some even say elephants are going extinct.”
“Aaaaah! Plain lack of grey matter, will and guts to face those who may not agree with its decisions. And the way things have been sliding, I wonder for how much longer jumbos will be around. One day our governors will have to make do with peraheras without their star performers–elephants.”
"Supplying baby elephants to governors who wish to tie them to a tree in a back yard for a pompoms show; “I own an elephant; his name is Weeraya,” is a thriving business now "