Friday, July 12, 2013

Brahmin Class

I’m flying from Nashville to Washington DC on my way to teach at one of the most loving retreat centers in the world: Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT.

I’m flying coach on US Airways, and cannot help but reflect on the American Caste System. Six rows ahead of me are the Brahmins of the sky. These first class passengers have seats with cushions, while my butt sits on a rock-hard steal and plastic frame. My part of the plane is being buffeted by choppy air, and I fear I will once again face my breakfast. First class folks aren’t bobbing at all. I think their thick leather chairs are taking most of the impact, and they are oblivious to the fact that we would have a smoother ride if we were driving a Jeep Wrangler over a highway built of railroad ties.

Knowing that turbulence might send a bunch of passengers to the rest room, the flight attendant gets on the intercom to make it very clear to us that Second Class folks can have no access to the First Class toilet. It was the second time we were told this. I don’t know why they worry, the two Classes are separated by a curtain. It might as well be the Berlin Wall.

The stewardess just came by to pick up empty drink cups, and the lady sitting next to me complains, “My water was the worst water I have ever tasted.” The stewardess suggested it wasn’t the water but the ice that was at fault. Somehow that seemed to placate the woman. In Brahmin Class they are drinking Perrier.

I have never flown Brahmin Class. I don’t know if I would even if I could. I mean how difficult it must be to get on the plane first, sit in plush leather seats eating warm cashews and drinking Diet Coke, and have Second Class folks walk by you on their way to airplane Hell. I would feel too guilty. I’d keep offering to switch seats with these folks. I’d…. Who am I kidding?

By the time I downed the second warm cashew and licked the salt off my fingers I’d wouldn’t give the second class a second thought. But as I settled into a pampered flight to wherever, I would pledge allegiance to my fellow Brahmins and pledge my life in defense of my First Class toilet.

I can dream, can’t I?


Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Here again we see that Rabbi Rami must incorporate complaining in seemingly every mundane event of life.

Instead of complaining perhaps an attitude of gratitude would be much more conducive to spiritual Growth.

One could for example meditate on gratitude for the many hundreds of people who make sure the plane is safe.

one could meditate on gratitude that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has provided wonderful weather forecast to allow the flight to be successful.

One could meditate on the kindness of the stewardesses in bringing the water and peanuts.

Instead poor Rami Shapiro is sitting two or three hours on an airplane stewing in discomfort and ruminating upon the on fairness of the class for task structure in the United States in a manner befitting a prepubescent adolescent.

As Doestayevsky once perspicaciously
noted: some will see a field of Diamonds and others will see a field of s**t.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Correction : ruminating on the unfairness of the class or caste structure in the United States.

alexis donkin said...

I feel like your experience on the plane is just an understated microcosm of the greater American experience.

Currently I'm struggling with the cruel level of American inequality, and its immorality. I very much feel the power of the veil of separation between classes.

Still, thinking about these things is good. That's the only way we can figure out solutions that give the people around us dignity and honor, despite their social or economic standing. Do I think people shouldn't have some rewards for their hard work? No. Do I think people should be penalized because of an accident of birth or being the victim of difficult circumstances? No. A balance must be struck.

Perhaps the beginning is peeling back that curtain.

SoDakSunshine said...

Mordechai.. though your meditation suggestions are excellent, you missed the entire point of this narrative which I understand as this: While we proudly (if not self-righteously) quote the highly valued "all are created equal" U.S. standard, we still retain a bit of the "back of the bus" inequality among the haves and have nots, though that is not to say all first class passengers are those who "have." And just when we think we wouldn't EVER be that way, i.e. like a Pharisee, we are most honest if we admit that we probably would be JUST like that--even if just momentarily. Human nature.

Erick Reynolds said...

The airline industry has been an interesting display of the counter intuitive impact of de-regulation and increased free enterprise competition. In the highly regulated days, airlines were assigned markets, routes, and ticket pricing. The only way to compete was better service, nicer meals, and cuter stewardesses. With the new market, there has been a race to the bottom as frankly the people in the back of the plane bid to find the cheapest seat. The people in front are actually paying for the airline to be in business. The people in back are just making sure the plane is full, because a little money is better than an empty seat. The airline wants the people in front as repeat customers, the people in back are just occupants. If you want better service, pay $990 instead of $199. As a general rule you get what you pay for. Don’t go to McDonalds and complain you can’t get a Ruth Chris steak for $1.99.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

"Mordecai you missed the entire point"

I think not? once it was thought that an injustice occurred when a black man was not given the right to vote. These are things about which we should get exercised.

What is it that Rami gets exercised about? He cannot use the first class bathroom and the seats in fist class are more comfortable. Of course he is on the plane for a mere 60-90 minutes. He is not deprived of a bathroom but just cant use the first class bathroom. It cannot be said that the seat in coach class are really uncomfortable but they are not as comfortable as first class seats.

Rami is seeking to find injustice and oppression in all of this?

Understanding the following joke is understanding of Romi's mind:

A Russian peasant is quite poor and has only one pig. His neighbor is also quite poor but has two pigs. the magic Russian Genie appears. he says to the poorer Russian peasant with one pig: "I sell grant you any wish." The poorer Russian peasant replies: "kill one of my neighbor's pigs.

Understanding this joke is understanding Rami.

SoDakSunshine said...

Mordechai, your mind needs a little more exercise. Yeah; you did miss the entire point. And mine. Why do you bother to read this blog if you disagree so much with Rabbi Rami? Grab some bacon off that poor dead pig.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...


So now you devolve into a statement with antisemitic implications: "grab some bacon off that dead pig".

Opinions as two issues may be diametrically opposed but once we resort to such things as racism, hatred, and anti-semitism we lose the argument entirely and descend to the most base and disgusting aspects of human nature.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

As my grandfather used to say: if you scratch the surface on many people you will see the exposed anti-semite. Hence your comment to a Jew inviting him to eat bacon is one with anti-semitic overtones.

But as Rami likes to mock orthodox Jewish practice (see his posts about self-locking doors, separate areas of prayer for men and women in synagogues, comparing orthodox Jew to donkeys laden with books from the Koran, etc.) one can see how he is likely to attract your ilk.

There is nothing like Jews mocking other (Orthodox) Jews that can give gentiles a cheap laugh.