Hierarchy and communication

We watched through to the final episode of Edwardian House yesterday. It was not only beautifully filmed and edited, but it was also eye-opening to see just how much society has changed in 100 years.

Not unexpectedly, the 'servants' were pretty happy to go home. They were tired after working harder and longer than they had ever done in their lives. But the 'Lord and Lady' of the house cried real tears.

"I'm born to this," said Lady Olliffe-Cooper. Sir John said, "Democracy can be taken too far. Edwardian times worked."

The family left the house first, and, somewhat ironically gave the servants all warm hugs and handshakes in turn. The servants were not won over.

"They don't know us," said one of the housemaids. We know everything about them, but they know nothing about us."

In fact, Sir John went 'downstairs' for the first time on the last night of his three month stay. He never addressed the lower servants directly, and he punished them at various points for slight misdeeds.

Life was definitely a lot better on the top of the pile. Those at the bottom suffered, but they couldn't say how they really felt. The opinions of the people in power were the only ones that mattered.

The Butler's final assessment of the upstairs/downstairs split was this:

"There's no doubt about it. A strict hierarchy does work. But it is at the cost of communication. And when a society cannot tell the truth, it is a sick society."

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