A Personal View

I am a white working class person from a traditional working class two up two down houses neighbourhood in a Northern English city. No big deal there. I am very much an ordinary bloke, and happy to be so. I am also educated, literate, cultured, very much interested in current affairs and have two degrees and many hobbies and interests. Educationally at least, I am probably more educated and literate than many middle class people. And I enjoy that fact. Education is the great leveller and can lift the poorest person up and enable him or her to rub shoulders with anyone who is perceived to be from a higher social class background, or indeed anyone from any background or walk of life. I wonder if this is why the coalition government tripled the cost of education?
 
In the last couple of decades or so, and perhaps really since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, there has been a stoking of the old class resentments between the middle class and the working class. Mr’s Thatcher called the miners ‘the enemy within’, but many people may have felt she was referring to a militant working class, or even ordinary working class people, working class communities, and whatever is or was defined as working class culture. Later, Tony Blair, under the auspices of a Labour government, proclaimed that we were now ‘all middle class’ which seemed to be code for abandoning the working class and embracing middle England and middle class concerns, basically the same people who probably vote Tory. Numbers of working class people felt betrayed, my dad one of them, and I know of many working class people voting UKIP, not because they have a big ‘thang’ for Nigel Farage or his views or proposed policies, but mostly as a protest vote against the Labour party and the fact that many working class people’s concerns about immigration, particularly having to compete with immigrants for jobs, housing, school places and so on, were not being listened to. It actually became ‘racist’ to make such statements for a long time, until it festered and now everyone is talking about immigration.
 
It seems that it is ok for the middle class liberal left to be concerned about poor immigrants, but not for the poor white working class though, who the liberals jeer at almost pathologically at even the mildest protests of the fears of open door immigration, yet government policy is to almost unceremoniously dump immigrants in the poor parts of working class towns like Darlington and far from the affluent South East of England. Concern, as such, ends when they are here it seems. No doubt me even bringing this up will elicit cries of racism and prejudice etc, but we need to talk honestly and openly about this. I am descended from poor Irish immigrants myself, so I have no particular problem with immigration, and when the Irish came here, after hundreds of years of mismanagement, racism, oppression and at worst the genocides and the famine whilst under British rule, they were also treated very badly by all kinds of English people and demonization from the scientific community and media of the day. Google ‘Irish racism’ some time and have a look.
 
Anyway, my ire is not aimed at immigrants, it is aimed at the divisive nature of much that passes for the equality movement in the UK, and the way that whilst racism, sexism, homophobia, attacks on the transgender community and attacks on immigrants, and other injustices, are often roundly condemned by the mainstream media and even newspapers and on equality organisation websites, very rarely if ever do you see any challenge of the growing prejudice and discrimination against white working class people, who make up the majority of people suffering economically under this government. It is the biggest elephant in the room of the so called equality movements and many of us who are clued up and white and working class, can only conclude that most of those equality movements are in the main made up of white middle class people, who are more concerned with not mentioning class discrimination for fear of having to examine their own motives, rather than truly actually being concerned for anyone else. The equality movement seems on the whole to be rather like the worst of the charity industry, which more and more appears to be filled with affluent middle class left leaning liberals who make all the right noises, forge a nice career for themselves, and in actual fact seem to do very little of value for anyone else. This seems particularly when it comes to looking at class discrimination, and the economic injustice that underpins it all.
 
Now, I am aware that some people could take offense at some or all of the above, but this is after many times of my writing to a number of well established equal rights organisations about the fact that few if any of them mention class discrimination as an issue. Again and again, I wrote asking why class wasn’t even on their radar, but in virtually every case, apart from the Equality Trust, who were very nice and honest and helpful, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who replied to me once and then never replied again, I was completely ignored. I’m not angry about this, as it serves no point, but I have decided to include it here to let other people reading this make up their own minds about why I was simply not replied to time and time again to organisations claiming to be about promoting equality but ignoring me when I was merely asking a simple question. If I am being honest, it is very likely that most of those people in those organisations are middle class people who have no interest in raising the issue of poor white working class people because they have little in common with them, and perhaps because some of them may be prejudiced and discriminatory against working class people.
 
I will be honest, I have struggled with class resentment against middle class people before today, and it is something that I see as ultimately futile and as negative as the same prejudice I am accusing some middle class people of. The only difference, of course, is that I am not working for an organisation that is supposed to be about promoting equality for disenfranchised people. My prejudices only harmed myself. Instead of being angry, I have decided to be merely honest. The prejudices of people in positions of power affect other people, as well as diminish themselves. By not being truthful, everything that organisation then does and the people involved with it will begin to look hollow, particularly if one of the major problems of the UK, that of economic inequality closely linked to class divisions, is studiously and even rudely ignored time and time again.
 
If I may be so bold on speaking on behalf of a pressure group I have just joined, which is What About Classism?, our way of opposing such organisations if they refuse to accept class discrimination as a breach of human rights, is instead of becoming as partisan and disingenuous as some of them appear to be, and engaging in tit for tat sniping and name calling, we should actually aspire to be a broad church and to open some much needed debate about class and racism, sexism and any other prejudice openly and honestly, with a little flavour of anger and humour in the mix, too, without ever forgetting that what we are really talking about ultimately, are economic divisions and growing inequality. I have put my cards on the table. Nobody can now accuse me of being prejudiced, because I have been and I don’t want to be anymore. I believe in reconciliation. Divided we will all fall, sooner or later. United we stand.
 
Another thing I have to say, is that if some of those people who claim to promote equality are actually very subtly and in some cases perniciously promoting division and playing off marginalised groups of one kind against each other, and ignoring the growing and seemingly acceptable class discrimination against the white working class, why would they be doing that? Well you could ask them but I doubt, as in my experience, you would even get a reply. So, in the absence of that, I would suggest that it is merely because some of those people in equality organisations don’t really care about equal rights but actually their own advancement, a bit like many left wing politicians. That is understandable, and not unforgivable. Nobody is perfect, after all. But in some cases, I think there are more sinister agendas, or certainly agendas that have little to do with promoting the equal rights of any marginalised group.
 
First off, if it becomes acceptable to be prejudiced against white working class people, then it is also acceptable that a large chunk of the population and their poverty, suffering and struggles don’t matter to respectable society. Of course, that means that low wages and crappy jobs can be justified. But if that affects the majority, it will affect every other marginalised group, too. Secondly, by promoting every other marginalised group’s rights, even passionately and perhaps earnestly, to the exclusion of the injustice being meted out to the poor white working class, it eventually becomes tacitly accepted that certain groups rise at the expense of others, or at the very least that concern for minorities is merely a diversion to take minds off the general poverty of millions of people in this country. And if this is coming from people claiming to be left leaning affluent liberals, imagine how the right see it all! Thirdly, and I am being honest here, being partial to poor black people, oppressed gay people, working class women, disenfranchised Muslims and every and any other group starts to become ‘us’ versus ‘them’, them being the white working class who are regularly portrayed as racist, misogynist, uneducated, bigoted, reactionary and opposing all the above groups rights. That is when it becomes deeply unfair and unpleasant, the very things that left liberals would no doubt fervently claim to abhor. Fourthly, the real issue, and one particularly that is in the news more and more, is the growing unequal wealth divisions, or put simply, the rich getting much wealthier and the poor getting poorer, and ironically of all, a shrinking middle class. My view here is that when one group becomes an acceptable whipping boy, doesn’t matter who it is, a minority religious group, black people, women, or indeed the mass of us not scared or ashamed to call ourselves working class, sooner or later, those who wish to divide and conquer and increase their wealth, will go for another group. They are now going for doctors, who I would suggest generally tend to be more middle class. What a tangled web we weave, when at first we practise to deceive...
 
My view for society is one where we all have a chance to get on, get educated, have opportunities and be valued as a human being, not just enshrined in political policies or a constitution or other laws usually made by the powerful and influential and wealthy politicians down in London somewhere, but when the vast majority of people have concern for others and see that if they are selfish and self centred and couldn’t give a toss about others, then they can’t complain when the governments we vote for, and the general society around us and many people in society become selfish, indifferent and uncaring. When there is compassion for others, regardless of who they are, and the acceptance that most of us want to get on, prosper and live in peace, and none are dismissed or marginalised for their economic status, the colour of their skin, ethnicity, religion or anything else, there will be more justice and fairness. If we are to be judged, let’s be judged on the content of our character and the way we treat others, rather than our class or ethnicity or any other thing.