As a person from a solidly working class background in the North West of England, I find one of the most curious features of the so called liberal PC movement, one that probably won’t surprise many people who are working class, is the almost pathological denial that the class system is a feature of British life, and also the growing and increasingly malicious class discrimination against all working class people. Racism, and the abhorrence in which it is, also pathologically held in contempt, seems to be on a sliding scale with class discrimination. The more supposedly non racist the equal rights people seem to be, the more casual in their indifference of the growing and virulent class discrimination they seem to be. Of course, the reaction to this, rather than awkwardly talk around, or over, or through, or beneath the rather vexed question of the British class system, is for the most part, to completely and studiously ignore it. Since Margaret Thatcher came to power, there has been an attack, covert and overt, on working class people and communities and, rather sadly for a supposed democracy, an attack on the very idea of the working class and the idea of solid and stable working class communities in themselves. That last point is something that gets overlooked, particularly by the mainstream media, who very rarely if ever mention class discrimination and the accompanying economic and political disenfranchisement that goes along with this now acceptable prejudice.
At one time, the Labour party was the champion of working class people. Then, it became acceptable to see only those who wanted to escape the working class as worth bothering with, and those ‘left behind’ should be treated only with (increasing) contempt and/or indifference. In some senses, it angers and upsets me that I have to write this piece, because it is now obvious to many of us who are savvy, possibly educated and of working class backgrounds and origins, that the denial of prejudice against working class people and community has grown in direct proportion to the economic deprivation of most working class people, helped along by the political establishment, particularly the Conservatives, and also political disenfranchisement, too. Just how many working class voices are heard in parliament these days? And for that matter, how many poor people from ethnic minorities, too? Even most of the Asian and black politicians tend to be resolutely and decidedly middle class. So much even for equal rights for black and Asian people, and other minorities.
What is also rather strange, and contradictory, is that there are a number of organisations purporting to work for the eradication of very marginalised and very poverty stricken people in what is called the Third World, and active voices speaking out against the proliferation of such poverty, and yet it is the same people in the Third World, the wealthy, the affluent and the middle class, who are doing nothing there to help their own people. See a pattern here? The wealthy and the metropolitan elites in Britain and the US pay lip service to the eradication of poverty and the economic injustice meted out to the poor in other parts of the world, but are largely silent about the poverty in their own countries, possibly because they benefit from the growing economic divides. A few years ago, the UN had a ‘MDGs, Poverty and the Post-2015 Agenda: Working Together for a World without Discrimination’ event. All very admirable, but who outside of the rarefied atmosphere of the great and the good had heard of that? And, for that matter, who remembers the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign? That’s all gone rather quiet, it seems.
What’s ironic about class discrimination is that it operates exactly like racism. It is merely the belief that one group is somehow worth more than another group, through some ill defined belief in superiority, usually for a number of reasons. In this case, we can only conclude that those who refuse to acknowledge classism, do so simply because they are prejudiced themselves, hence the refusal of the mainstream media and, rather sadly, many equality and equal rights organisations to mention the growing economic inequality in Britain, linked inextricably with accepted class discrimination against poor people and already disadvantaged communities. And please note, I use the term ‘working class’ about all ethnic communities who are economically and more and more politically disenfranchised, not just white people. And, yes I am white. But it isn’t just white people who are suffering. My view, quite simply, is that the refusal, which has almost become a moral crime, to recognise the injustice meted out to people, and the indifference towards particularly white working class people, and the lack of compassion simply because they are poor and white, also underpins the reality that the political establishment, and what you might call the ‘social’ establishment, and the mainstream media couldn’t care less about the poverty of black people, Asian people and migrants either. If you claim to care about people who are suffering in poverty, but dismiss others in the same position because of the colour of their skin, are you not being racist in some way, even if their skin colour is the same as yours, and are you also saying, rather cruelly and even amorally, that their poverty, suffering and growing economic and political disenfranchisement doesn’t matter? Claiming then to be concerned about minorities after that, seems quite frankly, rather hollow, even hypocritical or guilt tripping. I’m not under any illusions here. I feel that much that passes for equal rights is not about trying to bring fairness and economic justice to anyone, in general it is about acting as ‘the nice face’ of the political, economic and media, and the ‘social’ establishments I mentioned before, be they the middle class or the wealthy upper class social establishments, and playing down the political decisions, not actually uttered, that the rich, powerful and connected will make most of the wealth, the economically middle class will be looked after with good jobs and better opportunities, and the majority of people at the bottom of the pecking order, so to speak, will compete against each other for constantly low paid, temporary and dead end jobs. This goes for all those at the bottom, whatever colour of skin or ethnicity. What angers me, is that this has been a reality for many of us at the bottom for over thirty five years now, and instead of those in the media and in politics who could speak out against it, or at least raise it, there has been an almost deafening wall of silence from most quarters, even from many equal rights organisations. I do not say this lightly, and wish it were not so, but it does seem that the, particularly white working class, have again become the ‘enemy within’, useful as cheap labour and to fight wars and to vote for political parties that have abandoned them, but reviled in general and a useful whipping boy for those on the left and the right. So much for democracy. So much for equal rights.
There is, behind all the bluff and bluster of proclaiming equality, a hate and enmity for any kind of real equality or equal rights for anyone. The voices say one thing, the political class, backed up by the media, do something else. In one sense, equal rights organisations actually thrive on growing inequality, some of them tacitly promote division between white working class people and other impoverished and disenfranchised ethnic minority communities by only acknowledging racism from white working class communities but not class discrimination against the white working class which any intelligent person knows creates the very anger and resentment it pretends to nullify, and also that equal rights organisations, like some charities, have merely become industries purporting to help others but actually seem to help many of those who are employed by them. Inequality then, far from being a problem, would seem to actually serve a number of functions, little of which are actually about poor and impoverished people. Many of us have probably known this for a long time, but it has to be said all the same.
There is, I believe, an antipathy towards any real equality, particularly economic equality, and also a concerted silencing of any real debate about the widening economic divides and economic inequality that now exists for millions of people. The sad thing is, the amount of time, energy and money the establishment, the government in power, the media and even some individuals and so called equal rights organisations spend trying to build a massive lie that we all have the same chances to get on and move up in society, when some of these people seem to work tirelessly and endlessly to prevent that very thing happening for many people, could actually be spent making society fairer, the economy stronger, and a genuinely expanding middle class, instead of those people living in, and promoting platitudes and half truths. Oh, and increasingly becoming immoral and promoters of injustice, too. And it is a moral issue, you better believe that.
I know, as I write this in the wee small hours, that those who agree will agree with almost everything I have written, and those who don’t agree will probably disagree on every point, and vehemently so. Frankly, I couldn’t care less either way. I mean that sincerely. I am one of those educated, ambitious, working class suburbanites, with a very good education, quite worldly and fairly travelled, who supposedly the Tory party and Labour party wish to court and promise a better hand up the greasy pole. For a number of reasons, that hasn’t worked out. My health has been an issue for many years. That is life. But one thing this has done has enabled me to think, through illness and the subsequent low paid jobs I have worked in, and the dreams of a better life through a university education. The reality is, although I have talent, ambition, a good rounded education, the ladder is being pulled up, by the very people who are telling us to get on, and then castigating us when we don’t get on. It just becomes another excuse for people who are prejudiced against working class people and poor people in general to exercise hatred and resentment, pure and simple. If you’re so concerned about people living in poverty, campaign for a proper decent minimum wage that people can live on and pay their bills, and perhaps for wealthy people and mega wealthy corporations to pay their taxes by law. Anything other than that is hot air and window dressing.
I notice that whenever racism and prejudice is mentioned in the UK, it tends to be a criticism of the white working class. The mores and prejudices of the white working class, in the media and ‘respectable’ society, are gone over with a fine tooth comb and raked over, whilst the prejudices and mores of the middle class and the very wealthy are glossed over, or ignored almost completely. At the same time, of course, systematic class discrimination and prejudice against the white working class, and the poor in general, is very carefully and studiously ignored. Class discrimination operates in exactly the same way as racism, so please stop fooling yourselves, because you don’t fool us anymore.
I do believe we should celebrate and promote diversity, because as human beings and human groups and nations, we are indeed diverse. We are not animals. We are different everywhere. As for multiculturalism, I don’t even know what that means, nor do I think anyone else does either. In theory, I suspect it’s meant to be we all tolerate, understand and accept other people. In practise, particularly in the UK and US, it seems to be an almost a blanket approval of whatever mores, practises and culture that ethnic minorities hold to, and an almost blanket resentment and indifference and prejudice of white working class culture. What, then, happened to the promotion of equality, diversity and the equal rights of the white working class? Why isn’t white working class culture celebrated anymore? Didn’t popular culture, music and general changes in society come from the radical, rebellious and adventurous working classes, black and white? Working class culture is diverse, we have different accents, different historical traditions, many ethnicities within us, different political affiliations, great writers, great artists, great musicians, great actors, many of whom broke through not because of British democracy, but sadly in spite of it. That is the real context here. Working class people, black white and Asian, are often portrayed as one dimensional, bigoted, drunken and feckless, yet millions of us are not anything like those negative and lazy stereotypes tacitly conveyed by the media, or some of it. Many white working class people may indeed begin to feel what it is like to be black or Asian, simply because class discrimination and racism work in almost identical ways, with the added hypocrisy that whilst it is purposely used against people, it is at the same time either systematically denied or simply ignored. Yes, the results of racism are far worse in extreme situations, but the class system discriminates in a more underhand and much more subtle way against far more people. Also, in the end, if persecuting white working class people makes some white working class people more likely to be racist, and this seems to be accepted knowledge, then those who turn a blind eye to and tacitly accept class discrimination are at least indirectly responsible for an increase in racism, too.
It’s also fair to say that many in the media, politics and the equal rights industry know they are being partial with the truth at best, and doing very little at worst, whilst pretending to make things change for the better. This does a few things. It binds those who have something to lose, i.e. being found out as disingenuous, together in an unholy kind of way. It creates those on the inside, and those on the outside. In this day and age, anyone who truly is genuine about fairness and more economic justice is not got going to get anywhere, so we have politicians and members of the media who more and more are merely part of the apparatus of an unjust society, than servants of the people. They rise by accepting the lie, and they will only rise if they accept it and become a part of it and take some of the guilt for it. This is why I say that such unjust systems are increasingly a moral issue, or an immoral issue if you like. Eventually, of course, people start believing the lies they are fed, and I am not just talking about ordinary people outside of the media, politics and the like, I am talking about those in politics and the media primarily. Living a lie, building your whole professional life on a lie I believe will eventually take its toll, in one way shape or form. This especially goes for those who are supposed to be helping others but are hindering them, or just ignoring the better part of their conscience. It is possibly why those who do rise via the greasy pole eventually have to completely divorce themselves from their emotions, their conscience and maybe their soul, too. But that’s another story. The covert message is ‘stop clinging to your working class roots...deny them, become middle class...or else.’
Another thing about class and racism, perhaps not surprising to those of us who grew up in working class communities in big cities and large towns, is that nearly all immigrants, wherever they come from, come to live in the poorer parts of town, and very rarely, if ever, live in what I would describe as the affluent, largely white middle class areas. I grew up surrounded by people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, but virtually all could be described as working class. Henceforth, I would guess most of the mixed race marriages in the UK are between white working class people and obviously black and Asian people. Not middle class white or upper class white. I would have thought that was obvious, but not to those members of the community who proclaim to be educated metropolitan liberals, it seems. So, again, fondly fostered negative myths about white working class people are literally blown into the water, but do we hear about that? No, I haven’t anyway. So, there is obviously an agenda to marginalise and promote prejudice against the white working class to justify economic and political disenfranchisement. The only problem is, we know about it now. But the damage is done. Where do we go from here?
Perhaps we start by being honest. As I said, I am under no illusions whatsoever about what I am writing. I don’t want to start a revolution, nor do I want to promote resentment against anyone. What would be the point? But, I refuse to kowtow to this society, its pretensions, and the fact that lies and embellishments and trivialities, have taken the place of truth, concern for others and what is really important in life. I have no social standing to speak of, no private fortune and no connections of any kind, I only have brutal honesty. That serves me well. I will not sugar coat my argument for anyone, and if you don’t wish to read this, or vehemently disagree with what I have written and resolve never to read anything I have ever written again, good, go away, I wasn’t writing it for you in the first place. You’re already done, but perhaps you just don’t know it.
A few months ago I happened to come across a copy of the Daily Mail, and there was a feature on what I could only call the old Eugenics debate. It started with the reviewer saying that the writer came from a poor working class background and was most definitely not a eugenicist, but the whole article was basically saying that some of those at the bottom of the social and economic class system were there because they inherited bad genes that meant they were not intelligent. The ramifications for such small minded notions can be seen throughout the 19th century and the 20th century, I don’t think I need to go over them. But the assumption is that some of the people who are poor, living in poverty and unable to move forward in life, are poor because they are born with an inferior intelligence and this is passed on from their parents. This of course is the same argument racists use, that if the ‘facts’ dictate inferiority in some way, then it stops being small minded prejudice but justified reality. Then of course those at the top are there because of their ‘superior’ intelligence, or superior genes or talent, ambition and hard work. In this way, those who blithely practise or accept class discrimination in some way are exactly like the racists they no doubt claim to resent and despise. I’m not saying that all class discrimination or even all racism or any prejudice for that matter, involves dodgy science like eugenics or ‘scientific’ racism, but it has its roots there. The bottom line of all prejudice, whatever it is, and particularly of course when it diminishes people’s lives and life chances, is that it is about the supposed superiority of one person or group or nation, over the supposed inferiority of another person or group or nation. It is that simple. We should then stop comparing like for like, and say that all prejudice is unacceptable.
As I’ve written already, I’m not under any illusion that anyone reading this who accepts that class discrimination and the economic pauperism of this group or that group is part and parcel of society will suddenly see the light and stop, or speak out against it. No, of course that is unlikely to happen. Nor am I writing this to create the same resentment towards middle class or upper class people, because that would simply be two wrongs. No, I write it because I think it should be discussed and debated openly, as indeed many other things should be, and I believe that those of us who are working class should talk and write about these things, in the same way black and Asian people talk and write about racism, and I also believe that we should link all these prejudices together and accept that if they are not all challenged, debated and tackled, and we omit this one or that one, ultimately we condone them all. Again, I am not under any illusions that this will cause even a ripple but nevertheless I feel compelled to write it because no one else seems to be anywhere. The issue is always skirted around, or people are blinded by stats, or it is someone academic and middle class or something else that is watered down, mealy mouthed or not direct enough. We should tackle the last taboo in the UK, which is the economic and social injustice, and the racism and other prejudices too, that are inextricably linked together with the class system.
As a Christian, I know we will never have full equality of any kind, even in the wealthy and democratic West, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t challenge hypocrisy or double standards or the present system we live under, which preaches tolerance, equality and harmony but at the same time seems to produce exactly the opposite of those qualities, and also a promise of economic prosperity, which just isn’t happening for the majority of people. The neoliberal free market has failed. But this isn’t a political rant. Economic ideologies are almost always underpinned by political and other ideologies, the main ideology now being total faith in capitalism and the worship of money. To sum up, I am a Christian, and moving away from political or even humanistic solutions. Until we accept that all prejudice and all discrimination is morally wrong, we are all going to go around in the same ever decreasing circles and we are all doomed to repeat the past.