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Toffs, chavs and bourgeois scum.

June 10, 2011

This is a bit of a rant and deals in lazy generalisations and crude stereotypes. Pointing this out won’t prove that you’re clever, just that you can read.

Julian Fellowes has recently received publicity for his claim that discrimination against posh people constitutes a ‘hate crime’. The rich, powerful and well-born deserve protection from casual ‘classist’ comments made on television. When posh people are regularly subject to violent attacks in the street on the basis of their accents then he might have a point but trying to equate the mild resentment of ordinary people against a class which has raped, plundered and profiteered for centuries with the persecution of homosexuals, ethnic minorities and women (by that very class) is offensive not only to common sense but also to basic decency.

The nightmarish James Delingpole defended this position with the argument that we should not discriminate against posh people because they are basically better than us. It is for this reason that we should be thankful that Cameron and his schoolboy chums have returned to their rightful place on top in order to continue the historic mission of their class: robbing from the poor to line their own pockets. Supposedly they are better than us because they have better schools but this is a bit of a myth. The public school system does not inculcate critical thought, open-mindedness or self-examination. Instead places like Eton concentrate on exam success and self-presentation. The products of public schools are not, in my experience, notable for intelligence, only for appearing intelligent. They have an absolute confidence which allows them to speak on any subject as though they were expert despite having no knowledge of it whatsoever. This is why ‘Boy’ George Osborne is able to be Chancellor despite having no discernible understanding of basic economics. This also explains why, of all teenagers, posh teenagers are the most annoying. They are at a stage where they have learnt to hold in contempt anyone ‘beneath’ them in the social hierarchy (i.e. you and me) but not yet mastered the charm which allows their parents to convince the unwary that this contempt is in fact a great favour and privilege. Noblesse oblige.

The recent sickening display of forelock-tugging servility by the deferent masses and the sycophantic mass media in relation to the posh celebrity wedding hardly suggested a country which is finally turning against its historic exploiters. Rather it seemed to all true democrats and egalitarians a depressing reminder of how far we are from realising the ideals of the Levellers or even the Chartists. The referendum result which followed reinforced the impression of an electorate suffering from Stockholm syndrome. So as the former members of the Bullingdon club strip this country of its assets the problem is surely not that people hate the upper class but that they don’t hate them enough.

Meanwhile the rat-like, waste of a genome James Delingpole, erstwhile opponent of discriminatory language, also appeared in print to defend the use of the word ‘chav’. His argument was that it was simply a modern version of ‘oik’, i.e. posh people always treated the proletariat like sub-humans so why stop now? According to the BBC the ‘chav’ stereotype ‘has been reinforced by “grotesque” sketches about chavs written by public school educated comedians like David Walliams and Matt Lucas. A 2006 survey by YouGov suggested 70% of TV industry professionals believed that Vicky Pollard was an accurate reflection of white working class youth.’ This of course reinforces the view that people who work in television are deserving of far fouler language than I am prepared to use here. It has become increasingly the case that the working class are allowed on television only to be mocked and derided by the middle class. Those television professionals are representative too of the kind of people who run gossip magazines and write for the tabloid press: privately educated white boys who only have a job because their daddies gave them a leg up who wouldn’t last five seconds on a council estate but think they’re ‘street’ because they take cocaine and once met Dizzee Rascal.

Oddly many of the people who will use the word ‘chav’ to demean the less fortunate will then idealise the ‘white working class’ when attempting to justifying their racist views on immigration. But middle class hypocrisy is surely as old as civilisation. Much of the ‘chav’ stereotype is based on ‘anti-social behaviour’ of the kind which nice, bourgeois people don’t like: vandalism, petty theft, drug-dealing. (I have never understood why actions which were already criminal were rebranded as ‘anti-social’.) There is also the suspicion of benefit fraud which costs us literally less than one per cent of the money being spent to renew Trident.

In fact that popular middle class pursuit, tax evasion, costs us fifteen times as much as benefit fraud. Isn’t the really anti-social behaviour that of those who, affording private education and healthcare, refuse to pay their share to provide education and healthcare to the less fortunate? The comfortable middle class benefit disproportionately from state spending yet consistently vote against anyone who suggests they should have to foot the bill. Meanwhile they cheat on school entrance applications, complain every time they get caught committing driving offences (or claim that their partner was driving that day), allow their dogs to terrorise children (‘he’s just being friendly’) and generally treat the law as though it were something which applied only to other people. This is truly anti-social behaviour because it erodes the social contract and makes the notion of civilised life meaningless.

It is not so long ago that John Major claimed that we lived in a classless society and Tony Blair claimed that Britain was a meritocracy. It seems to me that the fact that they were lying is the reason for a renewed interest in class. If this is a meritocracy then the only reason poor people exist is because they deserve to be poor. As the myth of the classless society becomes increasingly untenable those who forgot Marx will be surprised by reality. Inequality has increased over the last few decades and Britain is far more hierarchical now than it was in the post-war decades. No reasonable person can view this society as anything other than immoral and unjust.

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning. (Warren Buffet)

It might be time for a counter-offensive.

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