Working-class vs. Middle-class

Living in 21st century Britain, you’d think that the class you were born into would have no effect on your future. After all, we have free education until the age of 18, financial aid for university and employers can’t discriminate against you for such a thing (well, they aren’t supposed to anyway). Unfortunately, as I discovered yesterday, there are still some cunts who think that being working-class makes you an uncouth fuckwit, and that they should aspire to being middle class in order to ‘fit in’ in certain environments.

Peter Brandt, head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, has stated that, in order to get ahead in life, children from poor homes need to change what they wear, what they eat and how they conduct their personal relationships. Apparently learning how to think and behave like someone who was born middle-class is the only way to succeed. This doesn’t just apply to universities and careers: Brandt also thinks that working-class people are so fucking stupid we don’t know how to behave in restaurants and theatres; what he calls ‘middle-class environments’.

What utter fucking bullshit. What, being working-class makes you a complete moron, devoid of all social etiquette? That you have no cocking dress sense whatsoever and your hobbies and interests are limited to drinking White Lightning, smoking fags and cursing? OK, there are some working-class people like that. Then again, I also know a lot of middle-class people with no dress sense and a penchant for alcohol and nicotine.

As a working-class person myself, I find this quite insulting. Yes, I was brought up in a small town on the outskirts of Doncaster, which was, and still is, well-known for being a shithole. Even its name sounds shit. Stainforth. Or Stainy, for short. OK, yes, I grew up in an impoverished area, where it seemed that a lot of people’s life ambition was to have a kid at an extremely young age so they can get a free house and live off benefits for the rest of their days, but to say that all working class people think like that is just fucking ignorant. Many of my friends who were brought up in working-class families have gone on to university and have had successful careers. Did they struggle to fit in at university? No. Did they feel uncomfortable in restaurants and theatres? No. Do they now class themselves as middle-class? Do they fuck.

The problem with today’s society is what it perceives as working-class. The media basically portrays working-class people as coming from very poor backgrounds, who haven’t worked for generations, wear cheap, tacky sportswear and don’t know how to form a sentence without the word ‘fuck’ in it every other word. Which is just fucking stupid. Especially when you consider the second point: they think that working-class means you’re a lazy cunt who doesn’t want to work. Hello?! It’s called ‘working-class’. Traditionally these were the people who worked in the shittiest of jobs, just so the middle-class didn’t have to work.

Of course, time moves on and definitions change. But the stereotyping really pisses me off. I’m working class. Yes, I like drinking beer. I like swearing. But I also like literature, art and classical music. And have done from an early age. What, because my parent’s didn’t make much money, I’m not supposed to like these things? And if I didn’t, I’m supposed to learn to, or pretend to, in order to make something of my life?

And what is making something of your life? Let’s say you’re working-class, do shit at school, get a job as a shop assistant and spend the next 50 years being poor but happy. How is that not making something of your life? You make the most of what you’ve got, and you’re content with it. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It doesn’t mean your life is of less value than anyone else’s.

Brandt insinuates that the working-class dont have a culture of their own, and that they should strive to achieve the middle-çlass way of life. But why should we? I’ve inherited some of what I believe to be my best features from my working-class parents. For example, when I was studying at Cardiff University, I was talking with a few friends about work, and the conversation turned to what jobs we would be willing to do after uni. A friend of mine, middle-class, said he would never be a cleaner, as it was ‘beneath’: why should he study just to end up doing a job like that? My view? If I needed money, I’d fucking clean toilets for a living. I’d think nothing of it. Even with a postgraduate qualification.’ That’s because I’ve been brought up with a working-class attitude to work: nothing is beneath you, you are no better than anyone else. Something which a lot of middle-class people could do with learning.

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Gay people 1 – 0 Religion

Jan Brewer, I salute you. I had no idea who you were before this week, but still I take my hat off to you. For anyone that’s been living in a cave this past week (yes, I am thinking of one particular friend, hehe) Brewer has just vetoed a bill which would have allowed businesses in Arizona to refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers. Supporters of the bill said it would uphold their religious freedom (which is of course bullshit – more on that later); Brewer said it would create more problems than solve. Abso-fucking-lutely.

When telling a friend about this a couple of days ago, he said ‘First the blacks, now the gays’. And of course this bill was reminiscent of black and white segregation. The difference being in how much more easily black/white segregation could be put into practice. What struck me when I first read about the proposed bill was how simple it was in theory, but how difficult it would be to implement. I mean, how are you supposed to know to refuse to serve gay people based on their appearance? Look out for men wearing pink spandex? Or butch-looking women? Or maybe follow them around, listening to their conversations, hearing out for if they mention fisting and poppers? Of course if you have two guys or two girls ramming their tongues down each others throats then it’s obvious. Or if they specifically tell you. Other than that, you’re making judgements purely based on stereotypes.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Centre for Arizona Policy, stated: “[The bill is] simply about protecting religious liberty and nothing else”. What utter fucking wank. This is about what religion has been about all along: the control of people, and the imposition of beliefs onto others. To an extent, I understand it: it’s how religions have continued to exist throughout the centuries, and it’s how they keep the money coming in. What they fail to realise is that we live in a world where we do (or should) have basic human rights, one of them being the right to practice whichever religion we wish, without fear of discrimination from others. Something which this bill would have put a stop to.

What really pisses me off is the arrogance of the people in favour of the bill. I was brought up a Methodist, and was taught that God was the only one who was worthy of judging how each one of us led our lives. So who the fuck do these people think they are? Do they believe they are on the same footing as God himself? Answer: yes, actually. Or at least they believe they are his people, giving them the right to act as God Almighty on Earth. Tossers.

It’s also a sign of a first-world issue when a business can afford to turn away customers and clients just because of their sexuality. If you go to India, for example, they may not agree with some of the beliefs of tourists who visit there. But they will still serve you, because they need the bloody money. Either that or they care more about making money than their religion.

This whole thing reminded me of an incident which happened back in the UK a few years ago. A woman who had a prescription for the Pill took it to her local chemist, where she was refused it on the grounds that using contraception went against the pharmacist’s beliefs. Obviously this sparked outrage in the UK. Overlooking the obvious, in a lot of cases these days the Pill isn’t even used as a contraceptive. What if she had menorrhagia, or endometriosis, or POS? And if it was being prescribed as a contraceptive, what if it was dangerous for her to get pregnant? The Church says you can’t use contraception if you are a follower; I’ve never heard them say you can’t give it out to non-followers. Let’s say they have: what possesses someone to take a job where they know they will be required to do something which is against their beliefs? Get another job, you fucking eejit.

Anyway, I’m digressing. Let’s just say this week has been a victory for gay people in Arizona. Probably we haven’t heard the last of this issue. But we can hope.

Fucking greedy bastards

Sometimes the Church makes me fucking sick. And this time I’m not talking about the Catholic Church. In the UK, the Church of England has enforced a law from the times of Henry VIII in order to get funds to pay for local repairs at a church in a Shropshire village. How will they acquire this money? By making claims against villagers’ properties. Fucking wankfoxes.

How the fuck you can enforce this kind of archaic law is beyond me, anyway. For starters, the British legal system is full of them, and most of them are in juxtaposition with other, more modern laws in place, or just plain impossible to implement, or just fucking imbecilic. Technically, a Yorkshireman can kill a Scotsman if said Scotsman is carrying a bow and arrow within the ancient walls of York, but I’m pretty sure if I tried to pull that kind of stunt the next time I went to York I wouldn’t be able to get away with it. MPs aren’t allowed to wear armour in Parliament; like they’d fucking want to anyway. It is illegal to use a television without a license; technically true, but I got away with it for long enough. Oh, and if you have the plague you can’t ride on a bus in London. Jesus, I didn’t know the sanitation had got so bad in Hounslow…

Surely, if someone has bought a home with their own money, the Church has no right to automatically claim against their properties, without their permission, and therefore may see a fall in the value of their home, in order to raise money? In all other cases this would be seen as theft. So why does the Church have the green light to do this? Isn’t the UK supposed to be a country governed by secular law? What in cock’s name is secular about this law? If you believe in God, fair enough. If you belong to the Church of England, fair enough. If you choose to donate money, fair enough. But don’t pissing take it out of the pockets of people who may not believe or, even if they do, choose not to donate. 

One such villager, Eunice Evans, stated as much. She and her family have been supporters of the church for years, but were unhappy to receive the letter informing them of the situation: ‘It’s not a very Christian thing to do’. Well, that depends how you look at it, I suppose. If you’re talking about your average Christian, yes, it’s not a very Christian thing to do. But, if you look at it from the view of the Church as an institution, who over the centuries have killed and discriminated against many, stealing a few million pounds is nothing. And that’s the crux of it: the Church don’t give a flying fuck who they inconvenience, as long as they get their cash. Belief in God isn’t the problem; the institution is.

The real point of religion centuries ago was for the minority to control the majority; belief didn’t even come into the equation. What a fucking shame it is that we’re living in the 21st century and the Church still seems to have the same view.

Change.org are running a petition to abolish chancel repair liablilty: if you wish to sign, here is the link – https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-rt-hon-chris-grayling-mp-abolish-chancel-repair-liability-2

     

Confessions of a former cynic

I must admit, I was born a cynic.  I found it difficult to open up and trust people, could never grasp the idea of believing in a God (although I do have respect for those that do) and the idea of everlasting love ever happening to me was a fantasy.  So you can imagine how I feel about Valentine’s Day.  In the words of Jim Carrey in the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’: ‘Valentine’s Day.  It’s a day invented by greetings card companies to make you feel like crap’.  How very, very true.  There’s something very safe about being a cynic; sure, if you live without hope of anything and build a massive fuck-off wall around you, you can never be disappointed, right?  Imagine my horror as, as the years go by, I find myself getting, not just older, but less and less cynical.  Shit.

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day.  It’s just a commercialised pile of wank.  Surely if you’re in love with somebody, you should let them know every day?  Of course, in reality this is hard to do.  Especially if you’re in a long-term relationship.  You then tend to take it for granted that they know you love them.  And other stuff gets in the way, like discussing if you’ve paid the electricity bill or who’s going to take out the rubbish.  Of course, you could use Valentine’s Day to confess your love to the one you secretly admire; but let’s face it, most of us are far too fucking chicken.  Well, I am anyway.

This year I’m single.  So naturally I should hate Valentine’s anyway.  Thankfully I live in a country which takes a sensible approach to the day: the majority of people ignore it.  Even so, that doesn’t stop various retailers trying to cash in from the hordes of tourists who come here for a romantic break.  Every time I walked past a shop or cafe with Valentine’s decor, I’d seethe inside.  Fucking arseholes, trying to make all the single people feel bad.  I’ve even organised an Anti-Valentine’s Day for tomorrow, in order to combat all the schmaltz going on around the city.  We will drink beer, listen to rock music and burn Valentine’s stuff.  Fuck yeah.

I was very happy in my hatred of all things hearts and flowers.  Then something happened.  Yesterday I was in a cafe and saw copies of the new edition of the Krakow Post.  Remembering that a friend of mine had written the front page article, I picked up a copy and started to read.  The article in question was an interview with expats who had moved to Poland because they had fallen in love with a Pole.  And, although it causes me some shame to admit it, I was quite moved by it.  People giving up lives to move, sometimes from the other side of the world, to be with the one person that makes them complete.  As much as I hate romance, there’s something very poetic and lovely in that.

Then today, even though I’d scowled at a couple of guys carrying roses, I couldn’t help but smile when a student told me about the romantic dinner he was planning on cooking for his girlfriend.  What the fuck is wrong with me?  And, to top it off, I come home and watch ‘Penelope’.  Followed by ‘The Notebook’.  Both tales of how love conquers all.  I bloody bawled my eyes out to both of them.  Years ago I would have sneered at this kind of film.  Now, I wonder ‘Can this sort of thing happen in real life?’

Of course it does.  I’ve seen it with friends and family.  So, even though part of me will always stay a little bit cynical, a bigger part of me believes that love really does conquer all.  And that maybe, if I’m lucky, it might happen for me.

As you may have noticed, the Pijaczka has been a bit sparing with posts recently.  This is because she is currently working on a couple of other projects.  She has decided to take an indefinite hiatus from this blog in order to concentrate on these projects.  She thanks you for reading and for your comments. 

Should life mean life?

A friend of mine forwarded an interesting article yesterday with regards to what is defined as justice.  In 1989 a man was convicted of raping and killing four boys.  He was given a death sentence; however, due to the fall of communism his sentence was reduced to ‘life’ in prison.  Which is twenty-five years.  He left prison in Rzeszów on Tuesday, under heavily armed guard.  So, this begs the question: should life mean life?  Or should we accept he has served his punishment and learn to forgive?

In this situation it would be exceptionally hard to forgive.  The raping and killing of anyone is abhorent to most people, never mind that of four children.  The crimes this man committed are fucking vile, to say the least.  Did he deserve to die for them?  Probably not.  ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’, as they say.  Does he deserve to stay in prison indefinitely?  Maybe.

As much as it is hard to stomach the thought of some crimes, giving people the opportunity to change and not condemning them for life is pretty important.  Prisons are not only for punishment, but for rehabilitation.  It would be a sad world if we thought that everyone who has ever done wrong could never redeem themselves.  Also, when a sentence is given, it is given on the understanding that when that time is up, they have completed their punishment and rehabilitation.  So who can argue that they shouldn’t be let out of prison?

On the other hand, can there ever be any redemption from the crimes committed by this man?  I’m sure his victims’ families don’t think so.  Anyone with a shred of compassion can understand that completely.  Probably to most people the idea that this man could be walking around in their neighbourhood is unthinkable.  And of course his safety is another issue.  If people do find out who he is and what he has done, he himself is in danger of attack.

This man’s fate is still to be decided.  His mental state is to be assessed on 3 March, where they will decide whether he should stay under lock and key.  Let’s hope they make the right decision, for everyone’s sake.

Lost in Translation… or maybe just cultural misunderstanding

Today I was very proud of myself.  I started the Facebook row to end all Facebook rows.  OK, maybe that’s exaggerating slightly, but it was very funny, very aggressive and, at times, important points were made.

It all started with me having a shitty day.  I needed to do two bank transfers: however, owing to the fact that my passport is in the UK being renewed, they wouldn’t let me do them.  They said I could withdraw money though.  However, I decided to try my luck at the post office first.  Who said I could do it there.  I was given the forms, I double-checked what I needed to write and where and filled them in.  To be told I’d fucking done them ‘bad’.  The lady then kindly filled new ones in for me, putting my account number on each slip as the person to be paid.  Cue another ten minute conversation about how I want to pay other people, not pay myself.  I hand over my debit card for payment to be taken, to be told that I cannot pay the people directly.  First, I have to pay the post office the money.  Who will then give me the cash.  Which I will then give back to them, so they can use it to pay the people I owe money too.  Then it turned out I couldn’t pay the post office that much money, and was told to go to a cashpoint.  I decided to go back to the bank to withdraw the money, to be told that, in the half an hour since being in the bank, they had changed the rules and I couldn’t withdraw money without my passport.  And my limit for withdrawal from a cashpoint?  500 zloty.  Not even half of what I needed.  Fuckity fuck.

Of course, it’s not a life-threatening situation.  And I’m very lucky that I have a good friend who helped me out, so the issue should be resolved tomorrow.  But, like with a lot of things, I decided to vent my frustrations on Facebook.  With the comment ‘Why does nothing in this shitty country work properly?’.  Of course it was tongue-in-cheek, and also a way of letting off steam in an environment where, supposedly, people know me well enough not to take it so seriously.  Oh, how wrong one can be…

The comment sparked off a conversation between myself and a friend about how, because (probably) of communism, many state systems and businesses have a lot of beauracratic red tape when it comes to what should be simple procedures, and these things really should be improved and changed.  Then one person decided to jump in and accuse us of, basically, being racist, arrogant and disrespectful cunts who should fuck off back to our prospective countries if they are so much better.  Well, myself and a few other friends had quite a few points to say on the matter:

  • For starters, no-one was saying ‘My country is better than yours, blah, blah, blah’.  In fact, we strongly pointed out that there are problems in every country; Poland is no exception and there’s no reason why its problems shouldn’t be brought to people’s attention
  • Most expats, including myself, pay taxes here.  Therefore, if we are not getting a required standard of service, then we have a right to complain.  Our nationalities have absolutely nothing to fucking do with it.  We pay into the system; we are entitled to get things from the system, the same as any Pole who pays their taxes.
  • Yes, today I may have been slagging off Poland.  I slag off the UK a lot too.  Far from it being a show of disrespect, my strong feelings and opinions show that I actually give a fuck; more so than people who just shrug their shoulders and go ‘Oh, that’s just how it is’.  Things will never change if people sit idly by ignoring them.

Finally a Polish friend of mine commented with a very good analogy: Poland is like a little sister who’s annoying as fuck until someone else slags her off; then there’s hell to fucking pay.  Of course, I already know that Polish people are extremely proud.  And yes, if you make a comment like ‘shitty country’ they can get offended.  I understand their patriotism; I myself feel very lucky to be living here.  But it does show the differences in culture between the UK and Poland, even though we are practically neighbours.

To begin with, Brits tend to be extremely self-deprecating.  As Andy Parsons once said on ‘Mock the Week’, only in Britain could a book called ‘Crap Towns’ be published, only for them to have to publish a sequel, ‘Crap Towns 2’, because so many people had written, complaining that their town hadn’t been included in the first edition.  Poles, on the other hand, are the complete opposite.  Yes, they like to complain about shit.  But also they like to boast.  Especially about their country.  And when they are good at sport.  Which is fair enough, because, to be honest, they don’t have many opportunities to boast about sport.

The thing which does slightly piss me off is that Poles (I’m speaking generally here; hopefully by now you know I don’t tar everyone with the same brush) seem to believe that they are the only ones who know what is going on in Poland, and therefore are the only ones allowed to be critical of their country.  OK, in some circumstances I understand their point of view.  I, for example, know someone who has visited Poland a few times on holiday and therefore thinks he’s an authority on Polish society and culture.  Which he’s not.  In fact, he knows very little.  The problem is, a lot of Poles would say the same thing about someone who has lived in the country for a decade.  Is this fair?  Of course not.  If someone has lived and worked in a country for an extended amount of time, of course they will know about what’s happening in the country.  Unless they’ve been living in a fucking cave with no access to newspapers or TV.  Not only that, but, as a resident here, it will also directly affect them.  I would never dream of saying to a Pole who has lived in the UK for a few years ‘You know fuck all about my country, so don’t comment’.  If they live and work there, and pay their taxes, they’re fully entitled to their opinions and criticisms on how the country is run.

Being in Kraków I see very little xenophobia, but when I was living in Koszalin (where xenophobia is widespread) it was commonplace for students of mine to be critical, downright racist and rude about other cultures.  Cultures of which they had no knowledge, apart from what they had been told by their strict, conservative family members.  However, if I was asked my opinion on something, as soon as I made a slight comment about something I didn’t like about Polish culture (in a polite manner, of course), for example, the food, I was condemned an ignorant racist that didn’t know what I was talking about.  Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert on Polish culture – far from it.  But, if you don’t want the possibility of hearing criticisms about your country, don’t fucking ask my opinion.  I’m not going to lie to people: that’s even more fucking rude.  I suppose what grated me most is the hypocrisy: it seemed that, in Koszalin at least, you can slag off whoever you want as long as it’s not Poland.  Well, in my country we have a saying: if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t dish it out.

I suppose I also don’t like the insinuation that, if I criticise something about Poland, it’s because I’m just being a cocking gobby, arrogant Westerner whose only concern is my own welfare.  I’m well aware that in many companies Polish employees are treated like shit.  They work fucking long hours, for shitty pay, and are expected to answer ‘How high?’ when asked to jump.  In a country where things are getting more and more expensive, with no fucking increase in pay.  I knew people in Koszalin who were working two or three jobs just in order to survive.  I know people who can’t afford to pay for state health care (myself included).  It’s fucking disgusting.  Why the hell should I not speak out about these things?  Especially when we have foreigners coming over here on holiday, saying how lucky we are to live in such a cheap country.  Well, yeah, it is cheap when you’re bringing bloody dollars or pounds.  Try living here when you’re earning fucking zloty.  And when I do speak out about it it’s not just for myself, it’s for all the Poles who deserve more than what they’re getting now.

That said, I bloody love living here.  I love the people, I love the culture, I love the atmosphere and multi-culturalism of Kraków.  But no place is perfect.  And we should always strive for better.  That does not happen by keeping your mouth shut.  And it certainly isn’t solved by ‘fucking off back to my own country’.

Last weekend one of the greatest actors of our time was found dead in his apartment.  Another one to join the club of those who succumbed to the pressures of addiction.  And who will go down in history as one of Hollywood’s ill-fated, whereas many others in his situation are treated like the scum of the Earth.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an exceptionally talented actor.  You only have to look at the wide range of roles he played to see that.  Of course, the papers have gone mental about what a tragedy it is.  And it is.  Not just for the acting world, but for his friends and family.  And being interested in the death of one of my favourite actors, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about it.  And I’ve recently read a couple of articles which raise a few interesting points, especially in terms of how fucking moronic countries can be when it comes to dealing with addicts.

People tend to make snap judgements about people with drug addictions.  Well, addictions of any kind really.  Society views them as weak, selfish individuals who deserve nothing more than our contempt.  Ignorant fuckers.  Addiction is a mental illness, just like depression is, which needs medical attention just as much as any other illness; however, most see them as people who drain our society of its finances.

The cigarette and alcohol addiction has long been debated in the UK.  People who are addicted to these substances are seen as less deserving of medical care than others in the country; and yet, they’re the ones who practically bloody pay for our national health system through the fucking extortionate taxes they pay on these items.  Hypocritical, no?  (Of course, I could include obese people in this category too).

I was in the pub tonight and I was discussing this blog post with a journalist friend of mine.  Now, I didn’t know this before he told me, but methadone is not approved in Poland.  Here, there is zero tolerance to drug use.  Which is fucking insane.  People will always take drugs, especially when they are illegal as it creates mystery around them.  Surely offering drugs in a safe environment, like methadone is in the UK, is a better answer than having people addicted to heroin?  And buying it off the street or getting an alternative from a clinic?  Surely the choice is obvious?

I’ve long been an advocate of at least decriminalising drugs.  If that did happen, of course you’d have black market shit.  But for those who do have money to buy drugs – people like Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example – they would probably always choose whatever’s legal over what’s illegal and cut with who knows what.  I mean, who buys black market cigarettes?  Or alcohol?  No-one, because these things are easily available, legally.  And why buy something which is probably shit?

This article probably seems disjointed.  In fact, it is.  I’m writing it because I’m sad that one of my favourite actors has died, probably unnecessarily.  I’m writing it because I have had friends who have suffered the way he suffered, and they were not put on a pedestal like he has been the past few days.  They were treated like fucking lepers.  If drug laws were different, then we wouldn’t see deaths like Hoffman’s.  To solve the drug issue we need to look to countries like the Netherlands.  Zero tolerance does not mean zero drug use.