Working-class vs. Middle-class: revisited

After my last post concerning various newspaper articles on the subject of how working-class people should be more like the middle-class in order to fit in. Peter Brandt, the gentleman who was quoted in these articles, has since commented on my post to set the record straight. He sent me a link to both his original post, and the blog post which it was inspired by; both make for interesting reading. And goes to show how the media pick and choose what they print.

Reading Brandt’s post, I suppose I can see where the media got the idea from that all the uneducated heathens in the country should shape up and be like the fucking toffs. However, it’s also blindingly bloody clear that what they wrote in the papers was completely taken out of context. Brandt does talk about the barriers of being working-class – how they are more likely to fail at school, how they have less life choices, how they have less opportunities to fulfil their potential; he does talk about how many working-class people feel uncomfortable in certain social situations; he does talk about how we need to challenge this and make them feel more comfortable. Does he say that working-class people should learn how to be middle-class? No, he doesn’t. Which is where the media (and myself) got it wrong.

I also read the blog post which inspired Brandt’s, and it makes for interesting reading. The post is basically the experiences of a woman from an extremely poor working-class background, who had to steal money from her dad’s alcohol fund to buy food from herself and her sisters; who had to clean sick off her comatose dad; who had to hide behind the sofa to avoid being beaten up by her mum; who had to start work at the age of thirteen to buy her own food; who was living on her own at the age of sixteen; and who felt completely like a fish out of water when she went to Cambridge University. Understandably so. It’s a terrible thing she went through, and more should’ve been done to help. But it does raise a few points.

For starters, the people the blogger grew up around consisted of the unemployed, long-term sick and working in menial jobs. As I said before, someone has to do the menial jobs, or else society collapses all around us. And if you’re unemployed and actively looking for work, or are genuinely sick and can’t work, fair enough. Unfortunately, we do live in a society where a minority of the population take the fucking piss and take advantage of a benefits system which we’re lucky to have. Not only that, but they are bloody proud of the fact that they don’t work and get to live on handouts. These people don’t have the fucking right to call themselves working-class. Hey, the clue is in the cocking name.

This minority is now how the majority of the country view the entirety of the working-class: lazy cunts who can’t be bothered to do a day’s work. Which is bullshit, obviously. I’m working-class, and both my parents worked. Brandt grew up working-class, and both his parents worked. A lot of my friends growing up were working-class, and their parents worked. Yes, the blogger had a horrific childhood, but it’s not the only example of working-class life. She grew up with a lack of confidence in ‘middle-class’ scenarios; something probably more likely to have been caused by shitty parenting than being working-class. And shitty parenting crosses class boundaries: there are many middle-class people who have issues dealing with everyday situations because of this.

Of course, numbers don’t lie. Statistically working-class people are less likely to apply to top-class universities and for the top jobs due to lack of confidence. Not hard to see why: I myself was asked in an interview for a place at a conservatoire, ‘Don’t you think coming from a state school is a disadvantage?’. But the solution doesn’t just lie in making (certain) working-class people feel more confident. Attitudes need to change as to the whole idea of working-class and middle-class. People need to stop thinking that being middle-class makes you better. The education system needs to be changed in order to be more inclusive. Employers and universities need to stop being so discriminatory and to judge people on their talents, their grades and their personalities rather than their backgrounds.

So, Mr Brandt, I apologise for any offence caused. Although I did read various articles on the subject, I now know to also check the original source before putting things down in print.   

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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.