May 30th, 2011
|07:40 am - Why it is (not) kicking off|
Paul Mason has an interesting piece on the BBC site -'Why it is kicking off' - about the wave of protests which is taking place around the world. It is an interesting and thoughtful piece but I think it is hampered by the narrow elitist perspective that he writes from. His argument in a nutshell is: 'At the heart of the protest is a new sociological type: the graduate with no future (and) access to social media'.
But this is a transitional type: people who think they are set apart from poor working class people. This 'no future' which Paul Mason talks about is the normal life of the mass of - equally intelligent and resourceful - non-graduates around the world. Privileged graduates are workers who think they don't share interests with organised labour - and Mason is very dismissive in this article of 'the solidaristic culture and respectability of organized labour' which he describes as 'a "stage army" to be marched on and off the scene of history'.
On the contrary I think the best choice for the disaffected children of privilege (I am thinking about Europeans, but I guess it applies in all countries) is to find solidarity with the working class - to put down the spurious social Darwinism which says they are genetically or culturally higher - and to fight together for a society which allows each person to work to their best ability to create and solve. I think most middle class people are not capable of this solidarity. They cling to threadbare trappings of superiority, and this will make them victims.
So, instead of fighting for real change, they try to maintain their role as an intellectual elite, without confronting the economic system which is destroying that role.
'I have met people who do community organizing one day, and the next are on a flotilla to Gaza; then they pop up working for a think tank on sustainable energy; then they're writing a book about something completely different.'
Yeah, basically upper class white people like this are the problem not the solution.
'The protest "meme" that is sweeping the world ... is profoundly less radical on economics than the one that swept the world in the 1910s and 1920s; they don't seek a total overturn: they seek a moderation of excesses.'
Middle class privileged people like this BBC writer may not seek a total overturn, but it is coming. There needs to be a radical new economics. A dream that we can just 'moderate the excesses' of the ruling class and the world will be put to rights is tempting, but false. The solution for this world is not some upper class kid getting a job on a think tank about sustainable energy. A real solution would be to free the intellectual energy of the mass of people, the despised billions of poor workers.
(thanks to nwhyte for the link.)
|Date:||May 30th, 2011 08:29 am (UTC)|| |
the best choice for the disaffected children of privilege (I am thinking about Europeans, but I guess it applies in all countries) is to find solidarity with the working class
Yes yes yes yes yes. I am so fucking sick of being told that when I work a 60-hour week so that my surplus labour can be appropriated by a University which pays its senior management £750,000/year, this is a marker of my privilege, rather than the basis of my solidarity with the working class.
|Date:||May 30th, 2011 08:33 am (UTC)|| |
(Obviously my money and status is a marker of my privilege. But not the 20 hours a week of unpaid overtime, even though I keep being told BY SENIOR MANAGEMENT that it is.)
That rate per year is barmy, how can it be justified? I think funnelling money to a minuscule group has become the paramount goal of - not just education - our whole economy.
The privileged people who are members of the so-called middle class and still seek to carefully maintain boundaries with the so-called working class as markers of their supposed superiority are indeed part of the problem, even the well-meaning ones. And the distinction is imaginary. As (I think) Eamonn McCann
wrote, the test for being working class is: do you have to work?
I see a version of this in my relatives who are (mostly) farmers. They judge each other by how many acres they own.A real solution would be to free the intellectual energy of the mass of people, the despised billions of poor workers.
Yes, and I know I am bound up the same system too. Losing my job made me realise how much my self image was bound up with doing middle class work. As if that defined me. And still defines me now, now that I have a job again.
Middle-class work, or work, full stop? I ask that because so often the question that gets asked when one is making small talk to someone to whom one has just been introduced is: "what do you do?" which really means "what job do you have?" - that the unconcious assumption of society is that if one is not working in paid employment, one is not doing anything, one is worthless. That one's job is one's life. Which is an insidious assumption that people never question.
Though I guess that your comment does tie in with that, because people do judge one's worth by the work that one does, and "middle class work" has more status than "working class work". I'm reminded of Jarvik in B7, someone who rejected his "middle class work" and chose to work as a labourer (though let's not get into the misogyny of that episode...)
I also have to be honest here and say I don't think I could imagine myself doing non-intellectual work... I'd be terrified of being something like a shop assistant because I'm too introverted, and as for physical labour, don't make me laugh, I wouldn't be capable of doing it, I don't have the required ability.
|Date:||May 30th, 2011 12:11 pm (UTC)|| |
The most difficult middle class status marker of them all is the ability to employ the labour of other people. It's the most corrosive to any feeling of solidarity among the two employed classes, because it makes the poverty of one class essential to the happiness of the other.
I remember the complaining middle class people used to do in the seventies about how they couldn't "afford" to take a taxi or eat in a restaurant any more, and how happy they were in the eighties when they could "afford" these things again. They didn't, and even the well-meaning ones still don't, consider that these are things that depend on a large wealth inequality gradient.
I could be mistaken, but I think Australia is more ruthlessly egalitarian than other Western countries. I know myself to be completely baffled by the class system in the UK, for example. It just seems so completely ludicrous. There is nothing inherently better about aristocrats; they just happen to have ancestors who were good at killing people, and thus got given land by the king. There is nothing inherently better about upper-middle-class people; they just happen have ancestors who were rich. Of course, being rich gives one a head-start in life, but that is not the same as being inherently superior, not at all, any more than having a faster car would make someone a better driver. Anybody declaring that the merit of their ancestors gives them merit is a fool: no man has any merit save that brought from his own actions.
Perhaps it's our convict past, but Australians are very cynical about authority. Not to mention the "tall poppy syndrome" - anybody who appears to consider themselves better than the rest of us gets cut down pretty quick. This has its negative side too, of course. The only people who get lauded are sportsmen - but their accomplishments are in action rather than words, so I guess they aren't considered to be "up themselves".
But maybe I'm mistaken and oblivious because I'm middle-class and I only think that we're more egalitarian here.
I think that the divisions exist in every society, but expressed in different ways. But I don't know enough about Australia to make a sensible comment.