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.)
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.