Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Discreet Charm of the Slightly Skint.

Being personally devoid of any class whatsoever in shape, form, or movement, I have tended to ignore the subject whenever possible.

Some people are, I suppose, natural aristocrats. Tramps and whores can, on occasion,
rise above their lowly station and dismiss the world with an insouciant wave of the hand. Unfortunately, I’m just too petit bourgeois to get away with either glad handed magnanimity or a salt of the earth shrug of the shoulders.

Class is a British, or more particularly English, obsession that – not withstanding claims that a meritocratic nirvana has been reached – still permeates language, culture, and expectation.

Class has very little to do with money: a teacher is demonstrably middle class, while a plumber (despite earning twice as much) will always be a grubby little Sun reading individual clad in a boiler suit.

I suppose every society will inevitably produce a class structure. Even the Americans are still more or less (despite the odd toothy Kennedy) governed by the sensibilities of the New England families that can trace their ancestry to the seventeenth century. A hydra headed Cabot/Lowell/Bush/Prescott New England aristocracy governed the place for much of the twentieth century (and is having a woeful attempt at doing the same in this one).

I’d love to be a working class hero; but I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting at a £30K Steinway piano in a Surrey mansion warbling about it. Being a wastrel aristo with massive gambling debts would be ok too, but I wouldn’t be so keen on drowning in a vain attempt to swim the Bosphorus.

I think I’ll settle for petit bourgeois mediocrity. It’s much safer on the whole. If I were to wear a pinz nez, or a flat cap, people might punch me on the nose.


suburban wonder said...

I went to a very snobby private school, where I rubbed elbows with the "upper class." I don't like them very much. I don't keep in touch with many of them (one or two, max). I'll take my middle class suburbanite label and wear it with pride.


First Nations said...

oh, america has a distinct consciousness of class; don't doubt it. the dumbasses back east don't get much attention from the rest of the nation, though. thats what makes living on the West Coast so wonderful...merely by virtue of residency, i am automatically cooler than the richest Vanderbilt will ever be. Out here we worship Bill Gates,yet Billy still goes through the drive-up at Dicks and waits for his burger like the rest of us rockin slackers.

Sniffy said...

And you say it so well.

Class is a good thing I reckon; it certainly provides us with something to talk about when the weather is out of the headlines.

There may be unsubstantiated claims that we live in a classless society, but there is plenty of evidence that there are lots of people with absolutely no class whatsoever.

Spinsterella said...

"Being personally devoid of any class whatsoever in shape, form, or movement.."

I argued the very same thing when I was a gauche (but loud-mouthed) student. I hadn't grown up with it, so I was immune, I thought.

But, my professor pointed out to me, You're over her now; you have no better chance of getting to upper-class status than anyone else.

He wasn't being a twat, he was pointing out a truth.

I am lower middle class. Inescapable.

Spinsterella said...

Um, that last point would make more sense if I made it clear that, like Garfer, I'm a NI native.

(Where we don't have public schools and class structure, just sectarian divisions.)

Arabella said...

My best friend at infants school came from a posh home. After coming to my house to play she addressed her mother as "mom", and was told off: "I am your mummy, Anne-Marie, not you mom."
Gawd knows what happened when she mentioned the sauce bottle on the table.
A 5 year old can learn a lot.

Arabella said...

But not to edit, it seems.

Rowan said...

nothing wrong with being mediocre....it means you are at least 50%'ish better than most are (financially wise).

being of british descent, class was always of high import in my canadian family, but I have noticed that it is nothing most canadians have ever heard of....honestly!

Kyahgirl said...

Rowan is right, most Canadians are unaware of the class structure. Thank god there isn't much of it.

However, my sister in law is from a wealthy snooty Hungarian family in Vancouver and they still fancy themselves quite a bit above the rest of us Canadian slobs. She had an actual 'debut' into their social set at 18 years of age. ONly god knows why she chased after and eventually snared my brother, being from just your basic poor Catholic family with a tradesperson and a nurse as the parents. She never lets us forget she's superior.

soubriquet said...

Oh bollocks!What a to-do..
I was a teacher, now I'm a plumber... It's all downhill from here chaps.
Mind you, I don't own a boiler suit, and despite the Sun thinking we're all on 80 grand, I earn a lot less than I would teaching.
But as a plumber, I can take pride in what I do, whereas as a teacher, I'd be better off taking valium.

Sniffy said...

Where the hell has he disappeared to again?