Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Mea culpa

I have been ticked off by ‘Shuggy’, one of the Drink-Soaked Trots, for using the term ‘lumpen’. Apparently, it proves that I am a snob who despises the working class. Some might ask why Shuggy does not complain when the person I described as lumpen, his fellow DSTPFW blogger ‘Will’, uses misogynistic terms of abuse such as ‘cunt’ and ‘whore’ – might this not be deemed disrespectful to sex workers and to members of the fairer sex in general ? Some might ask why Shuggy does not complain when Will uses the term ‘retard’ as a term of abuse in the comments section of Shuggy’s very own post – might this not be deemed disrespectful to the mentally handicapped or to people with learning disabilities ? But they would be wrong, because, I am told, it’s normal for people Up North to speak like Will does:

I feel so badly for you – to be introduced to how people in places like Glasgow and Newcastle actually talk. You know, like real people, majority people, common people, unwashed, uneducated and uncouth people. The kind of people who, if you were honest with yourself, you’d admit you despise. How traumatic and ghastly this must be for you.

Of course, I could respond that, in the predominantly middle-class milieu of the left-wing intelligentsia that I come from, using terms like ‘lumpen’ to describe abusive, aggressive and intolerant Neanderthals is how we actually talk. We may not be so common and we may generally be washed, educated and couth. But we are the kind of people who, if you were honest with yourself, you’d admit you despise. How traumatic and ghastly this must be for you.

But I would have no right to make such an argument. Because where would we all be if white, male, middle-class heterosexuals like myself felt they had a right to criticise members of oppressed groups such as the working class for behaviour that’s simply part of their group culture ? Why, the next thing you know, I might feel entitled to condemn Muslim bigots who castrate young girls, keep their multiple wives imprisoned at home, blow up cafes full of Jews and organise conferences to deny the Holocaust. But that would make me an Islamophobe, of course, just like Peter Tatchell.

Thanks to Shuggy’s post, I’ve realised the error of my ways. I realise that if Geordies or Glaswegians spew vulgar abuse, mug old ladies and set fire to immigrants’ homes, they are just expressing their true, gritty, proletarian Northern culture. Far from being the object of condescension from middle-class snobs such as myself, such culture should be celebrated. In fact, there is a lot more wholesome truth and sincerity in the phrase ‘Sharon is a slag’ written on a bus-shelter and embellished with a good slash of urine by a working-class lad from Up North, than in whole libraries full of books by left-wing intellectuals who are mostly white, male and middle class.

Of course, you can’t really blame me. In the state primary school I attended, the dinner ladies used to tell me off for swearing. I didn’t realise at the time that those dinner ladies were just working-class traitors who were trying to embourgeoisify the youth with poncey middle-class good manners. Although in retrospect, I suppose, they might have been telling the middle-class kids off for swearing while secretly encouraging the working-class kids to swear more so as to preserve their working-classness, and I – oblivious in my privileged state of contentedness – was simply blind to these subtle acts of class warfare going on around me.

Perhaps that’s the solution ? We could have separate schools for the working class and for the middle class. And in the working-class schools, so as not to patronise the children, we could encourage them to swear, twock cars and make spelling mistakes. Meanwhile, middle-class children could receive a proper education, but be taught to feel extremely guilty about it, so that they’d never dare to criticise any working-class person, ever.

Well, I have to thank the horny-handed sons of toil over at the Drink-Soaked Trots for setting me straight. Some weeks ago, I argued here that the politics of class leads to moral relativism. How totally I have been proven wrong.

I was planning to go fox-hunting this weekend, but instead, I think I’ll just stay at home and contemplate the sheer enormity of my middle-class guilt. In fact, I think I’ll go back to being a Trotskyist.

Correction: I referred above to the Drink-Soaked Trots as ‘horny-handed sons of toil’. This is incorrect. It should be ‘horny-handed sons and daughters of toil’. Come to think of it, it should be ‘horny-handed daughters and sons of toil’.

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Friday, 18 April 2008 - Posted by | Political correctness, The Left

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