Sodium Haze: Class hatred

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Class hatred

Polly Toynbee writes with passion and intelligence this morning in the Guardian about class hatred.

She rails against the use of the word 'chav' and accuses the right wing upper classes of the UK of draining power, money and respect from the bottom to the top of UK society.

When considering the dim distant notion of a functional world administration (the kind which could deliver the urgently needed changes to avert catastrophic climate change) or some notion of world community or human unity - it is tempting to look at national divides, religious divides and ethnic divides and pay too little attention to class divides.

Here in the UK - class is a huge huge issue - always has been. Polly in her article argues rightly that working class people have been demonised by the word 'chav' by upper class people who despise them.

What dissapoints me about Polly's article, in fact the whole narrative of her articles is that she operates from inside a class war mentality that offers support and fire for her 'side' - but no way out as I see it.

Why do rich people with all the advantages and security one could wish for still fear and despise people who are in reality no threat to them.

What are the national group dynamics that have created and sustained this class hatred for centuries - and how do we change them? Do people even want them changed? Polly admirably stands up for sections of society that she regards as trampled and powerless - but is this actually true - Polly risks turning whole sections of society into hapless victims, who want an end to class labels and boxes but can't somehow get off their knees and have a revolution.

But DO people REALLY want to be stripped of their class identities and sense of belonging? I doubt it in many cases. Sure everyone would like more money and its absolutely true that we live in a society which is inequitous to the point of being evil - but do people really want an end to the divisive class struggle in the UK?

Do upper class, middle class and working class all have their own value systems, worldviews and ways of identifying themselves. Is this a vmeme issue a la Spiral Dynamics?

I would LOVE an end to the class structure in the UK - an end to the royals - the toffs - the tories...

...but I think its folly and perhaps even arrogant to assume that everyone else shares those wishes - indeed it is far more likely that they don't - identity and a set of cultural rules and clothes are things that some of us can cast off  - but are a life threatening loss for others.

Sadly I suspect Polly is guilty of projecting her wishes onto a section of society all too easily portrayed as victims - the venal imposition of poverty lands true with me - the idea that people rail against the cultural compact of being working class or even a 'chav ' - doesn't.
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