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Date Posted: 12:13:23 07/04/04 Sun
Author: The Blanket
Subject: PSF Poll- An ego trip for Middle-Class
An Ego Trip for the Middle Class
Mick Hall • 25 June 2004
After the recent election of Mary Lou McDonald as the Sinn Fein MEP for Dublin , I got to thinking about the middle classes and my attitude towards them, which can best be summed up as one of absolute contempt. The reason being is that Ms McDonald is about as middle class as they come. Born into the affluent Dublin suburb of Rathgar, she attended a fee paying private school, in her case at Notre Dame, Churchtown. After this she went on to study at Trinity; throughout her time their her parents continued to fund her education. After leaving University she did the usual middle class kid's flop around Europe with the help of her parents' bank balance and from time to time found employment on the professional old pals act. Whilst working class kids may get a job on a local building site because the general foreman knows their dad, middle class kids do the same but end up in one of the countless think tanks or media outlets that have been spawned these days. After returning to Ireland she joined FF in 1998. Somehow she caught the eye of the SF leadership and moved over to that party and was fast-tracked into her current position.
Apart from the very real question about why the leadership fast-tracked an individual with such a background, when the overwhelming majority of their supporters live in a different world if not planet from Ms McDonald, it is difficult to see how with her brief party membership she will be able to emphathise with SFs constituency. What is it about working class politicians, once they gain any power, that they feel the need to surround themselves with young middle class women? Of course, only the lookers get an invite. True, some middle class people come over to the side of the masses and immerse themselves within the struggle. But is there not enough for them to do without them being fast-tracked and by being so depriving some promising working class youngster of a political career? After all, the benches of the Dail and European Parliament are hardly groaning with the weight of politicians who come from working class backgrounds. Both places are full of middle class apparatchiks whose life experiences consists of a brief spell being employed in this or that think tank.
Still the above did get me thinking as to why I have such strong emotions against a whole class, it hardly seems logical, even to me. So where does it spring from, what has made me feel like this about a class of people, with whom in my daily life I rarely consciously rub shoulders? Except perhaps when I go to the Doctors or Dentist, the odd politician or journalist I may come into contact with, a comrade who has gone over to supporting the struggles of the working classes.
As a child growing up at the end of WW2, I saw the middle classes in much the same way as my peers and indeed as most working class people did at that time. They were distant to us, cleverer due to their education, or so we thought, in positions of power over us. There really was no interaction on a social level between working class adults, let alone kids with members of the middle classes back then. Something that has not changed a great deal in the proceeding years, it seems to me. It was almost a thank you kindly sir and god bless you attitude if they so much as sneezed in our direction.
For a start the middle classes owned their own houses, something in those days a worker could not even aspire to do. When local councils agreed planning permission for the desperately needed homes to be built for the vast numbers of homeless working class people in the 1950s and 60s, the middle class people who advised and sat on these planning committees were quite prepared to pass these applications as long as the proposed council estates where built on green field sites, not within sight nor smell of their own leafy suburbs. There was, after all, money to be made for the middle classes during this building boom and once the homes were occupied, there would be a ready supply of cheap labour.
When as kids we became sick, we went to the local doctor, or if we had tooth ache the dentist. Both of whom were of course middle class. Little did our parents believe that these people might not have had our best interest at heart? The dentist by pulling and filling teeth that were perfectly healthy, so that they could claim a larger fee from the newly formed NHS; the GP by prescribing medication to us that they had either received as a job lot from a rep or enrolling us without our parents' knowledge as participants in drugs trials on which we unknowingly were to be the guinea pigs, with the doctor receiving a hefty fee from the pharmaceutical companies for recruiting his patients. No one ever mentioned the word fraud, nor questioned these medical practitioners' competence. When a member of the working classes had all their teeth pulled out for no better reason than to fill the dentist's wallet, as happened to my own mother at the age of 20, more often than not they went through their entire lives believing what the dentist had told them, they had weak gums so it would be better for them to have the lot pulled. After all, the dentist is an educated middle class person, they know what they are doing; they would not be dentists otherwise, now would they?
I suppose the closest contact we had with the Middle Class as kids was our schoolteachers, the overwhelming majority of whom were either lower middle class or middle class. Or if our luck was out, those members of the local Middle Class community who sat on the local Magistrates Bench. As to the school masters it would not be unfair to say that those who passed my way hated us, regarding the kids they taught and had responsibility for as dirty, ignorant, lazy urchins and in their opinion it would be better for the nation if they stayed that way. Discipline is all we needed to understand. Once we had learnt to accept that, we could go forth into the world of work like a cart house, trained to haul their load. It was brawn, not brain, that we would provide the British economy with. The brain was already being provided by the likes of them and theirs. In any case I have no doubt they had as a group long ago concluded it was hard enough for their own children to get decent jobs in the professions, they could do without competition from the brats of great unwashed.
If we had run out of luck and found ourselves before the Magistrates Bench, then the middle class magistrate would peer down contemptuously upon us, reflecting to themselves and at times in our direction that as we had clearly not learned to respect authority, we will have to be taught the hard way in an approved school, borstal or a detention centre, in which we would be beaten and bullied by the staff, which of course had the full support and encouragement of that nice, softly, well spoken, university educated, middle class Governor. Endless PT and bunny hops were the order of the day; they would soon knock the backbone out of us delinquents. Self-fulfilment through education would be lost on the likes of us, after all is said and done; it went against the natural order of things.
Then after ten years of mis-education accompanied with a good dollop of perversion and sadism the world of work beckoned. What joys and adventures awaited me I wondered. As in my school days, apart for the masters, members of the middle classes were rarely present during the first few years of my working life. From time to time they would appear on the horizon in the person of management checking on the progress of their workforce's output, or as time and motion men standing over us with their stop watches attempting to think up even more devious ways to make us work harder and thus produce more. It was only after a fellow worker encouraged me to read the Guardian newspaper, that bastion of the liberal English middle classes and from that I graduated to reading books, that I began to realise the pernicious influence the middle classes had in my life.
As I became more knowledgeable I was asked by my work mates to become their trade union shop steward, thus for the first time I came face to face, as equals and in adversity with middle class people in the form of the management. This experience was to open my eyes and gradually play a part in replacing the hatred I felt for the middle classes with that of absolute contempt.
For the first time I realised that although they were better educated than me there brains were no better, if anything their moral values were far weaker than those I had instilled in me as a working class child by my uneducated parents. They felt nothing of lying and cheating if it brought the company and thus themselves advantages. This made me look at the political history of this class or rather those members of it who I had come across who back then were mainly English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish.
They like to look upon themselves as civilised, decent people, when in reality the overwhelming majority are the exact opposite. Sure, my own class can behave in a low manner, at times expressing low, racist or homophobic comments. But in their defence they had never been educated to know any better. Whereas the middle class had been educated to university level, in the process having read some of the finest works mankind had ever produced; yet still they put personal advantage over all else. Not only do they hold racist views but also unlike the working classes they have the power to put them into practice. For who else made the London Metropolitan police institutionally racist, the treatment many asylum seekers receive in Ireland from the Guards shows they are no better.… Who thought up the disgusting referendum about the rights of children born in Ireland to those seeking asylum, who to this day blacklists ethnic minorities from the Judiciary, senior civil service etc., who in the past financed the fascist parties of Hitler and Mussolini?
It was the British middle classes who were the backbone of the British Empire, which cannot be described as anything but legalised theft with a fair amount of murder, assault and battery thrown in for good measure or indeed down right pleasure. If anyone believes they have changed with the ages, forget it. Who writes and propagandises the jingoistic crap that British and Irish newspapers and the electric media spew forth daily, especially over the illegal war in Iraq? Of course to read middle class journalists such as the liberal Polly Toynbee in the London Guardian newspaper, one would think it is the working classes who are jingoistic or down right racist, solely responsible for the rise of racism within the EU. Who puts such filth into our minds, I ask. Who administers public organisation, Government Departments and large businesses that are in the words of the writer of the report on the death of Steven Lawrence, "Institutionally Racist"? In any case in my experience the racism and homophobia of working class people is only on the surface. Whereas with the middle classes it is carefully thought through and often deeply ingrained over centuries, covered over with a thin veneer of civilisation. Of course as I have already stated there are exceptions, members of the middle classes who have by fighting for justice and equality placed themselves on the side of working people, but sadly they remain a tiny majority. In the main they beaver away in the engine room of progressive movement the world over, recognising if working people are to fully liberate themselves they themselves must be their own tribunes in the political chambers, not delegate this responsibility to members of the middle classes, no matter how sincere they may be. If Ms McDonald had any true understanding about Irish Republicanism she would have understood this and declined the ego trip the current SF leadership offered her.
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