It’s the end of 2016, and evidence of growing class separation is suddenly all around us.
‘I ruined a goose last week,’ said the lady behind me at the theatre. ‘Then someone told me about this shop called Lidl. The most extraordinary place. They sell frozen geese. Do you know, it was every bit as good as the one from our village butcher, and a fraction of the price? Of course I can never tell anyone I went to Lidl.’
No matter how well the chainstore Lidl sources its food some middle class people would need to wear a false moustache to shop there. In the world of middle-class values class is an ever-changing minefield. Shops like Primark and TK Maxx are for proles. Anything Australian is vulgar. Under Obama America had been accorded middle-class respectability but has now been branded a hillbilly no-go zone for electing Trump. Our refusal to understand any complicated situation leaves us prejudiced and in the dark.
We applaud the artist Tracey Emin’s decision to move back to Margate. ‘It’s where she belongs, after all,’ said one TV snob. Acting, once considering little better than being a whore, is now a desirable profession because there are virtually no working class actors left; who can afford the training?
So what about writers? Here’s a section from an Amazon review of a book called ‘The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa’:
‘What would happen if you took some of Britain’s best writing talent, put them on a plane and flew them to one of the most extraordinary and inaccessible places on the planet?‘ The roll-call includes Irvine Welsh, Alex Garland, Tony Hawks, Victoria Glendinning, Andrew O’Hagan, Giles Foden and WF Deedes. Welsh, you’ll note, is the token commoner, invited ‘from the streets of Edinburgh’ as the blurb puts it (he must live in a cardboard box). The rest are resolutely middle class.
Frankly these days there aren’t many working class authors left to invite on such a project. I was recently told by a very silly man that reading itself is middle class, which made me want to punch him in the throat. Reading is a right for every human being and therefore classless. But publishers are not. There are still publishers and writers who use social networks as if they were getting to grips with a loom.
The dividing lines of class, which until recently were fading to grey, have now been re-established in concrete. In this world ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ becomes the rallying cry of the stupid (one now-famous clip shows a man arguing that ‘Brexit will keep out the Muslims’), while the Remainers prove their solidarity with Europe by going skiing in – Zermatt. It’s as confusing as the freezing fog the country is trapped in this week.
Where do I stand now? I am middle-class. My parents were in science and law, and owned their own home. They were poorer than the working class people in their neighbourhood, but richer than their parents before them. I live in the ‘London Bubble’*, although how one would describe those who voted Remain outside London is a mystery.
Class is no longer judged by your background. It’s about having enough money for university, education, homes, holidays. When Viz invented its character ‘Student Grant’, students were still being paid to go to college, not the reverse. Presumably working class values will make a comeback in 2017. Or perhaps not. As one of this site’s readers, Mark, pointed out; ‘Individuality and free will are relatively new concepts, so it’s possible that they will cease in importance again.’
Here’s to an interesting 2017!
*Definition of ‘London Bubble’; My neighbour posted an online plea – ‘Help, we are having an emergency. Our raclette grill has broken and we’re having a party. Does anyone have one we can borrow?’