that does it. Ive had it just about up to here
with Sean Smyth, Billy Mitchell, David Ervine and
everyone else who hasnt noticed that the class
war is over.
middle class. Its great - if youre one
of the few people in Northern Ireland who isnt
middle class, I recommend you give it a try. Its
got nothing to do with how much money you have (Im
permanently broke.) All you have to do is conquer
the fear of appearing to have ideas above your station,
and as if by magic, youll be free.
my fathers family is astonishingly wealthy and
well-bred, my mother was a working class girl. She
went to school with no shoes on. She had TB. She can
still make a bag of mince last all week. But my grandparents,
being traditional working class people, made sure
this wasnt all she could ever hope for in life.
My mum was the first person in her street to go to
university, and now she can fake middle-class so well
only an expert could tell the difference.
course my grandparents are still embarrassingly common,
but their proudest achievement in life is turning
out stuck-up kids. They both worked 12-hour days for
50 years to do it, but their working class values
paid off - and pushed the family up a rung. The post-war
growth and social opportunities working class politics
delivered enabled the vast majority of their peers
to do the same. And so the working class is largely
no more, its passing a triumph of the values that
when the red end of the local political spectrum talks
about the working class today, its
generally referring to a group of people the original
working class despised - that vicious, idle, stupid,
criminal predatory underclass, the eternal cuckoo
in the working mans nest, frustrating his hopes
with a worthless culture of inadequacy, conformity
and resentment. Yet we now allow - even encourage
- such people to hijack the mantle of working
class, and to use its political language. The
result is that when theyre not stealing from
their neighbours, todays working class
are stealing from everybody by demanding services
theyll abuse, facilities theyll destroy
and a general sufferance theyll take as a right.
When their cynicism eventually collides with our impatience,
that will be the end of the welfare system - a final
insult to my grandparents generation.
insistence that this country still has a significant
working class is only encouraging these people. Of
course theres a powerful desire in Northern
Ireland to hope for a new kind of politics - but its
pathetic to think the alternative is an old kind of
class politics, which no longer applies to this or
any other Western society.
Worse, the working class myth is re-writing
recent history at the very moment we should be looking
at it honestly. Time and again we hear how working
class people bore the brunt of the troubles while
the middle class turned its back. This is dogmatic
delusion. Working class people nurtured
the troubles, sustained them with their gormless hatreds,
and continue to inflict their recreational tribalism
on the rest of us. Those lucky enough not to be caught
in the middle have been wise to stay out of it. Those
caught - still caught - in what we euphemistically
call working class areas have been patronised
beyond endurance by the suggestion that their plight
is a function of their place in society.
Ireland does not have a class problem - it has a sectarian
public order problem, increasingly camouflaged behind
the outdated rhetoric of class division. Anybody adding
to that rhetoric is adding to the height the few remaining
actual working class people must climb to become as
middle class as the rest of us. I assume thats
their rightful aspiration - and if you think that
assumption is an insult to those people, imagine how
they feel being considered of a class
with the absolute scum of the earth.
Newton Emerson finds inspiration for his articles
through the sports of sailing and skiing. He prefers
to write in the conservatory.
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