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Notes from Nowhere

I think I was 14. It was an English lesson, as I recall. And the words were delivered with the hint of a smirk.

‘Well of course, the Sun has a reading age of eight.’

Innocuous enough. And I didn’t know if it was true, nor much care. The truth was less important than the implication, to be honest, veracity less important than meaning. I knew what was going on, what was really being said: ‘here are people who are not like us, we clever ones, we sophisticated ones, we who can see through the ruse to the ignorance of folk. We, children, know better, are better.’

I wanted to be part of the in-group. I wanted to have real status and authority, too. To be like you, Sir, all knowledgeable and self-assured and authoritative. I didn’t want to be one of Them, so subtly scorned with a barbed comment and the raise of an eyebrow. So it seeped in. It became true. Those stupid Sun readers – thickos, bigots all.

Only, my Dad was a Sun reader. And many of my family. And most of the folk on the council estate where I grew up. I knew this because I delivered their morning papers seven days a week. And it was nearly always the Sun, occasionally the Star, the odd Daily Mirror. Except on Sundays, when it was usually the News of the World, and occasionally the Sunday People.

I was, to use an unfashionable term, something of a ‘chav’ at school, though I can chart a change in self-image from around this time onward, from Kappa and Ellesse to Officers’ Club and a whole different section of the Littlewoods catalogue. Perhaps this was just normal teenage rebellion. Either way, I had decided that I wanted something different, that I was cut from different cloth, that the world held better in store for me than it did for those whose love and support had brought me to this point. I distinctly remember being in a GCSE class, reading aloud Heaney’s Follower, a poem superficially about a boy helping his father with jobs around the farm, and the words of the final stanza hitting like thunder – ‘I was a nuisance, tripping, falling/Yapping always. But today/It is my father who keeps stumbling/Behind me, and will not go away.’

My father, no academic but a bloody good soldier, and in many ways our salvation (I need not go into details), with all his coarse dependability, became an awkward moment, to be transcended, to be left behind.

Or when I graduated from my degree course. My gramps, an Irishman who came looking for work in the chemical factories in the North East before finding work driving wagons and settling in Stockton, proud enough of my achievement that he had tears in his eyes. I’ll never forget the hug he gave me. It might have even been my first, aged 22 – you didn’t really do that kind of thing in the Merrick family.

The whole tribe came up to Lancaster, and we went for a meal in a little village called Heysham, which was awkward to get to but classier than the Brewers’ Fayre some had suggested and enabled me to show that I was now a bit more upmarket than that. Whilst we were waiting, Gramps and I went for a stroll, settling just along from a rock with graves carved into it, looking out over the sands of Morecambe Bay. I was in heaven. I’ve always idolised my Gramps – he was different, from somewhere else, with stories to tell. And so when we talked, and he began to give his sage advice, I lapped it up. And then he said, without hint of humour or irony, ‘Michael, you’re a bright boy – have you ever thought about running a pub?’ As my memory tells it, I guffawed, and assured him I had my sights set on greater things. He fell quiet and, after five minutes or so looking out to sea, we made our way back for the meal.

His Dad, it turns out, my great-grandad, ran a pub. In Dublin. And his Dad, my great-grandad, was a great man, a source of pride.

I had just guffawed.

Or with my other Grandad, a bluff Yorkshireman from Wakefield who drove wagons his whole life. We sat in his front room, a three-bedroomed former council house in Pendlebury, Salford. He enjoyed films, did my Grandad. And so when I asked, he started telling me about the ones he liked best. Pretty soon I launched into a monologue about my favourites, all of them foreign language films, airily pronouncing on their artistic qualities, the more obscure and niche the better; Satantango, Russian Ark, Yojimbo, Roma città aperta, Dekalog. I asked him if he’d seen them, and when he said he hadn’t I suggested he lend them (I’d just been to the Trafford Centre and bought a load from HMV), and was mystified when he said no. In the end, with a smile, he gently assured me ‘I’m not into all that,’ and gazed back at the television screen, flicking through what was on and settling for CSI Miami.

I don’t know if these were my favourite films. Maybe they were at the time, though to be honest I doubt it. Looking back, this was about status. Me, the smart-arse, the graduate, the one who went to university, lording it over my Grandad, in his own sitting room. I asked my Dad about this other day, suggesting I was perhaps unbearable after university. He smiled, a sympathetic, loving smile: ‘well, sometimes maybe.’

I had been the first to go to university in my family, on both sides, save for my grandmother’s brother, an outlier whose name was spoken in hushed tones, and whom I had never met because like all clever people he had moved away and was different from us now. And I thought that could be me. It came with a fight – I had had to quit professional football to go to university, much to the incomprehension of various family members, especially when it became clear I was studying Theology (‘do you want to be a priest or what?). In the end, I think I enjoyed the mystique. I was being just like my ‘uncle’ Tony.

And yet, for all I was quietly rejecting them, they never rejected me. I was one of them, even if I increasingly gave the impression of not wanting to be. I was ‘our Mike’, and forever would be. And as time has gone by, I realise how intensely proud I am of them, and of the great fortune it is to have been raised as a working-class kid, as one of them. This background was not an obstacle to be overcome, which is what arguments for social mobility nearly always collapse into, but a fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of future success. It is only with passing years, and the challenges that come with raising your own children, that such issues find a way back to the now, to be chewed over and answered once again, ugly truths and all.

All of this might, of course, hold no greater lesson than my own deficiencies as a human being. I’m happy to acknowledge I have plenty of them. And maybe this post would have been more accurately entitled ‘Gentle Regrets’ or ‘Confessions of an Arrogant Fool.’ But if this is the case, I suspect I share the platform with plenty of others. And this whole thought process was kicked off by the following series of tweets, by Mike Tyler, tweets that resonated with me.

See, that was me. I was those graduates. Much to my shame, I thought that was the character of being educated. And maybe, at times, I still do. Blood is thicker than water, but professional and social respectability is a powerful confounding variable. My own kids have a different childhood from the one I had –so am I rejecting it, or building on it? I can’t honestly say I know the answer to that question. And when you dwell on that loss of identity, of simple surety, it can cut deep. When others tread all over it, it stings.

 

Neither Here nor There

It is a long established truth that graduates tend to be much more liberal than their non-graduate compatriots. Indeed, since the referendum, plenty on the Remain have been quick to point out the education gap between Leave voters and themselves. The observation is innocent enough, though it too often contains all the smirk and subtext of that teacher from my youth.

Thus the graduate professions take on a particular character, with norms of outlook, of worldview, indeed of morality. The moral compass of the liberal outlook is distinct from the conservative, and these things split broadly over class, which correlates with level of education; these tribes value different things, draw lines in different places. But when the deck is stacked so heavily toward one over the other, the chances of any effort to comprehend the difference diminish whilst self-certainty proliferates. And liberals, contrary to assumption, tend to be as intolerant as conservatives, who have a broader moral outlook, though less understanding of the conservative viewpoint than the other way round. In a profession which is graduate dominated, and with graduate-level education so tightly correlated with liberal outlook, so we might see the roots of an important disconnect. Conformity to the norms of the in-group becomes the mark of the sophisticated, the cultured, the educated. And transgression comes at a cost.

As such, if you arrive from a working-class background shaped by these subversive norms, the graduate professions are not always a comfortable place to be. You must grow accustomed to the objects of derision and mockery being people like your family, those you grew up with, those you know and love. Whilst the derision might be delivered in the abstract – against a general viewpoint or unidentified Other – the barbs are felt personally. The word bigot, or any of its linguistic manifestations, is chucked about casually, but it hits specific targets, especially when it addresses a common viewpoint amongst those who comprise your upbringing. Those ‘xenophobes’ and ‘racists’ who voted Leave, for example, are not disembodied, theoretical people, but those who you know to be nothing of the sort, such as grandparents, who were always so loving and kind, and parents, who have lived a life of service to others, friends, who are decent and hardworking, the folks who live next door, the lady who you see at Church each week, the priest who baptised your kids. It becomes personal, and it jars.

But with public affirmation of in-group norms comes prestige –  in the echo chamber of social media, there is status to be acquired through the sassy, the rude, the downright spiteful to working-class folk with more conservative views, on immigration, perhaps, or crime, or Brexit. An army of followers giddily RT and ‘Like’ such comments, as if their articulacy were evidence of their truth and justification for their prejudice. Thus the motes are plucked out whilst the beams remain – the cultured despisers find in their intellectual superiority a justification of their presumed existential superiority, too.

They say in comedy that you should never punch down because it makes you look a bully, though this does not seem to be a moderating influence when there is a witty observation to be delivered highlighting deficiencies of the ‘deplorables.’ I remember attending a Diversity course as a GTP trainee, delivered through a series of dramas and roleplays. It was a good day and I learned plenty, particularly about the importance and power of language – something I grappled with here – though it was noticeable that each time a bigot was portrayed in a drama, they had a strong regional accent and performed a manual trade, with uniform and props to match. When I asked about the apparent incongruity I was told, in a stuttering response, that this simply reflected real life. Prejudice, indeed.

There is nothing particularly new in this, and since most culture-forming and socially prestigious professions are graduate dominated, so the outlooks and assumptions are reflected back and reinforced, presenting a wall of affirmation through which any dissent is proof that someone is Not Like Us, and thus wrong. And from this, the belief that it is a duty to help future generations avoid such a fate, and become more Like Us, and thus right.

In our schools, this has real consequences – as I have explored here and here – creating a representation vacuum as a class of Anywheres seek to educate a generation of Somewheres, Pioneers against Settlers, with the former holding all the power and believing professional success consists in educating the latter out of the values and culture of their upbringing. Pupils from a socially conservative background, which often (not always) overlaps with a working-class (or religious) background, will at times find themselves at odds with the ethical and moral paradigms of those who educate them, a culture chasm always framed as simply a matter of education (or the absence of it). And so the cycle starts over, an abiding tension between home and school, since in this case to be educated is to leave behind what you hear and are taught at home.

But some do choose home. Not because of a lack of learning but because of a refusal to shed heritage and home as the participation fee. If we want to talk about why working-class kids are alienated from education, we could do worse than start a conversation there. That those who agitate so fiercely for social justice, and write and speak so piously about the disenfranchisement of the working class, should choose to studiously ignore this particular deficit, and indeed locate their own virtue in the perpetuation of it, tells us a lot about the intractability of the culture clash we accommodate.

Of course, it follows that the same is true with teachers, though perhaps more acutely, since the heresies of those within are more serious than the ignorance of those without – the latter is tragedy, the former is malice. During Brexit, half a dozen teachers confessed to me that they voted Leave, all by DM, and all saying they did not dare say so publicly. To date, I’m only aware of one having since revealed their vote. And yesterday, in response to a question about one thing that Twitter had changed your mind on, one person DMed and said abortion, but they could never admit this publicly.

I’m not sure such conformism can be described as an evident good, nor the surest sign of a good education. The current creation myth of the teaching profession is one of a virtuous battle against intolerance, bigotry and demonization of the Other – yet those who pursue such accounts of virtue do not always realise, or do not care, that these are precisely the sins they commit in the eyes of those on the receiving end of their evangelism.

And yet… it is more complex than a simple to-and-fro between two competing accounts of the good life, a power play with only one plausible winner. Neither side are entirely wrong, even if heart battles fiercely with head in trying to work out the worst of the two. If you join the affray from a working-class background, you inevitably have a foot in both camps. One may get defensive when those whom you know and love are targets of censure, but you also carry the knowledge that, in some sense, you also chose to leave this tribe behind. And, uncomfortable as it might be, one can also see the validity of some of the analysis, even if its descent into moral judgement and lack of charity becomes sufficient motivation for fighting it. Some might call this contrarianism, but maybe it is something more primal than that. We often see the faults in those we love, but we naturally get defensive if somebody from the outside decides to make it an object of their own crusade. Maybe the same applies here.

Needless to say, this high-minded detachment does not solve the feeling of disconnect. For a working-class kid in a graduate profession, having a foot in both camps mean not really belonging in either, an outsider to each, wishing it did not have to be either-or but finding it difficult to see how it might be otherwise. The norms of one are the enemy of the other. One might mourn the perceived conflict of heritage or professional flourishing, but it is difficult to deny. The world that formed you, that helped you fly, can be the world that holds you back, a world which you both reject(ed) and embrace at the same time. And it is always the rejection that each side of this conflict remembers, never the embrace.

And so you crash along, feeling like an imposter wherever you stand, looking for allies in the cause. But it can be a lonely place. And who wants to be lonely?

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40 Comments

  1. […] that are worried the most about change. Like many others on edu-twitter, I read Michael Merrick’s blog last week about his working class family and his defence of their vote to leave the EU. However in […]

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  2. […] insightful blogs on my twitter feed this week that have stimulated my thinking juices (such as this and this). Secondly, I’ve spent the last few days putting together some flat pack furniture and […]

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  3. Patrick Selden says:

    Thanks for this post, Michael – it resonates with me in so many different ways…

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  4. Dave says:

    I can sum up the attitude of the (white) liberal middle class to the (white) working class in a few place names and words:

    Rotherham; Rochdale; Oxford; Newcastle and soon to be Telford and Keighley. And 70 odd other towns where hundreds of Muslim men, in each place, gang raped and tortured white working class children for between ten and thirty years with the FULL knowledge of the local council, police, Labour party and Home Office.

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  5. DJA says:

    You’re wrong, because The Oracle that is ‘Matt Young’ told you so. He is the Keeper of the Truth, after all.

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  6. Lesley king says:

    This is splendid with personal resonance for me and reflecting some recent research from Tom Welch I was involved in with white working class boys of British origin who had done well academically at school
    We should recognise that their breadth of experience and understanding of the world make them the privileged ones not those with a narrow life path of affluence and private education etc

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  7. Matt Young says:

    Coming from a northern, working class background myself there’s much in this I can identify with, but precious little I can agree with. I too was the first in my family to go to university, and I have also been guilty of patronising those I ‘left behind.’ It all boils down to this, especially regarding the EU referendum: one of us has to be right. Either it was better to leave or remain. And if I think someone is wrong, and if I feel and know that this decision is an unmitigated disaster, grounded in lies and prejudice, what am I supposed to say? Fair enough? You’ve possibly ruined my career working for an Irish company, but no hard feelings? You might have destroyed my ambitions to live abroad, but we’re related so no biggie? The fact that your vote was based, and let’s be ruthlessly honest, on Daily Mail headlines and not really liking hearing Polish in the corner shop, is a huge source of anger, despair and resentment to me. You’ve snatched away perhaps my future and the futures of generations, and for what? You’ve wrecked our part in the greatest achievement of European history, the body which created the coming together of peoples after centuries of war.

    I just can’t see what the message is here. “Be kind, because I was once a bit of a know-all’? Are we supposed to ‘understand’ them in their short-sightedness, their misconceptions, their delusional ideas painted onto a bus? I understand the EU, I’ve had more meetings in Brussels then they’ve eaten sprouts, I comprehend it, and I’m not going to shrug and say, ‘they’ve got a point’ because they absolutely, resolutely, unquestionably haven’t.
    Our economy is already suffering, jobs already being lost. But maybe pointing these things out is still ‘failing to understand’ or not ‘listening’ or ’empathising ‘. I really don’t care. If you voted leave, you own all the crap we have and that’s to come. Deal with it. Liberal guilt or no, one of us is right, and it’s me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonesy says:

      Well as an example of patronisation you’ve certainly raised the bar. My vote was based upon Daily Mail headlines? Why not stick to the article and blame The Sun? Or of course “That Bus”.
      I’ve destroyed your ambition to live abroad? So Brits can only live in the EU and have never lived anywhere else in the World outside the EU? Nonsense.
      You’ve had lots of meetings in Brussels? Well done, highly productive.
      Local wages are going up, UK inward investment is still growing and rents and house prices are reducing.
      If you wanted to design an organisation designed to undermine local working conditions, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than the EU.
      First it introduces a currency designed to make half the continent uncompetitive (except strangely enough, Germany that gets a competitive currency) and create mass unemployment. Then it “embraces” some of the poorest countries in the world and allows this pool of desperate labour to swill around the continent like water on the deck of a RORO ferry destabilising working and housing conditions wherever they go. Madness.

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      • Matt says:

        Firstly, there is no such word as ‘patronisation.’ Forgive me if my pointing this out is patronising.

        Secondly, here’s a massive straw man. I don’t want to live ‘anywhere else in the world.’ I want to live in Europe. It may still be possible for me to do so post-Brexit but it certainly isn’t guaranteed. It will depend on things like my job, and how much money I have. Unlike now, where it is my right. I have already availed myself of this right once in my life, and I hope others can too.

        Yes, my meetings in Brussels were often productive (not always, but that’s the world of work.) What that means is that I understand the European Union reasonably well. And the Commission, and the dynamics of a 28 member supranational form of government. I think that’s relevant. You obviously don’t, but I would disagree.

        ‘Local wages are going up.’ Yes, but not as fast as inflation. And so people are getting worse off. And inflation is going up because sterling is being battered due to Brexit. €1.08 today. Growth is slowing due to Brexit. Rent and house prices reducing in some areas is good news, although not if you have a mortgage. They are falling not because we’re close to solving the housing supply crisis but because people are losing confidence and not making major financial decisions. Not great.

        The Euro, while its introduction was certainly flawed, was not “designed to make half the continent uncompetitive…and create mass unemployment.” It has actually given countries used to having wildly fluctuating and devalued currencies (esp Italy, Greece, Portugal) some stability. It stopped doing that after the financial crisis partly due to those introductory flaws, and partly due to the way the crisis exposed the poor economic management and policies of those countries over many decades, such as poor tax collection, corruption, and over-generous public services and public sector conditions. As things get back to normal, the Euro will prove a continuing benefit to those countries. There’s a reason why support for the EU remains high across the continent: they understand its value, appreciate the mutual support and recognise a good thing when they have one.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Sandra says:

    Thank you for writing this so beautifully. It really resonates with me and brings a lot of release.

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  9. Jerry says:

    Very thought provoking; I am a Yank and we have had, until recently, a fairly usable ladder of success. I also came from a working class background (railroad brat), was first in my family to go to university and to be called to the bar. I had no issues with being accepted. Of course as a trial attorney or barrister I have some ability to play a role as needed; a courtroom is a stage without the fourth wall. Lately I am beginning to notice many self appointed intellectuals and elitists at the bar and in the information trades. They are incompetent clowns and are part of a developing coastal class structure. I think the issue was partially caused by the lack of military service. These idiots could not lead a boy scout troop to an ice cream parlor. They have not grown up. At one point I was seconded to a British regiment and, referring to your comment about Officer’s Club, war reminded by The Mess Corporal that “It is a Mess, Sir” Sometimes class structure is imposed from below. Never lose your tough family roots; let the dogs bark and keep marching.

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    • TC says:

      This is a well written piece which examines the authors own prejudice and his attempts to reconnect with his past which he feels estranged from. You on the other hand have had no benefit from your education and are clearly not much different from those few bigots who voted to leave the EU for the reasons you mentioned. You are clearly no more enlightened than them as your reasoning is purely self centred and you hold in contempt all those who disagree with you. I suspect without the likes of you Britain will be a richer place.

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  10. Rod Scott says:

    Or put more simply…’teachers should keep their personal views to themselves’.

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  11. MaryRose feeney says:

    I drank these words in. They are beautiful and wise and true! A lecturer I had many years ago said the exact same thing! The Sun has a reading age of an 8 yr old. I believed him; I quoted him!!
    As a single Mother, once loans were introduced, I couldn’t afford to finish my degree. But A levels had already made a literary snob of me! Hangs head in SHAME.
    I had to work to raise my family so became a carer for the elderly. That education could not have been bought. And your words were uttered many times to me. No one comes any more..our “david” is a Dr you know! Spoken with pride but also a moist eye glistening with obvious sorrow.
    I’m rather glad I got that education in life rather than from books . Tho part of me still yearns for those letters after my name. We’re an odd lot.

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  12. aimadjuster says:

    Reblogged this on Aim and commented:

    A superb work. Summarising the feelings of many.

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  13. hildestroobants says:

    Leaves me with few words and lots to think about. Thank you for bringing language and meaning to experiences lots have had but not always understood.

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  14. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for asking me to comment. First off, lovely post and I enjoyed reading it very much. Oh I did chuckle though, and I do think you are too hard on yourself. Consider these points:

    I think all twenty-somethings are diamonds in the rough who are prone to acting like fools or being complete a*ses. You were no exception, but you give yourself more of a hard time because you felt you had betrayed your roots perhaps? Plenty of middle class children have also ‘reinvented’ themselves and gone too far, possibly annoying family members and rudely rejecting tradition!
    The tweets about children rejecting their parents is, I think, a sign that education is not really doing its job properly, yet you felt personal anguish and guilt (you shouldn’t)
    I agree with your diagnosis regarding middle class professions – I too have felt the discomfort of being an interloper
    Thank goodness the power of strong family, religious upbringing, working class values and culture have inoculated us, eh?

    Why not embrace being an imposter? I love it. I feel like an undercover agent, ready to rebuff some casual pompous comment in a staffroom with a ‘Hey, I was homeless once. Look at me now! At no point did I decide to be a mini-criminal!’ I also love being educated and feel no guilt at all because my working class ancestors were also big fans of books too.

    Own it.

    Yours,

    QT

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  15. Mark says:

    What a beautiful, articulate and thought provoking article. I’m a barrister, first in my family (both sides, like you) to go to university, both grandfathers coal-miners. I don’t think it has to be a binary choice between graduate profession and working class family. You just have to be comfortable and secure with your own self. The loving family life that I had growing up was the strong foundation for that. One of my happiest memories is as a child sitting on the rug in front of the coal-fire with a glass of milk and a jam sandwich watching Match of the Day (on a black and white telly) with my Grandad. Yet I’m now also completely at ease having dinner with Law Lords. My Grandad was a so called “uneducated man”, down the pit at 14, yet he possessed intelligence and wisdom more than most I have encountered in the various professions. (Incidentally, I voted Leave in the Brexit referendum and I am more than happy to play intellectual ‘Top-Trumps’ with anyone who is sneering and condescending about Leavers’ alleged lack of “education”!) My Grandad’s favourite poet was Burns, and he often quoted to me “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, the man’s the gowd for a’ that”, and told me to always remember that. He was right, and it is so true. If some people don’t like you or look down on you because of where you come from, or conversely for what you’ve achieved, it’s more of a sad indictment on them and their own insecurities, character flaws and upbringing. Who wants to be part of their group? Just be an individual and true to yourself and the caring, loving and genuine people that exist across all levels of society and ‘groups’ will like you for who you are. You will never be lonely. Thank you for your article Micheal, and for making me think. Have a happy life. Mark

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  16. Wonderful piece. Coming from a council estate, I found the cultural schizophrenia of a grammar school a shock. My home was disparaged and I was considered less worthy than the other pupils by parents of others children and even the headteacher. Going on to study for a degree and other qualifications made my parents proud, but seemed to increase the distance between the life I had led with my family and the one they wanted for me.

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  17. […] is a whole bucketload of truth in this piece by Michael Merrick, which should make uncomfortable reading not only for metro-leftist, pro-EU […]

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  18. Kieron says:

    This is wonderful. I identify with every word of it; it’s beautifully written too. Thank you Michael

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  19. PDamien says:

    Courage, Mr. Merrick.

    As my bisabuela said “Nací solo, Moriré solo”.

    Being alone, and thereby lonely, requires us to be courageous. Your parents were courageous when they went through their own lonely struggles. Now pick up your mat and walk.

    Like

  20. Ann says:

    A beautiful and poignant piece which echoes. on many levels despite very different circumstances. Thank you

    Like

  21. Kate says:

    Loved this. As a teacher I was happy to preach to my extended family about voting remain and that immigration was a positive thing for the UK. My brother in law who is the kindest, most gentle person and also a plumber who had no work last year and worked in an arcade to earn a crust pointed out that, low skilled immigrants were not going to take my job or undercut me to the point where I would lose my house. He loves immigrants as much as I do but he stands to lose far more than me!

    Like

  22. Jim McLean says:

    A most beautiful piece of writing. Best blog of the month. It shows how truths and issues can be explored without the violence and aggression of language that most “crusaders” on all sides use to promote their views.
    Full of insight and self-perception yet full of compassion and even love.
    Thank you for writing this.

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  23. tonyparkin says:

    Resonating till the glass shatters! Especially the double-facing defensiveness. I doubt there are many of us in the ‘working-class, first in family to get to uni’ club who aren’t feeling reflective, and probably a tad sheepish after reading this. Different era, different geography but definitely ‘killing me softly with your song’. Thank you!

    Like

  24. Alison Honeybone says:

    Brilliant and true. Thankyou.

    Like

  25. dj says:

    This piece really resonated with me, I was the first in my family to go to university as well and often have these thoughts and feelings.

    I know my Dad and Brother voted for Brexit, and were staunch UKIP voters in the 2015 general election. These clashes in opinion constantly divide us and I try to avoid the topics as much as I can. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are superior in some way, and succumb to attributing others with awful stereotypes as a way of reasoning about their behaviour.

    I don’t think my family voted for Brexit on any “racist” standpoint, my Dad viewed it as an opportunity to “shake things up”. In some ways I can see where he was coming from, in a Referendum your vote has power and the offer on the table was to completely change the status quo.

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  26. WhatNowDoc says:

    This is possibly the most honest, generous, brave and astute confession/analysis/commentary of current political and social division that I’ve read in a long while. Well said, that man. Delighted to share this spinning rock with you. Your children should consider themselves lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Alecto says:

    I am not British and this is such a common story here that I really feel like you all can’t see that you live in a caste system, that you believe there are “betters”, that you should feel guilty about climbing above your station. Obviously, the monarchy, the aristocracy, the Etonites that have the greatest interest in perpetuating this affair are never singled out, blamed or considered a problem that needs to be solved in order to break up this mental paralysis that will always be in the way of a culture of equality. I keep seeing labour party people defending university tuition because “toffs should pay for it”. As in, working class people don’t go to uni so it should be expensive for others. Basically, unlike most of the world and against common sense, in Britain, education is not seen as a fundamental good and enabler of a better life but rather as a social climbing tool. And that’s a huge waste of human potential.

    I come from a non-British, very poor, very uneducated family. I am one of the first generation to go to college. No one in my family is racist or xenophobic even if they are poor and uneducated. They know tabloids lie to them and dismiss them even if entertained by them. They know the state public broadcaster is where truth is to be found. No one has a chip on their shoulder about me going to college and having a better life than they did. It’s assumed that’s the goal of life: to go on to greater and greater things through the generations. We are grateful for the love and support given us and we wear our culture light when talking to wise people who can’t read or write. There are no two worlds: I’m not joining a private club and leaving the peasants behind. I am everywhere at the same time, the world is mine and I am not narrowly defined by a freaking diploma. Is it really so hard to do this?

    The Sun is a drug we need to save Britain from if there’s to be progress.

    (sorry if I sound judgmental but I just wish I could collectively shake you all wonderful, intelligent people of these silly hangups perpetuated by a class of inbred halfwits)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johnny says:

      You have completely misunderstood the central point of the piece I’m afraid. The author is arguing completely against your assertion that the “Sun is a drug we need to save Britain from”. The Sun is the most popular paper in the country, most people in England know somebody who reads it, and most of these people are normal, non-bigoted and hard working. And it is this that informs the working-class background author’s assertion that there is an exclusive professional class, “liberal” in politics and morality, which purposefully looks down upon and derides working-class conservative people who read The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Express, etc…

      This is the great divide in societal outlooks currently existent in Britain, and the solution is not, as you would seem to desire, the eradication of The Sun and the re-education of people who read it, but instead an acceptance by the dominant liberal bien-pensants that there exists a class of people who perceive and think about the world in a totally different manner to themselves. In other words, liberal values like tolerance should be extended to distinct viewpoints, used to engage with foreign ideas, and not simply dismiss them out of hand. And you have totally failed to do this yourself, as your comment implies that The Sun readers are dunces drugged up on The Sun, which I’m sure you view as some Bigot’s paradise publication, and not the thing it really is: an easy to read tabloid, with a good sport’s section and some half-naked women if that kinda thing interests you!

      If you look back on your comment you will realise not only that you have been extremely judgemental, in a tone of utter superiority and condescension, but that you come across as a caricature of the exact type of intolerant bien-pensant that the author has taken issue with. Indeed, you could be mistaken for his English teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. moregeous says:

    This is, for me, a wonderfully written piece with reflects much of my life. I’m a Leave voter, and proud to say it, whatever slurs have been thrown at me and even though I’ve been frozen out and ‘socially’ ghosted by intelligent people who I previously considered friends, for that voting sin. The ridiculous arrogance of present day liberals and virtue signallers is reflected so well in your writing onto people, like me, who when young stepped out of their working class comfort zone into what we strived to be at the time: ‘something better’. It’s only when you get older you realise it was never ‘better’, just different. I loved this article and am sure it will resonate loudly with the working class ‘educated’ who’ve always felt like outsiders amongst the chattering classes. Thanks for writing and putting your heart into it.

    Like

  29. teachwell says:

    Thank you. I can certainly relate to some of the aspects here.

    I think that many of the attempts at social justice are an attempt to alleviate the feeling of being an outsider/incorporating experiences or elevating them so they are not seen as inferior.

    Yet, predictably, these require one to be a certain type of working class/ethnic minority, etc so acceptance is still loaded with the need for conformity. Thus the patronising/deriding attitude remains intact and unexamined. Critically examining ones thoughts is a job everyone else does while they play the ubermensch.

    Like

  30. Adam says:

    I love this piece, it really resonates with me. However, I experienced it going the other way. I won a scholarship to an independent school but after helping on farms and building sites over holidays decided that I wanted to be a builder. I loved the hard work, the steady creation of something solid and the lack of pretension.
    My English Teacher got the whole class to laugh at me when the subject of future careers came up and I foolishly spoke my mind. My mum was the first to get a degree in her family, she studied for it after my dad died when I was 8. It took years for her to accept that I didn’t want to go to university.
    I don’t quite fit into either camp. I love history and poetry and have a big collection of literature, but I also love reading Viz. Even now I get old schoolmates or more middle class acquaintances hinting that I’ve sold myself short. It’s normally, but not always, the most outspokenly left wing ones. Britain has the most warped social consciousness of any developed country I’ve been to.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Murrell says:

    Where are women in any of this? There are fathers and grandfathers and a sense of ‘in his own house’ but are these female-free zones? And the teachers? All male?

    Like

    • Seriously? That’s what you take from this? “Where are the women?” Take the log from out your eyes and try reading it again without your stupidity blinding you to the point.

      Liked by 1 person

    • teachwell says:

      I think this section of my comment above is appropriate:

      Yet, predictably, these require one to be a certain type of working class/ethnic minority, etc so acceptance is still loaded with the need for conformity. Thus the patronising/deriding attitude remains intact and unexamined. Critically examining ones thoughts is a job everyone else does while they play the ubermensch.

      Like

      • Johnny says:

        Murrell also fails to taken into account the simple fact that young men look up to their father’s and grandfather’s in a way in which they do not with their mothers, and thus the author’s portrayal of seminal moments of advice coming from his male role-models is unsurprising. I suspect Murrell isn’t from a working class background, because I have observed that this pattern is so much more common in working-class socially conservative environments, in which traditional social values and gender roles are much more adhered to than in Camden Town London!

        Liked by 1 person

  32. Superb. Wonderful. Eloquent. Elegant. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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