Thursday, June 19, 2014

Working Class Guilt

I have always felt guilty describing myself as working class since passing the 11 plus.

It is true that we lived in a council house, true that my mam and dad would started work at 7.30 every morning and true we had two family holidays, both in Blackpool. 

I stopped being working class because at 11, I went to grammar school. 
What made me not working class,
for ever, was going there. I 
knew intuitively that I was different and - though mam and dad never said it - better than those who hadn't.

When I was at grammar school I heard that some of us were training extra hard to go to Oxford or Cambridge. I did not really know what that meant but was glad nobody asked me or my mam and dad. 

When I opted for university rather than the offices at Swan Hunters Shipyard everyone was pleased. I was pleased because it was better than leaving home at 7am every day to be treated like shit for a shilling. 

Having broken through, I realised the world was my oyster.  On my way to this realisation I had noted and accepted that the world us working class arrivistes hoped to occupy was already populated. 
Yes, the sons-and daughters-of the rich and famous were there, as they had always been. But we working class boys knew that and could beat 'em. 

That's when we discovered it wasn't just them that we had to beat. 

Behind our backs and on front of our faces those who ruled our world had continued their cunning plan...

Take those clever enough to rule the world and give them the same opportunities as those who own it. Send them to Oxbridge. If the brightest and best shared the same post code as the connected and coddled then all could not be wrong with the world. 

If some of the lads and lasses could spell Oxbridge then they all could, if they tried a bit harder. 

Those who went knew it to be true because, if it wasn't, they wouldn't be there. Those who were there anyway didn't give a shit - and if they did, they were reassured by those who'd made it. 

Thus in 2010, when the leaders of the Coalition Government were drawn from graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, five people sought to lead Labour.  Three were from Oxford and two from Cambridge.

As Jeremy Paxman (Cambridge) said  yesterday as he left Newsnight for pastures more lucrative. 

"If you buy this idea of an establishment - and I don't think it exists anymore - If you buy this argument, and I don't, that there is an establishment, a single pervasive element, then I'm not part of it."

I agree with you Jeremy, nor am I.