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Is the Class System England's Last Taboo?


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Showing 1-25 of 129 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 May 2013 17:32:47 BDT
T. S. C. says:
One word that sets many English people's teeth on edge: class. Is the class system now the last thing people will talk about in England? It seems we can talk about black rights, gay rights, immigrants' rights, women's rights, Muslims rights, perhaps even Christians rights, and many other things that, albeit very weakly, might be debated and challenged, but class seems to me the one issue that never gets debated. Why should this be?

If you accept the notion that someone from a perceived higher class background is better or more superior than someone from a perceived lower class background, then you can't complain when someone else is racist or sexist, or intolerant about someone else's beliefs or lack of beliefs or intolerant about immigrants or anything else for that matter, because quite simply you are also prejudiced too. You either tackle all prejudices and accept they are all unjust, or ultimately you tackle none of them in effect. One of the worst aspects about England is the class system, partially because it rarely if ever is challenged or debated, and more to the point because it nurtures all the other prejudices too. If you can blithely accept the unfairness of the class system, you can if pushed probably accept other prejudices too.

One of the reasons I am posting this is because I have written to a number of so-called equality organisations like 1) the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2) Liberty 3) The Resolution Foundation, 4) The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to name but four I have emailed with a very carefully written email, asking them all why they don't mention class as an issue in most of the online patter on their websites. In some cases I have had replies barbed with anger, the very occasional open and honest reply, but more often than not I have been completely ignored. I can't understand why people, because all organisations are ultimately made up of people, who profess to be so concerned for equal rights and equality for all, seem to have a major blind spot to the class system and won't even debate it via an email for the most part. I can only assume that most of these organisations are made up of well-meaning politically correct Middle class people, who in their fervent crusades to save the world from racism and sexism and homophobia and other things, are in their own way just as prejudiced about class, simply because they are Middle class and benefit from the injustice and unfairness of the class system because of their privileged position within that system. More cynically, I feel that some so-called concerned Middle class activists actually use the issue of black rights, as opposed to equal rights for all, to drive a wedge between the socially disadvantaged whites and the socially disadvantaged blacks and actually create tension and bad feeling between the two communities, the very thing the Middle class claim to be against, so that yet again the privileged few can get the best jobs, the best housing, the best education and better lives, whilst the rest of us not so privileged fight each other at the bottom for low-paid jobs and see each other as the enemy. I hate to say this, but that is the conclusion I have come to.

If all these so-called equality commissions and equality organisations REALLY wanted to change anything, other than being Middle class talking shops and not much more, then they would join together and genuinely tackle injustice wherever they found it, instead of cherry-picking issues like `poverty in London' or `Black Rights' and so on, they would be talking about equal rights for all, and a living wage for all, a willingness to tax in a more fairer and equitable way and more openness and opportunity for Working class people in institutions that are usually dominated by the elites or sometimes even the Middle class. My view quite simply is that those who have something to lose, whether they be the very wealthy at the top or just the affluent Middle class in well paid careers, don't want anything fundamentally to change quite simply, but will pretend that they do and will pay lip-service to some forms of equality and social justice all day, whilst actually not doing anything much about it at all. And we know that anyone can `talk the talk', but usually they don't `walk the walk', talk is cheap after all and actions always speak louder than words. Until these organisations actually have more people from genuinely Working class backgrounds and more people from genuinely disadvantaged backgrounds in them, talking about social injustice and poverty actually because they have endured it and experienced it first hand in their lives, and not just rather Middle class, rather privileged, usually white and well-spoken people from London, I don't think we can expect anything to change, especially when it comes to tackling the injustices and prejudice of the class system. And, in the end, whatever your point of view, no one is seriously going to challenge a system that they personally benefit from in some way.

So, is class England's last taboo? And if not, why not?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 17:36:32 BDT
Class is an abstraction...something that exists ONLY in the reality tunnel of a person who believes in the validity of the label. The problem with the concept is it's semantic context...where is 'class' if a group of people are shipwrecked on a desert island?

Posted on 20 May 2013 17:53:45 BDT
It's possible to change your class. It's possible to change your sex, although most people don't want to. It isn't possible to change your race.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 17:56:17 BDT
What is 'race'?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 17:57:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2013 17:58:15 BDT
TomC says:
You make some good points. However, I wouldn't say that class is a "taboo" - ie something which cannot be discussed - when the privileged background of most of the cabinet - and a good many of the opposition, for that matter - is splashed across the papers as much as they are. That Bullingdon photograph still haunts Cameron and Johnson, and they'd gladly make it disappear if they could. That kind of unearned privilege was supposed to have been abolished by Thatcher, and yet here they are again, as though she'd never been.

"no one is seriously going to challenge a system that they personally benefit from in some way." Two words: George Orwell. It is possible, but not easy, to reject one's upbringing and act against one's self-interest. I would agree however that there are few who are willing to do it.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 18:07:09 BDT
Actually that's a bit awkward. Usually it's thought to be ethnic background, but mostly it's such a mixture it's difficult to say.

Posted on 20 May 2013 18:13:30 BDT
There's a book available on Amazon called Race, Culture and Counselling. Perhaps that would clarify it.

Posted on 20 May 2013 18:14:31 BDT
Then there's a book called Class by Jilly Cooper, which may not clarify anything but would be more enjoyable.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 18:22:03 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'Tom C says:

You make some good points. However, I wouldn't say that class is a "taboo" - ie something which cannot be discussed - when the privileged background of most of the cabinet - and a good many of the opposition, for that matter - is splashed across the papers as much as they are.'

Thanks Tom for an interesting reply and for giving me another much needed perspective on this issue. And yes, privilege has rather reared its pampered ugly head again hasn't it? I suppose you have made a very good point also about class not being taboo when it's discussing the privileges of the very privileged and often very wealthy at the top, but it seems that often some Middle class people like to align themselves with the Working class when it suits them, but when it doesn't suit them they become just another privileged minority who lose their concern for the poor when they move on and get better jobs and so on. It all seems to be more about a stance to look good, rather than anything genuine. This seems to be never discussed at any serious level, simply because the debate, and the media, is dominated by the Middle class. I know that's brief and simplistic, but having spent a long time debating this issue and trying to understand it, this is the conclusion I have come to. I may of course be wrong and am prepared to hear every POV.

'It is possible, but not easy, to reject one's upbringing and act against one's self-interest. I would agree however that there are few who are willing to do it.'

Yes agreed. And curiously enough my favourite writer is George Orwell, not least because he was aware of his own prejudices, was prepared to look at them and tackle them in his own way. Something we could all learn from. Thanks Tom for the comment, and everyone else too.

Posted on 20 May 2013 18:35:38 BDT
there's class systems in all societies . not just England.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 18:46:14 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'rock n roll animal says:

there's class systems in all societies . not just England.'

I agree. And if it isn't class then it's racism like the US and South Africa. And then it might be a mix of those things like Caste in India. And usually there is some marker denoting the perceived superiority of one, over the perceived inferiority of another. And always usually these are about economics or issues of domination and control. But class seems to me in England an issue that is always brushed under the carpet, even though the way we relate to each other, and many other things besides, has its roots in the class system.

Posted on 20 May 2013 18:46:28 BDT
Mind you, Jilly Cooper claims to be Upper-Middle Class, but she can't be. She once admitted to preferring cross-breed dogs to pedigrees. The woman has no taste.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 18:56:28 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'Simon "THE FOUNT" Boyd says:

Class is an abstraction...something that exists ONLY in the reality tunnel of a person who believes in the validity of the label.'

You could be right Simon, but it is an abstraction that affects many aspects of English life be it cultural, social, economic, in the media, the arts, in politics and so much else besides. It may just be an abstract concept, but on such abstractions do whole societies operate and maintain social order and their very validity and basis in being a society. The class system binds English society together, I would say unhappily in many respects. Of course, if one person benefits in some way they might disagree, but there are many Working class people who might give them an argument.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 19:10:53 BDT
How does a person know what class they are?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 19:24:49 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'Simon "THE FOUNT" Boyd says:

How does a person know what class they are?'

That's a good question my friend. I suggest that if you do a low-wage job, live on a council estate, have a distinct uncultivated regional accent, you are probably Working class. Then if you have a degree, a good job of some kind, have worked on your accent to sound 'classless' or Middle class, you are probably Middle class. Then if you have some sort of even semi-aristocratic background, talk very posh, have had a private education that cost many many thousands of pounds a term, and have lots of money and a very high paying career you probably didn't compete with many others to get, you are probably Upper class. Oversimplified? Yes. Reality? Possibly. But I get your point. If you say you are 'Middle class' then who can argue with you? If you say you are 'Working class' likewise, and there are many English people with 'posh' accents who might be termed Upper-Middle class but in actual fact may be no such thing.

Posted on 20 May 2013 20:01:10 BDT
T.S.C....the fount is a company director, earns about £15,000 per year, lives in a caravan, trains dogs, does psychotherapy and is hoping to become a navy SEAL. What 'class' is the fount?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 21:28:32 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'Simon "THE FOUNT" Boyd says:

T.S.C....the fount is a company director, earns about £15,000 per year, lives in a caravan, trains dogs, does psychotherapy and is hoping to become a navy SEAL. What 'class' is the fount?'

Now you've got me there; whatever class you want to be, dear boy. As long as you are happy, I would say you've got it made to be honest.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 22:56:00 BDT
Charlieost says:
How do you know Clive? Have you licked her?

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 00:33:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 May 2013 00:35:49 BDT
TomC says:
Well, that's just sensible. The breeding of pedigree dogs - particularly show dogs - to an meet an exacting but pointless set of requirements produces animals with a variety of health problems and disabilities. These are exacerbated by breeding from a very restricted gene pool.

There are a good few royal families which suffered in the same way.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 07:53:44 BDT
I'm not Clive.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 07:56:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 May 2013 07:56:50 BDT
Breeding is all about restricting the gene pool. In the days when people knew what they were doing, they worked out the pattern of dominant and recessive genes to breed animals according to Mendelian theory. I've already explained this, as the Horse and Hound has carried some instructive articles on the subject.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 10:28:38 BDT
Pendragon says:
You're Caroline, and I now claim my £5,000 reward.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 16:44:59 BDT
T. S. C. says:
'Tom C says:

Well, that's just sensible. The breeding of pedigree dogs - particularly show dogs - to an meet an exacting but pointless set of requirements produces animals with a variety of health problems and disabilities. These are exacerbated by breeding from a very restricted gene pool.

There are a good few royal families which suffered in the same way.'

You're not wrong there; they started to understand this at some point, and also they started to marry one English aristo to a French or Portuguese aristo or whatever to try and stop international dynastic wars. In the days of the Pharaohs it was common for fathers to have children with their daughters and brothers and sisters so marry; if I am right, but don't quote me, king Tut married his sister for example.

Posted on 21 May 2013 17:37:05 BDT
Spin says:
Did I not hear recently that there are, in fact, seven "classes" of "society"? Sorry, I heard on the news about a month ago... All this time I thought I was "lower middle class" but now I find out that I am Upper lower class"..Jeez! I'll look it up and provide a few links for the liberals on these threads =)

Posted on 21 May 2013 17:40:14 BDT
Spin says:
The concept of "class", and its implementation by policy-makers as a "reality" is, in words that will not be deleted by Amazon, absolute Male Bovine Excrement.
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Discussion in:  politics discussion forum
Participants:  21
Total posts:  129
Initial post:  20 May 2013
Latest post:  6 Jun 2013

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