Monday, 3 October 2011

Carreg Llwyd

Piss off Pearson

Just starting Owen Jones' Chavs - The Demonisation of the Working Class, and it's made me think (once again) about the issue of class in this loose affiliation sometimes referred to as a nation. The first chapter deals with the disappearances of Madeleine McCann and Shannon Matthews. Despite - or perhaps because of - the very different ways in which these stories ultimately panned out - it is very revealing when you actually think about it. The screeching nonsense of Carole Malone and Allison Pearson  are only to be expected, but it was excruciating to read India Knight's comments about the Dewsbury Moor family. Oh, I know she writes unreadable bollocks for The Observer, and is sickeningly smug, but somehow I thought she was just a little bit better than that; a little less vitriolic and dismissive of her fellow human beings. I was wrong of course - despite the fact that she once responded to one of my tweets.

There can be no denying that (with the exception of Polly Toynbee and the recently disgraced Johann Hari) the chatterati all clearly felt that the Matthews family, along with their neighbours, were markedly less deserving of the milk of human kindness than the shiny, professional McCanns. Ever the opportunists, both Cam's crew and the NuLab boys all latched on to the bathetically tragic story of Shannon to reinforce the 'undeserving poor' dialectic which is proving to be so dangerously effective at present.

I was raised on a council estate. My grandmother was a cleaner and my mother a barmaid. My father drove lorries for a living. Nights out were working men's clubs, bingo and thick smoke, cheese & onion crisps and blackcurrant squash. My diet was heavy on offal and potatoes (though I never tried a jacket spud till I was 10 years old) and tea with lots of sugar. Dripping butties were a frequent treat, and my uncles did the pools every Saturday. These days, having attained my university (well, Poly anyway... And all right, it was at Sunderland, but still...) education, and despite living at or just beyond my means, I still choose Waitrose over Lidl (and often over Morrison's) and I eat bruschetta. I listen to opera (occasionally) and prefer BBC4 to ITV1. I'm paid monthly, and struggle just as much as any 'undeserving' benefit-sucking family would when week 3 comes around, though none of my hard-earned wedge goes on mortgage payments. I realise through reading Chavs that I have been guilty of mocking a large section of society, as well as my own heritage, and hang my head in shame. It was perhaps my very closeness to the working classes which gave me the feeling that I could do so, but there really is no excuse.

Footballers of course are paid weekly, regardless that the pay packets of even the modestly well remunerated ones are roughly four times the annual median wage, and it is really very odd that this vestigial link to the days of miners' sons tramping off the cobbles and on to the pitch remains. Substitute cobbles for favelas or African villages, and we have a sign of the times.

I'm not sure how one would categorise Mario Balotelli in terms of social class, because I know little about Italian society and less about Ghanian, but there are occasions when his football class comes to the fore, and I for one am glad that he has chosen this moment to produce the goods. The defeat at Munich could quite easily have marked a downturn in our fortunes, the top of a slippery slope from which arresting the slide could have proved difficult. Luckily, Blackburn are truly shit this season, and that's saying something.

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