Theodore Dalrymple often likens champagne socialists to Marie Antoinette dressing up as a shepherdess. There is something a little, or very, disgusting about people who have never known relative poverty (let alone the real thing), or ever done a useful hard job, or even a useless hard job, opining about “the working classes” and how they commit so many crimes because they don’t get enough money from “the rich”, and how only having enough money for a flat, daily fast food, enormous quantities of alcohol and drugs, a Playstation, an iphone, an ipad, an Apple Mac, an ipod, a widescreen TV, a wardrobe full of Burberry etc., inevitably leads people to rape, riot, burn buildings down, mug, murder, torture, and so on. Because the sheer injustice of it drives them mad.
Hunter S Thompson somewhere distinguishes between being poor and broke. He says, i think, that he was never poor, only broke: meaning he could afford food and alcohol and was never in danger of becoming homeless. i’ve sometimes been unable to meet rent payments without borrowing money but on the whole i wouldn’t say i’ve ever been poor. Broke, yes; and without a credit card & generous friends & family i would have become homeless several times between 2006 and 2011 (or rather, i would have committed suicide). But i’ve never known real poverty, poverty of the eating tree bark soup variety. i have, however, done many hard jobs, most of them totally useless, and i’ve lived in ghettos and in posh areas in Leeds (where my upstairs neighbours were drug dealers, and Bonehead & i got in an altercation with half a dozen chavs on the street outside my flat, in my first week) and Manchester (where a girl high on LSD broke into my house as i was getting ready for work one morning). i lack patience for well-off middle class types who have never done a gruellingly hard job, have never worked alongside normal, uneducated plebs, have never been routinely bullied as part of their work, have never had to fight or face down chav gangs, mouthing off about capitalism and inequality and Tories and how we must overthrow the Establishment and so on.
In general, it’s hard to sustain a simplistic view of class without either living in a rich man’s enclave, or being a fanatic. Daily contact with shoplifters, crackheads, rapists, Muslims, lifelong dolescum, alcoholics, etc., will encourage a certain skepticism in a man. i’ve met very decent plebs, who one might accurately call “working class” in that they were largely uneducated and had jobs and liked to work; they were often quite physically violent but with some provocation; one strongarm guy i worked with greatly alarmed a sheltered colleague, but i felt that these brawlers are fine as long as you don’t “take the piss” as they put it. Even then, they wouldn’t beat you to death with an ashtray. These plebs had no sympathy for dolescum and would have regarded a Polly Toynbee type of leftist with wonder and contempt, as knowing evidently nothing about life outside her left-wing dinner parties.
My father, like Dalrymple, was a doctor. He was a GP and spent most of his time with what leftists would call “the poor”. On the whole he had no illusions about humanity; if anything, he could have done with a few. i remember he once referred to people in South Shields as “the scum of the earth”. He was nonetheless a good doctor; he seemed able to treat a patient as he was in the moment, reserving his judgement for later. He voted Liberal Democrats because he regarded Labour as what they were – a bunch of disgruntled, hate-filled idiots; and he regarded Thatcher as one of the great destroyers, a crass, money-obsessed idiot.
It would be interesting to know how many doctors are leftists, compared to academics. i would guess that academia is more often the home of left-wing sentiment, being as it is as far removed from “the working class” and poverty as is possible. With experience, simplistic solutions become untenable. The most important thing is to have experience, to know what you’re talking about – not from official reports and statistics, but from living in shitholes and fighting chavs and crackheads. Otherwise, you’re just a tourist.
She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College, that’s where I caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said in that case I’ll have a rum and coke-cola.
She said fine and in thirty seconds time she said, I want to live like common people
I want to do whatever common people do, I want to sleep with common people
I want to sleep with common people like you.
Well what else could I do – I said I’ll see what I can do.
I took her to a supermarket
I don’t know why but I had to start it somewhere, so it started there.
I said pretend you’ve got no money, she just laughed and said oh you’re so funny.
I said yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here.
Are you sure you want to live like common people
You want to see whatever common people see
You want to sleep with common people,
you want to sleep with common people like me.
But she didn’t understand, she just smiled and held my hand.
Rent a flat above a shop, cut your hair and get a job.
Smoke some fags and play some pool, pretend you never went to school.
But still you’ll never get it right
‘cos when you’re laid in bed at night watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your Dad he could stop it all.
You’ll never live like common people
You’ll never do what common people do
You’ll never fail like common people
You’ll never watch your life slide out of view, and dance and drink and screw
Because there’s nothing else to do.
Sing along with the common people, sing along and it might just get you thru’
Laugh along with the common people
Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you and the stupid things that you do.
Because you think that poor is cool.