Tuesday, November 9

Money Versus Class

Following on somewhat from the brief observation I made earlier today about the Thatcherite cultural shift of the 1980s, this is David Starkey lamenting the decline of academic standards (lamentably obvious), bashing Tony Blair for destroying the old Labour Party (and your point is, Sir?), and snarking at the Scots (England's Canadians, and it's as equally tiresome a quibble as the one across the pond).

Starkey? You can take or leave him, and I usually do the latter.

But my point here is that he's one of those nouveaux riche who have made a public celebration of their wealth: in recent times, others who spring to mind include Anne Robinson, Danny Baker, the Beckhams and Robbie Williams - only one of whom I've any time for.

And it's not Robbie. His wild, no doubt charlie-fed proclamation that "I'm rich, beyond my wildest dreams" is, for me, the defining moment of Chav culture. That saw its arrival, big time. And, it follows, of course, that as such he is the ne plus ultra of chavscum pop stars. (Before any of you fans of his start protesting - in vain - may I direct you to Exhibit A: the concatenation of tattooes defiling his body.)

I contend that, at least in this country, this Loadsamoney! outlook is a working class thing. I'm tempted to type that they don't know any better, but that would be silly, puerile and wrong. Because they do know better. The truth is, they just don't care.

In America the flaunting of riches tends to occur among Hip-Hop stars - of the major ones, I've only ever heard LL Cool J cheerfully confess that "I'm from no ghetto". I'm willing to admit there must be others, but we know what the default profile is (and I've heard how some adhere to it, even when it's nowhere near the truth).

Back here, aside from the 'ghetto' scene of what was known for a while as bling-bling culture, the most obvious, headline-grabbing evidence of the flaunting of wealth comes via football . . . and footballers in turn are almost exclusively from working-class backgrounds.

Now we could dick around all day debating the social and economic parameters that decide which class someone is: and for anyone confident of these, the test case of Paul McCartney is usually sufficient to cause uncertainty. But in most cases, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . then it's a duck. Establishing which class the Beckhams belong to is not really a problem now, is it? If it is, then you shouldn't be here, you filthy peasant!

I don't like the ostentatious flaunting of wealth (new or old money), because I feel it's rubbing your money into other people's faces. It's a by-product of our relatively young meritocracy, a meritocracy which I, as a lifelong adult republican, favour (and it's done me no harm), but is it an inevitable one?

I want to say it isn't, but I think it is. Working class people brag about their money; middle class people don't. And I don't know exactly why. It can't just be intelligence, because compared to the average jerk who scrubs up on TV Danny Baker is as smart as a whip; and conversely, I've met plenty of rugby and tennis players from decidedly middle-class backgrounds (amateurs all, but still, they are the quintessential middle class sporting pursuits) who are shit for brains. Oh yeah: Tim Nice But Dim really is out there, everybody.*

Where am I in all of this? I'm with Will Self, who once said that he is a "classless intellectual". That's me. Sort of. What I mean is, you can halve the freightage of intellectual** from that phrase for a start . . . and then start chiselling away at the formless shape of the remainder.

* One of those occasional roll-calls of privilege on the Buckingham Palace balcony should be all the evidence you'll ever need for that, not that that is why I'm a republican. The Windsors could be the smartest, best-behaved, most charitable clique in the country - as opposed to the lurid reality of our 'First Family' - but no matter: I'm damned if I'll bow down to anybody because of who they are.

People have to lose my initial, cordial respect; but I obey no one.

** Does the elle embedded in intellectual denote that it is (historically) a feminine charm? If so, that's another one that's been eroded to dust by Girl Power - and the ashes may as well be scattered in a silo of the enormodepot where they concoct the vile-tasting potion that goes by the trade name of Bacardi Breezer.

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posted by DD @ 13:14 

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