It’s a strange expression, isn’t it? Working class.

What does it mean?

I’ve always had a problem with it, even though I’ve always vaguely understood its thrust.

It’s very British. Here in Ireland, we don’t really have a well-defined class system, as they do in England or India. We all curse and swear. None of us has table manners to speak of, and only the most arriviste poser would dare to lecture you about wine or cheese. Or wine and cheese, for that matter. No. Here we have rich Paddies and poor Paddies. Very rich and very poor.

[Caveat: that’s provided you exclude the ludicrous RTE people who inhabit Planet Duncan.]

We never had an aristocracy in the British sense, or at least we didn’t have a native aristocracy once the local rich guys had been driven out by the Brits.

Over the years, we tried to create a new class of knobs in the form of the Catholic clergy, and there’s no doubt whatever that they certainly managed to grab the levers of power, but in the end of it all, you really couldn’t take them seriously, could you? I mean, how could you take a crowd of farm-boys seriously, even if they had been sent off to some college for a year or two to learn some dodgy theology by rote and a bit of spurious Latin? You couldn’t. They were still Seamus and Pat, even if they were wearing ludicrous bishop-outfits and spouting insane bishop-nonsense. We Irish are very good at spotting our own and laughing at them.

What a ridiculous pompous crowd of fools we lumbered ourselves with in the form of the Catholic clergy, and what a ridiculous crowd of fools we became by deferring to them. But at least we rebelled against the fuckers, and now that they’re on the wane, all we need do is remain vigilant.

Ultimately, the class system didn’t mean much here in Ireland, because we didn’t have Lord This and Lord That – or maybe we did, but they weren’t our Lord This and Lord That, so we kept rebelling against the fuckers, unlike our English cousins who were happy for generations to be sent off to foreign wars and to be killed so that Lords This and That could become even richer than they already were.

No. Here in Ireland, we were a much more homogeneous bunch, including the rapacious robbing bastards we call business people. We speak the same language. We have the same lack of graces. We all say fuck and bastard and we’re not embarrassed in front of each other.

That’s why concepts such as class didn’t matter here so much.

In Britain, to describe someone as working class was to distinguish them from the aristocracy and the merchant classes. In this country, working class used to mean what it says: the class who work, as opposed to those who don’t.

I’m from a working class background, as are most of my friends, and I’m proud of it. When I grew up in this town, to be working class was to have aspirations, to be honest, to be determined that you would make the best possible outcome for your life and for your family. To be working class was to take part in the cultural, sporting and social life of our town and to feel a part of our community.

We also had a clergy who handed down religious orthodoxy. This was the dark side. In my parents’ time, though not in mine, anyone who resisted the Catholic Taliban felt their heavy hand. Dissent was not tolerated by these zealous and intolerant men. It was a dark time in our history, and I’m glad to say it’s over thanks to people more courageous than I was, though I also resisted the fuckers in my own small way.

Isn’t history great, the way it has of repeating itself as farce? Did any one of us think it would all happen again?

[Correct answer: No, Bock. We didn’t.]

Well fuck me sideways, but today we have a brand new working class and a brand new clergy, complete with their own brand new dogma.

Today, to be described as working class, you need never have worked a single day in your life, nor your parents nor your grandparents, nor theirs before them. Today, in order to be called working class, you must be dependent. You must be helpless. You must claim off the State for everything you could possibly want.

And if anyone should point this out, the new clergy will rise up, the new Taliban of the PC world we live in, and denounce you for thought-crime. You can poke fun at Pope Ratzo if you want. You can tell Jesus jokes to a Reverend Mother. But you’d better not question the new PC orthodoxy. Talk about lazy, dishonest thieves fucking up the the people who really deserve welfare? Oh Christ no. Such thoughts are not permitted in Sociology 101 – our new Homeworld.

Watch here for the replies. I guarantee you they’ll be on to call me a fascist.

17 thoughts on “The Working Class

  1. The term working class has taken on a certain irony over here too, since the group most commonly referred to as working class are the sponging cunts on the dole and benefits who have absolutely no incentive to get off their holes and get a job.

    If saying that makes you a fascist, then I’ll be the Himmler to your Hitler. And no, I’m not inferring anything about Jews there. It’s an analogy, people. The Nazis were cunts.

    I was born and raised working class, and still feel like that, even though I suppose I’m really not anymore. Christ. I should be in bed. G’luck.

  2. I don’t know too many people from Ireland who don’t have a working class background, if you have to use the expression “working class”. To me it is an imperialistic phrase that the likes of Kitchener used when he required a fuck load of cannon fodder, “send more of the working class,..”, the more correct way to describe people, and I don’t mean politically correct is the haves and the have nots, and what is they have or not? Money.
    And that is what spawned the facist movement, lack of cash, Hitler was a crap artist and a pissed off WW1 vet, so he saw a load of rich jews and thought, like a dalek/greedy bastard, exterminate them and take their money. Perhaps an over simplification but there you go. And as for the “sponging cunts on the dole” what an irony that they get called working class, how the fuck does that make any kind of sense?

  3. I s’pose in Ireland, in the past, we had the Brits at the top of the rich list, then the wealthy “big” farmers, then business people / teachers / priests / doctors etc…, next other smaller farmers, then non-farmers “working class”? As someone whose close relative (my aunt) only 40 years ago, was deemed “not good enough” to marry a man from a small farm (her father was a non-farmer and therefore?? inferior??)- I’m glad that all of that rubbish is just about gone from Ireland.

  4. There was one other class. A crowd of useless fuckers who wouldn’t work to warm themselves. They were always there, but these days we call them the working class.

  5. Mr Bock

    Working class? They don’t work and they have no class. A perfect misnomer, then, a bit like “Catholic” when applied to an exclusionist sect whose principal stock-in-trade is guilt. The Mafia have nothing on them — at least the Mafia provide a service of sorts (making sure your nightclub doesn’t mysteriously explode), whereas with that bunch of crooks all you get is the promise of a luxury suite upstairs.

    Oh, and by the way, just to fulfil your prophecy:

    You are a fascist.

    (Can I have my 50 cents now?)

  6. Mr Bock

    Over here they call anyone they disagree with not a Fascist, but a Nazi. Just thank your lucky stars you don’t live in this septic isle.

    It’s Godwin’s Law.

    P.S. No sign of the 50c yet.

  7. Thank you for the information about Godwin’s Law.

    I’ll email the 50c immediately.

  8. Over here in the States, they are now using the term “Working Poor” to differentiate between useless fuckers and people who actually work. You can’t get cash aid here unless you also work, though. I take it that’s not the case over there?

  9. Working Poor is a good description.

    I was already thinking of the American term Blue-collar. It seems to be a better description of people who work than the British term “working class”, which carries overtones of their caste system.

    However, as Mairéad points out, we weren’t without snobbery ourselves.

  10. I’ve been thinking recently about class in Ireland.

    I have no doubt it has always existed before the brits and their industrial revolution classifications. Here it seems that the more money/land you’ve aquired the better you are, despite the fact that those deemed to be better are as without “class” as the next person.

    Now that Ireland has money, I think that there are many who are trying to claim a class for themselves, usually the “upper-middle class”. How can one belong to an upper middle class if there is no Upper Class? Well I’m sure someone will get up the balls and the wealth to
    claim that they’re top of the ladder. It wouldn’t be like the Brit aristocracy, more like the pinnacle of snobbery.

    heres a nice article by Grandad

  11. Bock, for me The River defined working class when I first thought I knew what it might be, and later when I heard Thunder Road, I knew I was right. My parents were aspirational next class, and I shouldn’t be too hard on them for that, but for these fucking aspirations, I felt they threw out the baby with the bath water. For a moment, Bruce articulated my anger at an anal suburban Limerick, and now of course, I live in a Limerick suburb.

    I think you may have to be in your forties to remember working class suburbs populated by working class people ( well here anyway). I hear this dependency problem debated a lot today.” They’ll never work if everything is given to them,” and the libertarians come on board with valid reasons for welfare, and the conservatives retort with malice, and the whole thing becomes a talking shop, a pendulum swinging back and forth until whomever in is vogue wins, for a moment. It’s a played out scene. But that said. I think you’re correct, and that the working class thing has become a badge of convenience. I notice that our church has returned their loving attention to this disenfranchised group, and will re-adopt them with platitudes, and with guilt and blackmail they’ll get us to contribute to their upkeep. Wherever there is poverty, real or imagined, there is a flock.

    PS Saw Munster on Saturday night – Gob bless Donnacha Ryan.
    But are’nt Cork rugby supporters a benign shower of wuuses ?

    The Black Cat thing is a miracle even if your crowd thought they were shite in Cardiff, and the whole thing is getting major frank spencer….

    Scunts up there with Colchester, Burnley and Barnsley. Nose bleed territory surely

    PPS My kids are too quick to say scum-bag when we pass working class neighbourhoods.

  12. Niall: Well, when I was growing up, there were decent working people, and there were knackers. That was when “knackers” didn’t mean “tinkers”. It just meant knackers.

    S&C: In this post, I’m actually talking about the new clergy. Sociologists. That’s where the fight will continue now that the priests have been exposed.

  13. S&C: Overlooked your PPS.

    My main worry is the people who are friends of mine and who feel trapped in those neighbourhoods, and who wonder if they’ll ever escape the scumbags who have taken over their areas.

  14. Speaking as a sociologist, I can’t wait for the day when we become the new clergy; all those robes, incense and altar boys (mmmmmmm!). But I think you mean social workers, not sociologists really.
    Re the class thing, there is a different class structure here in Ireland, more of a caste system in fact, the product of colonialist under-development and the absence of an indigenous industrial revolution. Incidentally that’s also the reason why we don’t have many seedy seaside towns here either. But it’s not really appropriate to compare the 2 countries at this level. Even in England there is a difference in class experience between urban and rural settings(Think The Archers vs Eastenders and you’ll get a sense of it).
    More importantly I think you’re confusing the concept of working class with the concept of underclass, which are not at all the same thing. Marx recognised this way back in the 1840s when he wrote about the lumpen proletariat, the ASBO set of their day, who he saw as almost as big a set of leeches on the back of working people as the factory and land-owning classes. Come the revolution they’ll all be put up against the wall:-)

    Anyway, just to show there’s no hard feelings and to compensate for the sociology lecture here’s my favourite sociology joke:
    Q What’s the difference between a sociologist and a member of the mafia?
    A: A sociologist will make you an offer you can’t understand (buh-bum!!)

  15. Ah Jaysus, Liam, did I write it that badly?

    I wasn’t confusing the working class with the underclass.

    I was saying that we shouldn’t be misusing the term “working class” to describe people who have never worked in their lives.

  16. Wasn’t you so much, mate, as some of your commenters as far as I could see. It’s clear you don’t have the 2 mixed up in reality. The real problem is that to many social workers and policemen and judges,( not us sociologists, mind you:-)) is that the reality and the conceptuality often amount to the same thing.

    BTW Are you familiar with the Chris Rock comedy bit about the difference between N*ggers and black folks? If you aren’t I think you’ll find it funny in a serious kind of way and that it chimes in with a lot of your points.

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