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.