Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sun Sets on British Empire

This is what makes me so angry about modern British life. A woman names her cats and at least one child after her favourite football players. Clearly football players mean more to her than, say, her male relations or the man/men she has the children with. She calls one "Rooney" after Wayne Rooney, which is basically the English equivalent of a Canadian naming his son "Gretzky". (I doubt the English would call Rooney "the Great One", but he's what they've got now that David Beckham is retired.)

A friend of the woman goes to a chain chocolate shop and buys an Easter egg. The chain has a cool name-writing service I've used myself when buying B.A. an Easter egg. She (the friend) asks the guy behind the counter to write "Rooney." The server gets nervous because he thinks this might be a copyright violation. (Wayne Rooney has not given that company permission to sell goods using his name.) His solution is to write the child's complete name on the egg. First name, last name. Now it is clear that the egg is uniquely for the child, and not a way of profiting from Rooney's name.

The mother calls the press to complain.

The mother calls the press to complain.

The press plays up the non-story for all it is worth, making it seem as though mother and child were standing right there in the shop and the toddler was told to his little uncomprehending face that he couldn't have his name on his super-special and sacred Christian chocolate Easter egg.

As usual, my first thought is, "And what does the child's father have to say?" My second is, "Does the child HAVE a father?" My third is, "Four kids! Do they all have the same father?" My fourth is, "She gives her kids AND cats the names of footballers?" My fifth is, "Does she have a job? The guy behind the counter she's holding up for contempt has a job."

This is so terrible. I am writing a paper on Simone Weil, and after voluntarily working in factories for a year, she came to the conclusion that revolution could not begin with the proletariat, for factories made the proletariat submissive instead of revolutionary. But I think the British ruling classes didn't want to take any chances for they have arranged society, entertainment and education so that the proletariat is encouraged to become as stupid and trivial as humanly possible.

Update: In my head Simone Weil has just asked me when I last had any conversation with a proletarian, and I said that I did on Sunday. She has now said that doesn't count. She spend most of her spare time talking to the proletariat, and I don't know what I'm talking about. I said I didn't SAY the proletariat WAS stupid and trivial; I said it was ENCOURAGED to be stupid and trivial. And, anyway, I make my wages solely through my labour-
-piece-work, too--so according to some definitions I myself belong to the prolateriat, and thus there are forces conspiring to make me stupid, too.


Sheila said...

What IS a proletarian, anyway? I think of it as someone who isn't college-educated, because those of us who are seem to think of ourselves as bourgeois even if we aren't. Sometimes I am chatting with my neighbors and think "I am rubbing shoulders with The Proletariat," when in fact the reason they are my neighbors is because we are in the same income bracket. It's just that I went to college, and my neighbors did not. The main difference at this point is that I use better grammar. Also I have never eaten squirrel, but I try to keep an open mind.

I think one of the most broadening experiences of my life was working a blue-collar job for a summer and talking to all the people I met. They simply weren't the way my (dyed-in-the-wool conservative and rather prejudiced) father talks about lower-class people. They were smart, respectable, and harder workers than I am. But they all had this rather sad notion that they weren't smart because they hadn't done well in school. That frustrates me -- they weren't dumb people, and they assumed they were just because they hadn't had my education!

My husband had the same experience when he was a bank teller. People who had made bad decisions years back, been born poor, or had some other disadvantage assumed that they lacked ability, when all they had ever really lacked was opportunity.

Of course one mustn't idealize .... blue-collar workers and welfare recipients are not intrinsically virtuous any more than anyone else. You simply have to actually get to know these people, really know them and what their struggles are, before you form opinions. And it disgusts me the way some characterize the poor as "lazy" or "shallow" or "stupid" when all they really mean is "I don't like paying taxes."

As far as occasional dumb people who make the news .... I don't think class has much to do with that. For every one of Honey Boo Boo's mother, there's a Paris Hilton or whoever, being glamorously stupid on a much bigger budget.

Seraphic said...

The prolateriat is made up of those who don't have capital or property-only their labour (usually manual or blue collar, at any rate). Since so many people go to uni now, I don't know if that really is something that boots you into the petit bourgeoisie if you weren't there already (e.g. parents own their own little shop). It's an antiquated term and doesn't take the welfare state into consideration. The woman in the story works in a "care home", I discovered elsewhere,so she does indeed qualify for the proletariat in the classic sense.