10 May 2012

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Does the working class still exist? + ESSAYS + news

Dear friends,

Adrian kindly sent us an essay for this Sunday's meeting on his topic: Does the working class still

Although I did not start this email with intention of writing an essay the sentence or two I wanted
to write ended up being quite a few paragraphs long.

As always I did not read Adrian's essay before finishing mine, but I couldn't help noticing a word
or two that suggested we might be thinking on the same lines somewhere. I'm about to find out.

In the meantime:

----- Cementerio Británico-----
Por el presente mensaje hago saber las fechas de las visitas comentadas programadas para mayo y
junio : si hay alguien que quiera formar un grupo, no importa que sea pequeño, en cualquier otra
fecha, sírvase avisarme para llegar a un acuerdo mutuo de hora y fecha.
This is to give you the dates of the guided visits on Saturday mornings in May and June : if anyone
wishes to make up a group, however small, independent of the dates I give below, I will be most
happy to make arrangements and take them round - all they need do is state their preferred dates and
we will work out a schedule.
Redacto el presente mensaje tanto en español como en inglés con el objeto de comunicarles que sigo
con el programa de visitas comentadas, sábados por la mañana, al Cementerio Británico.
Las visitas empiezan a las 11 horas en la entrada del Cementerio Británico, calle del Comandante
Fontanes 7, distrito de Carabanchel
*sábado, 26 de mayo, cuando daré las explicaciones en español
*sábado, 2 de junio, cuando daré las explicaciones en inglés
Lo dejo a su elección cuál día acuda y no hay necesidad de avisar.
Tomen nota de nuestra página web < www.britishcemeterymadrid.com > que contiene información de la
historia del Cementerio y el mapa de su ubicación.
I am writing this in both Spanish and in English to tell you that I am continuing Saturday morning
guided visits to the British Cemetery.
We meet at 11 o'clock at the Cemetery entrance in Calle del Comandante Fontanes 7 in Carabanchel
* the visit on Saturday 26 May will be in Spanish
* the visit on Saturday 2 June will be in English
The choice of date is left to you and there is no need to inform me in advance of the visit whether
you are coming.
Do take note of our website < www.britishcemeterymadrid.com > where you will find details of the
Cemetery's history and a map with its location.
David Butler

ake care

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao

Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

----------From Luisa---------
Please not you will have to let her know in advance if you wish to attend, thanks:
Data of language exchange,
Location: Café Comercial
Address: Glorieta de Bilbao, 7
Website location:

Dates: on Saturday
Time: from 12:30 to 14:45
Price: 2.50 € (exchange organizing, hiring the top of the cafeteria and coffee, tea, soda, wine or
beer are included).
Luisa - email to confirm please alvarez_luisa@hotmail.com


---Adrian-- Does the working class still exist?
Before analyzing this question, it is necessary to separate the two parts of the term, 'working
class.' It is quite clear that the majority of citizens can consider themselves to be workers, even
though in some countries in this moment of crisis an excessive proportion of them do not have the
opportunity to exercise their right to paid employment. Nevertheless, more questions arise when we
analyse the second part of the term: 'class'.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 'class' is a mass noun referring to 'a system of
ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status.'
Now, in Europe we supposedly live in an egalitarian society in which all citizens have the same
rights and should ideally have the same opportunity to progress. Many cases can be cited of
individuals who have progressed from humble backgrounds becoming enormously successful businessmen,
sportsmen, etc. Supposedly we can no longer discuss class as a planned system. Nobody, in government
at least, aims to purposefully order people into specific social groups, even though the concept is
often deemed to be useful by marketing companies when establishing the profile of potential
customers or clients. Nevertheless, in some countries such as the United Kingdom, perhaps more than
in others, citizens themselves often like to label themselves as pertaining to a certain class.
There is a famous BBC comedy sketch featuring John Cleese and the classic double act, The Two
Ronnies. In a similar style Laurel and Hardy, Ronnie Barker (now deceased) was tall and fat and
Ronnie Corbett is short and thin. John Cleese, of course, was the tallest of the three. The three of
them lined up in different costumes: John Cleese in an upper class costume, Ronnie Barker in a
middle class costume and Ronnie Corbett in a lower class costume. They each presented themselves and
described their situations. John Cleese said, "I am upper class but I don't have any money." Ronnie
Barker said, "I am middle class but I aspire to be upper class." Finally, the smallest of them all,
Ronnie Corbett said, "I am lower class. I know my place."
The footballer, David Beckham, hardly has a working class lifestyle nowadays however he comes from a
traditionally working class area in East London and will always claim to be working class. The
actor, Michael Caine, likewise. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, his deputy, John Prescott, who
had previously worked as a steward and waiter in the Merchant Navy, always insisted on his working
class origins even though he later became known as 'Two Jags', because he was discovered to own two
Jaguar cars, and was also spotted playing croquet, a traditional upper class sport in Britain. On
the other hand, Margaret Thatcher was a working class Prime Minister. Her father was a grocer and
her policies allowed many working class people to become rich on the stock market while at the same
time doing immense damage to industrial, working class communities in the north of England.
Was Thatcherism therefore the beginning of the end for the working class as it used to be defined?
This might seem like a sterile debate however it does bring some important issues to the fore. The
strength of working class identity was clearly a cause of pride in the days when there was less
social mobility. It also meant that many of those who considered themselves to be working class
accepted their circumstances and felt pride in the work they did. Our modern, egalitarian and
meritocratic society is something we should be even more proud about however it does mean that
increasingly we all aspire to the same things. A middle class 21st century capitalist society does
not have the same aspirations as a 1950s class based society. The goal is ultimately to get rich, as
was the case of Silvio Berlusconi, another famous working class kid –he was previously a crooner on
cruise ships- who discovered that it was possible to become incredibly wealthy but who failed to
replace the working class values with alternative values and ethics for the present day. If we come
to the conclusion that the working class no longer exists, can we therefore say that the replacement
is any better or have we instead lost all motivation to aspire to great scientific or technological
discoveries, preferring the glory of the football field or the fame of TV talent shows? We could
argue that modern day ideas of success are ugly or even grotesque and consequently mourn a passing
golden age in which, like Ronnie Corbett, everyone knew their place. Nevertheless, surely our task
should be to look to the future and see how it is possible to motivate people in a fair and equal
society rather than indulging on myths about the past.


And a timely example of the blurred boundaries between the upper and working class:

----- Lawrence--- Does the working class still exist?

Strictly speaking the "working class" is not really related to work but rather to social status.
Indeed, it is about the division of society into the Royals, the aristocracy, the middle classes,
who basically were there to serve the royals and the aristocracy, and the working class. The middle
classes were the ones with brains whereas the working class were the people with the muscles and the
ones that put brick upon brick to construct the cities we live in today.

We also mustn't forget that for many centuries there was also another stratum of social beings which
we call slaves. Of course, slavery has been abolished, but needless to say, slavery still goes on
even in the 21st century.

To complicate matters, the problem with the "working class" concept is that it is very British; a
very British concept used for many decades to discriminate against a group of people within society.
And to confound the issue even further the use of the term working class could also be used as a
means to disparage someone's taste or style, or background. Of course, I say British because this is
a term in English and is well recognized; but the same issues and the same social phenomena happen
in all other societies. The devil is in the detail.

But if we stick close to the original definition of working class to mean those people who were not
intellectual (i.e. providing a professional service), maybe not well versed in academia and
intelligencia, and who depend on their brawn to exist, then maybe the working class has had a huge
paradigm shift.

People who are supposed to come from the working class are today as successful with money,
intelligence, academia, style, and whatever you wish to consider breeding as anyone from the top

But does this mean that those who maybe have been born into a working class family, can claw their
way up into the middle class or beyond. Unfortunately this is where it gets complicated in Britain.
According to the theory, at least, class is something one inherits in the same way that intelligent
people inherit blue eyes and height, rich people inherit beauty and money and of course, royals
inherit blue blood and a family business.

And to prove that class is really inherited, there is the final defining arbiter which we call
accent. As I have written in the past, language is a very efficient and effective tool to
discriminate against people, and accent is the henchman or the guillotine operator of the ultimate
discriminating tool. Traditionally what defined someone beyond reasonable doubt as working class was
their accent. The only function of an accent is precisely to discriminate against others with a
different accent; accent has not linguistic function what so ever. But an effective antidote to
accent is multiculturalism based on the respect of the individual.

But this creates a problem, a problem to the higher classes in society; how can a higher class group
maintain their privileged position? Unfortunately, the biggest weakness of the working class has
always been money, especially access to the use of money; such as borrowing money cheaply.

These past few decades it has been demonstrated that even the working class can have money, but not
necessarily institutional money, such as being a chairman of a bank, or an academic position, but
rather from other activities such as sports, entertainment, the constriction boom and so on.

Unfortunately, what we're seeing happen today under the excuse of the economic crisis, either
intentionally or as an unintended consequence, is that those who traditionally had limited access to
money, are now beginning to experience a new class game.

Today many governments in Europe, and a few other countries, have cut their spending on education,
health services, and housing has become open-season-big game hunting expedition. Don't forget well
into the twentieth century the working classes did not have automatic access to health, education
and housing. If a person was lucky, they got help from some charity. Oliver Twist is not just a
pretty book on your shelf. And at the same time governments are blatantly using racism as the basis
of policies, unchecked violation of human rights, and manipulating political language for propaganda

Unfortunately, discrimination and exploitation are some of the ugly side of human biology (any
biology), but the answer to the negative side of biology is not aggression or violence but first, to
understand the issues, and then cooperate to find a solution. Which probably explains why
philosophical investigation is not very well funded in academia or well respected in the world at
large. Thinking is the antidote to rampant elitism. Mind you, I do mean philosophical analysis and
not some form of sentimentalism or an exercise in emotional or mental self massage.



from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Does the working class still exist? + ESSAYS + news

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