There is a point in your life when one must take a stand. Even if this is from a sitting position. In a league table of misquotation Edmond Burke’s* “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” is second only to Marie Antoinette never saying ‘let them eat cake‘. But I like it anyway because it’s just slightly less pretentious than Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it“**. Both are which are far less pretentious than pseudo intellectual quote derivation pretending to be clever. Ahem.
I like to think of myself as well balanced – directly resulting from a chip on both shoulders; the first a bonafide working class upbringing terraced between steeply clustered houses each with a coal cellar, and the second a hand-ringing liberalism, mostly a Pavlovian response to the horror of my Dad casting off those credentials and voting Conservative of his own free will.
The fallout has left me with a healthy disrespect for authority, a delusional belief in meritocracy and a worldview mostly baselined by the assumption the world would be a far happier place if 1% of the population didn’t own about 90% of it. It’s also given me a passive hatred of those born into entitlement who fail ever test I’d ever set; Cost versus Value, Altruism versus Self-interest, Friends versus Possessions. And yet there’s a little bit of me than envies a life kickstarted by a silver spoon projecting young Henry/Henrietta into the cultural stratosphere without ever passing any test that wasn’t audaciously skewed in their favour.
The physical manifestation of this unjust hegemony tends to drive me to deeds beyond any normal bravery and quite some way further outside of decorum and good manners. I feel a representative example would be instructive. Travelling to London on Birmingham’s finest express service sandwiched me between two estate agents, and a multiple of that from the legal profession. When I am elected world dictator there shall be no draconian policies regarding trains or mobile communication except when the two intersect. At which point, the scorpion pits awaits.
Some of this is my fault. Okay, let’s get it out there, all of this was my fault as a middle-aged inventory malfunction had me awash with a thousand songs but no way to play them to myself. This English reserve not to bother my fellow man was clearly unfelt by my carriage companions. The brillcream boys behind me were trilling their latest deal at high volume to an audience who were clearly as uninterested as I. An assertion validated by the short call duration and a desperate ‘who shall we tell next?’
But for all their shallow look-at-me fuckwittery, they barely register on the ‘I am going to kill you now‘ meter which the lawyer-clan boosted beyond ten, beyond a Spinal Tap 11 and off the fucking scale. My upper-class-arsehole bingo was already mostly populated with ‘braying voice‘, ‘pain barrier volume‘, ‘snorting laugh‘ and ‘pompous self satisfied smugness‘ crayoned in at about a thousand PSI. First tosspot#1 led out with his hackyned ‘How I saved Roy Keane from Bankcrupcy‘ story before he was trumped by dickhead#2 giving it the big one about some ‘a-list celebrity‘ who’d retained his tosspotness by denying the cheap seats access to what coke-snorting looks like when filmed from a dodgy mobile phone***
And then as my head was one millimetre from smashing into the seat in front, dickweasel#3 launched into a story of his six year old daughter, pausing only to remind the smug collective that his family had been in the vanguard of grammatical correctness for 400 years, who had returned from school excited to tell ‘DaDa‘ – a term of endearment for which murder feels appropriate – that the new teacher was quite nice but *forced laugh, shark smile* failed to ascertain the difference between ‘fewer‘ and ‘Less‘. ‘That’s my girl‘ he triumphed. Poor bloody kid.
Readers, I cracked. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you had to be me. Maybe this stuff isn’t important and it’s absolutely okay to acquiesce to a race where money and power means you get a head start. Maybe. Maybe not. Anyway, I shovelled work papers into my rucksack, stood up and made that stand. Venturing out into the corridor, two steps had me level with the table of cleverly amused laughter at the lower races. I stared them down and met their silence with ‘If you used fewer words, you’d be a lot less fucking annoying‘.
The silence extended awkwardly so I filled it with ‘you know, if you were so bloody important, surely you shouldn’t be sharing the carriage with the standard class proletarians‘. I probably could have done quite a whole lot better had more thought been given to my repartee. As it was, the unnatural quietness passed beyond anything I felt comfortable with, so I haughtily headed off to a seat not peopled by those who paint a grand vision but see nobody in it.
That seat was part of a four filled with the crumple suited ordinary Joe’s who pretended to be centered in an informational tornado aggregated on their phones, but were really just playing candy crush. My kind of people.
Come journey’s end, weary bodies levered themselves from uncomfortable seats to try again with public transport on our capitals finest mass transit underground system. I failed to move because the white heat of righteousness was still burning strongly. Let those who believe the class system holds strong cross me now and offer rebuttal, insult or possible court papers for slander.
They passed alright, but failed to reward my bravery with even a glance. Not because I had bested them, but because I was beneath their contempt. I still felt this was about a draw though – the industrious and clever will one day oust the privileged and inbred. That I lived in a country where what you did was more important than where you started. And the currency of experience has infinite value whereas that of exchange is merely transitory.
So then I walked into a bar, wall-to-wall filled with normal looking people happy to pay £5.50 for a pint of beer. At which point, it cost me quite a lot of money to forget that you must deal with the world as it is, not the way you want it to be.
* or possibly someone else. Or different words. This is what viral looked like in the 18th century.
** He didn’t say it. I’m trying to make a point here. If you can work out what it is, please let me know.
*** Which had me despairing about the shit we think is important. Followed closely by the thought I probably need to get out more.