Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Inequality by "Loki"

A Tale of Two Societies - guest blog by "Loki"

When we talk about inequality we usually get into the same old ‘haves/have-nots’ scenario.  The debate is always about how we take some stuff from the wealthy and give it to the poor or how the poor need to work hard enough to become more wealthy.  Like so many other things, the discussion exists only on a material level and we miss the opportunity to look deeper at some of the other effects structural inequality has on us as human beings.  Not just in terms of our social groups and structures, but also how we relate and empathise with the people who exist outside of that.

We all hold private assumptions about people from other classes whether we would admit it or not.  But what happens when these subtle assumptions become so entrenched that we can no longer understand one another?  This is what happens in an unequal society and more and more I find myself at a loss trying to express what I mean to anyone who exists outwith my own frame of reference.

In the UK we now have two societies emerging.  Both have unique value systems and world views, but sadly are markedly different and almost incompatible.

It’s probably most plain to see in how the mainstream media reflect certain issues.  The media, more or less, dominated by middle class perspectives on everything.

It leads to a scenario where the well meaning professionals attempt to portray the issues that affect the lower class but come off looking out of touch and perhaps even a little glib.

This is why so many people from disadvantaged back grounds take no interest in the news or current affairs.

Not only is it full of those perspectives that only an educated, affluent person could relate to, but more worryingly, it’s ridden with that middle class language and manner that many people would consider ‘posh’ or ‘snobby’.

It leaves the people at the lower end of our economic system feeling misrepresented and this anger then finds expression in the most destructive force possible: apathy.

Nobody crosses class lines.  Instead, we send in ‘researchers’, ‘reporters’, ‘detached youth workers’ to gather information to bring it back to us so we can decide how to solve the problem from the comfort of an ivory tower where we can always be safe from having our deepest assumptions challenged.

Occasionally we may invite a ‘poor’ person to come to our poverty conference to testify about their experience and this looks and feels authentic, except it isn’t.

We have two echo chambers that function like intellectual ghettos.  They gather in the same places to talk about the same issues in the same ways all the while re-enforcing their own dominance and legitimacy.

My honest opinion: Both classes are as bad as each other.  Both are keen to talk but not so keen to listen.  Both are quick to empower charismatic figure heads to represent their points of view and both harbour unfair and uncomfortable prejudices about one another.
Working class or middle class, there’s enough blame to go around.  The real question is: Where does the power lie?

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