I appear to have angered a fellow reader of The Birmingham Post with my response to a blog post on class issues and multiculturalism.
For the first time in my life I’ve been called “politically correct” and “a middle class lefty liberal who lives in the leafy suburbs” – at least, it is the first time I know about.
I’ll let you read the blog and make up your own minds.
But my instant reaction was to chuckle to myself. I then felt the need to justify myself, quickly followed by doubts about why I need to respond at all.
As a journalist I’ve always tried to remain ambiguous about my background, political persuasion, cultural attitude and class credentials (whatever that means), unless the article I’m writing is personal enough to warrant it. As a blogger I’ve quickly learned that such an independent and vague style doesn’t really work – readers can get that in their chosen newspaper or magazine, they want to know what you feel, what you think and why.
“Politically correct” is not something I recognise in myself, in fact I’ve written plenty in the past criticising such attitudes and I consider it to be one of the reasons for the depressing state we’re currently in.
The class thing is tricky, not least because I’m not sure what the various categories – working; middle; upper-middle; upper; posh toff – actually mean these days.
For the record I’m the son of two South Wales steel-working families, so does that make me “working class”? I doubt it very much as these days I probably qualify for “middle class” under the rules of the class categories.
But how relevant are these rules? The trappings of a traditional middle class household – at least two cars, two incomes, following the Homes & Garden guide to furnishing your home and landscaping your garden, taking a two-week summer holiday, worrying about school league tables – are not things that have ever interested me and probably never will.
These trappings seem more like a stereotype of what being middle class is these days. It also appears that many of the traditional middle class aspirations are shared by those previously regarded as working class.
We either need to radically alter the class rules, or scrap them altogether.
It is a bit like the “what is British?” question – I used to think I knew what the answer was, but these days I simply haven’t got a clue and wouldn’t know where to start.
As for politics, well “lefty” and “liberal” are probably deep-rooted in there somewhere. I’m a member of the Thatcher generation that was politicised as a teenager – my first real sense of injustice was watching the police convoys escorting the strike-breaking coal lorries trundling along the M4 motorway to Llanwern steelworks from my bedroom window and feeling it was wrong, but there was absolutely nothing that anyone could do stop it. It was probably regarded as quite a middle class bedroom window by that stage in my life.
Working in the South Wales valleys as a journalist certainly helped to reinforce those early thoughts and attitudes. I’ve taken on board Welsh nationalist and “green” attitudes and beliefs since then, quite possibly kick-started by the 18 months I spent working in rural Mid Wales.
I’m a firm believer these days that modern life is rubbish – and that invariably means modern Britain is rubbish.
It isn’t the country I recognise anymore and there are a whole load of reasons for it – political correctness, confusion over immigration, the myth of multiculturalism, Thatcher (!), Blair (!), the cult of celebrity, the aspirational nature of society, selfishness, greed, intolerance, a reluctance to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, the list gets longer by the week.
Yet I’m also a great believer in the fact that life is too short and we should make the most of what we’ve got when we’ve got it. Live for the moment, don’t plan for the future.
I’m not sure I fit into any of the neat little pigeon-holes that make up modern society.
So, for the record, I would class myself as: a Welsh nationalist, environmentally-friendly, hard-line law and order, libertarian, socialist romantic.
But you can call me Paul.