I’ve always considered myself socially conscious. My parents brought me up that way. My brother and sister have similar sentiments. Embrace different cultures and understand social classes, respecting all despite their backgrounds and race. We were watching Ken Loach films from the age of six (I remember Kes of so well) and my mother used to take me along to her job at Sparkhill College of Further Education where she taught adult learning skills. It was a rich source of early learning, where I was subconsciously being taught about people different to myself, especially of differing skin colours and accents. They were always sweet, always generous. Why would I have expected anything else?
Sparkhill is a culturally diverse area in Birmingham, a melting pot for each wave of new immigrant through the ages, whether it Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Kosavan and, in recent years, east African, whether it Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Apparently, Sparkhill is the setting and based on the BBC comedy Citizen Khan (which I must admit, very red-faced, I have never seen). You can see it in the graffiti; United Ireland has now been replaced with Free Gaza, and pubs are now tandoori rrestaurants fish and chip bars now sell kebabs, and churches sit next door to mosques and Sikh temples. This is common throughout many British cities, a diversity of races which many of us embrace. In recent months it’s been the source of much contention with Brexit, and with Trump in the US.
I don’t want to appear conceited, but my wife has told me my social conscious is something she most admires about me, although she can equally make fun of me about it. Yesterday, for example, while celebrating Valentines Day (two days early) in El Cumbre (now I will appear conceited, because El Cumbre is a luxurious restaurant in El Hatillo, Tegucigalpa, with amazing views of the city), I spread out my arms and said, “It’s amazing to think that 1.5 millions people live in the city before us.”
Her reply, “This is not the time nor the place to go on about poverty!”
Back to Brexit and Trump, I’m middle-class British. I don’t think I’m elitist, though many might disagree. I voted Remain and I wouldn’t have voted for Trump (nor Clinton) had I been able to. I did a blog post days after the Brexit victory, in which I expressed my surprise, as well as my predictions and thoughts for the future. However, having witnessed the impossible with Brexit, it made the Trump victory not a surprise in the slightest, despite all the scandal around him.
It’s so easy to paint the opposition with a certain brush. There are racist elements to both the Brexit and Trump campaigns, as well as a particular snobbery from the Remain and Clinton voters. However, I, like many, have had time to reflect on what’s happened, especially the working class vote, and also different reasons for voting Brexit other than the scare mongering, misleading and bullshit, which made a mockery of democracy.
I have made my curiosity of the American working class known before on this blog. I know it has always existed, but my vision of it was mainly movies, documentaries and television shows such as Shameless. I expanded my knowledge by reading about blue and white-collar workers in Alistair Campbell’s Letters from America.
I saw working class Americans for the first time with Pamela when we stopped off in Miami en route to the UK. I remember going to Fort Lauderdale and visiting what the guide book described as a flea market. You never expect to meet royalty at a flea market, but this was not something I imagined. Pamela made me swear to never take her back there (mainly because there was a stall selling nothing but porn), but it was a market that both time and the American Dream had forgotten. People were selling random bits of houseware, much of it broken, that was to be bought only out of charity. Blacks, whites, Latinos, people from the Middle East. All desperate. And this was during Obama’s time. Many Brits are probably reading this and thinking, “You’ve not seen what seven years of austerity and welfare cuts have done to your own country.” No, I’ve not. But this was in a country that boasts about being the richest and most powerful in the world.
For an outsider, it’s hard to know what’s glamorized (or un-glamorized, in many cases) and what’s not from the media. Maybe me wondering such things makes me look very out of touch, which of course I am, because I don’t personally know many working class Americans, and having lived outside the UK for six years, my only contact with working class Brits is through mates on Facebook and secondary information I read in books and newspapers. Statistics and ratios of murders or violent crime doesn’t necessarily reflect the working classes correctly. In fact just to suggest it is elitist and snobbish, and I’m sure getting type casted like this gets bloody annoying. The mainstream media, as it does in most countries around the globe, often demonises the working class. They have done for centuries, labelling them trailer trash, hillbillies or red necks, while politicians disregard or persecute them. We all know though, that the mainstream media and politicians often walk hand-in-hand.
Something that always interests me, however, is how working class musicians rise through the ranks. Like Britain, the US often relies on the working class artists to produce its music, whether they be white, Italian, black or Latino. Bruce Springsteen and Eminem, to Frank Sinatra and Madonna, to Tracey Chapman to 50 Cent, plus many more, who, when allowed, have given us glimpses of their reality, concepts of poverty and what it’s like to live without.
Yes. You can see why the working classes voted anti-establishment, even if it doesn’t necessarily benefit though. Without wanting to offend the working class, but if you have nothing, and one corporate politician offers you the same, while the other offers greatness, you’ll be willing to forgive the scandal and nonsense. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Below are two more in depth articles that might interest you about working class Americans.
Please add any comments below, especially if you are, or consider yourself, working class American. Maybe I’m missing out on something, or I’ve touched a nerve unintentionally. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.