And they should not be celebrated. But there is something much worse…
If there is one song among the many that I do not like and could wipe from the earth, it is the song Working Class Man by the Scottish-born Australian Jimmy Barnes. (Guests from anywhere but Australia and New Zealand, click here to listen).
People tell me it’s a classic, that it’s the best pub song you’ll ever hear and even my girlfriend once drunkenly yelled it to me across an earthquake damaged street at 3am. Still, I hate it and I have no time for it, if only for the simple fact it extols The Working Class Man.
I don’t like the working class. I’m allowed to. I grew up among them and worked among them. I laid concrete, drove forklifts, processed fish, caught tuna commercially and even cleaned for a living, so I’ll stand by that statement.
The working class are jealous, petty and fiercely parochial. They can be brutal and intolerant too. As my thesis supervisor once told me, “The average British citizen is stupider, more uncouth and prone to violence than the ‘savages’ they look down upon.”
He was from Nova Scotia, so I am not sure whether to trust him on that (though he is the world’s pre-eminent scholar on Herbert Spencer and social Darwinism in 19th century political thought). My own experiences of the working class led me to adopt a similar view.
“Is their predicament because of the oppression of the masses by the rich elite?” you ask.
I am not here to answer that. And don’t you know? Marxism’s dead baby, even if he does grace my 5’7” Lost Mini Driver. Thomas Piketty? I haven’t gotten around to reading him yet.
Yet, for all my dislike of the working class they serve a purpose. Brave New World taught me at 13 that we need them for a harmonious society. If only because they can handle the grunt work better than fragile alphas. They also make excellent political pawns. Need support for a pointless war? Then rally the patriotic working class around your cause. Want to topple your political rivals in the next election or revolution? Then tell the working class that the ruling party is shafting you.
Alternatively, if you are the ruling party and want to protect your power, tell the masses that the opposition don’t care about them. Call the opposition latte-sipping liberals, which seems to work a treat in riling the working folk up. And like all human groups, there are outliers… people I’d hang out with any day. But God, they should not be celebrated.
In saying this, I don’t dislike the working class as much as I dislike the middle class. Because of life choices, I’m currently operating in their ranks and what horrors I ‘m a witness to! The middle class is a risk averse bunch who wish for everything to be wrapped in cotton wool; they are a bland vanilla in taste and the most horrible shade of beige.
The mere mention of a tale about illicit drug use, sexual adventurism or slightly illegal activity involving firearms and they turn pale. Yet, home renovation shows send them giddy with a delirious delight, as if they are about to climax in the throes of a wonderful orgasm.
Their worst trait is their tendency (despite their aversion to risk) to gravitate towards anything even slightly edgy and to ruin it in a bid to find the ‘new’ golf. Motorbikes, road cycling, and mountain biking have all fallen victims to the middle class. On weekends, you see hordes of them in leather, sitting outside of small town cafes having brunch or gaggles of them clad in lycra struggling up hills.
Nor is surfing safe.
Surfing is being sold to the middle class en masse: that lovely floaty epoxy fun shape, car ads, and those Samsung ads on the WSL webcast, they’re all geared towards the middle class.
After all, they are the ones with money to spend. And don’t they just lap it up? It seems that surfing is now the pursuit of choice in trying to convey the image of being respectable, but slightly wild. Like at any moment Respectable Joe is just going to break out, drive away in his mid-range SUV and become a beach bum. The reality is he would hate the relative poverty, his wife would threaten to leave him and due to his sensible nature he would resolve to prioritise his life better.
The middle class are coming, and they’re likely to do a better job of ruining surfing than Christianity. They will swamp the line-ups on their high-volume craft. Saturdays will become ‘Social Surf Saturday’ where the middle-class network as waves pass by, cut deals and talk about their renovations before paddling in for a seaside brunch.
The line-up will become friendlier, it’ll be about fun and networking, the old ways will be pushed out as the bitter among us turn their backs on surfing. Performance will go out the window, the debauched tales will tail off until there is nothing left other than a bland and vanilla bunch bobbing out at sea up to fuck-all.
The worst part is, that once they’ve got the bug, they will pay to watch the WSL.