The BBC again enter the class war on their own terms with the BBC Class Quiz: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22000973) mangling the English language to a degree that makes my hackles rise even after acquired dyslexia. Phrases such as “Answer some questions about you”, and “…they tend to mix socially with people like them”, leave me wondering does one get a bump up for knowing that the correct phraseology is “themselves” and “yourself” or merely snob factor points, or does one remain cultured but un-mortgagedly insecure?
This five question lighthearted quiz is pure froth yet raises some interesting questions. IS it really a class war we are waging or a wealth war and if it is a wealth/jobs war, where might you be if your wealth is state bounty and your job has always been a theoretical construct? Class. Culture and identity or money and power? Is it self determining or in the eye of the beholder? If your family are happy to leave you in the ‘precariat’ despite owning two houses and a boat themselves, you might be a little bitter about just where you feature in this quiz, even if it is rather more nuanced than one might expect at first glance.
I gave up asking myself whether my class identity could be assessed by anyone else when ‘friends’ with jobs and London flats started reading books on ‘class identity’ and filling in scorecards telling me what ‘class’ they thought I was -always lower than their own. What were they basing this on, I wondered and why was it so important to them? Certainly the first two criteria in the BBC questionnaire, income bracket and owning or renting seemed to score highly in their minds since we shared the same friends and interests yet I always came out as ‘lower middle class’. Who I knew and what interested me did not seem to help me level-peg with them in this game in the way that a mortgage or ISA did, despite sharing varied interests and reading all the same books. Unquestionably my income was lower than theirs yet where we lived the local kids harassed me for having a posh voice and their parents whilst clearly expecting me to sign up for a for a council house and a bigger TV just to give them something to gossip over, remained bemused by my vowel sounds to the point of failing to acknowledge the fact that my mouth made noises at all.
What you wear, how you look and what people think they know of your situation seems to count for all in many places in the U.K. My neighbour can’t buy a fishing licence without abuse and obstruction now he is out of a job and obviously disabled. I would say that a natty suit and some sharp vowels would get him served faster but I was trained to speak clearly and politely and dress in second hand Barbour-a-like jeans and wellies and I cannot get served at all….I am definitely too low status for the upwardly mobile and we speak to seldom local councillors (the closest a small Northumbrian town comes to having *excecutives*) since I put myself beyond the pale by championing the cause of those folk suffering harassment without forming a concerned committee first.
When you are disabled you are very unlikely to end up living in the same style as the rest of your family or the peers of the social area you grew up in. Even if the education system enabled you to go to mainstream school and even college and university, as soon as the battle to find suitable work without the support staff of your student days begins, you find yourself sliding down the ladder to jobs, geographical areas and situations incomprehensible to your family and friends.
Unless you are born wealthy at the VERY top of the money tree WITH loving parents of limitless income, you will find yourself needing adapted housing unavailable in the private sector, unable to live in the leafy suburbs due to transport issues and/or a need to access medical support or social care and of course being generally reviled as scrounging scum by people who assume that ‘disabled people are all on benefits’.
For the decent human being or even ‘the hardworking taxpayer’ of popular imagination there is only one choice faced with a loved one in penury, social isolation or mental distress- pick up the bill where it is not covered by the state, support the family member emotionally if not financially, CARE and carry on fighting for them despite the ignorance which surrounds disability or its costs and struggles.
For those cursed with family who vote Tory or read ‘the Sun or ‘Mail’ however, the slide into alienation and poverty can be rapid, as they are left behind by peers and relatives who refuse to see anything but the stereotypes and stigma. Although my own parents (and siblings) long paid the price of the extra costs of my disabilities when we did not receive DLA for me, since the drip-feed of ‘Welfare UK’ poison first began, I have been on my own. While my sister and brother work as freelance artists in the home counties and my parents perhaps have a tight income still straitened by years of paying for the costs of a disabled relative, all can at least struggle manfully to pay their own bills and earn the respect of their peers and our other relatives.
However to be disabled in any family of Tory voters is to be alone without family or support whatever one’s ‘class’ or political affiliation, a cuckoo in the nest and looked on as a burden. Living on or near council estates wherever our families may live, we find hostility and suspicion whatever our backgrounds, aspirations or incomes. As the only member of the family ‘on benefits’ besides an uncle with epilepsy, I have to put up with comments such as, “You ought to get a job, you don’t want to look like a scrounger” from close relatives and the knowledge that should anything happen to my partner, my mother would no longer be able to provide any support and has told me to tell Social Services as much. A room in a shared bedsit at least has dignity, however should I ever need even the level of care I now do, a care home seems likely to be my lot as my parents savings will be needed for their own care fees. Whether you think it unreasonable for disabled people to take state help if living family might even theoretically foot the bill or whether you think like the families of many disabled people that we are a burden that they should not have to bear any more than any other taxpayer, for us, the disabled people, it is to watch our pride, our dignity and our self-respect disappearing on the whim of a society prejudiced by greed and ignorance.
Are we a class by ourselves? For none it seems, wish to own us. I won’t distress you with what those of my friends still able to get about safely outside the home face daily, but even without facing such abuse personally at present, I’m convinced that I am a stateless person acceptable nowhere. The requests that I either get a job or go back to where I came from (Middle England or my mother’s womb for reshaping to acceptable standards) have simply reduced since I ceased to be able to venture out alone.