Will everyone with Class please stand up?

Class. Pretty much every culture in history has had a notion of class; the standing of people in society in relation to others. Britain historically has (had?) three classes; working (or lower), middle and upper. These days, the lines, in socio-political1 terms, are not so well defined.

So, what makes you upper class, middle class or working class? Is it your job, where you live, who you associate with, all of the above? Or, like “cool”, is it a quality that anyone can have? To my mind, cool and class are merely two public faces of the same inner quality. But, where cool can have many interpretations, class is defined more clearly2.

We all know class when we see it. Someone with class stands out in the crowd, head and shoulders above everyone else; their inestimable quality written in every gesture, every word.
I just watched the final of Celebrity Big Brother 4, which was won by Shilpa Shetty, who was the subject of some pretty nasty treatment during her stay in the house.

She and Germain Jackson were not the last two people in the house by accident. Out of the whole cadre, those two had more class than the rest of them put together. Indeed, it was for this reason that the rift between the – OK, I’ll say it – lower class elements (reality TV mutant creation Jade Goody, ex-pop star Jo O’Meara and disgraced ex-Miss UK Danielle Lloyd) and Shilpa existed. The knew class when they saw it and they realised they had none. Germaine, legend and sage, summed it up thus; “You can’t mix class and no class”.

Now, Shilpa and Germaine are legends in their respective countries; Shilpa as a Bollywood superstar and Germaine as part of the Jackson Five. They are used to the finer things in life; they are therefore classifiable as upper class. Is it by accident that these two were the two classiest people in the house?

Not to boil it down to a word; well, precisely to boil it down to a word, its about filters. It’s the difference between what you could do or say, and what you do do or say. From the debatable “wealth” of reality TV to which we have been subjected over the years, those of higher class have more filters in place than those of lower classes.

This is precisely why, when classes collide (as they did in Big Brother), those higher class individuals are charged with being “fake”, for not saying what they think. But, where lower class people see this as a fault, a betrayal of their own values, higher class people do not understand, as it is this reserve, this non-verbalisation that makes them higher class.

The arguments that occur between people from different classes always center about the different sets of filters each employ. Lower class people will say what is on their mind, despite the net effect of the words, whereas higher class people are more mindful of the impact their words could have. The actions of lower class people tend to the unstable, the disruptive (public affray and drunkenness), where higher class people seek to stabilise, to soothe, to return to a state of order3.

I would call myself middle class and, as such, I know most about middle class. Also, I have had occasion to spend time with working class guys on a building site and I have spent time with Lords and Earls in castles. As with any demographics, within their boundaries, in their comfort zones, any human being, regardless of class, is a pleasant and reasonable thing.

When the two extremes are forced to mix, that’s when it gets messy. And that is when class shows itself. People with class don’t have to respond. Class says it all for them.

1 Like I have the first clue about what that means…
2 I am in no way equating Upper class with having class. Some working class people have class in the same way that some upper class people have no class. Look at Paris Hilton, for goodness sake…
3 There’s something deeper here, but I haven’t got time or space at this point.

Too much information?

Is there such a thing as too much information? If knowledge is power, then surely more information is a good thing. At this juncture, I look ominously at The Media and subject them to a patented, copyright Glare of Righteous Justice©™.

The Media. The Number One Threat to Global Security. The legal Class A drug. The True Masters of The Universe.

The Media understand all too well that knowledge is power. They make their money by pedalling as much information as possible. But therein lies the rub. Like scientists facing a funding review, the media is constantly on the search for new information. And, like scientists, if they can’t find any, what do they do?

Of course they do. If your currency is information, there’s always the temptation to resort to counterfeiting if you’re a little short. And this is how the rot starts. Slow news days are no longer. The world the media have created is a self-sustaining news generation machine.

In this world, then, how can anyone make an informed, personal decision, when their views are distorted from all sides by conflicting “truths” and their decisions are handed to them in a sealed envelope stamped “Property of HMG“.

Many people accept the information presented to them at face value, feeding the beast in so doing. I also, in moments where my cynicism collapses from the strain, gravitate towards news sources that tell me what I want to hear, and then believe whatever lies they choose to propagate. It requires conscious effort to step back and think “Is that actually true?”.

It’s an addiction. Once you’ve tasted mass-media output, you crave more, you become a mirror of the system, a self-sustaining information-consuming machine, addicted to knowledge, any knowledge, no matter how close to the “truth” it may be. Your personal truths are gradually eroded until you can no longer tell the difference. Your gear of choice is now carefully processed, filtered, Grade A information.

Unlike substance abuse, there is no Priory for information junkies, nor are there lengthy jail terms for those who deal and supply. Unfortunately, we are all as guilty as we are cursed.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this post, and all previous posts, are entirely those of the author and should be rejected. Nothing written here is true. Reject my reality and replace it with your own.

Why do we Celebrate Stupidity?

We all have our moments where we shake our heads at ourselves. But you wouldn’t want to put me on TV, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go.

But what is it about blatant ignorance that we find so appealing? Why do we pay money so that we can watch people displaying their ignorance of everything? Is it so we can point and laugh? Is it so that we can feel better about ourselves; so we can go “Well, at least I’m not as thick as Jade Goody1“.

When we export this drivel, do they get the joke, or do they just take it as symptomatic of the nation? Judging by the reaction to moronic sledging of Shilpa Shetty in CBB4, they think we’re all mindless, bigoted cretins. And who can blame them? We’re making them pay to watch programmes where we endorse their opinions.

Is the prevalence of the ignorant celebrity the result of failing education? The ignorance displayed by a lot of celebs, younger, more naiive ones primarily, can only be down to poor education, at school and/or at home. It is strange that it has taken Celebrity Big Brother to show up this racist undertone, where normal Big Brother has never had this issue. It would be a pleasing and convenient truth if celebrities were more ignorant as a rule.

Behind every celebrity is an agent who takes a percentage. I’m sure the main reason we have to put up with these dolts are agents saying “Go on, do Celebrity Big Wife Swap Dance Idol, it’ll do wonders for your career!”. Being bears of little brain who find big words scary, they display their ignorance in private one last time and agree, before having it broadcast to the world in a prime-time display of conspicuous stupidty.

Beyond the car-crash element, I’ve never really seen the point of Big Brother. But one could argue that it holds a mirror to society, allowing us to see ourselves as others see us. I bet that is what the producers keep telling themselves; you know, in between counting the cash from the millions of drivelling fools (of which I am occasionally one) who pay to press their noses against the glass of the Endemol Stationary Freak Show.

I’m with the old, dead guys when it comes to knowledge, or its lack. “The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance” – Socrates; “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” –Albert Einstein.

Even for those of us for whom knowledge is something to be persued, rather than evaded, it is an effort to avoid ignorance. As the breadth of human knowledge expands, individual grasp of that knowledge cannot keep up, or it lags behind at some percentage of the whole. Older, less applicable knowledge is “aged” out, while it is replaced by newer knowledge. Logically, the breadth of knowledge at an individual level is reasonably constant, generation on generation, but the breadth of all knowledge continues to rise.

So, sadly, we’re probably all more ignorant than our parents. But please, in the name of all those who crave wisdom over celebrity, don’t go on telly and prove me right.

1Poster Child for Stupid. On the Wikipedia Page for Ignorant Cretinous Moron, she ranks above Dubya . I would make her the Queen of stupid people, only she would think it was a good thing. And she would bestow her wisdom upon them and, lo,they would lap that shit right up and ask for more. Hell, that’s where we are right now…

We Need a Hero…

This is how legends begin.

The linked article tells of how a mystery vigilante with a samurai sword turned up during an attempt by police in South Shields to disrupt a burglary, only to be met with a greater number of well armed crooks. After three criminals were apprehended and the plain clothes officers protected from serious injury, the mystery ronin1 then vanished into the night.

I, for one, am excited. Here at The Palace we applaud those who fight injustice with a sword2. We live in a world not too distant from the dystopian metropoleis3 where comic book superheroes ply their nocturnal trade. The injustices of Metropolis© and Gotham© are just those of any major city, writ large. The world is in dire need of a hero or two.

This is merely underscored by the proliferation of comic book characters who have made it to the big screen recently. Even those elder statemen – Superman, Spiderman and Batman – have all had their oevres reinvigorated. People recognise the parallels; how art imitates life. We are receptive to the idea of a hero who operates outside the law; above it, beyond it. We applaud the notion that there are people prepared to sacrifice their freedom to address the injustices of society, people over whom societys barriers have no hold.

In todays nanny states, we barely have the freedom to determine how to live our lives. It takes all our energy to scratch together an existence in a culture where all possible means of advancement have been culled to the point where our only option is to choose the padded, sanitised, government-approved Middle Road.

Our only secret door out of this reality is through the synthetic realities whose more proactive denizens take the James Kirk approach to the Kobayashi Maru4 test that is modern society; that is, to ignore its rules entirely and forge their own path.

The one element of this story about which I’m concerned is the reaction of “the authorities” to our nascent local superhero. There is of course the possibility that this is the act of a random, sword-wielding psycho, who may in future turn their attention to the ever-present busload of nuns / children; precisely the possibility that the Police are hoping to prevent. But I really hope that isn’t the case.

I hope that this person is called Dave, lives in a flat somewhere in Newcastle, works for a bank, has a burning hatred of injustice and, due to an fantastic and coincidental accounting problem at NatWest, has several billion pounds under his mattress and some spare time on his hands.

Keep it up, Samurai Dave! Britain Needs You!

1 One assumes there is no master. It does rather dilute a myth if the superhero is having their strings pulled.
2 Hang on, let me just check….Bugger! The Sword of Truth is missing! Mum!? Have you seen my Sword of Truth? No, it’s not under my bed…
3 Opinions vary on the correct plural, so I plumped for this one.
4 No-win situation.

Potential Energy

Looking in the mirror this morning whilst shaving my aged face (not a common occurrence), an errant thought entered my brain. But, unlike a cosmic ray, it didn’t leave and consequently didn’t take a small proportion of my cognitive abilities with it, thereby leaving me capable of pressing keys in something approaching the right order.

I thought that, by my age and younger, famous people have made millions. And by famous, I mean famous for a reason; actors, sportspeople, entrepreneurs and the like, famous for making the best use of their talents.

Take Michael Schumacher, who retired from Formula 1 after fifteen years, 68 pole positions, 91 race wins and seven World Drivers titles and pretty much every conceivable F1 record, all in just 250 race starts1.

The sad thing about Life is that most people either never find out what it is that they can do well or don’t have the freedom or courage to follow their dreams. There must be millions, nay, billions of people out there who either have no idea what they are good at, or know perfectly well what it is but are unable or unwilling to go for it.

It’s another sad triumph of Reality visiting another crushing defeat on Possibility; another 20-0 humping of the Sunday League pub side by the Premiership professionals. For out of those millions who do know what floats their boat, only a few thousand are probably in a situation where they can afford to take the plunge and go a new direction without starving to death and having your house, family and pets repossessed. Those who don’t are just plain lazy, so I’m glad we don’t get to hear about them.

All in all, it’s a depressing thought, so don’t have it. Maybe that’s why we like soaps so much. British soaps, which I don’t watch but which are pervasive to the point of being classed as an airborne contagen, cover the bleak, strife-ridden lives of the downtrodden, something which the Learning and Skills Council have been complaining about.

If TV tells us that everyone else out there is stuck in dead-end jobs, its hardly likely that anyone else will go “I could do that!”, unless they’re the people who really want to run a stall in Walford market.

So, soaps and post-imperial malaise can explain the Britsh lack of gumption. We need a cliff; some event or advance that will enable us to convert all this potential into kinetic, into action. Please, please don’t go jump off a cliff. It was a metaphor. So please, please do jump off it metaphorically. I’ll hold your hand. We’ll jump together.

I watched Batman Begins last night (which is excellent) where the question “Why do we fall?” is asked, the answer being “So we can learn how to pick ourselves up.” In Britain, at least, we’re collectively still hugging our skinned knees and sobbing. We just need someone or something to say “Stop being a such a baby”.

So, people of the world, stop crying, get up and make2 Life give you what you want.

1 I’ll let you decide whether he was a legend or a cheating Kraut.
2 “make” as in “work hard, get rewarded”, not “complain until they pay you to STFU“.