December 27, 2006

Instant Rapport with the working classes

From an early age my mother tried to indoctrinate me with the idea that society is stratified by class. For simplicity she adopted the old “U” and “non-U” distinction. But generally resorted just to saying something or someone was “plebby” or “common”. For a long while I believe that I was somehow superior to “common people” just because I had a public school education, had professional parents and spoke reasonably well.

But then I became a teenager and began to question everything I had been taught and learnt to think for myself. I had lengthy conversations with the cleaner, the painter and the builders that used to come round to my house and struck up friendships. I even briefly dated the daughter of one of our cleaners. Most of all I became a humanist and believed that all these notions of class just created boundaries between people and that we had to break down these boundaries and judge people not on their class, their race, their manners but the content of their soul. But to my great disappointment it was a two-way thing. While I no longer dismissed working class people as being “common” or beneath me, they continued to dismiss me as “posh” or “stuck up”.

I realised then that the only way to fulfill my dream of acceptance amongst the hoi polloi was to become a chameleon and immerse myself into their lifestyle and learn to blend in.

I started off with that most working class of pursuits: manual labour. No-one would employ me as I did not have any work experience. I was shattered but did not give up. My indulgent parents ordered some bricks for me to play with. So I hung around in the garden in the scorching summer sun with no top and a baggy pair of jeans and built a wall. Naturally I punctuated it with endless cups of sugary tea and strung the work out so it took me a whole summer to build the wall.
I asked a few of my female friends to walk up and down my garden so I could whistle at them and make rude comments and call them “luv”.
I even developed a passable Cockney accent.

At the same time I really got into weights and developed that most working class of bodily ornaments: muscles. I even got a fake tattoo.

The next stage was to go to a pub. A proper pub. I sat down and ordered a beer. I was careful not to order a foreign import. Instead I ordered several Worthingtons which sounded very English, salt of the earth and all that. I knocked several back to the admiration of the other drinkers. “Tough day at work, mate” one of them commented. I said “Yeah, they think we are slaves or something. Nearly broke my back lifting all those bricks”. They sympathised. Encouraged I went on “They think they are better than us just because they are richer. But we got something they will never take away from us: pride and self respect”. They nodded in appreciation then said “Hey, you see those birds over there, a bit alright aren’t they?” I rose to the occasion and said “Yeah a nice bit of T and A. That bird there looks well up for it! Wouldn’t mind her as me missus”. I go over to her and say “Alright luv. You are well fit”. She replies “F**k off”. I go over to my new friends and say “she’s a lesbian”. They nod understandingly.

Worth noting are some subtle verbal techniques designed to gain rapport:

Firstly the all purpose use of the word “mate”. Instant rapport.

Secondly in this case class divisions work in your favour. Make it clear it is them against us and you are in!

Thirdly objectify women. Working class people have not been exposed to the feminist movement and do not realise that leering is bad manners and it is not appropriate to compliment a woman’s breasts. Most of all they are not women but birds. Overfamiliarity is to be encouraged and when you meet a girl for the first time it is essential to call her “luv” to ensure she realises you are of solid working class stock.

Addendum:

Do not be scared to discuss feelings. Only last week a builder asked my mother if he could get off work early as he had an appointment with his therapist. My mother later commented “Whatever happened to the days when the working classes simply drowned their sorrows with beer? No wonder they overcharge.”


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Pat

    I do sympathise with you. I too was brought up rather a snob. My father was an up and coming businessman, my uncles small businessmen, and my forebears were all wealthy landowners. We weren’t what you would call well off, but we were snobs, all the same. ‘Don’t play with the common children,’ we were taught. ‘Show me your friends,’ my dad used to say, ‘and I’ll tell you who you are’.

    Common people spoke and behaved in certain ways. They failed to instil manners or values in their children. They swore and cursed. They tended to be dishonest.

    The thing is we were regarded as ‘working class’, not because our values were any different to the ‘middle class’ but simply because we had fewer finances. And 98% of our working class neighbours held the same snobberies and the same values.

    Then in the 1970’s they did away with snobbery. In order to ‘sympathise’ with the working class middle class students flocked to working class areas. Assuming working class to mean those who lacked values, swore, and walked round with muscles, tattoos and beer bellies, they reduced the very term working class to its lowest common denominator.

    And in the process built themselves careers in the social, educational and health services mopping up the blood and guts from the money generating monster they had created. It’s paid million of mortgage ever since. But it’s not the working class you’re talking of here. It’s the underclass.

    There’s one sure, simple way to tell genuine class, and that is manner. True manners, gentleness, respect for others and self. Manners is about how you treat and regard others.

    Which is why, I’m sorry to say, your mother was common. Money can’t buy manners, class or a good upbringing.

    Pat

    01 Sep 2007, 16:37


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