What is your Social Class? Find Out!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a scientific, airtight, 100% reliable way to calculate your social class, and it will take less than a minute of your time. BEHOLD: The Great British Class Calculator:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22000973 (BBC Website)

OK, maybe it isn’t as infallible as I made out. But it’s fun, and the BBC say that they worked with sociologists from leading universities to come up with it (oooooh). Feel free to reply to this blog with the result the test gave you, and whether or not you think it’s a correct assessment.

Mine is…

Emergent service workers

This class group is financially insecure, scoring low for savings and house value, but high for social and cultural factors. According to the Great British Class Survey results, lots of people in this group:

  • Are young
  • Enjoy a cultured social life
  • Rent their home – almost 90%

Dodgy Journalism

We tend to believe what we read. At least, we usually believe it until (or if) we get the other sides of the story. Then we draw our own conclusions.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, did a lot of work on the belief of information. This is a great article, which discusses his work alongside the work of Descartes, and provides the results of a study: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php (since this is an article about us believing what we read, I feel I should provide comprehensive references to what I say so I’m not accused of b*llsh*tting you all).

With this in mind, we should be very careful about what we believe in the media – especially now that we are closing in on the General Election. There is a lot of good, impartial journalism out there, but you need to be vigilant because we live in a time where wealthy, powerful people use media outlets for their own personal gain. They are willing to leave truths out of their work, emphasise the points that suit them, and straight up lie to get what they want.

Look at the recent Daily Mail headline that coined Nicola Sturgeon (SNP Leader) as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” based on nothing more than conjecture, and a very un-scientific projection of the future if the SNP were successful in the elections. Similarly, the Telegraph released a despicable article about a conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and a French Ambassador without going to either of them for a quote (both deny the content of this conversation that the Telegraph reported on, so the report amounts to fiction projected to us as the truth).

As a species, we are very trusting. As humans developed, information was life and death. When we lived in nomadic tribes, we passed information to one another about things such as the availability of food in an area. We are hardwired to follow this sort of guidance. When we were toddlers, our mothers and fathers told us not to go near the fireplace because it was hot, and it would have burnt us. We believed them automatically because it was essential for us to believe them. Our minds are filled with loopholes when it comes to believing what we’re told, and there are people out there who will take advantage of that.

I’m an advocate of free speech. I like it when people give their opinions and speak their minds, no matter how controversial or outlandish (when things are out in the open, you know what you’re up against). But there is a big difference between this and purposefully deceiving people for personal gain. As I write this, the media is producing something designed to benefit a political party (and to hell with the truth!). And let us not forget that it is the lower class masses that are most influenced by the media – because there are more of us, so we watch more TV and buy more newspapers, etc.

Don’t let the media set the terms of our democracy!

The ITV Debate

When I turned over to ITV for the 7-way debate I thought I’d stumbled across an old episode of the Weakest Link. The set-up was the same, the “contestants” were stabbing each other in the back in an attempt to win, and even the presenter was in on the joke, trying her best to look like Anne Robinson.

It didn’t seem to achieve much. The debate was very tame and watered down. It was exactly what David Cameron wanted – he just hid in the corner and avoided any sort of direct debate with the other political leaders. Damage limitation.

The most exciting thing about the debate was the lady in the audience who heckled the PM. David Cameron was in the middle of thanking the country’s servicemen for their work when the lady spoke out. She pointed out that many of our service men and women end up on the streets after leaving the armed forces, and have very little support. David Cameron said they she brought up a good point, and proceeded to speak over her until she was dragged out of the studio.

This was the most genuine moment in the debate, and it was hardly mentioned in the debate analyses. Maybe it was a bit too real. People don’t like facing up to un-glamorous every day issues. It’s easier to turn the other way and go on and on about the “long-term economic plan” – something a bit more faceless and general that might garner a few more votes.

I’d like to congratulate the heckler, Victoria Prosser, for standing up and speaking her mind. It was the only part of the debate worth viewing.

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Our Unfair Society (and Cavemen)

The current systems in place within our society do not work. They breed inequality, undermine democracy, and completely ignore important topics, such as the many environmental issues we face. We need change in a big way, but there are many obstacles in the way.

The main obstacle is ourselves. People are naturally resistant to change (ask anyone who works in HR). This probably stems back to instincts instilled in us when the world was a much more threatening place. Biologically, there is virtually no difference between us and cavemen. Born in the same environmental conditions, you and a caveman would be equals (the caveman would be a little bit hairier, granted). Cavemen had to live in a very specific way to survive in their world. Changes in their lifestyle could be fatal. Today, we still have that instinct that tells us, “if you are alive, you’re doing something right, so don’t change anything!”.

Just in case anyone’s reading this thinking “I’m using a computer – I’m way more advanced than a caveman!” – that’s due to accumulation of knowledge i.e. the people before us figuring things out and writing things down (which started with cavemen drawing on the cave walls). All I’m saying is, if you were dropped naked onto a desert island, how long would it take you to send an e-mail?

So, we are very cautious about disrupting the status quo, even if we can see, rationally, that we are being cheated. We feel secure when things stay the same.

There is also a well-established pecking order in our society, which provides another obstacle to reform. The powerful people at the top of the pecking order are constantly telling us that things are okay the way they are, and to change anything would be a big risk. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because they’re benefiting from the systems in place.

The people at the top of the pecking order are the mass communicators too, so their voice is the loudest, and it resonates in our ears constantly. They tell us that the people who want reform are crazy, idealists, and troublemakers. The people benefiting from the systems in place are the minority, so they have to turn us against each other to maintain their position. They also have to make us believe that social reform is out of reach, an impossibility. But maybe it’s closer than we think.

The philosophy we live by doesn’t make sense. One person starves to death while another is born the Queen (two people who are both shaved cavemen). Since the philosophy doesn’t make sense, the supporters of the philosophy lose touch with reality or use their influence to suppress real-world issues. All we get are minor changes designed to appease the masses – we are seeing plenty of them in the run-up to the general election!

As it stands, we are not in control of our own lives; we are used by the ruling class. We need to pry our lives from the desperate grasp of the powerful in order to live in a fairer society.

Political Centre

I was browsing the BBC News Website and found this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31973051

There is a survey on this article that asks you 5 questions, and it tells you how close you are to the “political centre” at this moment in time and previous years. Give it a go and see where you stand.

The outcome of my survey came as no real surprise:

Your answers place you on the left of the political centre in comparison with the overall population in 2014.

You scored 5 out of 25

A score of 5 is the furthest left and 25 is the furthest right. Your answers would place you a long way from the political centre in any year but you would have been closest to the centre of political opinion in 1995 and 1996.

So my views won’t win me any elections. But at least I am true to my beliefs. Meanwhile the current politicians we see on the news every day are scrambling for that “middle ground” where all the votes are. At what point does a person’s vision get distorted so much that it’s not even worth the effort any more?

More of that to look forward to during the next 40-odd days leading up to the election.

Targeting the Vulnerable – Who is the Enemy?

Who is the enemy?

It comes as no surprise that the Conservative Government are targeting the overweight and people with drug problems as the enemy this week. If you didn’t know, the government has proposed that the overweight and people with drug problems who are on sickness pay should have their benefits cut.

The logic behind this is shaky. Actually, calling it “logic” is a bit of a stretch. The fact is, the government really doesn’t want to pay any type of benefits to anyone. They resent having to give one single penny to anyone who isn’t in their circle of Chosen Ones. So, as a starting point, they have randomly chosen a vulnerable group of people to pick on, and they want to make life even harder than it already is for them.

Wait a minute, this is familiar. I remember seeing another group of people taking money from an overweight person, only this was in a school playground, and they also gave him a wedgie!

The overweight and drug addicts are vulnerable people. They often have mental health issues. The next step for the Tory government could well be to cut benefits to all people with mental health issues, forcing the bi-polar and manic depressive into work (or onto the streets) when they are at their most vulnerable, putting them and the people around them in danger. But who cares? It’s only the lower class factory-working scum.

Let’s not forget why people get hooked onto drugs or become overweight. The poor have numerous stresses and hardships that the wealthy, such as George Osborne and David Cameron, are completely unaware of. The biggest problem in life some people face is whether to buy the Rolls or the Lexus. Others have to worry about staying alive and housing themselves. These stresses force people to turn to escape-ism in order to forget how horrible their lives are. This means recreational drug use, which is fine if you have the personality type to control it. Some aren’t so lucky, and through mistakes, moments of weakness, or mental illness, they may find themselves hooked on harder, more life-degrading drugs.

And the overweight? When you have to work full-time for minimum wage and you come home feeling like crap it’s hard to motivate yourself to do exercise. If you have family to look after that makes it even harder. Unlike the Tory cabinet, these people don’t have gyms, personal trainers and nutritionists either. The poor will often buy the cheapest and most convenient foods and drinks, which is often unhealthy.

Vulnerable people can easily fall into unhealthy lifestyles. The government’s plan? Attack them!

It’s an easy option, because they know that they will get public support. David Cameron says: “It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.” It’s a rallying cry to turn people against the most vulnerable in our society when really we should be turning our attention to the real enemy: TAX AVOIDERS.

Wealthy tax avoiders in business and industry cheat us out of billions. The Conservatives turn a blind eye. Why? Because these same people fund the Conservative Party, and will fund the Tory election campaign later on this year. The Tories aren’t going to bite the hands that feed them. They will allow these educated criminals to go about their business.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, our moral compass…

The Conservatives want to divide and conquer. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let them turn us against each other. The working class isn’t the problem. You need to look to the very top to find our real enemies.

We Are All One

Mind the Gap documents my thoughts on class inequality in the UK. There are aspects of British society that I find frustrating. The wealth, power and life opportunities that the upper crust inherit is inexcusable.

However, I don’t see this as an ‘us versus them’ issue. Being born into a working class or privileged family is no more a choice than being born black or white. It would be wrong of me to attack a whole class of people for the situation they randomly find themselves in. This isn’t about two sets of people warring with one another. It’s about two philosophies, ideologies, going head to head.

Tony Benn was one of my heroes. He sadly passed away last year. He was born into a privileged, political family. He attended Westminster School and later studied at Oxford. He had a career in the army before becoming an MP. When his father died he inherited a peerage (a peerage is a title, such as ‘Duke’, ‘Earl’, or, in this case, ‘Viscount’), which prevented him from continuing as an MP. Benn campaigned for the right to renounce this title in order to continue in his political role, and was successful.

He was a great man, and always followed his heart in politics, even when it was detrimental to his career. He spoke out about the media and bankers about 35 years before our recent troubles. He was solidly against the fruitless Afghanistan and Iraq wars. His left-wing politics were aimed at equality and providing a better life for the cheated underclass.

Tony Benn was born into privilege, but that didn’t define him. His ideology and actions showed his worth as a human being. This isn’t ‘us versus them’. If you are born into privilege that doesn’t mean you can’t do the right thing. In fact, in order to eradicate our current social issues we need strong advocates on both sides of the fence.

We are all one. All people should be born with an equal chance to thrive. Nobody should fall straight from the womb into the scrapheap.

I’m a Glastonbury Festival man. Since 2008 I have worked voluntarily on the Glastonbury Recycling Crew. Tony Benn attended Glastonbury often, and I heard some inspiring speeches from him. He always used to say that it gave him a boost to see so many politically active young people debating and campaigning. Here are some great quotes from the late Tony Benn:

“Making mistakes is part of life. The only things I would feel ashamed of would be if I had said things I hadn’t believed in order to get on. Some politicians do do that.”

 

“A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.”

 

“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”

 

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

 

“Normally, people give up parliament because they want to do more business or spend more time with family. My wife said ‘why don’t you say you’re giving up to devote more time to politics?’. And it is what I have done.”

 

“I think if you’re going to be committed to doing anything, you really have to care about it, and I suppose that is a romantic idea.”

 

 

To be Blunt…

MP Chris Bryant stated that it is easier for a person from a privileged background to succeed in the arts, specifically naming actor, Eddie Redmayne, and musician, James Blunt. James Blunt responded via an open letter, very maturely calling the MP a “classist gimp” and a “wazzock” before moaning about how hard he has had it, and that it was just as difficult for him to succeed in the arts.

James Blunt was born in an affluent area of the country. His father was a colonel in the army. He went to the best schools (Harrow) and his education was paid for with army bursaries. After education he went into the army and trained at Sandhurst, and was fast-tracked into high ranking positions. While in the army, he didn’t deal with the hand-to-hand combat and getting shot at kind of thing so much as captaining his army ski team. To be Blunt isn’t such a bad thing, as far as I can see, thanks to Colonel Daddy. During this privileged start he was able to listen to, learn, and compose music. He was also able to make contacts with powerful people and earn a lot of money. James Blunt is the definition of a “Chosen One”.

On the flipside, a person brought up in a terraced house, who starts with nothing, who goes to work in a factory at 16, who worries mainly about housing and feeding oneself, may not even think to pick up an instrument or a paint brush. Art is a luxury that people can turn to once the essentials are covered.

But James Blunt says that his privileged background was a disadvantage in the world of the arts. Believe it or not, I agree with him.

Working class people are the most diverse, interesting, gritty, thoughtful people on the planet. They are exposed to harsh lifestyles. They experience hardships and horrors daily. They work the hardest jobs for the crappest pay, and at the end of the week they go home to their families with a smile on their face. This is where real art originates.

Anything the James Blunts of the world can come up with will pale in comparison. James Blunt may be able to walk into opportunities because of his social class, and he may be rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But he will never write a song with the heart, pain, and emotion that the likes of Bruce Springsteen has written. He will never compose a melody that will rival anything by the Beatles. His voice will never convey emotion like Morrissey. He will never mesmerise a crowd like Tom Waits. He will never put his soul into an instrument like BB King or Jimi Hendrix.

So yes, I believe Blunt’s true artistic ability is diminished by his privileged life. But make no mistake, to be Blunt isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not going to shed a tear for him.

Democracy Day

Today is Democracy Day on the BBC – an event that marks the 750th anniversary of parliament and the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta (which established that the King was no longer above the law of the land).

The sealing of the Magna Carta transferred some of the King’s powers over to the nobles, and democracy as we know it in the UK stemmed from there. However, it hasn’t evolved quite as much as it could have done. Maybe that’s because parliament is used as a tool for individuals to gain and maintain power as opposed to being a force for good and equal opportunities across the country.

All those years ago, it was the nobles who were given the power. Fast forward to today, and it’s our modern day nobles that have all the power.

Of course, most UK residents are allowed to vote in elections now, as opposed to the privileged few. But we weren’t handed that opportunity on a silver platter. The people of the UK had to fight for their rights every step of the way. 750 years of parliament, and women were only given the vote in the 20s (by that I mean the nineteen twenties). Does that sound as crazy to you as it does to me? It wasn’t until the late 1960s that 18, 19 & 20 year olds were given the vote.

When people gain power they use that power to keep it. All the positive changes to democracy have come through relentless dogfighting, and further rights are given to the masses only sparingly and reluctantly as a way to try to appease people. This process has been continuously plodding on for 750 years, and we are still far from having a fair democracy in the UK.

The Chosen Ones still have a death grip on our society. Power is still hereditary. The underclass don’t have an official sway on policy (our only unofficial sway we have on policy and law is striking and protesting – a concept that is slowly dying thanks to legislation brought in by people in power that reduces the power of unions).

One could argue that the UK isn’t really democratic at all. A component of our parliament is the House of Lords, the second largest decision-making body after China’s National People’s Congress. It consists of nearly 800 unelected officials. And we supposedly live in a democratic country. It’s embarrassing!

What do we actually vote for, anyway? We have the choice of a few select careerists, and that’s our say over with. After that, it’s over to them to make all of the decisions (which is democracy for them, but not for us). What if, for example, you vote for Nick Clegg based on his shameful lies and then he gets elected into office? You’re stuck with him making decisions for you for the next five years just because of one day of public voting.

Of course, now and again a referendum comes along (see Scottish Independence), where the public get a chance to vote on one political question. However, this only occurs when either A) the government is pretty confident they’re going to get the outcome they want or B) they want to wash their hands of the decision and blame the outcome on the public.

Here’s an idea, why don’t we get rid of parliament and make ALL of the decisions ourselves? In this day and age most people have a computer, a smart phone, a tablet. I wouldn’t mind getting messages sent through to me a couple of times a week asking me how I want my country to be run. We could use the money we’d save on politicians’ wages to provide a tablet to all the people too poor to buy one for themselves, and invest in a broadband network to improve communication channels.

This would be true democracy, free of power-grabbing careerists. Do you think we could make this happen? No. Because the power-grabbing careerists in power wouldn’t allow it.

Happy Democracy Day, everyone!

Mansion Tax

The prospect of a Mansion Tax has really rubbed rich people up the wrong way.

Myleene Klass has stated that the Mansion Tax, which would be aimed at properties worth over £2m, would affect “little grannies” in London. I believe that’s what she’s concerned about as much as I believe that David Cameron really cares about whether or not the Green Party are involved in the TV election debates.

Millionaire Myleene stated that £2m wouldn’t get you much in London, and that these “little grannies” will have had these properties passed down to them through the generations. Firstly, as I have touched on in a previous blog, some wealthy people are completely out of touch with the real world, therefore, what Myleene Klass classes as “not much” could well be a mansion to someone like us. Secondly, if people are getting mansions passed down to them through generations, these are the types of people who are born into wealth and don’t have to lift a finger their whole lives. Thirdly, if the Mansion Tax would cause these people so much hardship (although, what they call hardship and we call hardship may be totally different things), they could move away from London and purchase a whole street in the North.

Other well-off people have spoken up against the Mansion Tax. Do they expect people to show sympathy for them? If you have a property worth over £2m, you’re a very lucky, wealthy person.  I have seen a lot sympathy for these rich people in the press…but maybe that’s because the people who run the media are very wealthy people with £2m properties. Take it with a pinch of salt. And be under no illusions, very few of these people went from rags to riches. 99.9% of them were privileged from birth and had opportunities presented to them on a platter. The other 00.1% will know what it’s like on the flipside of the coin and won’t oppose the tax.

I’ve seen a few common arguments against the Mansion Tax. One is that a person may have bought a house for much less than £2m originally, but it has since gone up in value. So, am I supposed to shed a tear because the value of someone’s property has skyrocketed? Wait, isn’t that what dreams are made of!?

Some say it’s not equitable because the cash-poor asset-rich owner of a large house is liable for this tax. In other words, these are people who inherit a mansion and blow their money on a hedonistic lifestyle instead of getting a job. If born to the underclass these people would be called scroungers, deadbeats and bums. If they’re so cash poor, why don’t they sell their £5m mansion, buy a £1.5m property (if that’s not beneath them), and then live on their £3.5m? You wouldn’t have to work a day in your life with that sort of dinero. Or they could keep the house, and maybe just sell off one of their Ferraris, or a Rembrandt, to help pay the tax.

A Mansion Tax would help reduce wealth inequality in the UK and redistribute resources to help people at the other end of the scale. The rich will still be rich. The poor will still be poor. But it would be a step towards improving the quality of life of the worst off amongst us.

Bring on the Mansion Tax.