Wednesday, May 12, 2010
All of the business with the British election brought to mind one of the curious differences between the British and American mentality - regarding class.
Most of the hyperbole about the British election involved a lot of class angst. Labour supporters tended to tout their 'working class roots' and how Labour was the party that supported the unions, coal miners and the 'honest working man.'
Considering that there is no 'working class' in Britain any more, and that Labour has become as much of a party of privatization and capitalism as the Conservatives, I found this notion laughable.
But what wasn't quite so funny were the inevitable riffs aimed at the Conservatives - commonly regarded as a party of 'rich, no-nothings' and 'fox hunting toffs' led by an 'Eton educated, over-privileged schoolboy.'
It was class snobbery, pure and simple (and wildly hypocritical on the part of the Lib Dems, as Nick Clegg is arguably just as privileged as David Cameron - going to an equally expensive public school and coming from a family mix of Russian aristocracy and rich banking.)
The United States is different; for a start, they still genuinely have a working class. Factory workers, miners and the like still eke out a true 'working class' living the likes of which has been drilled out of existence in the UK for well over a decade now.
But more than that, there's no shame in being working class in America.
Oh, Brits might proudly tout their 'working class roots' and how proud they are of them, but generally only in the context of diminishing people they imagine 'think they're better than we are.' It's all about having a chip on one's shoulder, pulling the other fella down a peg and bristling with insecurity and bluster.
In America, the working class are genuinely proud to be working class; because this is a country in which everybody is created equal and the fact that somebody works a production line for $10 an hour doesn't make them any less than the President of the USA or the CEO of Coca Cola; and they don't feel that they contribute anything less to the American economy (and on the theory that every cog in a machine is important, they're arguably right.)
That being said, I heard a joke the other day which turns this great notion of equality on it's head:
Down in a Dallas auto repair shop, Frank the mechanic was doing a brake job on a customer's Chevrolet Silverado . The guy who owned the truck, Frank knew, was a rich and successful open heart surgeon, who drove the pick-up because it represented his Texan pretensions.
So Frank decided to take him down a peg or two. When the doctor arrived to pick up his truck, Frank led him into the repair bay and opened up the hood.
"See this, Doc?" Frank asked. "The engine's basically the heart of this truck - and just like you, I open up car's 'hearts', take out the damaged valves, grind 'em and repair 'em and put them back to keep them pumping just like the ticker in your chest."
Slamming down the hood of the truck, he grinned: "Seems to me we do exactly the same job, more or less - so how come you get the big bucks?"
And the doctor, with a grin of his own, replied: "Because unlike you, I do it with the engine running!"