Sunday, November 04, 2012

On the unnerving discovery that I am a terrible classist

To the fair city of Canterbury, taking Number One Daughter to visit the university of her choice. We arrive at the college's open day, via the city's Park and Ride, finding ourselves surrounded by what can charitably be called an interesting cross-section of society.

A smug feeling warmed me, realising I had made the correct decision to leave the Thermos flask in the back of the Micra. I have never felt so alive. So middle class.

I like to think of myself as normal (SHUT UP), so I found myself equally annoyed and amused by pushy parents asking money-related questions on behalf of their bewildered, slack-jawed offspring; and also - thanks to Canterbury's location in the backyard of south and east London - nervous, awkward, fish-out-of-water Cockney parents, unsure of how to behave in what they thought of polite society. If only they knew, I thought, subtly lifting a buttock and blaming Cockney Dad on my right.

A fascinating case study (which both Number One Daughter and Number One Ex-wife had forbade me from mentioning, so here it is) surrounds the late arrival of one such family literally into the middle of the Pro Vice Chancellor's welcome address. The pantomime was marvellous, the Pro Vice Chancellor just as awkward as Nervous Cockney Mum, ushering her into a corner for the lecture theatre, where she then proceeded to answer her phone in a bellowing voice, unaware that the ampitheatre-like acoustics of the room meant even the people at the back got every word.

It was, as I gleefully wrote down notes on this joyous spectacle, that I realised that I have become the most terrible classist, something I've been called out on before. And I quote:

"Scathing snobbery and classism bubbling under the surface of a barely veiled hatred for the working class. A classic of post-election Cameronian journalism."

Try as I like to defend myself, I find myself guilty as charged. Except, perhaps, the David Cameron bit. It's not that I find myself mocking the working class, for that's from where my family came, it's just that I find all classes unintentionally funny in equal measure.

And so I am a classist. As our society increasingly embraces equality, there are very few -isms left which can be deemed acceptable. Sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and quite right, too.

There was a time when you couldn't have a sitcom without a comedy camp character, and there were even one or two that bordered on outright racism. While Mr Humphries is fondly remembered, the past is exactly where he should stay.

It wasn't terribly long ago that you could get a decent laugh just by saying the word "chav". And now - we learn - Chavs have feelings, too, although we're unlikely to see a Chavstock benefit concert down the local Equalities book shop.

It's a wonder comedians can even write gags these days, as somebody, somewhere is bound to be offended and get some previously unknown pressure group sending you pointed emails. In fact, I think we may even have passed that particular event horizon if the current fashion for 140-character puns on Twitter is anything to go by.

What we need is a new target. A social group that doesn't mind being laughed at. A social group that craves the attention. A social group that's crying out for new material.


They want to be mocked. They want to be laughed at. They want custard pies in their faces and to be biffed round the back of the head by planks of wood, and by jove, we're going to give it to them.

Clownism is the way ahead. Give those red-nosed, big-footed gits what they deserve. Stupido clowny clowns.

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