Class on my shoulder

I bumped into someone yesterday who damaged me both personally and professionally. I hadn’t seen him in almost ten years. And met him quite by chance in a confined situation. My gut reaction was to vent. Punch him in the face. Make him pay for the things he’d done. But I didn’t. I put my hands in my pockets. Bit my tongue. And let him walk.

My father. In his youth. Would’ve punched his lights out. At least one of my cousins would’ve taken a baseball bat to his shins. But I put my hands in my pockets. Bit my tongue. And let him walk away. My lack of visceral action no doubt leaves me on the moral high ground. But there is still a part of me that thinks. I should have taken him outside. And damaged him. Physically. That’s what you’re supposed to do where I come from. Stand up for yourself. Physically.

This kind of behaviour is portrayed in the media as a symptom of social decline. A disease with no cure. The subtext to all that hyperbole is fear. Fear of the countless people who fall out of the pub on a Friday night. And respond to an insult with physical action. Put simply it is fear of the working class.

It is the working class who respond to insults with physical action. It’s all they have. The thing of it is. The thing I have come to realise. The person I am talking about. His behaviour was no less violent. No less damaging than the fist thrown in a street brawl. But he did it in the name of a profit. With a smile. And a sense of entitlement I only ever come across in the middle class. The thing I’m struggling to articulate is this. The middle class façade of polite behaviour. Is just that. A façade.

I have had something of an education. Not as much as I would like. But enough to move in middle class circles. And survive. Almost. I say almost because no amount of education will ever make me one of them. I will always be on the outside looking in. I lack the ruthless sensibility that is innate in these people. The cold selfishness that is their birth right. I come from, dare I say it, more honest stock. They might punch you in the face when you cross them. But they would never betray you for thirty pieces of silver.

Fortunately there will always be a part of me that remains working class. A part of me that still lives on a council estate in the North East of England. A part of me that wants to take duplicitous scum outside. And damage them. Physically. A part that keeps me honest. I suppose that’s why they say. You can take the boy out of the council estate. But you can’t take the council estate out of the boy.

Less Beauty More Brains

First entry. Where to start? A good place is probably the name, “Less Beauty More Brains”. It came to me January nineteen eighty nine. I was sat on a National Express coach, pulling out of the station in Newcastle city centre. Some enterprising feminist had daubed “Less Beauty More Brains” over one of the sixteen sheet hoardings that lined the slip road. I don’t remember what was being sold. I do remember the model, semi clad, staring at the camera. Images of a woman in a fur coat come to mind. But I might be mixing it up with one of those PETA adverts from the eighties. You can pick almost any advert featuring a woman. Apply the slogan. And it works. It is great bit of copy. The agitprop graffiti artist was no doubt offended by the blatant exploitation of women. But I was struck by its succinctness. How she was able to sum up so much with so little. I was still at art school at the time. And her corruption of modernist mantra “Less Is More” struck a chord. Since then I have used it repeatedly. Its repetition has given it greater significance. Now it seems more like a statement of intent. A way of approaching my artistic endeavours.