Wednesday, 13 October 2010

London & Luonyaker Have More In Common Than You Think.

Gillian Evans writes provocatively in Educational Failure and Working Class White Children in Britain:

Hartley's: historically one of the big
employers, rooting the working class
to Bermondsey over generations.
"In Bermondsey I had missed something important because, blinkered by my middle class snobbery, I had been looking the other way. Here, on my doorstep, in the centre of modern metropolitan London, at the end of the twentieth century, were a people who seemed to be just like what anthropologists would once have called a 'tribe'. Here was a place where the people couldn't be less like the city dwellers we imagine in the modern characterisation: these were not isolated individuals, cut off from family connections outside the city, who socialised via networks of friendship and work-related friendships that spanned the city. Bermondsey was more akin to a typical English village occupied by a group of people closely tied to a particular location through a specific economic history [see picture right] and in-marrying links of kinship and residence."

I'm no anthropologist, but it seems to me like Evans is onto something.

In the recent past when meeting new people, if they have been from the UK or the West, I have very quickly got to asking them what they do for a living, because their answer to that question, in my mind at least, is the doorway into filling out my understanding of the kind of person they are, the aspirations they have, the values they hold etc etc. However, when in non-Western countries, in order to get the same "filling out" effect, I would ask them where they are from since, in those places, kinship/tribe and geography have a much greater formative role a person's identity.

The quote above from Evans refines that understanding for me. Prosperity and education and the consequent social mobility and "self-discovery" they afford, apply only to the few. The difference of outlook is thus less a "West versus the Rest," and more a "Haves versus Have-Nots" - the Middle Class versus the rest.

I'd like to get out of the Middle Class goldfish bowl a bit more. And, yes, that last sentence is somewhat ironic, because whilst social mobility and understanding is what people like me, boast for ourselves; rarely do we actually leave the comfort of our own feathered social nests.

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