YES, IT HAS SOMEWHAT OF A PRETENTIOUS TITLE…
A STORY/POLEMIC/ESSAY OF CLASS, SOCIAL EXCLUSION, INTELLIGENCE AND GENTRIFICATION
The themes, of course you can work out mostly for yourself (it works on different levels of thought including allegory: Theo means God, but I’m no believer, that’s for another time) and may prove contentious and controversial. Sorry about that. The thoughts, both political and philosophical, are self-evident in the first part (a polemical rant) and its left turn into narrative so I’ll leave introductions to a minimum.
Tackling the subjects of delusions and aspirations being one of and the same. Gentrification, identity, class, snobbery are hinted upon. It’s all here. I hope. A sprawling but succinct story. Please read and enjoy even if you find certain items disagreeable. White-trash here, is used as a term of self-aware and perhaps sardonic affection but always in a non-pejorative capacity.
Zadie Smith perfectly captures some like-minded thoughts about the notion of self -educated identity around 21 minutes into this radio interview. Revisiting and rereading this in September 2012. Why I do feel more ambivalent or perhaps more objectionable to these words a year on. I’ll keep this concise, but the breathless panic of inadequacies shall still shadow my feelings with this ‘exercise’ and loose Roman a clef (very loose I assure you).
PSEUDO-NERD: WHITE-TRASH INTELLIGENTSIA
A Story for all and for none.
Written by Nick Panteli
“Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth” Albert Camus
“The surest way to corrupt the youth is to teach them to respect those who think as they do rather than those who think differently. “ Freidrich Nietzsche
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” Bertrand Russell
“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.” Betrand Russell
“He’s an uneducated little shit and he’ll be working behind a till if he doesn’t shut his conceited, pretentious yap-hole and learn something.” Mr Powell overheard after English class.
PROLOUGE: IDENTITY CRISIS: THE REAL-DEAL DILETTANTE FRAUD
If there’s one thing you should know about me (you will almost certainly more) is that I don’t speak subtly. Call me vulgar, emphatically blunt and stupid but never call me uneducated. I am the real deal. A real-deal dilettante fraud. A walking contradiction, the apotheosis of an idiot. I’ve been called confrontational and anti-social. I call it a cuddly form of malevolence. I’ve been hailed as a “self-aggrandising solipsist” for reasons of which you will be enlightened as I regularly pepper, even saturate, my speech with quotes, ideas, and “educated” words of high diction usually reserved for the bourgeoisie or Oxbridge alumni (or both) that is somehow forbidden and constricted by the invisible yet existent parameters of my social standing, or rather, chained crawling to somehow elevate myself. I’m struggling for this tirade not to slip into an ideological rant against the “get-rich-or-die-trying” dystopian notion of free-market capitalism, however I never deny that ideology is an inspiration for my ideas as neglectful laissez-faire economic policy never lets me forget how worthless I am. Elite Psychology doesn’t care. Elite Psychology says: fuck the world, fuck the poor, fuck the starving, I need to grow my bank accounts, I need to become richer than yesterday.
We are the disinherited, those described by the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke as “ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”. Every day I’m expect to be aspirational. To work hard and be subservient. Ignorant. Yet my sub-substandard, “dumbed-down” inner-city education (the reason this monologue, of sorts, is syntactically and linguistically poor, talent deficit is another) keeps me desperate and yes a little trite, but economically shackled nevertheless. The two are not mutually exclusive. Maybe a life in tireless pursuit of worthless paper isn’t satisfying. I’d rather accumulate knowledge (the currency that transcends time and space) and invest my shares in Intellectual Apex Inc. (with some bonds in weak metaphor corp.). That is if I ever believed in investing and the entirety of the banking sector and industrial capitalism in the first place. I ask you how long I can wave the white cocktail flag of anticipation and faux-prosperity whilst being simultaneously pissed upon with the scalding liquid of social exclusion, negligence and the 180-degree misdirection and subterfuge of my entire class?
You don’t even have to assert a Marxist view of class warfare to know that I would be in complete incongruous juxtaposition in any gentrified neighbourhood. The occupying bourgeoisie would eye with such revilement, not simply because of the vague pronunciation of my limited lexicon, but also my shabby attire, mostly charity wear or the results of a trawl through Primark’s miles of shelves and rails. That is before they all flee and hide in their nearest Waitrose aisle or labyrinthine John Lewis, the fortresses of middle-class affluence. Or hit me with their copies of the Guardian like a rat that has accidentally stumbled above to surface. Not noting the worst: a so-called “social progressive” sophisticate flashing a superficial “pity” smile in its asymmetrical horror, pretending to give a fuck with their altruistic, humanistic facades. Spare me. If I am a pseudo-nerd, they remain pseudo-humanists.
I know that you, currently reading, don’t give a fuck: perhaps you stumbled here accidentally, waiting to be entertained. Well, it’s not happening and if you can fathom into your feeble brain that this isn’t disposal entertainment. Read James Patterson instead.
Maybe it’s my delusions that keep me alive; Just because I’ve read (and reviled) Rushdie, lounged around with Lessing, dissembled Dickens and nosed around some Nabokov, Nietzsche as well as generations of similarly fantastic voices (all thanks to the public library, I hasten to add) it simply does not suggest I share or obtain one iota (or the smallest conceivable unit) of their intellect, wit and observation. Everything is to be judged by middle-class values because, after all, that is what we are expected to aspire to. Nevertheless that’s the fundamental nature of delusions: we’re entrenched in an ethos which encourages this because delusions of grandeur and worth are the only thing keeps us from collective action. I like to think that delusions are merely an extreme manifestation of hope but maybe I’m just being meta-delusional: detaching every cognisant facet of my being to convince myself I’m still sane, although intangible (as it all exists in the knotty perplexities of my, and everyone’s mind) like half-a dozen Russian dolls, thinking independently, each smaller and more desperate to be bigger than their taller forbearers. Ok, terrible metaphor, and this reads platitudinal however hopefully reflects my sentiments. Or not.
Frequently I lay awake at night, anxious, scared and contemplating my future with every manner of negative attribute and emotion consuming my being, bubbling quiet beneath the surface, hidden. I’m just a fool and a fool with no socioeconomic worth, holding the notion that his cultural opinions formed through regurgitation, general consensus or the smallest shred of high-brow reading material. Entertaining the notion that these opinions actually connote intelligence but they don’t. Some nights are entirely sleepless. So much for egalitarianism.
Knowledge is a currency. I don’t own a wallet but if I did, it would almost certainly be empty. I’m also aware this superfluous semi-scabrous diatribe laden with affectations began to drag and bore long ago however I don’t want to be your Holden Caulfield, your Salingerian unreliable narrator or Loachian morally-ambivalent anti-hero. But hey, everything is subjective, right? Whose truth? Whose lies? The boundaries between subjectvised first and third person omniscient narration will erase and blur. Try and keep up.
ACT I: COGNITIVE PURGATORY
“Growing up in a particular neighbourhood, growing up in a working-class family, not having much money, all of those things fire you and can give you an edge, can give you an anger.”Gary Oldman
“Keep you doped up with religion and sex and TV; and you think you’re so clever and classless and free” John Lennon, Working Class Hero (1970)
“For I loathe patriotism of any kind – regarding my British nationality as an accident of birth on a par with a cleft palate; and I hate the thought of belonging to any demographic group, class or even club” Will Self
LEYTONSTONE, 0530 AM, A TUESDAY IN DECEMBER
The ubiquitous council estate. Concrete everywhere. Stained grey monoliths drive through the ground and reach high out of sight, housing the unemployable, the uneducated and the forgotten, high out of sight. Tuesday had begun. Down below lay grey acres where no soul crept. It was, after all, deepest night, the unforgivingly powerful industrial lighting illuminating large puddles, soft drinks and bits of damp paper down below. I’ve learned to become disembedded from my environment.
The wind crescendos to a sharp and gestated howl as an etiolated, ungainly adolescent equipped with a (garishly fluorescent) orange satchel swinging loose over his shoulders. He walks upon a concrete skyway four stories up, a purgatory between the two towers almost akin to the abrasive dystopian landscapes of Burgess’s Clockwork Orange. Except this nightmarish reality had come to fruition. Slipping out the last tabloid rag from his now empty satchel, he enters the tower with ease, the electromagnetic security system prohibiting entry long since functional. The end of the walkway was on the fourth floor and as expected the lift smelt bad: Someone vomited in the corner. He walked up grey urine-smelling stairs to the eighth floor, number 15 and the slipped the vertically-halved “newspaper” silently through the letterbox. Another day’s misinformation distributed. Not that it needed to distributed. No, not when it was persistent in the fatuous celebrity culture hidden under a thin veil of “real” news and a democracy-eroding Australian billionaire (no subtleties remember? It’s Murdoch, both senior and junior in their tyrannical glories) obtains his perpetual cycle of profit whilst perpetually destroying and suppressing the possibility of an educated working class.
Although it’s not just the evils of the Orwellian-sounding News corporation: Hegemonic media subversion and dumbing-down is now as ubiquitous as matter itself. The “ghetto”, a false notion prevalent in a film and television and news media, is not just geographical, it is a psychological machine that wriggles its way into our minds. Not merely a collection of buildings, it is a way of thinking, powered by mass-media that must be fought against.
Walking slowly and dejectedly, head down, he makes the journey in reverse across the walkway once again to the adjacent tower, identical and homogenous in appearance. He passes a scattering of needles and other illicit paraphernalia upon his ascension. It was an open secret among residences that the flotsam and jetsam of the drug trade was indeed occurring within the walls of the two towers, predominantly cheap, chemically concentrated ecstasy derivatives with hollow, smiling faces upon them and genetically modified variants of cannabis. But this was something new. Someone else was arriving.
Unlocking the single (and only) lock of number four’s understatedly utilitarian door, he steps into the familiarity of a narrow doorway, revealing an impersonalised world: Uniform beige walls and slightly dark hued (from an aeon of dirt) carpet which barely distinguish where one surface ends and the other begins. Pitifully transient, akin to an indefinite travelodge room that a poor soul, beyond the influence of themselves, was obliged to remain attributed to for the rest of their lives. My own private purgatory. Slipping off his thin black plimsolls with the aid of his left, then right foot, revealing his pink and purpled feet through the wide holes in his socks as they come into contact with the moulted carpet. He throws off his coat and satchel onto his bed and walks in the modestly-sized kitchen, sailing past his far-from-exclusive concrete-view. A panoramic vista of impecunious circumstances, a council flat remains a far cry from a penthouse. A reporter’s notepad lies on the counter by the microwave, only a few sheets thick. A message written in a quasi-sophisticated scrawl:
Theo, Working late this evening, make yourself dinner.
“Again?” he grumbles to the silence. The silence does not respond. Tearing the sheet lovelessley and throwing into the bin. The shovelling of thinned porridge solitarily follows, then the slipping of uniform upon his meek body: a shirt yellowed to off-white, black trousers an inch too short as well as dull and dirtied black shoes. Theo was ready for another day of school.