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Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Race hatred and hating the poor always go together.
Afscme Local 444, retired
I grew up in England and I remember my mum being so upset that after my dad left the army she had trouble getting on a council house list, or on the list with a chance of getting a council house within a decent amount of time.
Council housing for my American brothers and sisters is public housing. The difference between public housing here in the US and in Britain is that here in the US you are trash if you live in public housing. You are a failure. Public housing has a stigma to it. You are either poor, worthless, have failed as a human being.
But I grew up with others who had nice public housing. People had flats, apartments. My auntie who recently died lived in a three bedroom house in Manchester where she took care of her sick sister. Before she died she said the council had been round and put in new modern windows and done a lot of remodeling. Not all council houses are the same but living in them certainly didn't make you feel like you were nothing. In the US, they are designed to do exactly that.
Thatcher changed all that encouraging the British to be more like Americans and own your own home which is great of course until there's a crash and the bankers kick you out. I was on the picket lines in Yorkshire during the historic miner's strike and many if not most of the workers lived in council houses. The issue of having to pay a mortgage when you're on strike for a year didn't arise. That seems to have an element of freedom and social power attached to it if you ask me.
I don't know the history of this municipal socialism that occurred in Britain after the war but I'm sure my British friends that are political do. I know I was on the 231 bus heading up to Enfield one year when I was visiting my folks and as the bus got through a certain area the stops seemed to be almost like every two blocks. I commented on this to a guy sitting next to me and he said that there was a large senior population in this community so the bus stops were closer together. Well, is that profitable? Tsk Tsk, it sounds like communism to me. A bus service shouldn't be run on the basis that it accommodates old people all the time. What about the bottom line?
The ideology of the ruling class, or the bourgeois or the 1% as some might call them, is very strong in the US. This is the ideology of the individualism, selfishness and dog eat dog. It is the myth of the self made man and all that bull. We have never had a workers party in this country on the national level and the unions are not much more than employment agencies with the stifling bureaucracy that sits at the helm as the CEO's. This has weakened class consciousness.
This ideology causes great psychological damage for those working class people that accept it as the trials, tribulations, inequality and failures that so many go through that are not of their own creation become personal flaws; it's never the system. Our demise or our inability to get that job, buy that house, etc. is purely due to our own personal failings. If we had made the right decisions, gone to the right school, been smarter, prettier, or consciously eliminated the inflections or working class brogue that is as much part of our existence as breathing I might have made something of myself.
Working class language or dialect is not cool. This is why when people say this or that black person talks "white" or is trying to talk white is ridiculous. It is talking like a middle or upper middle class European English/American person that is the goal. When black folks are accused of talking white they're not being accused of talking like Gomer Pyle. The Irish were always ridiculed for their dialect back home. Things have changed now, Irish accents and northern working class accents are quite fashionable.
In the McKinney swimming pool episode that we commented on on this blog, it is important to notice that alongside racial epithets that appeared to have been the cause of the conflict, insults were hurled at black folk about the need to go back to their section 8 housing. (Section 8 is some form of public assistance housing here int he US.) If you are in public housing you are less than human, not really American unless they need your kid to fight somewhere in the world. You are poor and its all your fault.
The same applies to whites who live in trailer parks, "White Trash" they call them here. Lyndie England, of Abu Ghraib fame grew up in a trailer park. We are supposed to believe a white working class European American woman that grew up in a trailer park and worked in a factory was responsible for the disintegration of integrity and honor in the military. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bush, the educated gentlemen of the 1% who probably worship their gods every Saturday or Sunday never had to face the music.
Racism and a hatred of the poor or labor go together. They are both a divide and rule tactic on the part of the 1%, turning us against each other, scrambling for crumbs from the bosses' table. It's a losing game if we play it that way.