Friday, July 21, 2006

Interlopers and counterjumpers

Brown Bread. Hell hath no fury like a social class facing the nemesis of history.

Chris's recent post reminds me that there is one side of the class debate that always eludes even the most historical of materialists: It is the way that - at times of social change - a declining social caste has always left booby traps for interlopers and counterjumpers.

The classic example of this is, of course, Opera. During the early 19th Century, when the landed classes found themselves in the coarser company of industrial capitalists, they noticed the habit that social climbers had, of imitating those that they aspire to join as equals.

When mill-owners took up hunting and Anglicanism, the nobs thought to themselves, "if we are about to be knocked off our pedestal, the least we can do is to shit on it first."

So they came up with a spiffing wheeze: Pretend to like Opera.

As no-one in their right mind can really enjoy this charmless Eyetie cacophony, Opera provided the perfect poison for a well that was being abandoned to the enemy.

The upper-middle classes did exactly the same thing in the mid 1960s to the first beneficiaries of the 1944 Education Act. This time, their weapon of choice was brown bread.

And shortly, I will explain (for those of you that are too thick to work it out for yourselves) how The Rolling Stones were conceived specifically to turn middle-brow radicals into political cabbages.

2 comments:

Mac said...

My mezzo soprano sister is very fond of her Hovis, are you suggesting she's a social climber ? ... careful now

hakmao said...

Baroque opera has much to recommend it - mainly it's brevity - and I won't have you sneering at Shostakovich's masterpiece Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, but you are essentially spot-on.