February 19, 2008

Should Chris Dillow be hated for living in England?

Chris Dillow justifies class hatred over on his blog: for him it is a payback for the fact that the middle class have so many advantages in life from educated parents to moneyed lives and even nepotism. Chris argues this with his usual persuasiveness- but his case is pretty bad and even Chris can't really sustain it. Its available to attack on so many different measures but I wish to concentrate on two particular reasons why Chris is wrong to laud class hatred. (Particularly as I like Chris want to erode class with policies that would promote equality.)

1. Class is not the only way of distinguishing advantage. I know plenty of middle class people who were born with MS, ME, deep diseases of the mind and body- does Chris believe that the ill are entitled to hate the well, that the depressed entitled to hate the happy. Furthermore would he not agree that irrespective of the vast class divisions in England, they are as nothing compared to the vast divisions between nations. Would Chris not agree that on the same logic he advances for class hatred, then Zimbabweans and Bangladeshis should hate that epitome of white privilege, Mr Dillow? Hating people for what they cannot change is foolish, and its even more foolish when you consider that though evaluating the desert of various classes is easy, evaluating the desert of individuals is much harder. Would Chris not agree that he deserves hatred because he was born with, completely irrespective of his merits, the talent to get a job- the genetic inheritance to do well and the luck of life to exploit that inheritance.

2. Hatred is a destructive emotion. It does not help anyone who feels it, less than those who don't. We have had hundreds of years of class hatred- but I don't see the working class storming the barricades. Rather I think hatred encourages people to try and stuff the middle class by earning more than their contemporaries who went to Harrow. Far from encouraging egalitarianism, this is a different form of Toryism: its the argument that if only we could have a pure meritocracy, the people at the top would deserve their places there in some sense. Genetic advantage good, environmental advantage bad. Class hatred, just like the even more justified ethnic hatred that on Chris's argument Africans ought to feel for anyone in the West, often makes people throw their hands up in frustration rather than achieving things in life. And some of those that succeed- assume that they are so justified by their success, that they spend money and time combatting any attempts to make society more equal. (Chris suggests that anyone middle class who hasn't ended class deserves hatred: I'm not sure why its only background that he mentions there- surely that applies to those who become middle class as well).

The truth is that noone in society deserves their wealth. We are all the product of random events from our birth forwards, and if we are successful, we are purely lucky. Genetics, environmental factors, even the moment when we got an interview and the other guy didn't all add up to make me suspect that it would take only a slight misstep for all our destinies to change completely. If we are to hate privilege, then we should hate success- which would produce interesting incentives within society. Furthermore we should pay much more attention to what people do with their wealth, than how they got it. If Chris wants to really hate someone, then why not look at the percentages of money that people give to charity from their own fortunes.

Ultimately I think that Peter Moores deserves more praise than Piers Morgan. The first went to Oxford and Eton, but then proceeded to give away 141 million pounds to charity- helping struggling artists get their lives together. The second went to a comprehensive and is nothing but a scumbag and an idiot and has used his success to hurt and destroy other people. The same could be said of leading economist J.M. Keynes, impecably leftwing and middle class, and the McCarthyite yet working class Horatio Bottomley. Ultimately it doesn't matter in life where you came from, its what you do with what abilities you have, in particular whether you use them to help your fellow man that matters.


Political Umpire said...

I was sure the article was some sort of lame satire. For example, here's the great line:

"abolish class divisions"

Name me a society in history with no class divisions. What would it mean to 'abolish' them? That I would be forced to eat cheap takeaways, watch eastenders, speak like John Prescott and get interested in football?

Gracchi said...


In which case I just had my wisdom teeth out and obviously didn't get it :)

James Hamilton said...

No, that chippiness post earlier gives the game away: it's not satire,and it's all about finding "political" (and therefore, at least to CD, worthy) excuses for hating people with a posh accent (his only yardstick for deciding that someone should be in receipt of class hatred, if you put the two posts together).

Really, it's a thoroughly nasty piece - if not out of kilter with quite a few other posts of his - and he deserves the pasting he's taken in the comments.

chris said...

I didin't intend it as satire.
It's interesting, though, that class hatred can be directed at immigrants, the long-term unemployed and those on Incapacity Benefit every day, and yet the moment the target's changed, everyone gets upset.
As for your Zimbabwe analogy, there are two possible differences. One is that we in the west aren't necesarily rich because Zimbabweans are poor, in the way that some of the western rich are rich because some of the western poor are (relatively) poor.
Also, I've done nothing to stop Zimbabweans coming here, and nothing to deny them opportunities in the way the middle class deny the poor opportunities. Quite the opposite; I've argued long and lonely for free migration.
Also, I think your point about there being other sources of luck misses the point. I agree that luck is very important, but when some people always do better than others, it's not luck but a rigged game.
One other thing - I'm not consumed with hate or embittered; my distate for people like Max is purely aesthetic.

James Hamilton said...

"It's interesting, though, that class hatred can be directed at immigrants, the long-term unemployed and those on Incapacity Benefit every day, and yet the moment the target's changed, everyone gets upset." No it isn't, and no it can't, not at least in the terms you yourself set. "Interesting" = bloody dishonest. I'm disappointed but not surprised. Read some of the criticism rather than shoving it onto other kinds of bigot.

As for your hatred being aesthetic, how elegant of you: let me take you by the hand and introduce you to some people for whom it was less distant.

Gracchi said...

Chris I object against hatred for immigrants or other classes of people as I'm sure you may have noticed on this blog. I generally object to treating people in groups or classes- whatever those are.

In terms of the other forms of luck- well its not necessarily true that every middle class person succeeds as well. There are constellations of luck which take people towards success- one of which can be class- but others are there too (few Down Syndrome sufferers are ever 'successful' in your terms at the moment but none of them 'deserved' their disease).

As to the Zimbabwean point, fair point but on the other hand you are in the position there of the pious Etonian who is an ineffective socialist.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that you were consumed by hatred- having met you, I know that's not true- but the post is not a good one. It stigmatises a group of people as a class, rather than dealing with individuals. Ultimately deciding about whether people are to be hated can only be done on individual grounds about their moral choices- (though a class distinguished by bad moral choice like holocaust perpetrators can be hated) and not upon the accent that someone has or the advantages that someone has. I think that's just a philosophical difference between us.

Anonymous said...

Dillow has a rather unusual take on life, which seems to be the result of his experiences at Oxford University, the city and living in Belsize Park.