Rampant classism coupled with a virulent and clandestine culture of eugenics are endemic to and very much embedded in the psyche of the British upper class, the country’s aristocracy and most certainly so the British Royalty, its hangers-on and the political and economic establishments that self-servingly and even obsequiously support them.
This poem was largely inspired by Charlotte a former student of mine who subsequently became and is still a close friend. Charlotte’s background couldn’t have been any more aristocratic than it was if either she or anyone else for that matter had wanted or tried to make it so; and in conversations I had with her I was left in no doubt that academically clever and highly intelligent as she evidently was, Charlotte had been conditioned from birth to unquestioningly accepting and not challenging in any way the private life style that her parents and those around them had determinedly mapped out for her and naturally expected her to conform to.
Although I could see it was a massive mistake on the part of this utterly charming and bright young lady to passively submit to what was expected of her I none the less studiously resisted all likely attempts on my part to interfere in what I saw and appreciated as Charlotte’s private life, respecting her inalienable right to make up her mind how she wanted to live her life; even if that outcome was heavily influenced by her parents, other family members, hers or their friends.
However, when she asked me for my advice, fully cognisant that previously in our conversations I wasn’t forthcoming with any of my own, I asked her if she really wanted to hear my honest opinion; and when she said yes I was accordingly polite but unstintingly forthright in what I had to say to her. Interestingly enough, Charlotte wasn’t in the least taken aback by anything I said, appeared to accept my opinion and most significantly seemed particularly relieved that I’d given it. The upshot of which was that Charlotte resolved to immediately change not only her life’s expectations but essentially as well set about dismantling in the process those which her parents, other family members and friends had formulated for her and expected her to consent to.
Fortified with this new assurance in herself she resolutely informed the principal playmakers in her life of her changed plans and courageously embarked on them; finding true love in the process with a man whose background was as different from hers as it could possibly get, but who fully cognisant not only of his reciprocal love for Charlotte and the huge societal sacrifice she’d made on his behalf, manfully stepped up to the plate and thoroughly justified the explicit faith that Charlotte had place in him emotionally, lovingly and in terms of enhancing his previously unspectacular work career.
Five years have elapsed since all this happened; Charlotte and her young man have meanwhile got married, are in a state of marital bliss, and are planning a family of their own. Additionally, broken fences between the married pair and Charlotte’s own family have also been repaired largely due to the resoluteness that Charlotte showed from the outset of her landmark decision that she was never going back to her former familial life style, and the eventual recognition and full acceptance by her family members and erstwhile friends that she meant every word of what she’d said.
A situation amieloratively eased by Charlotte’s father. Of all his children Charlotte had always been his favourite and the apple of his eye and the grim prospect of him losing her forever and never ever getting the opportunity to know his grandchildren by her troubled him immensely he later confessed to her. So the sensible and only practical solution to permanently forestalling that was to honourably bury the hatchet on their differences, which thankfully was done.
Now I’m not naïve, have never been and don’t envisage any situation where I will ever allow myself to be subjugated by such a puerile mindset, and consequently what I may have intentionally assisted Charlotte in satisfactorily accomplishing, I don’t necessarily hold out as a panacea for everyone that find themselves in similar circumstances or who may have an identical familial background.
Old habits are extremely hard to break, and in Britain where the transparently detrimental – unless of course you’re a complete nerd and absolutely incapable of noticing this – but nevertheless idiotically perceived and exceptionalist practice of classism is profoundly ingrained, it will, in my honest view, require a colossal, commitedly collaborative and ongoing undertaking to efficiently and permanently eradicate it. Not at all an easy task considering the significant support, across the board, that classism openly, tacitly and even subconsciously enjoys within British society.
So where do I stand on all this? If that isn’t obvious by now – and it should have been – then let me unapologetically, unambiguously and emphatically state that I’m a committed meritocrat that firmly believe that one’s personal ability - and not an accident of birth, so-called social background or their familial standing or societal connections – should be the sole determinant factor in one’s success and ongoing progress. Of course human beings not being perfect there’ll be aberrations to this procedure; but these should be the exceptions rather than being the norm. And while every society will and must have its own distinguishing hierarchy this must equally be based on the principle of meritocracy and NOT hereditary exclusivity – or in blunt terms who your biological mother or alleged father actually fucked with!
So let’s hope that Charlotte’s story is a shot across the appropriate bows!