Those poor toffs…must be hard for them too.

8 06 2011

I decided to play devils advocate on an issue to see what I could come up with…

I took part in a Twitter debate about whether or not “Posh” people were discriminated against. It came about after someone posted a link to this article: “Lord Fellowes is right: posh people are the last persecuted minority.” Playing devils advocate, I considered the alternative approach to the one being discussed on twitter; that indeed wealthy and so-called posh people are discriminated against and it is considered acceptable by the general public where other forms of discrimination are not.

The article above is by a particularly pompous twat, James Delingpole who in it quotes another possibly even more pompous twat, Lord Fellowes. Now at the very start they make a decent point, one which I strangely agree with, on a technicality. Essentially Fellowes stated that, the last acceptable form of discrimination is against “toffs”.

Its true, non-toffs have a hatred of what they call the “ruling classes”, where vitriolic name calling and defaming or libelling is often seen as being completely acceptable. At times it extends to downright bullying and if it were directed at any other marginal group within society it would be frowned upon or even considered breaking the law.

Yet because this particular group of people happen to have money, even in copious amounts, it makes them fair game for such behaviour.

This is where my “objections” within the original debate began.

It was claimed that “poshism” as it’s been termed is not considered negative discrimination as it’s not on the same level as sexism, racism or disablism. And while on one level it isn’t directly comparable with other more well-known forms of discrimination, I believe that if it fits the definition of discrimination then it cannot be considered acceptable, regardless of the target.

So lets consider how the Oxford Dictionaries Online defines discrimination:



[mass noun]

1 the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race , age, or sex:

victims of racial discrimination

discrimination against homosexuals

2 recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another:discrimination between right and wrong

[count noun] :young children have difficulties in making fine discriminations

the ability to judge what is of high quality; good judgement or taste:those who could afford to buy showed little taste or discrimination

Psychology the ability to distinguish between different stimuli:

[as modifier]:

discrimination learning

To receive negative prejudicial treatment based on your education, income or family background is quite simply discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you happen to be rich or poor.

The counter-argument is that the rich, the well-educated or the upper classes do not face discrimination because they have no problems with access to employment, education or basic rights. That making jokes at the expense of, or directing nastiness and spite towards upper class people doesn’t count as discrimination because it does not have the same impact on their lives.

But how can someone assess the impact spite, nastiness or making personal jokes has on someone’s life? Money or class does not predict emotional sensitivity nor does it buy a protective barrier to put up when they are the victim of such behaviour.

Bullying is bullying regardless of the class you claim allegiance to, or appear outwardly to belong to.

The areas where there is growth in employment will not necessarily be easier for an Oxbridge graduate to enter and nor would those employing be keen to take a “toff” on.

As an undergraduate student working in a bar, I remember hearing of an applicant, “We’re not having her, she’s a toff,” if that isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is. Her ability to do the job wasnt even considered. I can imagine manual labouring work would have a similar attitude towards an aristocrat applying for a job as a brickie.

In my opinion, it shouldnt matter where you were educated, how much money you have or what your accent may suggest; if you are suitable for the job you get it, if you’re not, you don’t and in my personal experience this has always been the case. I know that nepotism is rife in all areas of employment but that is not restricted to the upper classes. Nepotism exists within the working classes too.

I have been turned down for jobs for being over-qualified or because they felt I wouldn’t “fit in” with the existing staff (who coincidentally didn’t have posh accents, although some did have university degrees). They didn’t stop to ask me how desperate I was to work, or how much I needed the income. I guess my “posh” accent didn’t do me any favours either.

Socially my accent certainly didn’t do me any favours and I learned early on I would have to tone it down to even be remotely accepted by people with whom I shared common social interests. This is also a form of discrimination. Social alienation is a form of torture yet according to todays discussion, if you’re considered posh, to alienate socially is not discrimination, it’s completely acceptable because you had a better education or came from a rich family or happen to be well spoken.

Is that right?

Do people no longer take an individual on their merits? What happened to judging someone based on what you know of them not what you think you know about them?

Not all people born to the wealthier classes want to belong to or socialise with their financial peers. It is a struggle for such people to ‘blend’ in and be accepted without question. Is this right?

There have been high-profile nepotistic employment cases in the media, most often surrounding internships within the parliament or other political roles. I actually don’t have much of an opinion on this, as I would jump at the chance of advancement in my chosen career should the opportunity arise and to deride such behaviour would be hypocritical.

I understand society’s anger at those who run the country at the minute, and its easy to pick on their social status as a reason for the downfall of the state, but it’s also important to remember that the Conservative party have a large swathe of working class voters (around 1/3 of all working class voters) who are well aware of the social background of those who ran for government and in the 80’s these voters kept the party in power for the whole decade. The government are elected by the people. They work FOR us and if we are unhappy with them, is it not best to change them? Picking on all people of the upper classes, or those financially well off won’t stop a corrupt government destroying the state with no real mandate or party majority to do so. Defending those who choose to propagate discrimination against the well off because “they have it easy”, is not an acceptable defence.

Having it easy in life is a very subjective observation and isn’t related to having money or not.

What it boils down to is that British society is fucked.

Everyone is so self obsessed, be that an entire social class, in a social setting or even just a chat online, that they don’t stop to consider what the effect of their behaviour may be on another person.

Everyone is so prejudiced against those they believe to have something they don’t, or against those they fear, that they feel they can justify their negative behaviour and make it acceptable. They don’t take individuals at their face value and instead lump everyone appearing to belong to one social group into a negative category, be they rich or poor.

Morally the difference between the statements all black people are the same and all rich people are the same is minimal, yet it is acceptable to pigeonhole the rich. I do not believe it is acceptable to tar everyone with the same brush.  The rich come in all shapes, sizes and political beliefs, just like the poor.

To say poshism is ok but racism is not, makes very little sense as it doesn’t take into account the feelings of the person involved and that is what turns a bit of banter into something far more damaging.

Discrimination against someone be that based on sex, race, social background, disability, ability, hair colour, tattoos, accent, education, lack of education, liking mince or not liking peanuts is wrong.

What may seem insignificant to one person could feel like the end of the world to another and to suggest otherwise reeks of ignorance.

If it fits the definition of discrimination, it is wrong.

To judge someone’s experience of discrimination based on your own experience or perception is also wrong. To say its ok to discriminate against “toffs” because they’re privileged is simply not justifiable. To suggest it’s not discrimination because they are financially privileged also doesn’t hold much weight.

To blame all rich people for the actions of those responsible for the state of the country is also unjustifiable.

Anyone offering Joe Average an easier financial life is not likely to be turned away. In that respect, those without money are not any different. Human beings want whatever they can get in the easiest way they can get it. It is true that the conservative party pander to those with money but whose fault is that really? The rich people who are considered a politically advantageous commodity or the working and middle classes for voting in and allowing the government to get away with it?

As the upper classes of Britain are far outweighed by the working and middle classes, there is a massive breakdown in communication somewhere if people believe that the upper class are solely to blame for the state of the country or the alleged ‘progressive reforms’ the government are making. I’m not saying they don’t have a massive part to play and that they don’t have a massive influence over those in government, and I’m not saying that I don’t recognise the part nepotism has to play in the grand scale of things. But if the majority of the country neither support nor want this behaviour from those in power or those with money then they need to be more proactive about changing the situation.

And I mean everyone, not just a select and active few.

There is a small percentage of people who do make great effort to bring on change but they weaken their position by jumping on the bandwagon of blame the rich for all the ills of society. We are allowing the rich to get away with it. Those on modest and low incomes would evade tax if they could too.

I’m not saying its right that those who earn billions get off without paying their fair share of tax. In fact I applaud the efforts of UKUncut highlighting those who do so and I believe we should all make a stand, however, if the tax system allows them to legally get away without paying appropriate tax or to negotiate a far reduced tax bill, then we need to ensure this system is changed. They are only doing what we would all do given the opportunity.

Ok I’m losing track now and I’m bored. So yeah rich people have feelings too. If it fits the definition of discrimination, it probably is discrimination. Everyone should pay the right tax regardless of income or everyone should pay no tax regardless of income. We are all to blame for allowing this to happen. Discrimination is bullying behaviour and bullying behaviour is never acceptable.

*phew* thought that would never end.





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