I can't wait to read Owen Jones new book The Establishment, despite knowing already what it's about. A review in The Guardian gives a brief account and a taster. Essentially Jones argues that the people who caused the financial crash have got away with it while those didn't have been punished.
However, this is a symptom of a deeper malaise which has been nagging at British society for years. Peter Oborne touched on it in his book The Rise of the Political Class (2007) pointing out that, for the most part, you have to be a member of the upper middle class and have gone to a good university, usually Oxbridge, if you really want a chance of rising to the top of the professions, or even getting in there in the first place. This is very definitely true of politics, dominated as it is by Etonians and the like, but it is also true of journalism.
Jones pointed out in Comment is Free recently that 54% of the top media professionals went to private schools. He argues that most of the top level of society is essentially a racket for the privileged. Really, he is only pointing out what has been obvious to many of us since the days of Thatcher, whose name I can hardly utter without spitting blood. Her revolution of inequality was perpetuated by both Conservative and Labour governments right up to the present administration, which perpetuates it still.
"Only 7% in Britain are privately educated, and yet this section of
society makes up 71% of senior judges, 62% of the senior armed forces
and 55% of permanent secretaries" Jones explains. "In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the
local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a
non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate
qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the
explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of
whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether
you are talented."
Yes, that's definitely true, and it is certainly true that this situation leaves our institutions undemocratic and unrepresentative, particularly the media. As Jones pointed out in his previous book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, hardly anyone has been speaking up for the working classes ever since the Thatcher demon trashed the unions, and now the lower middle classes have been left behind as well with the increasing dominance of the elite.
However, there is a particularly irony in all this. If I quickly name my top three favourite political authors, Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Peter Oborne (the latter purely on the basis of his The Rise of the Political Class), what do you notice about them? All three went to Oxbridge (Owen went to University College, Oxford; Monbiot is Oxford educated also and Oborne went to Cambridge), with Owen being the only working class member of the three to have broken into it.
So the irony is this, Jones is attempting to challenge the establishment (as is Monbiot to a certain extent) from a position of himself being part of the establishment, having broken into it as a writer and a journalist. In essence, Jones is himself living proof of his own point - the very serious problem we have in this country regarding the atrocious lack of social mobility and institutionalised, entrenched inequality. The very reason why Jones has been able to so fluently write about and challenge the establishment is by virtue of his breaking into it first.
I applaud him for having done so, but I resent totally the situation which he himself describes.
"Certainly Britain is in desperate need of radical measures to ensure all
can realise their aspirations, including the banning of unpaid
internships, the scrapping of charitable status for private schools,
investment in early-years education, and dealing with issues such as
overcrowded homes that stifle educational attainment. But surely
Britain's chronically unequal distribution of wealth and power has to be
Brave words Owen, but are you likely, really, to be able to bring the system down by yourself? I hardly think so.
Anyone for a revolution? We are badly in need of one I suspect.
- Robin Whitlock
- Weston Super Mare, Somerset, United Kingdom
- Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Robin Whitlock. I am a freelance journalist with a special interest in environmental issues and renewable energy. I have numerous published articles to my credit and write regularly for a number of renewable energy websites. I am also a writer for Renewable Energy Magazine and a sub-editor for Renewable Energy Focus. I am currently based in Bristol, UK. Besides renewable energy and green issues I have a wide variety of other interests which includes World War 2, mythology and folklore, gardening, railways and lots more besides. You can also reach me on either of my two email addresses, which are: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com Thanks!
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