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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: robinwhitlock66@hotmail.com and robinwhitlock1966@gmail.com Thanks!

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Hire Me!! - Freelance Journalist specializing in environmental issues and renewable energy
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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The irony of Owen Jones's new book

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 tackled too."

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.


5 comments:

  1. Wish I could be more eloquent but Jones really is a total shite. Part of the Establishment he supposedly fights. What cockneys call "a mouth".

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    1. I have heard that said I must admit. I am not sure to what extent I agree with that or not, but one thing I will say is that Monbiot, despite his privileged background, did indeed serve time among the ranks of the country's activists in the 1990's. I can testify to that fact myself, because I was with him at the Solsbury Hill road protest in Bath in 1994, unfortunately for him that year, he was unlucky enough to be caught by a bunch of security guards when we were trying to reach a number of diggers on site. They threw him bodily on to a pile of fencing spikes, one of which went through his foot. Not only did his running activities that summer come to a sudden end, but he also had to spend the rest of the campaign, and probably longer, hobbling around on crutches. In following years Monbiot took a prominent, if not founding role in 'The Land Is Ours' movement (arguably a precursor to Occupy) which occupied land at St Georges Hill and in the docklands area of London. I am not sure to what degree Jones has participated in non-violent direct action, but it would probably be in his best interests if he at least considered the idea. Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, was arrested at a fracking protest a while back and it certainly didn't do her any harm, so I doubt if Jones reputation will suffer too much if he considers taking similar action, and in fact it might do it the world of good.

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  2. What's yer beef? I don't get it. We're all part of the Establishment - masters, servants or slaves to it - however you want to look at it. The fact that Jones can eloquently express his ideas about how to challenge that Establishment is surely a positive thing for all of us? There is nothing particularly controversial about what he says: unpaid internships, charitable status for private schools, overcrowded homes etc. do stifle educational attainment for people from poorer backgrounds. And, yes, unequal distribution of wealth and power is at the heart of this country's malaise. Something needs to be done to break the cycle of inequality or the rich-poor divide will only keep getting bigger and bigger until we're living in an utterly divided country between the super-rich and the unutterably poor. The signs of a steady increase in the rich-poor divide are already showing across the country - in out towns and cities - where the poor are being forced to live like medieval serfs while the rich laud it over all of us in their fancy cars and fortified mansions.

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    1. Perhaps I should have clarified this a bit better. My beef isn't against Jones at all, it is against the situation which he himself describes, in essence the domination of the media by the upper middle class, which necessitates the breaking into the circle, which Monbiot, Jones and others have done, in order to then break the system down from inside. Jones is indeed eloquent in his ideas about how to challenge the establishment, and much to the benefit of all of us as you quite rightly point out. If it wasn't for him and Monbiot and various others, the media would be totally sewn up whereas actually they have demonstrated that there are indeed chinks in the establishment's armour which can, if you are persistent, be exploited. On your other points, you are again totally correct. It is truly scary how our society is regressing back to the Victorian (or even earlier) model of a rich minority elite with the rest of us struggling to avoid living in squalor. The sheer amount of people now having to depend on food banks is utterly atrocious and completely unacceptable. Interestingly, Monbiot published a piece on his blog only the other day which again drew attention to the totally undemocratic, and unfortunately phenomenally powerful, power of the City, which is almost like a state-within-a-state and completely unanswerable to either parliament or people. That is where a lot of this comes from I think and so until the power of the City is curtailed or even totally removed, then we still very much have a major war to fight.

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  3. Thank you for posting such a post.What is your next post related to this. I am waiting for your interesting post . It is good to know about irony of Owen Jones's new book . It is very attractive one .what is the situation now his book?
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