In today’s Observer, Victoria Cohen, makes a number of good points when writing about rarely funny comedian Rowan Atkinson’s nonsensical tirade that was provoked, it seems, by the BBC accepting it hasn’t been giving older women enough in terms of employment and representation. Until the following paragraph, that is:
“Think about how we, in this country, don’t complain in restaurants because we don’t want to cause a scene. We don’t tell our friends when they annoy us, because we couldn’t bear a row. When we’re insulted – by strangers, loved ones, bosses, shoddy service providers or political policy – we tut inside and bottle it up. We’re easily embarrassed. We don’t want a big to-do.”
My response to this, which I posted on the site, has nothing to do with Atkinson, who I’ve never had any time for and whose latest materialisation in the public arena has only compounded my dislike of him. No, my desire to comment was driven by the fact that the above “we’re all alike, aren’t we?” statement was annoying and had everything to do with class and background masquerading as united national identity and character. I also had some thoughts on another matter raised in Cohen’s article, namely the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt (pictured, looking stupid), extorting professional footballers who are gay to come out.
Here’s what I posted:
“I’m obviously not British, then. I was born here and spent my entire life, bar too few holidays, here but the above paragraph is so talking about others, not me. Perhaps it’s my working class upbringing but now I’m labelled middle class due to having degrees, I find I still don’t keep my gob shut when annoyed, nor do I bottle anything up.
I am gay, though, so spent much of my childhood and teens under the last Tory government feeling like a pariah fed hatred, intolerance and hysterical prejudice on a daily basis by Mr Hunt’s fellow Tory lunatics. It’s a bit rich he’s telling people to come out when we know his kind could turn on us as they have the sick, unemployed and disabled if they thought it could either win votes or divert attention away from their wider, even more destructive schemes.”
Beyond Cohen inadvertently revealing how limited the circles are she moves in, being a journalist based in London, her article prompted me to think about just how irredeemably fractured our country is.
There is no united national identity, not really. There is class, which is the centuries-old divide, and there is the north/south divide to name but two grand separators that prove the lie to any notion of a single, cohesive British identity. Of course, then there are gender and sexuality inequalities, race, age, disability, sickness and so on: all proving a statement often expressed as truth to be a lie, every day, that being “we are all in this [austerity, i.e. getting poorer] together”.
Now that isn’t a misconception nor an assumption. It’s a big fat lie.