Castes

A trip to Birmingham to make a TV programme about people’s attitudes to Brexit leaves Adrian Chiles pondering the question of social cohesion, or the lack of it. From his column in the RSA’s house journal, which doesn’t seem to be online, unfortunately:

My one overwhelming discovery was this: people from different classes do not communicate with each other. “The thing is,” I explained to my eye-rolling daughter when I got home, “you could go the rest of your life without having a working class friend.”

We’re rightly hung up on issues concerning race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and so on, but it’s around different classes that the biggest walls still need to be scaled. Ask yourself this: when’s the last time you had a conversation with someone of a different class to yourself? I don’t mean a nice chat with someone you’ve had to deal with, be it a plumber or lawyer or Uber driver or oncologist or whatever. I mean a proper talk with a friend; someone you’ve chosen to spend time with.

It rarely happens. And in London this is particularly extraordinary because, unlike elsewhere, the different classes tend to live cheek by jowl. The road of terraced three-storey houses in Hammersmith where my children have been raised is typical. There’s a £2M house; a house converted into four flats; a crack den; a £3M house with an Olympic swimming pool in the basement; more flats; etc, etc. There are hundreds of people of wildly different incomes and backgrounds breathing the same air and walking the same pavements, yet hardly ever talking. Social connections are rarer than parking places.

 

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