Wednesday 8 July 2015

A big long stream of consciousness Musing on authenticity on the Left

Meh.  I'm not normal, and I'm ok with it.

I'm not religious, so I omit the reference to the Lord, but  the words attributed to St Francis are very important in dealing with trouble:

“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
he courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Last night I took some flack in a rather perverse way - I'd had a thought, which in discussion was reflected in the minds of others, that it would be good to try and set up a local calendar that would help people plan meetings in advance not to unnecessarily clash with things others are organising.

I set one up on Google, and chose the bland, inoffensive catch all title "Progressive Dundee" to try and cover the very broad movement in an inclusive way, set up a tinyurl link to the calendar and an inbox that folk can send event details to, and then set out contacting folk to make them aware of the idea.

I sent facebook messages to a bunch of different organisations that I considered to broadly be on the same side, and got a message back from one of them indicating that as far as they were concerned, I wasn't on the same side as them.

It was written in phonetic Dundonian, and amongst a general message of disdain for self styled progressive lefties, took the piss out of my having said that this came about as a result of a "chat".

I don't write, or speak, in a particularly strong dialect - there are words that I use that reflect different parts of my lived experience in the Borders and Dundee - I happily and naturally use "oxters" for "armpits", and a busy pub to me is "Hoachin'".  "Aye" is frequently yes, "Eh" not so frequently, and generally is more of a conscious choice than a natural language thing.

There are words I love that I don't naturally use - "Kye" is so beautiful a sound compared to "cows" or "coos", but both of those would flow naturally depending on who I'm talking to, while "Kye" I never learned as part of my daily life, it was discovered somewhat later on.

To an extent, I probably talk in a more formal way in Dundee than I do with the folk I went to school with, because the language we shared there was subtly different, the accent likewise, and I try to make it as easy as possible for those I'm speaking to to understand me - as such, I have developed a bit of a generic accent - clearly Scottish to most, but with few strong influences on it, such that folk South of the border can generally follow what I'm saying too.

Anyway, what I interpret the pelters last night to have at their heart is some notion that I am not working class, or not working class enough.

A conversation with my former manager about my ADHD diagnosis came to mind around this - with every positive intention, he suggested in hopes that it would lift my spirits (which weren't actually down) that my ADHD probably wasn't really that severe, and other people must have it worse.

A lot of people probably do suffer from an imbalance in their brain chemistry more drastic than mine - there's no easy quantification of this, but I know my own symptoms have had a massive effect on my life till now - I was able to put it into context for him by suggesting that my situation may not be entirely down to brain chemistry, but that I have been fortunate in having had a very supportive upbringing, with parental intervention to force me to do homework and teachers in a not-horrendously-overstretched school that could and did shout at me to stop pissing about and do what I was supposed to when I needed that (I did.  A lot).

When left to my own devices at University (an opportunity that a lot of my ADHD peer group without the above support will not have had) I sank academically, but still had social opportunities denied to others as a result.

In retrospect, while I would never wish the loss of the friends I made there, I feel shame for the way in which I was able, with a little state support and support from my parents, to arse about doing the bear minimum and mostly drinking too much.  I feel guilt that I had, and wasted an opportunity that others from less advantaged backgrounds did not have.

 Likewise, I have loving and understanding friends and family who support and love me when my occasional depressive moods rob me of energy and confidence.  Others don't have that support or the confidence to seek it out.  This is terrible, and my knowledge of how my own situation is better pains me, more so as the ADHD diagnosis and treatment has really helped lift my mood and sense of self worth - I understand myself better, and can forgive my past failings in a way that my depression would never let me before.

On another front, I've struggled with debt in the past, but never actually missed a payment or had to rely on pay day usury, and I am in a job that will give me a pension in retirement.  So many cannot say that.

Add to that that I am a massive straight(ish) white man with a big loud voice, without visible disability and with a memorable name, and that adds up to a fair whack of privilege compared to some.  I try to own it, and I try not to push myself forward much, knowing that that privilege may make it harder for others to compete if I do.

I'm not everybody else, I'm not normal, but I'm OK with that.

Am I authentically enough a member of the working class?  It all depends on what definition you apply.  I would say that I am, primarily on occupational and financial grounds, but recognise that I am socially a privileged member of that class subject to a lot less discrimination than many.  I don't play the prolier than thou card as a result.

The reason for the quote at the top is this:  Every day I have the energy, I do what I can to change things for the better.  A lot of this may be tinkering around the edges of a broken system, and there might be a better world possible in the aftermath of an all out class war than could ever be achieved through my tinkerings, but I see and hear people asking for my help, and I do my best to change things with them to make things better.

There are things I can change, be it policy at work through negotiations, be it personal case support for Members, or be it a gap in communication on the Dundee Left.  I change them where I can.

There are some things I can't change, and one of them is an anonymous individual that thinks I'm a posh arsehole in need of taking down a peg or two.  I know the difference, and I'm OK with that too.

I'll keep fighting to try and help address the disadvantages that others face, and if some of the people that I think I'm on the same side with view me as an enemy, that won't change my opinion of what is right or wrong, and I'll support their fight against something that is wrong nonetheless.

I'll just think they are personally a bit of an arse, and won't invite them to my birthday party.*

*I haven't had any real birthday party since I turned 28 and stopped being "Young", so please don't read this and feel left out of exciting party fun.  The above was me being facetious.

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