Towards a Convivial Economy, the writings of Patrick Noble

HOW DESTRUCTIVE IS THE MIDDLE CLASS? – STATUS ENCLOSURE (and the voice of Edgar McGregor)

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Firstly, I’ve no wish to define people by accidents of birth and then condemn them for the effects of those accidents – by accent, dress, or other filial habits. Whichever class we’ve been born into will remain as our original soil. Parenthood, love, loyalty and some behavioural codes, remain on that sacred ground. There’s nothing we can do about our entry into the world, or about our remaining gratitude for it. However, as adults (if we accept that rite of passage) we must look about at the wider world – our connections to and our effects within it.
I’d like you to consider that the current middle class is a defended enclosure by those whose income is largely composed of rent. Perhaps as powerful as land enclosure, I ask you to contemplate a modern enclosure – status property. I leave aside the historical middle class – the yeoman, guildsman, bourgeoisie… I think they may have passed away.
The negative effects of land enclosure are copiously documented by well-known economic philosophers, dating back at least as far as the Reformation (Thomas More). The negative effects of what I’ve chosen to call, status enclosure, as far as I can tell, are not documented at all.
Status enclosure is the means to a monopoly of services. Lawyer, dentist, GP, architect and so on have gained right of enclosure to impose a large rent for their very existence – not for what their labour may provide. Rates such as £250, or £300 per hour are commonly demanded from those who must seek their services. Rent payers may be earning less than £10 per hour. I propose that right for rent has created a new class division – so much so that the middle-class has become a class enclosure. It has accumulated wealth by demanding rent from those who have fast become poorer. The equation is direct. That a whole class has grown rich by gathering rents from another is a plainly shaky foundation for a stable future. It is now evident that rent payers have been bled so dry, that professionals have become anxious at the dry river beds of their once-seemingly perennial spring. The middle-class has bitten too hard on the hand that feeds it.
Another and highly significant element of both status property and land property is the right to behave as we choose behind the fence – home as castle – trespassers will be prosecuted – my qualifications speak for themselves – in the sanctity of the home… Enclosure defines a right to irresponsibility, whereas commons (now lost) had defined rights to responsibility. That right to responsibility provided a place in larger society and a self-respect. Commons, which once maintained both personal dignity and social well-being, (the common good) have become almost entirely enclosed into other peoples’ properties (both land and status). Loss of place and self-regard has fermented an ill-defined yearning which, in turn, has penned the following tragedy, containing spun characters such as Mr Immigrant, Mr Wastrel and so on. A more productive view may be comic (tragedies and comedies share identical plots).
Yes, it’s both tragic and comic that the super-rich (who own most newspapers and radio/television stations) have managed to stir an inevitable class resentment away from reason and justice and into a right-wing revolt. That is apparent in the Trump and extreme right wing Conservative Party victories and in Brexit. The middle class – often Blairite, or American Democratic (but still neoliberal) have been outraged by the folly of it all! The so-called working class has revolted. Yet, in truth, how can ordinary people not revolt? – They have no more space to breathe.
The comedy lies in a historically recurring banana skin – monarchy’s appeals to “the people” against the machinations of the barons. The modern comedy is evident in that same plot and so it seems that brutal history continues. New monarchies have emerged. Equally, they appeal to the people against a wily middle-class of civil servants, politicians, professional people and law makers. The oligarch, or billionaire is an individual – flesh and blood – Look – you and I are the same, says oligarch to crowd. Yes, says crowd to oligarch, we are the same. The laughter is of the mind. The same plot, felt with the heart, may easily break it.
Royalty (not the preserved and mostly harmless museum people) lives and the people love it. That’s the Daily Mail’s front page.
But recent disturbances originate with neither oligarch nor people. The oligarch has been opportunistic. They emerge from those nice status enclosures. Though oligarch stirs the people to pull down the fence, the problem began with the essential amorality of the middle-class. (decadence)
Those status enclosures had fenced out the responsibilities of the trades and they’d simultaneously fenced-off, or boarded-up the eyes and ears of the trades. Our boarded-up town centre is a metaphor for everything. There is no one to notice that resources have been pillaged and that climate change has probably accelerated beyond human recall. All we can hope, is for less destruction. Liberal minded subscribers to Friends of the Earth will still regularly jet to holiday and work destinations. They will mock climate change deniers, while merrily causing climate change. Behind the enclosure we can live a fiction that behind other enclosures appropriate specialists are beavering away at preventing climate change. They are not.
Here is seventeen-year-old Edgar McGregor with the truth about us all:
Dear Children of Planet Earth,
Driving, to me, is one of the coolest things I have ever done. It isn’t the power, it isn’t the responsibility, and it isn’t the mobility that has captivated my love. When I roll down the windows and I feel the wind on my face, it feels as if I am free from my everyday worries. The wind allows me, in addition to being free, to be hopeful for change, and, it is almost as if I feel like I can breathe once again. I feel as I am leaving something behind that I am disappointed in, as I am chasing after the sunset at a wicked pace. No other entity has a power on my mind like that. As I look in the rearview mirror, however, I see what I was disappointed in. I see adults. I see them fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing. I see nasty political fights, angry mobs, and corrupt leaders. I see divided countries, violence and war. Among those terrible things I see something that I treasure dearly. I see something I cannot go forward without. I see Earth. I then realize, on my adventure to success with a face full of freeing winds, I have left behind my home planet. In the same cage as those fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults is our very own Earth. They are using it to their advantage, and they are overusing its resources. It is the object that gives them life, and they have total disregard for it. It is almost as if they do not care whatsoever about it.

Now, I used to love meteorology, the study of weather, with a passion. The wind was part of that deal, but so were the rains, thunderstorms, clouds, hurricanes, tornadoes, oceans, life and everything you can think of. As the years progressed, I watched as the weather started to change. I watched as my beaches collected trash. I watched as winters disappeared and summers lengthened. I watched as the ice caps melted, and hurricane after hurricane made landfall. I watched as wildfires devoured my beautiful mountains, while storms eroded my beaches. Maybe I should stop saying “my”….. These mountains and beaches, oceans and lands, jungles and deserts are not mine, but rather, they are ours. They are for the old, the young and they are for the unborn. It is our duty to protect them from the fighting, bickering, name-calling, blaming, destroying, framing and terrorizing adults. We must stand up to those who want to profit off of our planet.

Fellow teenagers and kids, it is our turn to solve this issue. Clearly, our parents cannot handle the one job they were given. We, the smartest species on the planet, failed at protecting our very own young. Any animal can do that, so why couldn’t they? We, however, refuse to do the same to our future children. If we fail, it is game over. We are the children Carl Sagan told them to protect the Earth for, and somehow, they told him no. They told him their bank accounts, vacations, and avocados were more important. They may have been too shy or scared to make this transition to a cleaner world, but we are not. Whether or not they will help us, support us, or care, we will fix this issue. We will set the first example for future worlds to look up to, to remind themselves that they too can unite their people to fix a common issue. We will take the dangerous roads. We will make the difficult decisions. We will make the necessary sacrifices. We will take the biggest step for mankind, and we will do all of that in the name of our own kids. They are our top priority. If our parents do not believe that you and I can change the world forever, all they have to do is just watch us.
Edgar McGregor’s rallying cry is to common humanity – beyond class and beyond enclosure. Europeans and Americans are distracted by a class war of their own making. Had liberal, middle-class values prevailed and elected a Hilary Clinton, or an Ed Milliband, then we’d still be blindly hurtling towards utterly degraded soils and catastrophic climate change. Nevertheless, it has become convenient to blame Trump, Brexit, or Theresa May and forget that our own trajectory was identical. The illusion created by status enclosure is that someone of status is in charge – we say, at £250 per hour it’s a gold-plated certainty. (Well, 25 to 1) But there is no one.

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