The need to be articulate, to be able to source facts from history that are often purposefully obscured, and then, after all that, to be confident enough to place thoughts and ideas springing from the former into the public sphere, by whatever means and no matter the abuse that comes from this, is a talent worth having. However, it is not easily taught, especially when your upbringing is a working/lower/and/or/under-class one. Akala’s recent appearances, on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and on Robert Peston’s Peston on Sunday, respectively, capture the extent to which the working classes (and those lower forms of classes) continue to be used as cannon-fodder, though both metaphorically and literally these days.
On Peston on Sunday, Akala discussed technical qualifications such as Apprenticeships, amongst other things, stating that kids from Harrow and Eton aren’t the target market for this type of education, and that working class kids are being ushered into working class jobs. At which point Alistair Campbell piped up to mention the inequality that continues to be touted, shamelessly, through the private education system – if an education system exists that is meant to be so good that it equips youngsters to do the best jobs and to enjoy great earning potential as a result, then why is that that system is not the model used to educate all children who would benefit from it? That an education model exists that cannot be accessed unless a child has funds in excess of £20-30,000 per year is disgraceful, yet the practice continues with not even a hint of its proponents viewing it as so.
On New World Order, Akala brought the narrative round from “black gang violence in London” to violence that occurs across the country as a by-product stemming from a range of inequalities (access to education and funding, etc.) that serve to affect the working (and lower) classes disproportionately. A kid, no matter how bright, living in a tower block or on an estate where decades of neglect conspire to blight her/his surrounding environment with petty and serious crime, drug and other substance abuse, predominantly welfare-based “living” (or merely existing for the most part), and with access to only the most basic form of state education (which Gove and his cronies have recently tinkered with to make it all the more difficult for kids to achieve “good grades”), will struggle to leave such a cycle of neglect, and may not wish to because of the plight of those they will have to leave behind. Class struggle is as real now as it has ever been, it’s just that 42” TVs, a BMW/Mercedes on the drive, and semi/detached houses blind us to such facts.
Growing up in “cut paper row” terraced houses similar to those described by Sylvia Plath, where there seemed from a child’s perspective to be little in the way of dissent detectable in mainstream media, it is noticeable, now, that there are voices with platforms to challenge centuries’ old systems of repression. Akala is just one of those voices, and any hope that we have of “things” changing are likely to involve people such as Akala spreading messages that pierce the thinly veiled construct that serves to promote the message that we live in a society of democracy, justness, and aspiration for all. We don’t. As a working/lower/underclass citizen with access to an internet connection, thirty minutes to an hour of researching “family tree history” on a site with free access will reveal that you are just as much in the gutter as descendants from years gone by – it’s just that your gutter affords you occasional trips to buy stuff you don’t need on credit terms that will punish you if you don’t continue to tow the line.
And just because it is so good, here’s a link to Akala’s performance piece, The Ruins of Empires (but on this link it starts from around 6 minutes in).
And just because comment feeds descend into chaos the farther down them you go, here’s one from Peston’s Twitter page following the uploading of Akala’s comments on race and class. Look out for this delightful person (below):