All My Little Words

Who Shares, Wins: Brixton and the Sharing Economy

Posted in Culcha, Economics, Local by nickchristian on February 26, 2014

A few weeks ago, like a grown-up, I decided to finally hang that picture that’s been sitting around since I moved into my flat over a year ago. For that I needed a power drill. Only I’m not really a grown-up so I don’t have one, nor could I think of anyone who might be able lend me one. But then Neil lent me a power drill. Until he opened the door of his home on Strathleven Road, a mere sixteen minutes’ walk from mine, I had never met or spoken to Neil before. We don’t work together and as far as I’m aware we have no friends in common. Yet, thanks to the internet – specifically a site called Peerby – I was able to contact him, inform him of my picture-hanging problem, find out that he was able to solve it and borrow the drill. I’ll give it back tomorrow, honest. This is the sharing economy. (more…)

I Can’t “We”

Posted in Culcha, Media, sport by nickchristian on August 7, 2012

As nauseating as this film.

The Olympics has been amazing. Every cynical cell I have has, for perhaps just two weeks, taken temporary leave of my body. Every negative position that I had been incubating – about it being overly commercial, about the special “Games Lanes”, even about the relative legitimacy of one event’s inclusion over another – has been aborted. They will return, I’m sure, but this two week has been about people, largely ordinary and all the more extraordinary for that, achieving astonishing sporting successes for which they’ve dreamed and worked their entire lives.

My only remaining hostility in all of this – truthfully, just this one – is to the volume of “we” that gushes forth every time a Briton adds to the total haul of medals.

Team GB are my team, of that there is no question, but I am a supporter of that team, not a member of it. Winning Olympic Gold at London 2012 has not been my dream for the last seven years or longer and I have not dedicated an uncountable number of hours to get me to that point where that dream might possibly come true. Despite having developed an uncharacteristically sunny attitude towards these games, I have made not a single sacrifice that might have contributed to a medalist’s success. I might have once or twice bought a lottery ticket, but I suspect my motives for doing so were not entirely pure.

As delighted as I am that the team I have chosen to support have performed so well, as much pleasure as I am able to take from every gold medal won, the victories of the athletes (or marksmen, or mincing ponies) are still theirs and I cannot allow myself to claim from them even the tiniest slither of credit. Because that to me is what it sounds like someone is doing every time they refer to how well “we” are doing in the Olympics. While there might be a huge quantity of glory to bathe in, that quantity still feels to me to be finite; in claiming some for yourself, by “we”ing rather than “he”ing, “she”ing or “they”ing, you are reducing the amount available to someone else, someone who might actually have earned it.

I actually appreciated the re-branding of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team as “Team GB” because I thought it more firmly separates us, the spectators, the bakers and candlestick makers, from them, the competitors. We can all call ourselves British but only an elite few can call themselves Olympians.

It might be a misplaced comparison but haven’t we all experienced the silently seethed rage when that smug bastard at work suggests, with his use of the first person plural, that this endeavour, this accomplishment of yours, was somehow a joint effort? Over the two years of my recently completed masters – did I mention I was doing a masters? In Human Rights. Yeah, makes me noble as fuck – my flatmates have delivered me countless cups of tea and made me more than a few meals. This has been a massive help to me, freeing up many an hour for studying, but I doubt they would say this entitles them to some credit for my low passing grade. “We”, to me, implies parity between yourself and the medalists. Even if you think you helped, as the North London school teacher who suggested that “Mo’s a bit quick ain’t he?”*, or the guy in the corner shop that once sold Jessica Ennis a Lucozade, you can’t seriously believe that this wouldn’t have happened without you?

This is not to say that we cannot share in the delight of a victory, but that we should do so at one remove. Rare is it that one gets the opportunity to witness an individual’s lifetime of work and effort, crystallised into a single triumphant moment of realisation. So let them have it. Let it be theirs.

*No offence to Alan Watkinson of Isleworth and Syon School.

Right, Posh Boys

Posted in Culcha, Politics, Rage, Theatre by nickchristian on June 23, 2012

Posh PLay

So, OK, they want all this stuff, they want the massive fuckoff plasma-screen telly, so they borrow more money than they can ever afford to pay back. They want a big house, they want a fat German car. So they go on a massive spree with this fairy money, they’re obsessed with upward mobility but they’re not prepared to put the work in, it’s all credit cards.

Then when the great New Labour shop in the sky goes up in flames ’cause it turns out there isn’t an endless supply of toys and sweets, there can’t be  – so they call us in to sort it out ’cause yes, we’re good at that. But they don’t want to give up the big house and the massive telly, ’cause now they’ve got used to the idea that they’re worth it.

So rails the Riot Club’s Alastair in Laura Wade’s Posh, currently on at the Duke of York’s Theatre. The play imagines a lavish meal held by a gang o’ chaps loosely based on Oxford University’s notorious Bullingdon Club. How loose is this basis is hard to know. The real-life accounts, of fastidiously formulated, fully financed debauchery, are now lore but still sparse in detail. Gaps remain and questions hang over what happened, when, how and, most importantly, who of our current political crop were involved.

It is to Wade’s immense credit that in her version of an event she does not attempt to fill these gaps, or answer these questions, with parody or caricature. To do so would only serve undermine the play’s message, to take out the terror, by inviting sympathy for the protagonists and rendering them unreal.

For what is so terrifying about the above speech is how plausible it is in the attitudes it expresses, despite being completely illogical and utterly inconsistent. With one breath the Riot Clubbers denounce the culture of entitlement and the work-shy poor; with the next they bemoan the efforts their families must make to maintain the stately seat, all because the inheritance tax denies them what is rightfully theirs.

For if the Posh boys believe in anything, it is in the justness of their own privilege: there are no accidents of birth – their collective semen is pronounced “the finest in all the land” – and no obstacle which status or sterling cannot enable them to overcome.

Great wads of cash – “fifties” –  emerge each time it seems they might not be allowed to behave exactly as they’d like. “We always pay our way” pronounces Alastair at one such point, as “…unlike the poor” hangs airborne, as venomous as it is unspoken. You find yourself asking: Where did this money come from? Ah, of course.

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