In a previous article (They are Who we Are) one of the universal benefits and goods which I postulated had not (yet) been universally rolled out to humankind; an omission I characterised as betokening remiss on the part of those to whom it has already been rolled out; was education.
The simple argument stands: if as every educated person maintains, education is a game changer, and to have one is as a door opening on vast new worlds of opportunity in their lives; then all onus is surely clearly rested upon these educated persons for them in every way they can to assist and contribute to roll out of this sine qua non of education, which is able to provide new lives for old which are liveable a league or two above an otherwise pedestrian standard. Who else is there otherwise who might do the task?
Education is not like fish or corn; it is not practicably delimited by the area of sea or ground given over to farming or trawling on it. In this sense it possesses no scarcity value. Hypothetically it is the case that every person capable of being educated might obtain an education and yet a potential for education as a boon and a good would yet remain and be undiminished. I suggest that the inhibiting factor preventing the maximisation of education for people, and so of its fruits and benefits to all is perhaps:
‘Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest”’.
I am saying once again that a foundational requirement is for the human will having to be present in the first place for any act or for such a project as this to have a fighting chance of it being carried through to fulfilment
By an educated person, I think I ought to say in passing here, I mean someone like: A person who has achieved an amount of intellectual autonomy sufficient for her to be able to and to wish to weigh, measure, assess and consider well and with some fine judgement upon problems and issues; being those that are formative of the general consciousness of her age; and of their histories.
My contention is that we thoroughly mistake the sheer quantity of people who are capable of such an education. The situation is analogous to a popular outlook on animal sentience, which bears similar subtexts and expediencies. Because we are creatures of vanity, and like to believe ourselves ‘the paragon of animals’; because we farm and slaughter for meat a number of domestic species, and our consciences about this must not be allowed to become too tender; because we build cities up to the skies and upon tropic ocean shallows, have walked on the moon, and appreciate aesthetics and human excellence; our inclination is always to deprecate cavalierly domestic and undomesticated animals of the natural world regarding their sentient abilities. We love to be top dogs in creation. (pace our dolphin inamoratos).
The truth is ascertainable easily once human minds are cleared of prejudices of this type: animals show indeed very much more sentience than commonly is allowed them by humans.
In a similar mould is the contention that education necessarily is for the few; those who are capable of it; that stratum of naturally able persons whom education is able to ‘draw out’ effectively. Thus what is certainly a political statement is put in such a way that it aims to pass itself off as being a ‘law of nature’. It is the argument of the educated in that class of persons who hold vested interests in being, and being known as, such; and who affirm and promulgate a status quo which they more than any have created and maintain. They assert that education cannot be otherwise than scarce in men and women, and in doing so they place an (artificial) cap on the quota for educated persons. This is my contention.
The upshot of such a status quo is seen and lived out here in Britain. Maybe the guys who monopolise the nous see it as part of (a large part of) the inevitable wastage in resources and effort concomitant with and inextricable from the embrace of Capitalism? Here in every town and city in the UK reside, I contend, millions of persons who have by the logic I have laid out hereabove been cheated of a chance of a premier league life. In much the same way our animals for slaughter are cheated by us of dignity of recognition of even a brute understanding. The parallel is emotive, maybe because it is apposite?
Our towns and cities house peoples whose worlds are and have been crafted to be deliberately small. Our politicians speak of them, when they care to take note of them, as if they were the objects of favour in their being marginalised by them. As if they were their children; except they have zero filial feeling for them. They represent for them a class of person to be kept amused, and kept under, or else they might well rise up ‘bite their masters’ hands’. They are at once their disgust and their charges, a mass electorate to be wooed and a crowd of inferiors to be shunned; ne’er-do-wells to be placated and kept at arm’s length.
And so the two sorts live in different areas of towns and cities to one another. This is not an ethnic division based on mutually alien and historically-based cultural preferences. The peoples of low horizons and limited expectation are those who for some reason; of sloth, or illness; or disability; or carelessness; or averseness; or mischance; or a thousand other reasons, were not born into or else do not progress to the higher ranks. Thus they comprise both and at the same time a deserving and an undeserving underclass.
For so, so, many of them life is – for men; a pub, the betting office, a curry, a scratchcard – for women; the sunbed; a cigarette, a lottery ticket, the illicit tiny treat robbed from bills monies . Not only is there no future for them, there is no present for them either.
The rejoinder to this indictment and coming from the high achievers is for them to tout about and shout out loudly: ‘meritocracy!’, ‘equal opportunity!’ ‘democracy!’ and other obscenities, into my face. Here is Charles Dickens on this kind of mudslinging argument:
‘Why can’t they do as I have done, ma’am? What one person can do, another can do.’
This, again, was among the fictions of Coketown. Any capitalist there, who had made sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, always professed to wonder why the sixty thousand nearest Hands didn’t each make sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, and more or less reproached them every one for not accomplishing the little feat. What I did you can do. Why don’t you go and do it?
When one is born and brought up on the ground floor one has less opportunity to learn how to use the elevator. These lost souls then remain circling in a quasi Purgatorial condition, as if unwittingly, as it were blindly, doing penance for crimes they did not commit, and do not know they are paying for.
The imperative outcome arising from the United Kingdom existing divided as into two nations after this fashion is tied very solidly to our title for this article. The high-achievers here are necessarily the stratum who only can be held remiss in their obligation and duty to provide better care to their charges. As an underclass their charges trail far behind them and are situated trapped in a cloudy Purgatorial miasma.
By way of a common consensus and a tacit complicity the high-flyers uphold this state of affairs by making it the status quo here; and are thus deservedly laid open to a just paralleling here their resultant degeneracy of wilful neglect, with perhaps a more innocent errant degeneracy of a British underclass.
In good faith then, either party might here feelingly claim of the other indeed: ‘They also are who we are.’
[This article first appeared as “They Also are Who we are“]