Am I a snob? I've been accused of it many times. But I don't care. Do I look down on someone with low intelligence? Do I look down on people with no awareness of the arts or politics?
I don't know. My alliegance is bohemian. I am a member of the creative community (you might say everyone is in some way, but you know what I mean.) I believe in the primacy of the imagination and the individual mind. Put me at a fancy dinner party and I will look like a tramp who's wandered in from the rain. I will panic about social ettiquete (however you spell it), and I will probably make no conversation at all.
Those kids who draw cartoons in lavatory cubicles of hoodies smoking spliffs and holding guns in the air--they think they're free. Those girls who spend Saturday afternoons in shopping centres dressed up in their best clothes and flirting with boys think they're free. People who say "fuck" all the time think they're freer than someone who labours to find the right word for the social context. People who fart and scratch their privates and haven't experienced the strain of a complex thought in all their lives think they're freer than the old bearded, besuited guy on the bus patiently working through the Times crossword.
My argument is that they're not free. That actually they are slaves in the worst way.
Remember the Black Panther concept--now dead in the water thanks to hip hop--of the difference between a black man and a n-----? The black man has defied his oppressor by refusing to take on the stereotypes of his race; he is proud, strong, decent, intelligent--he'll still slap your face hard if you step on his shoe, as any man would, but he'll slap you with style. You'll know you've been slapped by a better man than you'll ever be. But the n----- has taken all of the stereotypes of his race and assumed them as part of his character: he's lazy, he sleeps around, he demeans women, he takes drugs, he shoots people for no reason. The n-----'s every step is dictated by the expectations of his oppressor (I'm not coming up with this stuff out of nowhere, read Bobby Seale, read Huey Newton, read Malcolm X.) Do you want to please the guy who took everything from you so badly that you'll make yourself his bitch?
To my mind it's exactly the same with the working class. These inarticulate, gun-carrying, whoring, junkie dropouts are doing exactly what is expected of them. Their behaviour reinforces the prejudice that keeps them in the economic City Bottom of the world forever.
Which is not to say that the bloke who carries his sandwiches to work in a little plastic box at dawn each morning and never steps out of line and always votes Tory is a better man, or even a freer man, because he isn't. But the bloke who reads hard and learns to think his own thoughts, independent of any other man or institution--now he is more free than anybody. His very existence is a threat to the oppressive order here or in America or Iran or anywhere. You can beat him up, jail him, take away everything he has, but the one thing you'll never be able to do is change his mind. Because it's his.
When I look at those vulgar idiots on Big Brother ganging up on Shilpa, or travel through the city streets at night, my cab driver carefully navigating his way around the packs of drunk men slamming palms against our windows and screaming like gibbons, and the women puking in the street--when I have to listen to the nineteenth inarticulate twat in one day marvelling derisively because I have a book in my coat pocket, and I condemn here or somewhere else the direction that the world is careering in, that's the point of view that my complaint is coming from.
True liberation starts in a book, my friends. And it probably ends in penury.