Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Never the Twain

I've just come across a fascinating article about leftism and liberalism from the 1960s to today, both sides of the Atlantic. What interests me, as always, is the way the well-meaning-but-misguided left and the ill-meaning right (in this instance; the adjectives are just as often the other way around) argue for the same goals; whereas some conservatives advocate the preservation of the rigidities of a class system, either out of unthinking nostalgia or out of a malicious desire to keep the lower classes down, leftists frequently advocate the same out of an anti-elite sentiment:
Correct grammar and properly pronounced English were, left-wing commentators argued, simply a middle-class dialect, with no claim to inherent superiority over the subliterate speech familiar to working-class children. Therefore, to inflict proper English on children who spoke the systematically ungrammatical dialects of the British proletariat was a form of cultural imperialism. Bourgeois values were the real enemy of working-class self-respect, because they made people who did not subscribe to them feel alienated and insecure. The socialist ideal was not to free people to fulfill their personal potential but to guarantee that no one would ever feel inferior to anyone else in any respect—intellectually, socially, or economically.


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