My grandfather, who along with my grandmother raised me until I was seven, started work in a North Yorkshire coal mine when he was thirteen.
He was exceptionally smart and exceptionally funny, and it was from him I learnt a profound disdain for the preenings of wealth and power, and the sense of entitlement generally apparent in the political and ruling class. He also shared with me his contempt for the bourgeoisie who tirelessly aspire to the privileges of their betters, and act as their agents in the control of lower middle and working class rabble.
For my grandfather, these contempts were instinctive and visceral, rather than acquired from education. He loathed pretension of any kind, and his mockery was ribald and witty.
So it came naturally to me when I saw these two of images of mining magnate Gina Rinehart (First Lady of the Birdcage, as some media put it) to guffaw from the gut:
I shared my mirth on Twitter and it wasn’t long before I was set upon by people telling me I wasn’t nice, and it isn’t nice to laugh at another’s misfortune.
Well, I’ve never pretended to be nice (I would rather be described as satanic than “nice,” that insipid word that damns with faint praise) and my contempt for Rinehart is such that I felt not the slightest twinge of conscience laughing at the image of her misfortune.
Had I been present, though I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would be in the “Birdcage” (what the actual fuck is that, by the way, I loathe aviaries, what kind of twisted individual enjoys looking at imprisoned creatures with heinously stunted lives, the metaphorical implications of the term are entirely negative what is wrong with the ruling elite entirely rhetorical question don’t feel you have to answer) had I been present at Gina’s Fall, I would have called an ambulance and waited with her till it arrived because no one should be left alone in pain and shock, but as I wasn’t, as I was only looking at a photo and I knew she’d suffered no ill-effects, I laughed my fucking head off.
One anonymous man told me it was “undignified” for anyone to laugh, and I told him I couldn’t comment because I’m not the dignity police and he said I was “gaslighting” him and he totally has absolutely no fucking clue about what that term actually means.
There can be little more bourgeois than rushing to defend the ruling and political class against the humour of those they exploit. It’s the Stockholm syndrome: the defenders can’t believe in their own exploitation.
I finally lost my temper with the Twitter twats, and reminded them that Ms Rinehart would metaphorically cut all their throats in a nano second if she believed that act might bring her even a smidgen of gain. You don’t have to lower yourself to her standards, somebody replied.
I am hard put to understand this equivalence. Laughing at an image is in any way comparable to the economic and political manipulation of entire classes of people in the service of personal wealth and power? Get a grip.
The ribald mockery of the political and ruling elite is an act of subversion, as my grandfather instinctively knew though he was unlikely to use that word. It was left to his granddaughter to go to university and acquire the discourse that gave language and context to what her grandfather had taught her to know in her gut.
There is also the matter of gender, in this instance mine. Being a woman, I endure expectations of niceness generally not imposed upon those who bear their genitals on the outside of their bodies. I had an answer for that: You can stick your fucking expectations of fucking niceness up your fucking clackers, I wrote. That touched a nerve, and got a lot of retweets and favourites.
The political and ruling class are, in general, ludicrous as well as dangerous. The bourgeoisie who protect and support them in the hope of favours and privilege are no less ludicrous, and no less dangerous. One of the few ways available for the exploited and controlled to express dissatisfaction is taking the piss. There’s also violent revolution and the tumbrels, but I don’t think that time has arrived yet.