The Decline of Working Class Masculinity & Culture

The local pub, the local factory, and the local football club — the three institutions of the traditional working class in England — all three feel the icy grip of modernity around their necks. All three presented a rite of initiation; from the club to the factory to the pub. A young boy watches his local team from atop his father’s shoulders, at 16 he goes to work with his father in the factory or the mine, at 18 his father buys him his first pint and so the initiation into manhood is complete. The transition from man into father is fully consummated in marriage and the birth of his own son, and so the cycle continues through the generations. We often focus on high or bourgeois culture but a cultural revival is one that must take place right from the bottom to the top.

Peasant culture was replaced by that of the industrial proletariat, and now, in post-industrial society? What of this industrial working man culture? A man sat on the sofa watching two teams of Africans on Sky Sports, drinking tins of John Smith alone while his son is taking shots in a nightclub, or snorting cocaine off a toilet bowl in some unseen layer of subterranean hell. What a degeneration this is from the industrial working class. And it explains in part the recent rejection of the liberal consensus.

When the cranes of the London dockers saluted Churchill’s casket, it was not only a farewell to a beloved wartime leader, but a farewell to the beloved England that he represented. The dockers may have been socialist, and perhaps voted for Clement Attlee‘s Labour government in 1945, but they were far more patriotic than any so called “conservative” of our generation. And it would be impossible to imagine a modern Left-wing politician reciting the words of Blake so passionately. Neither the vapid actor Tony Blair, nor the weakling pseudo-academic Ed Miliband, nor the sneering student-activist Jeremy Corbyn, could equal the earnestness of Attlee and post-war Labour. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair sold the working class a dream of Britain in imitation of post-war Labour, and in his 1997 victory speech famously said, “A new dawn has broken, has it not?” Blair’s new dawn was an illusion, and how chilling those words are in retrospect given the demographic collapse his government brought about. The working class of Britain turned away from New-Labour, and New-Labour turned away from the working class of Britain. Blair hated the working class so much that he imported a new working class from Pakistan, and Somalia, and Eastern Europe, and the B.M.E. bloc has replaced the London dockers. And the decline of London is a microcosm of this.

A man in the barbers lamented to me that the barber is the only remaining refuge of men. The pub has gone, the working man’s club has gone, and there is nowhere for men to escape their wives. The pub was an explicitly masculine institution, a place for men to be men, a place where banter was permitted. It is widely recognised that the presence of women and children has a civilising effect, but this undermines masculinity which is controlled barbarism. Compare the scene in Hogarth’s A Midnight Modern Conversation with that of The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball by Hillingford. There are Hogarth prints with wenches and whores, but in these women is an absence of femininity and grace. Men become more graceful and civilised around femininity, the barbarism of man is subsumed by his natural inclination to civilisation and social order. This is observed more acutely in The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball as the men are military officers whose profession is fundamentally concerned with killing and the controlled release of power and barbarism. Men in a hyper-masculine profession give way to absolute grace and elegance and charm, note the dashing cavalry officer in the bottom right, which are all feminine qualities.

Masculinity is the synthesis of barbarism and civility, and both are underdeveloped in the youth of today. These traditional all-male working class institutions allowed a space to release the male energy, from quasi-barbaric football chants, to hard physical labour, to shared male jollity and the release of their inner Falstaff. The 1960s saw the destruction of nearly every institution in English society.

A band in the 1960s that wrote what I see as a series of eulogies to the traditional working Britain were The Kinks. And The Kinks are interesting because they were right at the centre of the London cultural revolution, flies on the wall. They were of course banned from America, and so have always had a particularly English quality to them. Ray Davies now calls himself a small-c conservative which is remarkable given his cultural and generational context within the heart of the cultural revolution. He also wanted to become a priest before he started writing music, and some of his lyrics from the 1960s I will quote in part or in full:

I like my football on a Saturday
Roast beef on Sundays, all right
I go to Blackpool for my holidays
Sit in the open sunlight

This is my street, and I’m never gonna leave it
And I’m always gonna to stay here
If I live to be ninety-nine
’Cause all the people I meet
Seem to come from my street
And I can’t get away
Because it’s calling me (come on home)
Hear it calling me (come on home)

[Autumn Almanac – 1967]

Out in the country far from all the soot and noise of the city
There’s a village green, it’s been a long time
Since I last set eyes on the church with the steeple
Down by the village green

[…]

And now all the houses are rare antiquities
American tourists flock to see the village green
They snap their photographs and say
“Gawd darn it, isn’t it a pretty scene?”
And Daisy’s married Tom the grocer boy
And now he owns a grocery

I miss the village green and all the simple people
I miss the village green
The church, the clock, the steeple
I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school

And I will return there and I’ll see Daisy
And we’ll sip tea, laugh
And talk about the village green
We will laugh and talk about the village green

[Village Green – 1968]

Now, compare the disillusioned, cutting lyrics of “Shangri-La” to the romantic yearning of “Autumn Almanac”:

Now that you’ve found your paradise
This is your kingdom to command
You can go outside and polish your car
Or sit by the fire in your Shangri-La

Here’s your reward for working so hard
Gone are the lavatories in the back yard
Gone are the days when you dreamed of that car
You just want to sit in your Shangri-La

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You’ve reached your top and you just can’t get any higher
You’re in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-La

Sit back in your old rocking chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can’t go anywhere
Shangri-La

The little man who gets the train
Has got a mortgage hanging over his head
But he’s too scared to complain
‘Cause he’s conditioned that way

Time goes by and he pays off his debts
Got a T.V. set and a radio
For seven Shillings a week
Shangri-La

All the houses on the street have got a name
‘Cause all the houses in the street they look the same
Same chimney pots, same little cars, same window panes
The neighbors call to tell you things that you should know
They say their lines, they drink their tea, and then they go
They tell your business in another Shangri-La

The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car
Too scared to think about how insecure you are
Life ain’t so happy in your little Shangri-La
Shangri-La

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You’ve reached your top and you just can’t get any higher
You’re in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-La

Sit back in your old rocking chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can’t go anywhere
Shangri-La

[Shangri-La – 1969]

Man made the buildings that reach for the sky
And man made the motorcar and learned how to fly
But he didn’t make the flowers and he didn’t make the trees
And he didn’t make you and he didn’t make me
And he got no right to turn us into machines
He’s got no right at all
Cause we are all God’s children
And he got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the Good Lord made us all

Don’t want this world to change me
I want to go back the way the Good Lord made me
Same lungs that He gave me to breath with
Same eyes He gave me to see with

Oh, the rich man, the poor man, the saint and the sinner
The wise man, the simpleton, the loser and the winner
We are all the same to Him
Stripped of our clothes and all the things we own
The day that we are born
We are all God’s children
And they got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the Good Lord made
Oh, the Good Lord made us all
And we are all His children

And they got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the Good Lord made us all
Yeah, we gotta go back the way the Good Lord made us all

[God’s Children – 1971]

Arthur: Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire is a eulogy to the old romantic England of their previous two albums, Something Else by The Kinks, and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. The most significant song on the album is “Shangri-La,” a bleak look at the 60s dream, and the creation of a post-industrial white collar “middle-class” born from the upwardly mobile working class. It was more revolutionary for The Kinks to write the Byrdsesque “God’s Children” in 1971 than it was for Kraftwerk to write “Vom Himmel Hoch.” The Kinks between 1966 and 1971 expressed the disillusionment of the working class with sixties pseudo-liberation, capitalism, and modernity. The traditional working class were sold a false dream in the sixties, and they have been sold variations of that dream ever since.

Pubs have been replaced by the imported American bar and nightclub. Cheap imported neon-coloured spirits and binge culture have been imported with them, like plague rats on the merchant’s ship. And modern drinking culture can really be attributed to the Americanisation and post-industrialisation of England. The bar and the nightclub are not places where the barbaric side of masculinity can be ventilated, since these pits normally strive for an equal number of men and women, but a place where the most ignoble licentiousness is celebrated. Men go to these places looking for easy sex, and women to grind on strangers noncommittally, or in exchange for drinks, like a common brothel whore. And so in these places we can observe an absence of barbarism, that vital masculine aspect, and the civility and grace of a woman’s femininity. When these are absent there is only hollow pleasure seeking and empty indulgence of the base sexual instincts.

Older men know this. And this is why they showed up to vote Leave on June 23rd, 2016, and it’s why they are voting U.K.I.P.. The new leader, Paul Nuttall, fills me with much optimism. His article urging political leaders to smash cultural Marxism is a welcome sight. Who, in Blair’s liberal clique that stormed Westminster in 1997; would have predicted that in twenty years the Labour party would be gutted by a pro-life, anti-immigration, Catholic conservative, and British small-“n” nationalist from a third party? With a round head at that! And we need a healthy shot of cultural puritanism in this country and the West.

U.K.I.P. is targeting North West England which has, for the most part, isolated itself from the decline of the South. The communities are more traditional than those in the South, and there are fewer third world immigrants. Yorkshire is almost as far away from London one can get in England. U.K.I.P. is the second party in many of these Northern seats and the seats in Essex populated by white-flight East-Londoners. I expect them to pick up some seats in the North in 2020 if Nuttall is tactful. A party for the workers is a party for traditionalists also. U.K.I.P. may align itself as an anti-liberal party under Nuttall as opposed to the bourgeois-libertarian wet flannel of a party it could’ve been.

The reintroduction of the married family’s centrality to social life, and the reintroduction of industry in the U.K. would solve the above problems outright. The revival of the family and the factory is supported by Paul Nuttall’s U.K.I.P. and this will resonate with traditional working class voters.

If technological and economic growth is indeed only increasing with a diminishing margin, and heading for a plateau, then so called “post-industrial society” is an illusion. There is only industrial society. “Financialisation,” “digitisation,” and “service economy” are yet more dreams sold to the working class. A post-industrial economy is a debt-economy, bereft of real industry and economy. We can easily revive manufacturing without major damage to our economy. The faux-law of comparative advantage is taken as a principle of natural science — “You must open up to free trade. You must allow the free movement of labour and capital. You must allow your industries to collapse. The steel-worker bending sheets of metal should just become a hair-stylist, snipping the hair of old ladies…” What a life! Productivity is the key to economic success, not comparative advantage; and productivity is driven by work ethic and a spiritual satisfaction in work. Hard labour cultivates character and pride in oneself. A decline in real wages, which would then stabilise anyway, is a price worth paying for fulfillment and pride in one’s job and life.

The United Kingdom is rated somewhere between the 5th and 10th most powerful or influential country in the world. We are a middle ranking power, and we should retire gracefully, with a weaker economy and a stronger morality. We may not be able to recapture Victorian power and economy, but we can recapture Victorian morality. Americans should also understand that they are an empire in decline, and they should accept an economic fall from grace in exchange for a spiritual and cultural revival.

To shatter modernity’s icy grip we must expel its false dreams from working people. Once released from illusion, the traditional working class will reform these local institutions, and allow them to breath clean air again.

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Alexander

Beethoven, Bruckner, and Wagner are my philosophers. I am a (busy) student interested in economics and the arts. My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm_fN39CwOHBgt2hlMmX_jQ

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