Tuesday 1 May 2012

Like A Naughty Schoolboy

I was just thinking about one of my pet peeves the other day, and it's that people think that "The Eton Rifles" is actually about Eton School and its braying inmates' barracking of the Peoples' Right To Work march. I suppose it's because there's always been a certain kind of writer who thinks it's clever to make out that Weller is rather dim and a bit humourless and literal. But what the song is actually about is how hard it is to present working class protest; the difficulty of maintaining commitment, of keeping people motivated, especially in comparison with the way the well-drilled Ruling Class appear to effortlessly display a united front.

The difference is in the disparity of self-interest. The Elite's class interests generally coincide with their individual self-interest, whereas for the working class, especially those with ambition, class interests and self-interest are often divergent, and it's frequently that those who make the most noise, who whip up the most protest, do so in the knowledge that the most convenient way for them to be silenced is to be welcomed into the fold. Watching those who you trusted the most, who showed the greatest capacity for leadership, whose rhetoric had the most fire, quietly sell out at the first opportunity is always a bitter, deflating experience.

And that's where we come to the song's other message; the necessity of having to dust yourself down and start again from where you've been abandoned. Because some of the lads said they'll be back next week, and Eton School won't be there forever, whatever illusion of permanence it likes to spin. David Cameron flattered himself when he thought that Weller was singing about the likes of him.


Anonymous said...

This is an absolutely wonderful observation and conversation starter, Phil.

The 'split' you talk about is indeed a simple empirical one. I hope you don't mind, but I've posted your thoughts in our FB Group.

So sue me, or join (if you're *spit* on Facebook.)

Anonymous said...


Phil Knight said...

I've consulted my legal team, and they've OK'ed me to allow you to publish.

I do pubs instead of facebook, so sadly won't be able to join (or even view!) your discussion.