August 14, 2018

JB: If you come to it from a working class background, trying to find a place to work from in this culture is like arriving at a sprint race a few seconds before the starting gun. Everyone else is ready to go, in summer athletics gear, but you came from the North Pole and you have years’ worth of heavy clothes and baggage to get rid of before you even start. By the time you are ready, the race is already in mid flight. But then, nobody said anything was going to be fair. Social skills play a real part in success’ as an artist, and that can be a problem. Working class people who get into some kind of creative activity are often bad at hypocrisy. They may be fairly damaged by the humiliation of poverty — perhaps more so by having seen their parents and others humiliated by the system — and that, in my case manifested itself for a long time in escaping from the more obviously toe-curling social occasions into heavy drinking, (usually topped off by some kind of speed). Though I shouldn’t generalise about this — I’m really talking about my own experience here.

When I wrote Glister the one criticism we all knew I’d face as the book emerged was that I refused to make my Everyman Capitalist of the Innertown a complex figure’. I refused because he represented a certain kind of person — and by then I had met such people — who only really care about money. The advantage of the great capitalist is that everything can be translated into money terms — environment, human lives, whatever. So when I made my capitalist a one-dimensional man who only cared about money, some people criticised me. And then 2008 happened. Sorry, but I rest my case. The system may be complex as well as unjust, but you still need shitty, honourless people to make that system work, and many of those involved could see what was happening. And many of the same people are still working in financial institutions — which means if doing more harm benefits them, then harm will be done.

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