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A Very Middle Class Revolution - Why We Need The IPhone Activists Of The Occupy Wall Street Movement

Posted: 11/20/11 07:00 PM ET

There is nothing that middle class people like to do more than worry. We're an entire social class of worriers. We worry about everything, from whether our new iPhone is going to arrive on time to what on earth we're going to do about that awful crisis in Darfur. Or Bangladesh. Or wherever it was.

We worry about what we should eat in the evening. We worry about whether our friends think our conversation too gauche, too loud, too quiet. We worry what people would think if they caught us secretly reading Mail Online (and we all do it. You've probably got a browser tab open now with half an eye on a feature about Pippa Middleton. Don't flick across just yet, this gets interesting. I'll talk about her bottom before the end.)

We briefly worry about things like unemployment or economic meltdown and then we get back to worrying about important things. Like hummus. Lovely, tasty Waitrose hummus. Above all, middle class people worry about being too middle class.

And what do we do when we're not worrying about all of these things? We watch shows such as The Young Apprentice. And we laugh. And we tweet about how shit it is and then worry that we're hypocrites. And then we initiate some moral debate about the exploitation of children on television and we worry some more about that. Eventually we'll drift away to sleep - once the final glass of Malbec has quelled the worry that we might be drinking too much during the week.

But there's a little storm brewing in those deep, elegant John Lewis wine glasses - and it's growing every day. It's the fear that at some stage the dream is going to be broken. That the easy, pleasant ride enjoyed by the country's well-off if not filthily wealthy is about to break down.

A million young people are now unemployed in Britain and their ranks include many thousands who in generations gone by could expect a gentle saunter through subsidised university and into a pleasant and reasonably-salaried job. For everyone still living on the right side of that dream, it's been easier to stick to the synthetic worries which have served them so well in the past than to consider the grim reality of a world threatened by financial apocalypse.

So now you see a trickle of them rolling down the hill from Hampstead to protest at St Paul's. There's the usual posse of worrier warriors who worry themselves into showing that they care, but there's an entirely new breed here too. A group that have seen a future that looks as bad for them as it does for the real activists that they stand alongside and for everyone else. So they join the masses on Wall Street and they fight with police in Zuccotti Park. They proudly fly the flag of the 99% despite enjoying liberty and livelihood inconceivable to the majority of the world's population.

But for these people, politics is no longer something that one generates opinions on merely as grist to a dinner party's mill. It's becoming a little more important than that. For now their actions are a ripple on the surface; an anomaly, but as the pinch bites further into the so-called squeezed middle the noise will get louder. When the comfortably off fear having to suffer even a fraction of what those who truly struggle in this country do, they'll start shouting about it.

It's easy now for Theresa May to mock the skinny-jeaned hipsters buying their Starbucks lattes when they're not loitering outside St Paul's, but it may not be so for much longer. Whilst the Occupy movement and its offshoots might seem at times a little try-hard, with its smartphone-clutching legions marshalled forth by Twitter and Facebook, anybody who wants change needs them to keep shouting. Because the longer they shout about it, eventually politicians start to listen. Not because the middle classes are worth listening to any more than anybody else, but because the rich and powerful need them on side and comfortably off to keep the status quo. There are also a lot of them, and they vote.

Besides, any hipster willing to take a blast of pepper spray or a truncheon to the face, at the behest of a billionaire mayor who is systematically denying journalists the right to report on his police force's actions, gets my respect. They're certainly doing more than I've ever done to defend press freedom.

Oh, and here's a sentence about Pippa Middleton's bottom. There. I'm a man of my word.

 

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