It is no longer possible to make fun of Africans, Asians, Jews, etc.; it is not considered civilised and belongs to the burlesque of the past. And that’s mostly a good thing, jokes involving race, skin colour and appearance can be perceived as malicious and degrading. This is not something we need to strive for. However, blacks can make jokes about blacks, Jews about Jews, etc. But that’s another story.
However, what remains in our comic vein is making fun of people from lower social groups. Class jokes are common and almost elevated to an art form. Many Swedish films and TV series are based on the encounter between cultured city dwellers and white trash from the countryside, with examples such as Änglagård, Bröllopsfotografen, Ronny & Ragge and many, many more.
People who consider themselves cultured can quite easily make fun of people who are not. The peak of this behaviour probably occurred when Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump’s supporters a basket of deplorables . Now Clinton did not win the election, but instead the controversial property magnate won by a landslide in most states.
So who are the white trash?
They are often people who live in rural areas, small towns or outside the city centre. They don’t dress tastefully, eat unhealthy food, drink beer, watch sports on TV, listen to hard rock or country music, have ugly tattoos, sometimes like guns and hunting, vote for so-called populist parties, talk straight, simple and use profanity, and often work in manual labour.
They are not necessarily poor, because as everyone knows, crafts can often earn more money than many office jobs these days. White trash is largely about lifestyle.
And perhaps it is the up-and-comers and class travellers who hate white trash the most, because they have just left this life and started studying at university, a new world is opening up and the old one seems mundane, silly and simplistic.
The opposite of white trash is the sophisticated and sensible city dwellers. They often have desk jobs, have studied long and well, dress right, eat right, listen to the right music, vote right (sorry, left) and are often strongly influenced by various international trends without realising or pretending to. Politically, they are often so-called champagne socialists. They advocate justice, solidarity and ecological living, but they themselves are above political dogma and rarely practice what they preach.
Let’s turn this around. How is the so-called black trash perceived by the self-proclaimed upper class? Immigrants are considered cooler than Swedes at the same social level. Immigrants have their gangster aesthetics and music to hide behind. They are considered failures because of the circumstances in society, they are disadvantaged and subject to racism. When immigrants become high-achievers in school, get academic degrees, dress more conventionally, vote bourgeois – they are often misunderstood, called uncle Tommers, etc. While they are often accepted in professional life and by more liberal-minded people.
How is it that some people have put themselves on a pedestal in society, judging and condemning others? Is their elitism justified? Is it the real elite that behaves like this?
Yes and no. It is mainly people from the middle class who utilise such charades. These chosen ones also despise their own class, they don’t really want a villa, a Volvo, a dog – even though they often end up there. They want to be different, to stand out from the rest. But they are rarely intellectual or unique in the true sense of the word, nor are they necessarily very successful given their starting point. They are anxious pack animals, sensitive to trends, easily offended, egotistical know-it-alls. They rarely have a great sense of humour, and they find it difficult to step out of themselves and look at things through the eyes of others.
I think we see a new class society emerging – or lifestyle society – where class is now mostly about lifestyle. The really poor, uneducated, hunted and broken poor people, on the other hand, nobody cares about. They live in areas that even the police avoid. They barely exist in the real world. And if we close our eyes, they will probably disappear.