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Notes on religion in the UK today: a contrarian view. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Notes on religion in the UK today: a contrarian view.
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sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: December 12th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
and the aspiring sons and daughters of the urban mill-worker classes, are in the main either not religious or are affirmatively irreligious or even anti-religious,

I know you like coat-trailing verging on winding up, but this is winding up verging on offensive.

May I introduce to you my oldest friend/next-door neighbour? She belongs to exactly this class; her mother was actually a pattern-cutter, not a mill-worker, but her grandmother was a mill-worker and her father was a coal miner. They all "aspired" to what she did - a better education; she, and many acquaintances with similar backgrounds (though not necessarily with Ph.Ds; usually something lower academically and something higher economically) are as religious as their parents. To specify mill-workers as a particular group from which it appears from context their descendants have cut themselves off is particularly patronising; the North and particularly the North West has a higher regard for education than the urban South (particularly London, and here I am not generalising from anything but my own teaching experience) and is nearly as interested as South Wales in my mother's day was in social advancement by education.

You seem to be contrasting people of my friend's background with the more intelligent and better bred. That is unpleasant. You also seem not to be aware of the historical situation in Wales, which was that religion without education was mere superstition and in consequence achieved an astonishing literacy rate of over 90% by the end of the 18th century, largely among farm labourers and dairy maids and the like. Intelligence does not necessarily go with education, but it helps one to value it, and often (when one has a lively mind that one keeps as well informed as possible) can substitute for it and I do not have a clue what you mean by "better-bred" which is a snobbish expression that I had thought had not survived into the 21st century.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

I now know how Roger Casement felt.

First it's the lack of a comma between urban and mill. Now it's the lack of inverted commas. I have this problem in fic, too, with indirect dialogue. Perhaps I should simply give up.

I agree that 'better-bred' is offensive. Damn it, I'm saying that the claims I see, which are claims that 'irreligion is uniformly widespread ... in the modern UK, [or] is most prevalent in the more intelligent and better-bred classes', are offensive: I am challenging the urban snobbery that says, 'Where religion persists, it's amongst the less intelligent or the less spiffingly well-bred Like Ourselves'.

As to aspirants, what I am trying with some precision to say is that the evidence I find suggests that, particularly as to former mill communites (see my response to legionseagle, please), it is where there have been multiple waves of deracination (a series: rural to urban, to mill work or piece work or something equally unsatisfying to the mind (repetitive work versus craft), away from workingman's improvement societies, away, via education or other avenues of mobility, from prior class identifications) that there is most commonly a move away from church or chapel as well. I said not a word against self-improvement through education, it's not even my topic here.

Either I cannot write, or I am being rather massively misread. I have too much regard for and for legionseagle to suggest the latter. I am not yet willing to accept the former. I am therefore stumped.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: December 12th, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not that I'm jumping on you, but

I think that it's not totally unlikely that, if you use such strongly value-laden language (better bred, deracinated) with regard to class or other sociological groupings that people will take them as indicative of prejudice, or even prejudism, regardless of whether or not that's the case. it sounds as if you are making qualititive judgements, although I would have taken your intent as being a quantative/ descriptive survey.

From: legionseagle Date: December 12th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not that I'm jumping on you, but

Just as a matter of interest, would you ask for directions to the shower block from someone who saw you as "deracinated"? Just, like, you know, asking.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Of the two possible readings of this question ...

... shall I give the benefit of the doubt and assume the best rather than the worst?

You ask, and we will all pretend that there is no connotation here at all, if one would 'ask for directions to the shower block from someone who saw you as "deracinated"', and treating the question as being innocent, I suppose the answer would be, that it rather depended upon circumstance. If, for example, the person who had used the term was a historian, a philosopher, a PPE type, or even a sociologist, I don't think it would be too great a risk.
From: legionseagle Date: December 13th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Of the two possible readings of this question ...

I understand from your response to sollersuk above that merely putting a statement into inverted commas in your view turns a remark which would otherwise be seen as the deepest bigotry into something which is
to be read without any other clues as quite the reverse; an ironic mockery of the attitudes expressed, in fact. Now, I wouldn't have said that myself. For me, unless one is in fact quoting a third party, in which case the inverted commas are quite appropriate but then so to is a footnoted reference, and context, putting quotation marks round an offensive statement which one has oneself made is rather the equivalent of putting one's hazard lights on when parked on a double yellow line, namely a bit of flummery intended to direct attention away from one's transgression of the rules.

But, well, if that's what you think, then I accept that as I am both "superficially educated" and an "aspiring daughter of the urban millworker classes" I have to bow to your superior knowledge in such matters.

I'm glad to realise that nothing between either real or presumed inverted commas can possibly be anything other than harmless fun. Otherwise I might have hesitated before telling you (in quotes) exactly what I thought of your recent farrago of offensive tosh (and, before you reach for your dictionary and your kicked-beagle expression your use of the term "deracinated" came as merely the Mosleyite cherry atop an already iffy pile of bigotry).

Anyway, here goes, in the spirit of post-modernism and mockery:

"Actually, you can pretend that there's no connotations here at all, but frankly, sunshine, you know and I know and you know that I know that what I meant is that I strongly suspect that you come back from sung Eucharist of a Sunday and polish up your grandfather's BUF badge along with your Boy Scout woggle, and put them cosily next to each other on the mantelpiece, and thank God (or whoever's in charge) that you're such a howling snob because otherwise you'd be one of the leading lights of the BNP rather than a rather dim bulb in your local Tory party (if, contrary to my assumptions, you are in fact a leading light of your local BNP chapter I apologise for presuming to the contrary)and might therefore do some active damage."
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 12th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sadly, bland neutrality is sometimes inaccurate, for that very reason.

Another reason to prefer historians, then, to sociologists: there's no pretending to an impossible neutrality, and there's the recognition, with historians, that one is engaged in a literary exercise. The same is true to some extent with PPE types.

I don't know how many times I shall be forced to point out that I was satirising the recent spate of posts and comments - mostly prompted by Dan Radcliffe's remarks on Australian telly - that took the position that I am condemning and mocking, namely, that people 'afflicted with this odd religious impulse, darling, are, through no fault of their own of course, perhaps not quite so well-read and well-bred as we clever people', when I used the term 'better-bred'.

As to 'deracination', it is not precisely uncommon in academic and intellectual discourse, any more than are such related concepts - and terms for them - as displacement, atomisation, and the like; and there are times at which it is really the only precise term. I am frankly astounded to find that, of the possible readings of what I have written, the one being it seems increasingly adopted is the one that is most readily made a cause of offence, and that so many people are so ready, given a choice between readings, to assume the worst of me. I'm not quite sure what I have done to merit that. (I am reasonably certain that I shall be informed, however.)
From: tree_and_leaf Date: December 13th, 2006 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sadly, bland neutrality is sometimes inaccurate, for that very reason.

I didn't, in fact, assume the worst of you, though I must confess I've never met 'deracinated' outside (very dated) pejorative use. However, that may well say as much about my reading as anything else.

I'd also missed the Dan Radcliffe kerfuffle, but I'd vaguely assumed that this had been set off by the flurry of (mostly wrong-headed) articles in the print media about the 'politically correct war on Christmas', which seems to be largely a chimera. (As long as it's not a thestral?)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

I know you didn't so assume.

That is why I pitched upon you to whinge to.

As I've noted elsewhere, 'deracination' is a term in rather common usage to detail part of the process of what happens to the villagers of Ridgebarton when the somnolent nearby market town cum rotten borough of Wilbringham suddenly industrialises, urbanises, and metastasises.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: December 12th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think you can't write--I've enjoyed too much of your writing ever to think that. But as a general rule, I really enjoy your posts, and this one left me at a loss for words as to how to respond.

As an American, I really don't feel that I can say very much about the British class system, and it's quite apparent from some of my fic that I don't understand it, I'm sure--but the tone came across even to me as something that I thought I would find offensive if it were me or my family that you had been describing. It is quite evident to me that several of my British friends were offended, in particular by the use of such terms as 'deracinated' which is a word that I myself have only ever used in fiction, and the person into whose mouth I put it was Grindelwald, actually. I know it literally means 'uprooted' but it has all sorts of less pleasant connotations.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 12:08 am (UTC) (Link)

I really do not understand. No, really.

If you will grant even for the sake of argument that the term 'deracinated', which seems to have made such an impact, is in common intellectual and academic usage for a particular set of circumstances associated with some stages of urbanisation and industrialisation, then what staggers me is why anyone with whom I have interacted in the past - because I do think I've been pretty uniformly decent, collegial, and All That in this fandom, I really do - why anyone would leap to the conclusion that I used the term both imprecisely and with intention to offend.

I mean, if there are two (or more) possible ways to interpret what I am saying, well ... all I can say is, if the position were reversed, if I were trying to judge the intent of someone who'd never been unkind to me or less than pleasant, I'd assume the best.

But perhaps I've done something to deserve otherwise. I don't know. I write a bit of fic to which I cannot imagine much opprobrium being attached, the more so as I'm effectively wholly unknown. I don't think I've ever exchanged a cross word with anyone in this fandom, let alone this community, until today. I'm not saying that it deserves celebration, but I do think that even my having had the idea to create and maintain this community (and anyone who wants to help, I remind you all, is more than welcome to do) is some indication of my harmlessness, general-nice-chap-ness, and bona fides.

But perhaps not. Is it the quizzes? What? Because I'm damned if I'll go about apologising for, or even accepting that I should be expected to apologise for, such views and politics as I occasionally reveal - and out of sheer politeness I try to avoid even that (and, now I think of it, why ought I to have to self-censor just to have friends, if in fact I have friends?).
tiferet From: tiferet Date: December 13th, 2006 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I really do not understand. No, really.

Well, I think you do have friends, and I DO try to give you the benefit of the doubt as I would any friend, which is why I said what I said. I did not once say that I thought you MEANT to be offensive.

I did not even imply that you were any of the things I might have thought a complete stranger talking about 'deracination' would be. I just...that's a word I personally have heard in only two contexts before now: antisemitism and Aristasia, which doesn't admit men. That is why I said, perhaps be careful of the connotations? For while it is clear to me that you don't mean to hurt anyone, people seem to be hurt, and it's distressing to me, because I am very fond of you (as I think you know) and also of legionseagle.

I don't think you should self-censor and I know that while we agree on some things politically we also disagree on some things politically. Which is fine by me, as I think the real good work politically gets done in the interaction of 'conservative' and 'liberal', by people who agree we need a better world but don't always agree on how to get there. But I don't think being careful about the connotations of the language one uses is self-censorship. I personally think of it more along the lines of not shooting myself in the foot by using language that's going to get my listeners' backs up. I mean, there are people on FW who think I censor them because I won't allow name-calling and foul language directed at people in my journal, and I know you don't agree with them that that's censorship.

I've honestly not come across the term "deracinated" outside of racialist/antisemitic ideology except in the context of Aristasia.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 13th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, I realise you weren't making these implications.

It is precisely for that reason that I was whinging to you as a sympathetic hearer, which I quite admit.

As for the pesky term, it is in quite common use - in conjunction with displacement, atomisation, and the prospect of resultant anomie - in discussions of the impact of urbanisation and industrialisation upon a formerly 'rooted' population. For example, amongst those wrestling with the concept, not always comfortably, and generally by way of response to Herder and Co, would be Adorno ... and Isaiah Berlin.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: December 13th, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I now know how Roger Casement felt.

I have long worked by the maxim that "if three people tell you you're drunk, it's time to go home and lie down", and if this many people have misunderstood you it may well be that things might have been better put. What you were saying looked as if it was being presented as either your own opinion or one you had seen elsewhere which you approved of.

I'm not at all clear about your "multiple waves of deracination"; around here it was directly rural to mill work, mines or similar, because if there isn't the work in the towns, there was nothing to draw the rural inhabitants into them, and the towns sprang up in response to the influx of workers. And even many generations later there is not a total split between urban and rural, with a number of rural practices and traditions still carried on; some new traditions have been added, but if the town dwellers hadn't still had some of their roots still in the countryside the "Mass Trespass" would never have taken place because they wouldn't have had the desire and inclination to wander the countryside the way their countrydwelling equivalents still did.

There has recently been a lessening of self improvement, but that has been Government imposed: so much has been channelled into giving basic skills to school leavers who lack them that other adult education classes have been wiped out - including, and this is an overwhelming matter for shame, foreign language courses. This has only happened in the last few years.

So if the drifts you mention are not quite as you describe them, it is difficult to follow the argument comparing stances on religion to them.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 14th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you, that's very clear and very useful.

(And, yes, indeed, assuredly what I was saying could have been better put. That's certainly been driven home, and when time permits I expect I shall edit and annotate. I'm still bemused that people would plump for the worst possible construction of my remarks, but there's nothing I can do about that.)

As to the merits, do I take it correctly that, in your view and based on your local knowledge, there was a not a succession of upheavals attendant upon urbanisation and industrialisation? I mean, of course, stages: the initial urbanisation; the creation, in response, of a new, quite possibly hybridised urban-rural culture; the destruction or compromising of that new culture by further changes, be it a further wave of industrialisation, or the decay or destruction of the old Gladstone Clubs, WMCs, and the unions themselves; the creation of a new culture in response to THAT; and so on.

Thank you for raising so pertinent a point, which I think is perhaps not generally thought of. I may have more questions after I shall have had some sleep.
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