For the 103rd beer blogging session, Natasha at MetaCookbook has asked everyone to think about what in beer culture isn’t being talked about that should be.
One thing that’s been on our mind lately — that is, for about the last 30 years or so — is class. ‘Craft beer culture’ is documented to the Nth degree but the voices of people who really drink in real pubs, in parts of the country not populated by newspapers columnists and academics, are not being heard.
This is not a new problem: ‘History from Below’ is the name of a project by a group of UK historians examining how the experience of working people in the past can be illuminated. While princes and politicians wrote letters, diaries and memoirs, there remains hardly any record of the voices of many people — of entire occupations, communities and cultures.
In the UK, beer and pubs are part of working class (US: blue collar) culture, but they are written about almost exclusively by people like us — university educated, middle class (US: white collar) nerds. That is, the chattering, writing, blogging classes.
So, at best, we end up with admirable but flawed projects like Mass Observation which record working class life, but only indirectly, filtered through observers and editors, and then packaged for the arguably voyeuristic interest of middle class readers.
Does the commentary of someone who grew up working class have any more validity in this context than someone who went to Eton?There’s almost a Catch 22 here: learning the necessary skills to research and write, and gaining the time, space and, crucially, confidence to do so promptly invalidates your working class credentials.
And middle class writers slumming in pubs they find hilariously grotty, chuckling at ‘nutters’ and ‘chavs’, is worse again.
Middle class writers aren’t completely useless but, if we want to be part of the solution to this problem, we need to learn to make ourselves invisible, to shut up and listen, and to stop showing off.