THE FIRST FIVE YEARS

15 Dec

It is often quoted by people like me who have a point to make that the influences on a child for the first five years of his/her life casts a shadow over the rest of his/her life. And this is undoubtedly the case: it’s the main reason why religions have persisted into the twenty-first century – and that’s a point that’s been made so often that it’s boring – though perfectly true.

And there’s a corollary, a neat one, though not to do with that precious first five years. It’s to do with perception.

A man I know sneered at me not so long ago because he claimed I had privilege due to being a grammar school boy. I ask you: I’m in my seventies and the assumption (wrong as it happens) that I went to a grammar school is seen as something to be frowned on because the frowner clearly didn’t. I’ve lived my entire adult life to dangerously close to the end with this perceived privilege. Pity I didn’t feel it!

So a perceived advantage was used as a matter of scorn. Doesn’t say much for the scorner, does it?

But he made a point worth emphasising because I have been heard to adapt this very argument and use it as a reason to distrust quite a lot of the present Government – not because they were or weren’t grammar school boys but because they went to the one educational establishment where privilege is apparently on the curriculum. They went to Eton.

This is nothing to do with the sacred five years. By the time they were five the millionaire parents of most of these cherubs had already made sure they knew what their station in life was to be. No. This is to do with a system of advantage that is based on affluence and the notion that there is a social hierarchy in which the moneyed can rule.

Some get there via other routes – the late Margaret Thatcher (who by virtue of her gender could never have been an Eton boy) carried a destructive chip on her shoulder because of it. And others have too. It’s sad, but when you live in a society in which advantage is palpably associated to birth and wealth it’s almost inevitable, I should think.

And the man who accused me of being a grammar school boy? No names, no pack drill, but he’s probably still at the foot of the privilege ladder, waiting in vain for his first step up.

The chances are because of it he burningly resents his own first five years of life.

© Peter Rogerson 15.12.15

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