Joey Barton on the British fear of excellence
'Yes, we may be hidden by rags but we’ve something they’ll never have…'
Numerous people are out there right now thinking, if I just had another few bob in my pocket, life would be great. I struggle to think anybody who thinks in that context would ever be content. I mean, at what stage is enough actually enough?
I turned 30 last month. The big 30! I thought I might mellow a little with age. Well, I was wrong. I am back in these pages again, albeit from the Sud de France, with some more observations about the physique of the human form.
This month I wanted to write about American jingoistic foreign policy. Recently, I have been spending much of my downtime watching documentaries and reading quite a bit. A little too much Noam Chomsky to give balance to any anti-American article, though. I will no doubt return to this topic, once better informed and a little de-Chomsky-ised, so watch this space.
Anyway, back to the point. I feel there is a real misunderstanding of achievement within British culture. It was while passing judgements on America and all that is wrong with its media, government, culture and foreign policy that I suddenly noticed this. Don’t ask how – it baffles me also. I am a perplexing individual. Even to myself at times.
‘Yes, we may be hidden by rags but we’ve something they’ll never have.’ When I hear/read that famous Morrissey lyric, I can tell you what it says to me.
But more importantly, what does that say to you? The mentality of the person interpreting the sentence surely deciphers information based on all manner of things: background, education or lack of it, race, colour, creed, social standing and so on. The subject I’m currently really interested in is education.
Are we systematically destroying our achievers before they even begin to achieve? It seems there is a hatred against true, earned excellence that is instilled in us through school. Why is it that at comprehensive schools it is uncool to be smart, to do your homework, to want to achieve – unless, of course, it is by a shortcut (selling drugs, etc).
Going to science club is ridiculously uncool; going to football practise five times a week, now that is cool. However, it would be interesting to see the need for people in the science field versus the need for footballers. We are in a recession, after all: we can all dream, but one needs a back-up plan.
I certainly did not have one. I dread to think what I would have done if I was not a footballer. But that is the society we live in: an idealistic one, rather than a realistic one.
By the same token, in work it grows to be the same: the guy that stays behind late, that gets in early. I see it at training. He is seen as ‘busy’, a term coined for people who toe the line, who do all they can to give themselves the best chance of performance.
The guy actually trying to improve himself as a player and better himself is not the guy most admired by the majority. A minority see it: the manager, the experienced players – they have been there, seen it, done it. You see this most evidently with the younger pros, which is massively ironic as these are the guys who are actually trying to establish themselves and make it.
It seems to be the same across other work environments: something bad happens to him, he is late one day, and so the group is appeased. Why is this? It is because people feel inferior, threatened by the hard-working guy, who will achieve outside his boundaries.
This is a mindset that we must shed. This is becoming more and more of an issue in our country. Something simply has to give or the morons will keep winning. They will ensure that anyone striving for excellence is suppressed, that the idiots win.
We would prefer to fail and have the sympathy of our peers, than really achieve and risk the wrath of their envy. I still encounter this daily.
And how dare I read Chomsky, you were probably thinking at the start of this article. Remember, you are only up against yourself, after all.
If you have any comments, tweet @Joey7Barton