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A negative side of English culture - the politics of envy

122 replies

Endlesssummer2022 · 30/09/2022 20:36

Let me start by saying I’m English with one immigrant parent.

This is something I’ve occasionally thought about over the years.

We often get told the positives of English culture e.g fair play, loving to queue, dry sense of humour, loving animals etc but rarely acknowledge anything negative.

Envy is a huge problem here and makes all of our lives worse in so many ways because instead of trying to make things better, many of us use more energy trying to bring others down.

I believe this behaviour climaxed at the Brexit vote when a large portion of voters were fixated on bringing down ‘metropolitan elites’ aka the educated and Londoners because they perceived them to have more. All this did was make us all of our lives harder and poorer.

Many people cheer and rush to vote if they think something they don’t have will be taken away from someone else. Rather than work out how to get these things themselves, change lifestyle, make different decisions, accept not everyone can have the same, decide not to focus on what others have or don’t have, they get angry and campaign for others to have less to make themselves feel better.

Every major election win since 2016 has been built on spite and envy and as a result things get worse for all of us. It’s becoming more and more depressing that this mentality seems to be endemic. Middle class people are lumped in with the super rich who many despise and because people feel powerless to do anything about the super rich, they focus their anger on the middle class and want to bring them down a peg or two.

Envy and spite is just making our country increasingly poorer in multiple ways. The country doesn’t feel aspirational anymore. It’s making me consider whether I want to continue to bring my kids up here. Is envy a big part of the cultures of other countries?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

305 votes. Final results.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
47%
You are NOT being unreasonable
53%
Teacupjunkie · 30/09/2022 20:45

What are you asking? It feels like your question is loaded

Hoppinggreen · 30/09/2022 20:49

I’m not sure it’s envy but I think we DO have a problem in this country with pulling people down if we feel they are “getting above their station”. We don’t like tall poppies

Blocked · 30/09/2022 20:51

I'm not English but do live in the UK and I don't think it's envy either. It seems like a natural response to an unequal class based society to me.

Nameless3 · 30/09/2022 20:54

It's not envy. It's about inequality. It's about not everyone having the same opportunities and if you can't see that you are a bit thick.

Endlesssummer2022 · 30/09/2022 20:59

It’s not a loaded question at all. As I said it’s something I’ve thought about in recent years and I’m asking if envy has always been a big part of our culture and I hadn’t noticed it because I feel we used to be more of an optimistic, ambitious country. Now it feel more crabs in a barrel.

Also I wanted to know whether other countries have the same element or are more supportive or accepting of people perceived to be doing well? I have a lot of family in Australia and they have a ‘tall poppy’ thing but it’s nowhere near the level it is here. It’s more like if a sportsperson becomes arrogant they want to bring them down but in general people have no issue with someone having a bigger house, car, going on holidays etc. It seems more positive. People are more like ‘how do I get that?’ Or ‘I don’t care about that stuff anyway’ as opposed to ‘let’s take that away from them because I don’t have it’ if you see what I mean.

There are so many things I love about this country and our culture but this is an element that really troubles me.

OP posts:
floorida · 30/09/2022 21:02

Whilst I agree that the media often encourages division & in fighting in order to deflect from the real issues I'm not quite sure your post is about that.

floorida · 30/09/2022 21:04

I have immigrant parents & find the doth your cap thing & the class obsession negative & weird.

Starsinyoureyes13 · 30/09/2022 21:05

Everything that's happened in the past few years have made people angry, it's not envy but anger. To many rich people virtue signalling to the poor doesn't mean the poor are envious they are just fed up and angry at being in a position they didn't ask for, ie covid and war in Russia.
Its not that hard to work out

malificent7 · 30/09/2022 21:06

Yanbu op. It's probably the product of our class system.

floorida · 30/09/2022 21:06

as opposed to ‘let’s take that away from them because I don’t have it’ if you see what I mean.

I'm not sure I see that? How do you think people are trying to take things away from you?

Bunnyfuller · 30/09/2022 21:07

Brexit was ‘why are we letting them bluddy furriners have all our stuff and make us poor’

wider sentiment is ‘FFS it is blatantly obvious you are turn people against each other whilst you run to the Caymans etc.’

so, it might seem like envy, but actually it’s either an engineered sense of injustice or a genuine sense of injustice. Neither is good, and their root cause is the same thing. Top 1% owning….

Endlesssummer2022 · 30/09/2022 21:08

I would believe recent votes have been more about inequality than envy if the parties which support more equality were in power. However, it’s the party who promote spite and punishing others who have the majority of the seats. This party also openly protect the super rich and pit the poor against the middle class who aren’t the ones responsible for inequality.

If you want more equality, why would you vote for the party who won’t invest in schools and hospitals? That makes no sense to me. Or maybe I am thick as a PP said.

OP posts:
floorida · 30/09/2022 21:09

I don't know why people vote for the Tories so can't help with that.

GobbolinoTheWitchesCat · 30/09/2022 21:10

I don't think its politics of envy, but frustration at reduction of opportunities, limitations to aspirations and the cumulative effect of years of economic austerity that has affected those financially worse off the most.

MarshaBradyo · 30/09/2022 21:10

It’s a big question and probably hard to do justice on first glance

I think some positivity and optimism is needed back here, the pandemic was tough for many reasons but negativity re U.K. seemed to grow

There are pockets of it where this seems to be the case - ie the charitable status policy fits the bill.

In politics I thought Blair did a good job at harnessing positivity and optimism whilst not berating or dragging down success. It’s a great position to hold and one we sadly seem to have lost. He did have other faults so not saying all perfect

Lastly having lived in US and Aus too I’d say it’s less likely in US but inequality is higher which has issues, Aus more well meaning but generally success is good (but house etc).

Bit of a scattered post just thoughts that come to mind

MarshaBradyo · 30/09/2022 21:12

Big house..

Nameless3 · 30/09/2022 21:17

I've never voted Tory in my life. I'm also don't envy people with more. I do understand why some people are pissed off that they will never have the same opportunities as others though.

dandelionthistle · 30/09/2022 21:20

I'm better able to compare England with US rather than Aus. I do think a lot of it is about how deeply entrenched our class system is - both in terms of actual opportunity and also in terms of the way we view opportunity. Here we tend to the idea that opportunity is predominantly shaped by birth, the American dream is that anyone can become a self-made success.

I've put that v simplistically - both the idea and the reality are more nuanced - but I think that basically shapes a starting perspective of 'pfft, typical I can't have what they've got' vs 'hey, I'm going to get what they've got'.

I think it's a national psyche created through inequality, but that doesn't mean it results in widespread opposition to inequality, hence returning mostly conservative governments etc.

Diverseopinions · 30/09/2022 21:23

I think there used to be the factor of politics of envy but I think, since social media has become big, it's more a case that conspiracy theories, and other joined up narratives, are making people feel hink that the rich are cooperating in a cunning and elaborate plot to cling on to wealth and take the assets from everyone else.

It's not so much envying as that class war is being played out in their minds. Even when they are reasonably well off, they see themselves as being under attack and oppressed. The ones I know wouldn't want to have the needy invited to live in their four bedroom house, but they feel like the under dog, and 'the rich' are taking and holding on to loads of money in order to keep the little people down.

Lots of people aren't terribly materialistic any more. They don't list after big cars.

donquixotedelamancha · 30/09/2022 21:41

Every major election win since 2016 has been built on spite and envy and as a result things get worse for all of us.

Wow. It must be incredible having such superpowers that you know how millions of people think. Billions, I guess, because you know that this is a peculiar to one region of the UK and no other country has it.

Aren't you lucky, OP, that you are so much wiser than everyone else?

Christ. I despair of how people can reach adulthood and think this simplistically. I don't understand why some seem so incapable of stepping outside their own limited experience.

We often get told the positives of English culture e.g fair play, loving to queue, dry sense of humour, loving animals etc but rarely acknowledge anything negative.

I have travelled to a lot of countries and I think one of the notable features of British culture is that it is very self critical, it's both a strength and a weakness.

Lopilo · 30/09/2022 21:41

I agree. But I do also think people generally feel very disheartened and anxious at the moment which makes it hard to feel positive and aspirational

Suetwo · 30/09/2022 21:53

I doubt the U.K. is that different. Any society in which people compete for money, careers, houses, etc is going to breed envy. Maybe cultures like Japan, in which the collective is valued above the individual, are different. But then they have their own downsides.

Of course, the class system also plays a part. If you want to see real envy, watch someone whose friend or sibling has moved into a ‘better’ social class, changed their accent and manners, and begun to distance themselves. In Australia, Kate might buy a bigger house, but she is still Kate. In the U.K., Kate buys a bigger house and then starts ‘talking posh’ and going on holiday to Tuscany instead of Benidorm, and so on. In other words, she now behaves like a different person.

Blocked · 30/09/2022 21:56

Endlesssummer2022 · 30/09/2022 21:08

I would believe recent votes have been more about inequality than envy if the parties which support more equality were in power. However, it’s the party who promote spite and punishing others who have the majority of the seats. This party also openly protect the super rich and pit the poor against the middle class who aren’t the ones responsible for inequality.

If you want more equality, why would you vote for the party who won’t invest in schools and hospitals? That makes no sense to me. Or maybe I am thick as a PP said.

It makes no sense to me either but the parties make a lot of big promises at election times. And it seems to make sense on the face of it, the Tories will cut taxes which should mean we are better off. But now they've shown us they will cut taxes but only for members of their 'club' - those of us earning less than 6 figures can get fucked. It's an eye opener...they're usually less brazen about it.

echt · 30/09/2022 22:01

Whenever someone cites envy/politics of envy it is always always always about defending the unfair advantages gained by those with more money while benefiting from the state. An example would be charitable status of private schools.

Instead of owning the benefit, they trot out envy, or worse, that they're doing the system a favour by not having their children in the state system. FFS.

Lunabun · 30/09/2022 22:18

Hoppinggreen · 30/09/2022 20:49

I’m not sure it’s envy but I think we DO have a problem in this country with pulling people down if we feel they are “getting above their station”. We don’t like tall poppies

Absolutely agree

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