Culture Wars and Identity Politics: The Writtin is on the wall.


WORDS: Gary Kelly

We’re not all the same, but we’re not as different as people in comments sections on the internet might think. 

When did defending your position in a discussion become a matter of life and death? Everyday on our social media I see comments from people who feel personally attacked by the most random of things. The latest one being an image I posted of some graffiti. (Seen above).

I’m not talking graffiti inspired by Dose One, Goldie or even the street art of Shepherd Fairey. I’m talking good old fashioned 1970’s emulsion. Real wall desecration shit. Like a scene from the opening titles of cult kids TV series Murphy’s Mob or the infamous ‘The Pies. The Pies’. 

‘The Pies’ an artwork so legendary and so long lasting it is known to bring a tear to many a scousers eye as it signifies that they are home. The graffiti was painted on a bridge above the M57. Alexei Sayle used to say the council would paint around it.

I know, I could Google to see if it is still there, but I don’t want to. I prefer to think of a river of Scouse tears speeding ‘Ga’ and ‘Tez’ along the last part of their journeys. Home to their Ma’s terraced house in Bootle to put a handful of moody 20’s in a ceramic chicken. Fresh from being on tour round Europe with the football. Such casual acts are where subcultures are made. Where legends are manifested. As part of working class culture as busting your back on the docks.

If ‘the Pies’ were ever to be removed i have often wondered would it signify a seismic shift in the fabric of reality on Merseyside. Like the ravens leaving the tower. Same as if Godzilla were to arrive and breathe fire upon the Tyne Bridge. Melting the symbolic fabric of the area, like the Geordie tears which flow when we look out of the window on the GNER (or whatever it’s called this week), to see Tyneside’s favourite landmark after ‘being away’. Don’t lie, you have, I have, many times and I’m not to proud to admit it. These things are our common denominators. Part of what makes us, ‘us’. I’m not crying, you are. 

I am proud of where I’m from, and you should be to. Fiercely, but without anger. Enough of all this anger. Lets find our common ground through our humour and self deprecation. 

Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow, Sunderland, and others. Proud working class cities all.

I haven’t bought into this ‘Geordie vs Mackems’ thing for about 10 years, I was never THAT committed to it anyway. The reality is, and I know people who will hate me saying this on both sides of the ‘divide’: 

Mackems and Geordies are the same people.

There I said it. For those outside of the North East you won’t dig the depths of that controversy but for some people within the North East that is tantamount to sacrilege. Howay man, we are 12 miles apart, a rich history of mining and shipbuilding in common, OBSESSED with football and a spicy bastard historical hybrid of vikings and Irish immigrants. Is it any wonder we drink and fight as hobbies? It’s in our DNA man. We are the same people at our core whether you want to address it or not. 

So back in the room, now I’ve finished addressing my people, here is the point of this article coming through like a motherfucking death threat:  Stop labelling people as ‘Remainers’, ‘Leavers’, ‘Brexiters’, ‘Remainiacs’ or whatever other blanket shorthand terms you are using for millions of individuals with wildly divergent views. Different but same Danielsan. Different but same.

Not all Remainers are Camembert quaffing liberal barrister types sneering at ‘the poor’ from their North London enclave’s. 

Not all ‘Leavers’ are absolute knackas who can’t spell for shit, and express that through badly spelled emulsion graffiti all over Northern working class towns. 

Stereotypes can be fun, there is a deep mine of humour to be found within them. But, and it is a big but, there be dragons in the modern age. If we’re not careful we can end up hating people just like us if it’s done without humour. I posted this photo and almost straight away there was some buzzkills going on about how some of the comments laughing at the spelling of ‘council’ were some kind of blanket dismissal of all working class people. 

For some it will be, there are always some dickheads about, but for most it’s just a bit of crack. Chill your bones. They are working class people to. Why conflate the time honoured good natured working class tradition of taking the piss with some kind of personal affront? I swear some people just love misery. If we lose our humour in all of this then we lose everything. These are the things which got us through the Thatcher years, which could bring us back together in the Brexit years. Humour is the thread which will repair the fabric of our society and unite us after all of this is done. 

If it’s not humourless arseholes obsessed with identity politics, on a mission to become the most ‘unproblematic’ representation of Millie Tant trying to police language and culture. Its working class lads and lasses with a victim complex thinking a bit of good natured piss taking is suddenly now ruled out of order. 

Chill your bones, there are good people everywhere, and to explore humour together, our common threads, is one of the ways we will heal this thing.

The Culture War is over. If you want it.

The Pies. The Pies. The Pies.

A working class hero is something to be.

A working class hero is something to be.