Friday, 4 February 2011


Contributed by Mowgli.

Ok. Let’s get this out in the open. I’m not rich. In fact, I’m not far from dirt poor, and
this socioeconomic truth was what caused my biggest apprehension about taking up my
place at Oxford: ‘Wont they all be rich, arrogant cunts?’

Well generally the answer is ‘No’. While some people are annoyingly intelligent, most
are simply the product of a comfortable childhood under the guidance of supportive
middle class parents; talented, well-rounded, if not a little naive. However, when people
start to talk about their chateaus in France or what glorious humanitarian obstacles
they conquered on their relatively insignificant gap year to Africa/Asia/South America,
you begin to see cracks in the university’s equal opportunities manifesto. While such
examples of genuine affluence are like rare birds, never is the density of these toffs
more apparent then at Camera.

Camera (where it takes shirt and shoes to get in but a title or a trust fund to fit in) is
the prototypical rich boy’s playground. After finding my way into a group of Etonians
hailing from my college I was thrust into the club and with it a world of frivolity. Skipping
queues of anxious social climbers, young men in their best suits with trophy girls on
their arms hoping to find a niche within the nightclub to network their way to success,
it was quickly apparent that these guys I hadn’t thought much of were already part
of a much wider-reaching network. As we were ushered to a private table by another
nameless face that they all recognised as ‘one of the old boys’, it was obvious this
wasn’t a normal club. Nowhere else in the world is there a dance floor where a majority
of men are wearing double-breasted dinner jackets, or where the standard icebreaker
is ‘so, ya, I was on my yacht when…’

In all truth I had thought there would be some oligarchs at Oxford, but that at least they
would be noticeable- top hat, a monocle etc. But the only clue that these guys were any
different from anyone else was a mild, privileged accent and an excessive use of the
phrases ‘banter’ and ‘good effort’. But clearly they were from a different world, a world
where a £200, 3ft bottle of vodka constitutes buying a round.

But to be fair, they aren’t elitists, and you can’t fault the rich for being rich. The Etonians
and I represent opposite ends of the spectrum, the rich and the poor, but we are both
minorities. In fact due to my background I have far more of the taxpayer’s money
given to me than my middle class peers, who despite a few exceptions are all living
off a shoestring. So I suppose yes, there is an elite, but they are not simply hothouse
flowers from private schools whose parents have bought them a place. Most are
completely bereft of arrogance or pretence (allowing ruffians like me into their ranks)
and personally I can think of no better statement of social mobility than when a young
boy from a council house spends an evening drinking with the sons of millionaires. So
long as they don’t expect me to pick up the bill.

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