|Withnail and I - Middle Class Wankers in North London|
The earliest example of this phenomenon that I can think of is that 5th century BC Indian prince - Guatama Buddha. As the age of 29 - rather late for a young middle class wanker I would say, but pioneers deserve some leeway I suppose - Buddha decided he had had enough of living in his father's palace and would go out and live with the people, in poverty, begging for alms and learning great things from wise teachers, in the hope of one day changing the world. Guatama Buddha, founder of the fourth largest religion in the world, was essentially just the 5th century BC equivalent of a postgraduate student moving from comfortable suburbia to somewhere ugly in the inner city in the hope of one day being important.
A slightly more relevant case is the University Settlement movement that began in about 1880 and carried on until the late 1920s. These young men, freshly graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, went and moved into fortified houses in the poorer areas of London where they sought to share culture and education with the impoverished inhabitants. The movement spread across Britain and the United States and did great things for thousands of Middle Class Wankers, who later could live with the healthy glow that comes from having brought enlightenment to the depths of misery. The modern equivalent is quite obviously Teach First - a charity which helicopter drops (not literally - cool though that would be) high flying graduates with no teaching experience into poor, inner city areas, where they try to do pretty much the same thing that the University Settlers did a hundred years earlier.
For me though, the most interesting specimen is surely George Orwell. George Orwell was perhaps the definitive Middle Class Wanker and an inspiration to thousands since. After leaving Eton, he went and worked in Burma for a year, where he detested the other Englishmen for their affectations and their petty snobbery, but also for not being captivated by the experience of being surrounded by poor, brown, foreigners. After contracting Dengue fever in 1927, he returned to England and spent the next few years living in poverty in London and Paris, only occasionally returning to bathe and eat at his parents house in Southwold. Later he not only went to fight poverty with words in Wigan - he went to fight fascists with guns in Spain. Eventually he emerged, as I'm sure you are all aware, as one of the best novelists of the 20th century. His life was a paradigm of what being a middle class wanker is all about.
I can't say I quite have the integrity of Orwell. Sadly, the police force in Burma doesn't recruit effete young Englishmen any more, nor are there very many good wars going on that I could join. I can however follow his path and live in admirable, middle class squalor somewhere in London. I have not yet sold my soul, but I have just about managed to lease it. The income should at least pay the rent on somewhere suitably horrible within cycling distance of the City. I am going to be a trainee financial journalist, at a publication I don't imagine any of you have heard of. I'm looking forward to it. Before I start though, I need to find somewhere to live, so if you would like to share destitution with me, or you know anyone else who would, let me know! And don't worry - I don't actually plan to live in Tower Hamlets.