Wednesday, 15 February 2012

How to be Free - End Class War

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to be free

Chapter 6 - End Class War - BE BOHEMIAN

Our class system originated in the middle ages, where the classes were approximately: peasants, who worked the land; clerics, who read, wrote, prayed and looked after the poor; and nobles, who owned the land and rode around dining and fighting.  Our current class system is still three tiers: working class, do a boring job and get into debt; middle class, do a boring job and get into more debt; and upper class, lounge around, arguing with the family and selling off the property to pay the tax bill.  Ideally we would aim to combine the best aspects of all three: working the land and doing crafts; reading, writing, reflecting and helping the poor; and the odd bit of lounging around… Is this what is meant by being bohemian?

I’ve just looked it up in the Heinemann English Dictionary, where it says that a bohemian is an artistic or intellectual individual who disregards conventional standards of behaviour – Hmmmm, I like the sound of that!

What Tom Hodgkinson argues in this chapter is that we don’t need to get rid of our Class System.  There’s nothing wrong with people having money and sitting around, for with the money and the large houses comes quite a bit of hassle.  The aristocrats look after our heritage, do work for charity and hold festivals – good!  Instead of resenting the other classes, thinking they have it easier than we do, and generally moaning about the fetters we find ourselves in, we should simply do things whichever way we want, live according to whatever means we can and mix freely with whomsoever we want. 

How does this match up with the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

I personally think this is all well and good, but if your education and your background mean that you lack the means, self-esteem or imagination to come up with your own way of earning a living, and nobody is prepared to give you a job or pay you more than a pittance, then you are pretty much stuck in your lot, and it isn’t all that joyful.  For some people, poverty is not a choice.

I do like the idea that we shouldn’t just mix with those from our own background; that we should do what fits our aims in life, our morals and our principles, not just follow the path that appears to have been set out for one in our “station”.   I think it’s easy to be bohemian if every day isn’t a struggle to decide whether the money in your pocket should go to the heating bill or to buy food.


  1. tom Hodgkinson is my fav! I quit my job after reading the freedom manifesto and the idle parent. My blog is even named freedom five because of freedom manifesto. LOVE him :-)

  2. He's pretty awesome isn't he. I've just read your mud kitchen post and love the way that you've followed his "push the kids out into the garden so that you can clean house" suggestion ;)