Like most expat parents in Berlin, I consider myself “vaguely socialist”. Well, that’s how I’ve listed my political views on Facebook, anyway – vaguely socialist. Unlike most of yiz though, I was actually raised socialist. When I was born, my mum, dad and step dad, who wasn’t officially my step dad yet – were all members of the British Communist Party.
The thing is though, in a way, socialism is basically a religion. Well, in my family it is, anyways. My stepfather quotes Marx like it’s the Bible. And you know the Ten Commandments? We’ve got them too. Well, we have one, anyways. One really important one. One very important commandment. And it goes: “Thou shalt not send thy kid to private school.”
And guess what? I’ve totally broken it.
I don’t send my kid to our local multikulti state school – I schlep him 40 minutes every day to give him all the benefits of an international education. Whereas most people, when I tell them that I’ve chosen to educate my child privately, react with a mini-wince, and a sympathetic: “Well, I wouldn’t send my kid to school in Neukölln, either…”, my parents are disgusted with me. And I must admit, I really love them for it.
“I’m really disappointed in you, Cint,” said my dad, when I told him, tutting disapprovingly.
“I think you’re making a big mistake – morally, spiritually, generally and also educationally,” said my mum, sighing mournfully.
“What the fuck’s wrong with you?” spat my step dad angrily. “D’you think you’re Harriet fucking Harman or something?”
I tried to make excuses, you know the kind of thing: it’s really important that he is educated bilingually (rating fairly high on the BS-ometer) or that I think the German state school system is totally racist (rating slightly less high on the BS-ometer) but it cut no ice.
“Rico’s white,” said my mother. “Those racist German state schoolteachers aren’t gonna be any less racist to the kids at the local state school if all the middle-class parents send their kids to schools outside the borough. I thought we’d raised you better than this, Cinty. I thought we’d raised you to believe in solidarity.”
And that’s the sad truth. They did. And I do. But just not that much. My son’s education is more important to me than solidarity with the poor. I’m sorry, you guys. I can’t help it.