In my view, some of you fell on the wrong side of the chav debate this last week. Some of you ‘liked’ supporting or mocking comments. Some of you even chipped in your own away from my feed.
Some of you seemed unable to grasp why such a fuss had been made over a seemingly benign themed night. Some of you said that we all need to relax, that political correctness is reaching levels of the absurd. Some of you were able to totally reject the voices of working class people, and reams of research on the nature of classist stereotyping, to say a few of us were just over sensitive and imagining things. Some of you very easily, too easily assumed, we were all talking from the same place – that our objection was some ridiculous middle class stunt, or that we were after a quick fifteen minutes of fame.
Some of you got very angry at us and attacked us. Some of you tried to shame us, to tell us we were in the wrong and that for even entertaining a debate on social justice, we deserved to be ostracized – we didn’t belong in your group, you all just wanted to carry on having fun.
I understand some of this came from loyalty and allegiances – I get that Revenge is very important for some people: for some people it’s their work, for others it’s their sense of community and fun. I understand that no maliciousness was meant by the club promoters, and that they didn’t foresee the potential social and political consequences of the event. I also understand that the topic was ‘heavy’ and that the drudgery of debate and learning can be a right mood killer.
I understand some of this came from the fact we come from different backgrounds, that we’ve had different experiences and most definitely that we’ve had a different education. I even understand that perhaps those trying to make a point didn’t make that point in the most accessible way, and continue to fall over our own language and delivery in trying to make the case.
But nevertheless I feel sorry that obvious truths haven’t made it easier for us to have a more productive discussion. The truth that we live in a classist and highly unequal society. The truth that there are people in our society who live in poverty: that lack access to the basic resources (material, social and cultural) and opportunities that just seem self evident to most of us. The truth that the dominating political narrative at the moment is that somehow, to be poor is a failure of the imagination or of character – that if people would just sort their shit out and take some responsibility, they can progress and succeed to. The truth that, to justify this narrative, an idea of poor people is needed – that poor people are somehow deserving: that they are lazy, stupid, ignorant, violent and reckless for no other reason that they just are. The truth that it’s very easy for us to accept that nothing can be done to help people like this, and even if it could – why would we want to anyway? The truth that, the chav stereotype, alongside specific styles and tastes, is seen to very much embody these characteristics in the popular consciousness. And the ultimate truth that, the stereotype of the chav is seen (and in many cases made) to relate, consciously or not, as a fitting description for every poor person, in every poor community across the land.
I feel very sorry, that we’ve been unable to turn around and just recognize these simple truths – and as a community embattled by negative, inappropriate and ill-fitting stereotypes ourselves – to have been able to find another way to channel our fun and expression, and to not play with stereotypes that are even tangentially linked to the oppression of other social groups: indeed, in this case, a social group that many of us call our own.
So even if you don’t agree, I hope at least, you can give a quiet inner nod to the reasons that the issue was raised.
And even if you’re not that bovverred either way – I understand that too, but please: Let people have their say.