Friday, November 12

Johann Hari is wrong.

Here's the angry young man's latest diatribe. It's about as insightful as gravel.

Mr Hari's argument can be summed up thusly:

All poor white people are chavs.
All chavs are poor and white.
It is wrong to hate people for being poor.
Therefore, anyone who criticises chavs is a hateful elitist classist bastard.

Assuming The Independent pay by the word, they should hire me instead.

Now, I don't call them "chavs". I lived in Glasgow from '96 to '03, and Scots call them "neds". In fact, when I first moved to Scotland, the Scots had the word "ned" while the English simply didn't have a word to describe them at all. I don't know why they eventually chose "chav", but I prefer "ned". I'm now in Northern Ireland, where they're called "steeks" and "spides". "Spide" is pretty good: it just sounds inherently derogatory.

I'm not poor, but I'm not that well-off, either. I can't afford a ned car, or ned clothes, or the amount of alcohol and cigarettes neds get through every day, not to mention the harder drugs. I can't afford to take the amount of time off work that neds seem to enjoy. Contrary to what Hari seems to think, fast food isn't that cheap — certainly not compared to cooking at home. I like the occasional burger or fish supper, but, unlike your average ned, I can't afford to go out for one every day. However, I can (just) afford a mortgage on a three-bedroom house in a fairly expensive area.

During my time in Glasgow, my building was set alight by neds three times, once seriously endangering my life. The reason for this was so that ned kids could try and jump onto the back of the fire engine when it left. Windows in the common stairwell were smashed by neds a couple of times, just for fun, like. The communal front door was kicked in by neds. Before we finally managed to get the communal stairs secured, they were a popular location for neds to come and drink, smoke dope, scrawl their names, smoke heroin, inject heroin, occasionally spit at my friends, and — on one memorable occasion — have a crap. My then girlfriend and I once walked out of the front door to be greeted by the wonderful sight of a ned standing on the stairs with his trousers round his knees, injecting heroin into his penis. The ned living in the ground floor flat threatened my life a couple of times, but he wasn't there long: his landlord got rid of the bastard and replaced him with an extremely nice, friendly, reasonable, poor single mother who was definitely not a ned and didn't want her sons to become neds.

Eric's got the right idea, as has Harry, despite feeling he needs to descend into Marxist terminology to describe the problem. It took a heroic effort to read past the word "lumpenproletariat", I can tell you. Please.

Anyway, here's the thing. Everyone hates neds, but the people who hate them by far the most are poor people. Everyone has to put up with the little bastards' vandalism and violence and abuse and theft and bad clothing choices, but poor people also have to put up with being associated with it by class-obsessed idiots like Hari.