Naming and shaming

My friend John, who has experience of living in Community, calls Bicester spirit sapping and full of chavs, after I make clear that I find the word “chav” as offensive as the word “poof”, and then complains about name calling. Honestly, you would not squabble if I introduced you in my living room, so why squabble here?

The offensive word creates limits. It limits the user’s perception of the other, he just cannot see the good qualities in the other. It limits the person named, he lives down to expectations. It creates a barrier between people. And we do live below our potential, and yet with any light we may grow and heal.

John does not want the word Community devalued, yet while a weekend together with a facilitator can give us all a rosy glow of togetherness, and sometimes some real insight into self and world, actual communities often live in a state of unresolved conflict. And towns can be filled with people living below their potential, without connection; and so they need people capable of seeing the worth in others and inspiring them. Like a probation officer I met once (in a professional capacity, not as her client) whose sweetness, steel, integrity and clear-sighted care made a deep impression on me. So I build community one encounter at a time.

A US marine explained that you can train men to kill with hatred- the Vietnamese are gooks, sub-human, kill them- but this ruins their mental health. To save the soldier’s mental health, the US marines now train people to kill by convincing them that they are protecting something worth killing to protect. I would rather they did not kill anyone- but I see that this is an improvement. I can be the pebble, shining in the stream, building heaven in hell’s despair.

2 thoughts on “Naming and shaming

  1. Who are you to pass judgement on the residents of my home town? Living ‘below’ their potential??? I am sure they would be thrilled to hear that!

    I use the term Chav as shorthand – to describe people with whom I have very little in common – their values and aspirations often disgust me and include everything from racism, naked greed, venal consumerism and indeed casually violent homophobia. If you are inviting me to believe that this isn’t so then you are in denial of my forty odd years of experience of it. There are loads of really nice people in Bicester – I still have friends there – and there are lots of people there who annoy and depress me – like the people who hounded a blind couple out of their home with the aid of firebombs and dogshit through their letterbox – just over the road from my mum’s house. Lovely! I call em chavs – you call em whatever you like…

    …but HOW DARE YOU patronise us all in your oh so superior ‘enlightened’ way.

    Does it not occur to you that people have a right to be who they are without your judgements about their lack of fulfilled potential.

    Does your astonishing snobbery not leap up and bark at you in the mirror?

    Well let me help you out.

    I am from Bicester – I am still a bit of a lad and I still speak some of the language of the council estate on which I spent 27 years living. If you don’t like that – FINE – but please spare me – SPARE US ALL – the ‘heaven in hell’s despair’ patter. OK

    Bicester isn;t hell – its just a dull dormitory town on the way to London – and the residents don’t share or need your despair – on the whole they are pretty happy with it. House prices never lie!

    Personally you would have to pay me to live there – but what do I know, i’m just a lad from a council estate.

    and as for community – I wish you would re-examine your projections about my experience – I have been building community in many different ways in many different places for many years – I am not at all attached to Peck’s muddled model of group process and am happily a member of my local village arts committee.

    Squabbling? – i find that insulting and lofty.

    I could consider you as some kind of tourist – tossing petals of love out of the bus of enlightenment as you gaze wistfully at the struggling masses – I could say – oh PLEASE climb down from your lofy perch and join us here in the shit.

    I could say that – but I can’t – because your pretensions to enlightenment don’t convince me in the slightest.


    • You criticise me for judging people, and then pass your own judgment. You call me on my “projections” about your experience, and then project about mine. We have not met for a long time. I still hold you in respect. We would have to meet to sort this.


All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.