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.

My community

There is a plaque outside the pub which says people have been drinking in this inn for over 350 years. That is quite a sesh, I think, someone should tell them to go home. Walk up the hill north towards the cenotaph, and you pass some lovely buildings, some half-timbered. In the shopping mall there is Dorothy Perkins and WH Smith, and here there is a shop selling speciality teas and a hardware store. Or you could turn off past the fifteenth century barn and the sculpture of the swans in flight. On the river you may see dozens of swans, I had not seen so many together before coming here. It is beautiful.

You will get quite a different story about the town from a certain website which tells of “chavs”, which means oiks, or lower class people, in British towns. I noticed that website, talking of shell suits and jogging bottoms, which I rarely see. “Chavs” is an offensive term for my neighbours. Not a word I would use. Not really how I see the town at all, my town is beautiful. Not the way I see my neighbours. Look at these trees, gardens, open spaces. My next door neighbour taught me my two words of Bulgarian. Perhaps I should try to remember more: Dobre, meaning well, but also translating the word Uhuh, as in I understand, yes, go on, is a useful word. Like “Acha” in Bangla. My other next door neighbour fixed my dehumidifier, and I helped him with a question about benefits.

It is as if the person who wrote in that horrid, mocking site and I see two different places, different people, different worlds, parallel universes. Not all of us are well off, indeed Ofsted wrote in its report about the Children’s Centre that some parents studying school-age qualifications were doing these as an end in themselves and not as a route into employment, as there is little in the area. This writer sees an oik, and I see my friend M, and we go for coffee. It is important to me to see the beauty in the place I live and the people I meet. Fortunately, that beauty is easy to find.