Sunday, 23 March 2008

A Yorkshire Village and the Urban Peasant

That Yorkshire village I mentioned provides a fine example of what I’m talking about. I was organising a community project which involved repairing the railings of the local community centre. Ah ha, thought I, let’s get the ‘Young Offenders Team’ in to do it, local participation and involvement and all that. The YOT were in fact part of social services, not, as the name suggests, a team of obliging local hooligans. The point is that the YOT worked with YOs, and supervised them doing good works around the county, in particular good works of the sort that ‘made reparation’ for the bad deeds they’d done before. So, along they come with their very sweet supervisor from Halifax and set to with the railings. Good reports of the day’s activities proliferated. ‘It can’t have been that exciting, surely,’ I thought, suspicious. Further enquiries revealed that the YOs, had indeed been having a whale of time: while they’d been working at the front of the community centre, the centre ‘workers’ had been cheerfully selling class A drugs out the back. It was only a matter of time before the too sweet supervisor had her back turned and a nice little circuit was set up.

This was how most people in the village were making their daily bread. They’d long given up on jobs. It’s not just that there weren’t any, there were never going to be any. Thus I decided to return to London to seek my fortune. Much as I loved that place, it really didn’t have a future. To my surprise, I found that the ‘Loathsome Peasant’ also lived in London. It took me a while to recognise him/her at first, because everyone, even the poor people, looked fantastically rich by comparison to the village. What I hadn’t grasped was that the rich-looking poor people were in fact just living on the never-never. The NAs despise the Urban Peasants in slightly different ways. Sometimes they use ‘social exclusion’ language, sometimes it’s about ‘under achievement,’ and much of the time its about ‘culture,’ which is the acceptable face of class, but contempt is contempt, whichever way you wrap it up.

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