Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We're the Flowers in the Dustbin

The thing most despised about the working class at the moment seems to be that it doesn't do enough bloody work. This is amusing in the UK, where we have (jointly with Canada, apparently) the highest proportion of the able-bodied in work worldwide. This sort of rhetoric has long been knocking around, of course - even in the days when the construction of Telford's iron bridges were notable because deaths of workers were only in single figures, there would have been some twat in Fleet Street moaning about the malingering lower orders. In the last issue of the New Humanist, there was an unpleasant bit of evasive, dissembling decentist drivel from What's It All About Then, Eh, This Thinking Stuff? author Julian Baggini, in defence of Minister for Squalor (ta Scott) Caroline Flint and her supremely Victorian no-job-no-house policy. The eager can read my riposte in the current issue, the first letter of the month honour I've received since I was 13, and hopefully a little more eloquent. At which point I was living in the place depicted in these photographs, a fairly typical interwar 'cottage estate' built by Southampton's local authority. One of the notable things about the Flower Estate, as it's universally known, is how it stops, by its traditionalism, at least one of the usual criticisms of council estates - that their Modernist architecture is some sort of inhuman experiment being tested on the tenants - leaving mainly the snobbery and social Darwinism.

On the same morbid Google search during which I found the images you see here, I also came across a local news story, about what seems to have been a precise, almost paramilitary police manoeuvre ('Operation Order') directed at said Estate, and specifically at the workshy yobs who pervade its pretty roads and and parks, speeding, wearing hoods and being generally ASBO-worthy. The problem here is similar to that raised in Baggini's witterings: this was a grim place, and was made grimmer by several horrible youths, something which I imagine to still be the case. It takes quite a leap, however, to think that this is going to be alleviated by targeting an area like a petty general, or by replacing already underserviced, under-maintained housing with homelessness. The reason I'm linking to this is for the comments at the end of the article, where the good readers of the Echo's website suggest possible other solutions for the Flower Estate and its Untermenschen. These 'pond life' should apparently be alternately sterlised, publicly flogged, or wiped off the face of the earth altogether. This is all said with the studenty joviality usually found on the Chavscum website and its ilk. But they're not really going to do it, are they? Collective punishment, enforced homelessness, stop and search, the occasional shot to the head - these measures couldn't set a precedent for these irreverent little suggestions actually becoming reality?


Blogger it said...

searchlights on the corners

We need a new Swift, or at least (at most) a new Brimstone and Treacle to push the logic all the way to its horrible end, from the poo-porn of a Gillian McKeith to the prole-porn of a Jeremy Kyle all the way to death camps for the poor. Even though they have nothing they're still stealing my enjoyment! Or perhaps precisely because they have nothing. A class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class...

11:13 pm  
Blogger Charles Holland said...

Yes, I like the one about "public flogging for anyone with an exhaust over a few centimeters". Sinisterly vague for such a psychotic punishment.

11:25 pm  
OpenID voyou said...

The style of that Baggini article is kind of fascinating; a rhetorical conjuring of a "common sense," in which the lack of any argument is presented as, itself, the argument.

"Why shouldn’t people have to earn the right to be housed?"

Quite. And why shouldn't Julian Baggini be brutally murdered?

2:06 am  
Blogger Dominic said...

We need a new Swift

Viz's The Bottom Inspectors seems like a step in the right direction.

1:15 pm  
Blogger paddington said...

Indeed. Baggini's style of logic works brilliantly, just so long as there aren't any people in the world.

Of course, some of these shit-slinging bastards reach political office. Leafing through this week's Camden New Journal, one learns that the Council has had its application to evict a mother of seven (who presumably should have eaten at least five of them at birth) from her home turned down by the High Court, who described the application as "grotesque". The Council has also applied for an ASB injunction against one of her children, who is 10. As an aside, one of the sons recently assaulted a Tory Councillor, who has taken to publicly denouncing vulnerable people as "scumbags".

Meanwhile, because Camden's tenants voted against an ALMO a few years back, the government refuses to fund any improvements to the Council's housing. The Council is therefore forced to sell its most valuable properties to fund the works. So the stock keeps dwindling, its quality deteriorates, and we regress 150 years by creating a new patchwork of slums. And whose fault is this? Thatcher's perhaps? The Labour government, for its refusal to fund social housing? The Lib-Con alliance in Camden for giving into it? Of course not - it's the fault of the tenants themselves!

Try that for logic, Baggini.

7:45 pm  
Blogger Paul S. said...

This isn't as relevant to the discussion here, but Momus has been writing about Brutalism for the NYTimes blog lately:

12:03 pm  
Blogger Pisces Iscariot said...

As a newcomer to England (a middle aged South African who has lived for 14 years in Glasgow) I am deeply peturbed by the way the English 'working classes' kowtow to royalty and the Conservative ethic - Scottish working class has far more widespread socialist leanings.
The Untermenchen (Thatchers bastard children) on the other hand hold no allegance to the crown.

7:24 pm  
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