July 11, 2005

Channel 4 Documentary

Writing about web page http://www.channel4.com/history/

Last night I watched an excellent documentary on The History of the Working Class (Channel 4). Written and presented by Michael Collins (who grew up in inner-city London), the documentary tried to work out why the general consensus on the British working classes has sunk so low. Collins asked, 'Why have the salt of the earth become the scum of the earth?' The conclusions were interesting and seemed to based around a number of factors:

1. Inner city planners.
2. The portrayal of working class aspirations during the Thatcher government e.g. Harry Enfield – 'Loadsa Money'
3. Newspapers putting an entire class on trial for the sins of a minority within.

It was very interesting to see some kind of analysis of class-based prejudice as this is often ignored. I feel that a certain prejudice manifests itself through the use of terms like 'chav', which are demeaning to working class people.

- 15 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Nah, 'chav' refers to the non–working class.

    11 Jul 2005, 20:49

  2. Thank you for that intelligent comment.

    11 Jul 2005, 23:08

  3. Ed has a point. As far as people who are in the working class are concerned, chavs are not working class because many claim benefits with no intention of getting jobs. It's a minority but it erks those of us who work hard to get something. Not all people on benefits are chavs, obviously, but many people on benefits are trying to do something about it. Just a pity the chav–slagging newspapers of the middle classes don't seem to differentiate like those of us on the ground.

    12 Jul 2005, 11:41

  4. I take your point which makes much more sense to me than Edward's. It seems that the word 'chav' means a number of things to different people. It derives from 'Council Housed And Dangerous', which makes no mention of benefits etc. I agree with what you say about the newspapers though.

    Perhaps we need to take back the meaning of chav just as groups took back words like 'queer' and remade them as positive terms.

    12 Jul 2005, 11:47

  5. What I find interesting is the fact that there are so many subtle factors in 'chavdom' that the mainstream media haven't picked up on. Where I grew up (the North West near Manchester and Liverpool) they were, and in the main still are, called "scallies" and have a different fashion sense (tribal uniform?) to chavs I've seen in the Midlands. No one in the papers seems to have noticed this which smacks of a lack of understanding which can lead to the points you made (and which would appear to have been made in the documentary). I'm all for reclaiming words but strangely the people who understand chavs best, the non–chav working class who grow up around them, might be a bit hostile at the moment to such a concept. Personally I'd never call myself a chav/scally as the connotations are extremely negative amongst those I grew up with. The 'queer' reclamation, a success of modern times, differs here as homosexuality transcends class. Depressing to think in the 21st century we have this sort of class thing so ingrained.

    I wish I'd seen that documentary but alas I have no TV at the moment.

    12 Jul 2005, 11:55

  6. "Thank you for that intelligent comment."

    Why thank you, I do my best :–)

    My point, badly expressed I admit, was that many people who would be called 'working class' would hate to be associated with the group we refer to as chavs. The 'working class' traditionally aspired to a degree of respectability: they aimed to save money, to own their own home, to educate themselves, to sit the family around a table for dinner.

    This is a million miles away from 'chavs', for whom most of these concepts are completely alien.

    The old working class, regrettably, is dying. This is probably a result of the decline of industry, of religion and of the family. There are still some out there who aspire to a better life, but it is getting harder and harder for them to get it[1]. Much as it pains me to say it, we are as a society becoming more and more polarised.

    [1] For example, we see this in the ideologically–driven assault on grammar schools and private–school assisted places, two systems which benefited intelligent poor kids more than anybody else.

    13 Jul 2005, 22:13

  7. There's also the fact that a lot of families are leaving the working class as they have actually earned enough, and have white collar enough jobs, to be called middle class. Upward mobillity will sap the numbers of the class below.

    14 Jul 2005, 00:22

  8. Yes I understand what you mean about working class values, but I worry that upper and middle class people who have little contact with the working classes, tar and feather a whole class with a label. I was talking to a friend of mine from a working class Welsh valley town the other day about the word 'chav' and he said simply, 'but we're not chavs'. To him the word 'chav' referred to a specific group within working class communities, but I worry that it is sometimes used in more general way.

    15 Jul 2005, 16:10

  9. John Humphries

    I thought it suffered from what was once described as romantic workerism. Collins seemed to be more worried about what other people thought of him and his grandparents than considering the wider issues– still maybe thats journalists for you.

    20 Jul 2005, 20:47

  10. There is an unwritten rule about using the personal when trying to be 'objective', but I think the point is that Collins does not try to be 'objective'. It was a coloured and partial view.

    21 Jul 2005, 09:49

  11. Pinko

    Can I pick up on a point made by Edward: 'The old working class, regrettably, is dying'.

    Surely, if you are working class, you want to move upwards to a 'better' way of life. Why should achieving this be regrettable?

    The working class is not regressing, though you could argue there are segments being left behind.

    04 Jan 2006, 03:33

  12. David Polson

    I think you are getting the issues of Chavs and Class mixed up. Maybe the two are connected and coming from a deprived, low income environment can encourage Chavness. Being a Chav is more about having a lack of fashion sense, being easily influenced by your peers, having no motivation to better yourself, low intelligence, being intimidating towards other people and being unable to pose for a photograph without sticking one or two fingers up. Being poor doesn't make someone a Chav. Chavs are of no use to society and draining the wellfare state dry. You hang around any housing estate these days and see if the working class are "the salt of the Earth".

    27 Apr 2006, 23:22

  13. It's interesting that you say this David. I would not feel so ambivalent about the chav label if it was not connected with class as you say. I guess the problem is that it means different things to different people.

    You do contradict yourself though. First you say that being a chav has nothing to do with class, then you say that chavs are draining the welfare state. Poorer people depend on welfare, hence chavs are poor people hence chavs are working class.

    As for the comment about housing estates – it's easy to bunch everyone into one category, but actually it isn't that simple. I grew up around housing estates as a kid in Wales and all I can say is that people are people wherever you go.

    30 Apr 2006, 10:52

  14. David Polson

    People are people where ever you go but I think there has been a deline in moral values and repect for the law which has been highlighted by the Chavs.

    I'm not contradicting myself as the two issues are not directly linked. Chavs make up a minority of people claiming on the welfare state and Im sure most working class people are lovely.

    I think we all just have better memories of how people used to be when we were kids.

    26 Jun 2006, 14:32

  15. stella stuart

    Very interesting debate….I'm sorry to have missed this interesting programme. Does anyone have any idea if it will be repeated?

    please get back to me on britcoun@yahoo.com


    11 Jul 2006, 15:40

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