The ‘Chicken and Egg’ of Owen’s ‘Chavs’

ChavetteAs many who know me will attest; I’ve never been the biggest fan of overt socialism. In fact I find it difficult to support or believe in the extremities of any political ideology. Perhaps more importantly (especially in this case); I find the high levels of hypocrisy within socialism repulsive. Political beliefs that are too often presented/used/abused as an ethos as a bedrock for our society and it’s political system.

Far too much ‘equality’ conveniently espoused by individuals in an attempt to build their personal popularity. By people ever more affluent than those they profess to be working for… from both sides of the political divide!

In addition, many of those with socialist tendencies often formulate their beliefs and opinions based around little more than pure jealousy. An anger aimed at anyone who happens to possess more in life than the hater does, irrespective of reason.

This (in part) tends to be dependent upon the background and demeanour of the individual espousing their ‘socialist’ credentials. In simple terms; it’s the notion that people only have what they have because of birth right and/or privilege. It’s an easy concept to adhere to; especially amongst the less affluent and/or less well-educated. But that, in itself, is also one of the factors used to provide ‘evidence’ and support for the claim. However it’s not a notion I can or would easily subscribe to, despite always having possessed that form of ‘duty’ towards the well-being of fellow human beings.

Thankfully, I’m one of those types who, without always being in total agreement, can usually accept (and try to understand) the views and opinions of others. I can also accept and respect anyone’s personal choices of appearance, language, religion or behaviours… until any of those prove to have a negative impact upon others! My desire to read Chavs: The demonization of the working class should therefore be understandable.

This critically acclaimed work by Owen Jones, a self-proclaimed left-wing commentator (and political historian), has to be worthy of consideration when trying to understand the politics and social makeup of our society today…doesn’t it?

It’s a ‘bestselling’ and highly political ‘investigation’ into the myth and reality of working-class life in contemporary Britain. Many, probably more well-read than I have previously praised the book, so it would be wrong of me to comment without reading it… something some are too easily prepared to do.

A “Superb and Angry” book says Polly Tonybee, it’s “a fiery reminder of how the system has failed the poor” says Peter Hoskin. Chavs was  a previous ‘Guardian book of the year’ and is described as; a “passionate and well-documented denunciation of the upper-class contempt for the proles that has recently become so visible in the British class system” (Eric Hobsbawm).

@owenjones84Jones describes himself as a ‘fourth generation socialist’ who was previously a trade-union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher for the Labour Party. He also sits on the National Advisory Panel of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS), a left-wing think tank. All those factors are worthy of note prior delving between the covers of the book however; they’re also not ones which I would (intentionally) alow to influence my opinion about what I read.

Reading my old posts within this blog, you will be aware that I have used the word ‘Chav’ from time to time. The term is considered by some to be a politically incorrect stereotype or, as Jones believes, a major consideration as a causation factor in today’s modern class warfare. An often used and perhaps a little too convenient descriptive term used by many… Mea culpa!

Chav: a pejorative epithet used in Britain to describe a particular stereotype. The word was popularised in the first decade of the 21st century by the British mass media to refer to an anti-social youth subculture in the United Kingdom (wikipedia)

I’m not sure how you feel but, I’m one of those who always finds it difficult to accept the opinions and views of others, when their ‘expertise’ is based upon limited or assimilated information. I’m a firm believer in the fact; experience, in addition to knowledge is critical in forming valid informed opinion. That said, the historical knowledge and references presented by Jones are plentiful. Whether some of them are evidentially worthy in his social examination or indeed, how he uses some of them to prove a particular political point, is somewhat questionable.

The core of history is narrative and biography. And the way history has been presented in the curriculum for the last 25 years is very different. The importance of knowledge has been downgraded. (David Starkey)

If an understanding of political history alone is enough to formulate any valid opinion, why then is Jones so disparaging of the views of others? His verbal attacks on the controversial (some say xenophobic) historian David Starkey (during a recent TV debate), was a case in point. Could it be that here and elsewhere, Jones has a tendency for resorting to that inherent biological response of fight-or-flight…attack is, after all, supposedly the best form of defence.

The fact that Jones is well-educated and well-read, particularly on political issues, immediately sets him above so many others. The type prepared to shout about their political ideals. But could his views also be based mainly upon his personal upbringing and/or, be tempered by his relatively youthful and petulant enthusiasm for political ideology?

In simple terms, Jones believes that Britain suffers from a modern form of ‘class’ warfare. A system whereby the vast majority of all our social and economic ills in this country are as a direct result of right-wing political miss-management of the nation. It’s all Margaret Thatcher’s fault, ably (but only partly) assisted by Tony Blair and his ‘New Labour’ movement.

Unsurprisingly, I tend to disagree with his viewpoint. I can subscribe to some of his observations about what is wrong with our society however; in my opinion it is far too simplistic to suggest that political ideals and/or dogma are at the route of all that is wrong today. For me our society, and it’s politics, have evolved around individuals, as opposed to being what actually shaped those individuals.

To my mind far grater causation factors are the issues surrounding parenting, or the lack of it. Our criminal justice system and it’s inability to reform and/or reduce recidivism and finally, the quality of our education system. A system that is all about statistics and training to pass tests, as opposed to providing knowledge and education.

All of which are, in my opinion, classless. I’m convinced, like many others no doubt, I can cite numerous examples of good (and bad) people. The ones who have matured into the exact opposite of that stereotypically expected from their family and social backgrounds.

I know it’s something of the age-old ‘Chicken & Egg’ argument however; I’m convinced that self-interest, self-promotion and self-importance are the major factors at play. Yes (unrealistic) aspirations relating to wealth and fame, all be it that they have been aided by politics haven’t helped, the simple word ‘self’ is the key. Almost every part of our life today is directed by, governed by and judged by matters of self.

Since post war regrowth, we’ve had several generations born into a world without boundaries and the inherited or learned values that were once common place. A world where service to others and the needs of anyone less fortunate than us always comes second. The kind of “Fuck You I’m OK” mentality that sadly abounds at all levels of business, politics, and government, let alone within our society.

Despite the erudite, somewhat petulant, exuberance of Jones, his work is undoubtedly a rallying cry of crusading proportions. One designed to fire up and enhance (perhaps hopefully renew) an erstwhile truly socialist movement in Britain. He does however have a tendency towards the “lefty rent-a-gob” descriptive applied to him by others. Several have also suggested that “he uses his politics as a tool to raise his own personal profile”. True or not, I can fully understand why these assumptions have previously been made.

I did agree with one of Jones’ most simple observation however; our society has been miss-managed for decades… with that in mind I think I’ll probably be reading his follow-up… The Establishment: And how they get away with it.

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