It is with a mixture of glee and mildly creeped-out omniscience that I introduce to you, people who read this, the newest word I have learned, and which has me conflicted between twittering with glee and being revulsed at just how classist our society is/has become/has always been/and so am I.
Yes, along with its other many cousins (neds, scallies, white trash?) the word aims to select and classify some subsector of socially-disadvantaged (i.e. poor) people who want to emulate the hip-hop and rap culture and its fascination for bling– as well as that subsector’s apparent love of domestic disputes and athletic equipment, among other accessories.
Here is where I hit the crossroads:
Classist/social-segregator/Breeder-hater self: Hey! Chavs sound just like those people I see around all the time, where the guys are wearing the wife-beaters and the girls are looking chunky, yet spandexed and tired and despondent and trailing their five children around, who probably have the most misspelled, pathetic-sounding names on the planet! Oh God, are those people gross/annoying/unprioritized/scummy/likely to be on welfare, or what? Ugh! Don’t get too close to me, gross people, because I can still smell the King Cobra or the Mickey’s 40 and the Skoal on “y’alls” breath. *shudder*
Striving-to-be-a-better-person/more-liberal-than-libertarian/don’t-want-to-get-my-ass-kicked self: It seems to me that people of a lower socioeconomic background make a good target because they have no voice and no one to truly defend them. I think it’s truly appalling to idolize rap artists and their extravagances and then fault people who look up to them and have their own dreams of getting out of the ghetto by calling them all manner of insulting names and even devising a scale to identify said people. I honestly thought that the days of making fun of struggling or underprivileged people were over, but I guess we’re all wrong.
The problem is that I am thinking all of those things at the same time. And the bigger problem is that I do find the dress ridiculous and yet, completely stereotyped– no one is exactly like that; and no one who fits most of the profile at any one time is necessarily from a lower socioeconomic background. The problem is that not only in the UK but around the world, we seem to be taking lifestyle cues from a culture that encourages –or at least immortalizes and memorializes– misogyny, violence and wasteful excess. And the problem with that is that it’s so over the top and excessive that it’s like watching a bad car wreck on the highway: you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help gawking admiringly and maybe even hoping you see… what? Blood? A stray limb? A bruised person? A cadaver? Yes and gut-wrenchingly no. It’s all in fun on both sides of the metaphor, until you truly get what you “want.” (Because, seriously…. even if Biggie’s first album was called “Ready To Die”, do you really think he was ready, let alone truly expecting to die at the height of his career? NO FUCKING WAY! Besides, that’s why he rolled with his bodyguards. Duh.)
We live –and have always lived– in a society moved and seduced by money. Even when there was no such thing as money, human beings gravitated toward the greener pasture and around the better hunter. It’s natural: in the simplest survival terms, no stuff=no life. But in our increasingly more “useless-stuff” saturated communities, the pursuit of happiness is trampled over and over again by the pursuit of the cell phone with the better text capabilities and built-in camera. But who is the better among us? Is it the person who feels superior to the masses and criticizes their need for more things while snootily combing the clearance racks for real adidas gear? Is it the person who buys her Louis Vuitton knockoff from the swapmeet vendor for cheaper so she can go get her acrylics done with the silk fill that is more expensive itself? Or is it the young kid with a neck heavy with gold chains, trying to fit into his neighborhood so he doesn’t get beaten up? Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe it’s the trust-fund baby who set the trend six months ago and is moving on to the next boyfriend and extra-skimpy outfit, knowing that if she doesn’t enjoy her youth, there may be no other time for her to make waves. Or maybe the Trustafarian who’s diggin’ the new trend, mon. Or perhaps it’s the savvy nerdy journalist, trying to promote the style of the Next Big Thing so he can move out of his nasty, tiny, and yet not-rent-controlled crappy studio.
I don’t think any of us are immune to the seduction of Chav-dom or White-Trash-icity because we are all a little in awe and adoration of the culture. And to paraphrase Donny and Marie, not only are we all a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll, but we’re all a bit trashy, flashy, rude, crude and Chavvy-savvy inside.