Brockley Station, 7.45am today

On the northbound platform, an elderly anti-capitalist demonstrator was being harangued by a deeply unpleasant hoodie, who was accusing him of begging and tearing his leaflets in to a shower of confetti.

Two things struck us about this unfortunate vignette. The first was that the irony in the fact that the anti-capitalist (whose newspapers had an alarmist front page decrying the use of 'big brother' technology at Terminal 5) eventually scared off the kid by telling him that his actions were being recorded on the station's CCTV system and he could face a £50 fine.

The second was that plenty of people on the station stood up for the guy against against the hoodie. Brockley commuters are neither cowering, nor atomistic. If gentrification means more people like that and fewer people like the hoodie, then we welcome it with open arms.

120 comments:

Headhunter said...

My thoughts exactly! People bemoan gentrification like it's a plague slowly spreading across areas like Brockley. It is sad that often local quirks are lost in this process, but if you ask me, by and large it is a good thing and generally civilising. Bring it on. Out, out damn chavs...

Headhunter said...

My thoughts exactly! People bemoan gentrification like it's a plague slowly spreading across areas like Brockley. It is sad that often local quirks are lost in this process, but if you ask me, by and large it is a good thing and generally civilising. Bring it on. Out, out damn chavs...

ElijahBailey said...

"generally civilising"

Nice. What a lovely attitude you have towards other people...

Anonymous said...

'Hoodie' is OK but not 'pikey'. Please take note.

Brockley Nick said...

@Elijah - what's wrong with that? It's true, isn't it? We would (rightly) condemn any attempt to construct poor ghettoes in London (like they have on the outsirts of Paris and many other cities) because we recognise that this creates enormous social problems. But then the opposite must hold true also - we should encourage the more affluent in to traditionally poor areas, to encourage greater integration. This also brings more local spending power and political acitivism, which supports a better quality of local environment, rather than empty shop fronts and neglected public spaces.

This process creates a more civilsed place for us all to live.

@Anon - please let's not get in to that debate again. And for the record, he was actually wearing a hood.

Headhunter said...

Elijah, what's wrong with "generally civilising"? In my opinion it is, would you consider the event that Nick describes at Brockley Stn as civilised? If Brockley were already civilised would the council feel the need to plaster the area with "They want your i-pod/sat nav" signs". In what way have I offended you? I stand by my statement, the sooner these undesirables (pikeys, hoodies, chavs, whatever clan they hail from) are out the better!

Headhunter said...

Elijah, what's wrong with "generally civilising"? In my opinion it is, would you consider the event that Nick describes at Brockley Stn as civilised? If Brockley were already civilised would the council feel the need to plaster the area with "They want your i-pod/sat nav" signs". In what way have I offended you? I stand by my statement, the sooner these undesirables (pikeys, hoodies, chavs, whatever clan they hail from) are out the better!

Headhunter said...

Oooh I love a good rant on a Tuesday morning... Just thought I'd say that. Thanks Nick for this wonderful conduit of all my pent up negativity at having to be back in the office after the lovely long weekend.... Sorry that my posts appear to be coming up twice at the moment....

ElijahBailey said...

Maybe it is because I study Anthropology, but to me 'civilising' strikes me as having a culturally imperialist tone - the dressing up of prejudice towards a group of people in noble terms.

I saw your comment, especially in association with the last line, as very much aimed at the people of Brockley, and that is what I found offensive.

Headhunter said...

I suppose it depends on how you view the words civilising and civilisation. I'm not asking for a return to the days of the Empire and I am not particularly targetting any specific income sector, class group or colour/race, I would just prefer not to have bright yellow since splattered across the area, to have to listen to obnoxious idiots on the train/bus or around the station shouting, ranting and slugging from cans of cheap lager.

Of course gentrification is no guarantee that this sort of behaviour will disappear, I have seen some pretty nasty Hackett-wearing specimens out in areas like Islington and Clapham, however in my experience it generally helps.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it is because I study Anthropology"
Never a good line...

Tom said...

Is there a prejudice against anthropologists?

Anonymous said...

only ones who use the line, "maybe it is because I study Anthropology, but...."

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with Nick/Headhunter more strongly - I'm pregnant and got offered Cannibis o/s Wetherspoon's yesterday!

Anonymous said...

How much was it?

brockley mutha said...

@ anon 12.56

white middle class men, as a group is one of the largest consumers of illegal drugs, if not the largest. so gentrification may well increase drug use in brockley.

Monkeyboy said...

But the worse they do is bore each other to tears yacking about property prices and schools for little Harry and Jemima after a post dinner party line.

On a more serious note, the little old Marxist at Brockley station is a bit of an institution hope he's not scared away by the bully (of whatever social class) If only all revolutionaries we're as sweet.

lb said...

"A more civilised place for us all to live". Well, apart from any poorer residents who thanks to 'gentrification' tend to get shunted off to the very "poor ghettoes" you also claim to condemn.

As for not attacking "any specific income sector [or] class group", perhaps you'd care to speculate on what the term "gentrification" means exactly? Do you really think it contains no income- or class-specific component?

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that poor man was attacked by some nut. Brockley station attracts all sorts of nutters, its embarassing. Me and my friends were pelted with stuff (stones i think) from the footbridge at Brockley station last Friday night. We were coming back on the last train after a few drinks in town having worked a hard week. One little scumbag grabbed my friend by the throat when he shouted at them. They were waiting for anyone to react so they could start a fight. We had to intervere in case they knifed my mate or something. They all fitted the general stereotype of being male, 16-22 and wearing sportsgear with hoodies up... is it any wonder people generalize, when these yobs nearly all look like this. They get their kicks from fear and intimidation.

When we called the police they spent 45 minutes asking questions and then ended by saying they would send someone to drive past. Uh, 45 minutes had passed so these losers would have moved on to their next victims at that stage.

This lawless society needs to be sorted out as everyone i speak to seems to be getting pretty sick of all this lack of respect by yobbo teens out to cause trouble for entertainment. I reckon they should fine the parents or stop their benefits. Its their responsibility after all.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb - can you please be more specific about how, in the case of Brockley, you think gentrification would "shunt" anyone out? Would yuppies force the council to sell their stock of social housing? Would fried chicken become impossible to buy in SE4? So far, I am not aware of any displacement - the new shops that have opened haven't replaced popular or useful places for the area's more traditional residents. The Talbot's being done up, but that's actually saving it from the threat of closure and it's being done by a local management team who want to encourage the existing clientele, but bring in new people as well.

Please be specific about your concerns. Otherwise it's just classist rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

interesting statistic Brockley Mutha but I don't s'pose it will be these middle class men who offer to sell it to me in the street. To answer anons q - I decided not to ask about prices this time (maybe after I've had the baby- JOKE!)

Headhunter said...

Well, LB, perhaps I'm being a little selfish, but if gentrification means that a few "poorer residents" are "shunted off" to the ghettos then so be it. I'll be happy as long as I can safely cycle or walk the streets of Brockers without being assaulted or abused.

As far as I'm concerned, gentrification means that Brockley would see a more varied population, as Nick points out, the area has large sections of local authority and housing association residential provision, so quite frankly I doubt these "poorer residents" you mention will disappear completely.

Let's hope it's just the chavs/hoodies/pikeys whoget the boot

Tressillian James said...

Gentrification helps I'm sure - but it seems the only thing that will rid us from this sort of behaviour is effective policing, education, etc etc. Not going to happen tomorrow is it? All signs are that we are seeing the rise of the teenage thug.

The really heartening thing about the post is that other commuters stepped in to help. It's really positive to see that people are willing to stand up and be counted. That's what will change Brockley.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here stopped to acknowledge how many poor people live in Brockley? The place won't change, even if white professionals buy up the larger houses and flats.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's alarmist to describe the Terminal 5 technology as 'Big Brother'-like. Fingerprints and face scans as a matter of course. Whether you support it or oppose it, it's definitely a big further step in surveillance.

Brockley Nick said...

I know it's the direction that the debate has gone in, but the original article wasn't supposed to be a poor v rich issue. Neither the victim and the aggressor appeared to be well off. The people who intervened didn't appear to be
masters of the universe either - just normal people of indeterminate income.

The point I was trying to make is that the "commuter classes" tend to get caricatured as "city workers" (used pejoratively), disinterested in the local community and so terrified of crime that they retreat to gated enclaves at the end of the day. It's a lazy and unfair stereotype, as the incident showed.

mark said...

How do you know that 'the hoodie' hadn't just moved here and the people who stood up to him hadn't lived in Brockley for donkey's years?

It's the 'us and them' attitude that sticks in people's throat.

People who do anti-social things aren't another species, they're part of the same society of which you're part.

A broad social mix in an area can only be a good thing, and I think by-and-large Brockley has that. talking about us the civilised people and them the hoodies and yobbos doesn't really help anyone.

'We', that is all of us in Brockley, have a problem with young people who behave in an unpleasant, threatening or criminal way.

Young people dress a particular way to send out a particular message, as we all do. To talk about hoodies or chavs is to recognise and add power to the meaning of those clothes and behaviour, perpetuating the young person's self image of power and notoriety.

Cheers,

Mark

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - I said the article was alarmist, not the term 'big brother'.

And you can argue about the cost and effectiveness of these technologies, but if we already require people to present a passport to get on a plane, then what's the philosophical difference? It's just another tool to achieve the same goal.

Anyway, if you don't find the irony funny, then that's fine. I did.

Headhunter said...

Personally I do not like to include these yobbos/chavs/hoodies etc etc in the greater community of Brockley and the sooner they're pushed out the better. As far as I am concerned anyone who behaves antisocially is not "we" or "us" but "them" and the sooner they are removed the better.

Of course Brockley has a wonderfully mixed residential community and of course people dress in certain ways to express themselves (in my youth I went through the all black, gothic phase). I am all for both of these. I am not "for" nasty unruly behaviour.

Excuse me for not having an all embracing, hug the hoodie, PC attitude to these individuals. By calling them yobs/hoodies/chavs I seek to ostracise. I have no time for them.

lb said...

[brockley nick]: The same way rising house prices push any poorer social group out. There's very little social mobility in the lower economic strata of British society; as such the children of poor parents are likely to remain in roughly the same economic group. Let's say they grew up in Brockley. Do you think they'd easily be able to afford to buy a home in the same area as their parents? Given that there's barely any 'social' housing left, do you perhaps expect them to all live in the same house until their parents die? If you admit "gentrification" exists, how do you think it works? If an area's gentrified, of course its economic balance has changed: poorer people have been displaced by more wealthy people. It's not just the same mix of people but with less fried chicken more hummus.

My point was you can't say "I've got nothing against the poor, but, hey, gentrification's great". Gentrification physically displaces the poor; and if you approve of it, then you have to admit that you approve of all its effects.

Mark, I agree entirely.

Anonymous said...

Nick, the word is 'uninterested', not 'disinterested'. The latter means impartial.

The anonymous one.

ElijahBailey said...

"It's the 'us and them' attitude that sticks in people's throat."

Exactly.

lb said...

[tresillian james]: Any idea what the crime rate in the Victorian 'rookeries' of London was like? In eighteenth-century Southwark? In the fifteenth-century City? Violence and crime fuelled by economic imbalance isn't exactly a new thing in this country. Yes, it's not nice, but if you move into what's still quite a rough area, it's something that you'll have to take account of.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb.

To take your points in turn...

Social housing:

There is quite a lot of social housing in Brockley.

People being priced out of an area:

I cannot afford to live in the area where I grew up (Westcombe Park), due to better off people than me and my parents discovering the area's charms. Did I rail against the injustice of it all and sneer at people who moveed in to the area? No, I moved to Brockley to make a new life for myself. Should I feel guilty because, having done so, I aspire to live in an area where you can buy hummus and fried chicken bones aren't routinely scattered on the pavements that I walk on?

How does "gentrification" work:

I agree with you - it's a change in an area's economic balance. But are you saying that an area which was once poor should always remain so? Areas, particularly in cities like London, are in a constant state of flux. As we know, Brockley's fine housing stock is the result of the fact that there was once a lot of wealth in the area. Should our predecessors have prevented social housing being built in Brockley because they didn't want any change in the economic balance of the area?

The point is, you talk about it like it's a zero-sum game. If there are winners, then there must be an equal number of losers. That's simply not true. Firstly, the housing stock is increasing (new ones being built, condemned old ones being restored, etc). Secondly, there are plenty of empty shops that can be filled without a single existing placebeing put out of business.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it's incredibly patronising to assume that rich and poor, new and old don't want many of the same things - safer streets, better quality public spaces, wider variety of shops, more engagement from the Council, etc. So 90% of the agenda is the same. But if people moving in to the area have more money to spend to support these shops and are fortunate enough to have the time, education, contacts and resources to bring other improvements (such as starting up new community groups, fundraising, etc) then everyone wins.

Brockley Nick said...

@the anonymous one

According to Dictionary.com...

Disinterested was originally used to mean “not interested, indifferent”; uninterested in its earliest use meant “impartial.” By various developmental twists, disinterested is now used in both senses. Uninterested is used mainly in the sense “not interested, indifferent.” It is occasionally used to mean “not having a personal or property interest.”

Many object to the use of disinterested to mean “not interested, indifferent.” They insist that disinterested can mean only “impartial”: A disinterested observer is the best judge of behavior. However, both senses are well established in all varieties of English, and the sense intended is almost always clear from the context.

;)

Headhunter said...

Perhaps I was a little harsh with my language, however my sentiment is, why should I consider the rights of someone who would quite happily bash me over the head and nick my i-pod? Why should I consider such an individual a member of my community? I stand by my comment that "they" do not deserve consideration in a civilised community. I would love to have the time to gather them all together, sit down and talk through their issues, however I don't so until they can take responsibility for their own actions and their actions' effects on the community at large, I have no time for them. It apears that LB and Elijah seek to include and believe that by including these people in society they will no longer wish to commit crime. Good luck with that. I was born and raised in Luton - crap town, went to school with some pretty nasty individuals. I never saw the "love all" approach work there.

I guess inevitably gentrification will cause property prices/rental prices to rise but it's highly unlikely that it will mean that Brockley will become an enclave of the white, wealthy classes (as it once was). I used to live in Islington and despite sky high property prices, which excluded me from that area, there was certainly a broad cross section of income bands and people from a variety of races all over Islington so do not fear for Brockley!

Tom said...

lb - it's hard to know what you are trying to argue for, though it is quite clear that you are trying to argue against something.

Nick's piece could be read as 'posh people are better behaved and as they move in to the area this will civilise Brockley', but I think this is unfair to Nick, particularly as he explicitly said (above) this is not what he meant.

He did use the term gentrification but it should be seen as a response to those that the 'incomers' to Brockley are 'City w*nkers' (I quote) who add nothing to the area and only care for themselves (and their olive-sellers.

Such views are fairly prevalent amongst the anti-gentrification posse, in my experience.

Tom said...

Nick has responded since I wrote my comment above!

lb said...

[brockley nick]: You may be surprised to find that I broadly agree with you on most, if not all, of your points. I agree that there's a constant process of economic flux, for example (Brockley, or the area east of the railway anyway, was once an upper middle class area). But I wasn't trying to attach any 'moral' content to this; I was making the point that you can't say "I like gentrification, but I have nothing against the poor", as headhunter seemingly attempted to do earlier on.

I also agree that most people want many of the same things. But I disagree that most people 'win' in the process of gentrification: that's not how the housing market works, or the economy in general (unless you subscribe to the ideas of supply-side economics, which I don't). And I can't see the point of claiming that all the community initiatives that a middle-class influx might being could benefit the less wealthy as well, if there aren't many of them around any more to enjoy them.

As for the social housing stock, it's a fraction of what it was.

lb said...

[tom]: They do add something to the area, but for the most part they add things for the benefit of themselves. It's not necessarily a conscious thing; it's just a fact.

What I'm arguing against is the idea, or the undercurrent in this discussion, that "gentrification benefits everybody". It doesn't. It benefits people like us, in some respects (though the middle class get squeezd by increasing property prices as well). I just don't like people stating that it's "good", or that it has any moral or ethical component: it's just a process with various effects which we should eb honest about.

Tom said...

I wonder exactly how many 'poor' people now own their own houses.

If they do, what does that mean for those trying to make political points about rich and poor?

Many of the middle-class incomers can't afford to buy any property, just like those in social housing.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb - well I don't disagree with much of what you say either - it's largely a question of balance and degree.

I don't believe that vast swathes of the current population will be dislocated and those that move out may not be sorry about it. My neighbour, for example, lives in social housing. She never ceases to tell me that she wants to move out of Brockley, because she's tired of crime, etc.

Of course, it's true that some people may find they have to move our of the area as a result of house price increases (although that's not entirely the same issue as "gentrification"), but I wouldn't consider them 'losers' or 'victims' any more than I consider myself a victim because I can't afford to live in Westcombe Park. I can't imagine ever being inspired to write a Westcombe Park Central, for a start.

I believe that the benefits of gentrification far outweigh the costs. But, regardless of whether that's true or not I agree there is no moral component to it. But I get tired of people (our friend Ross would be a good example) trying to create one and condemning people for trying to build a better life for themselves.

Headhunter said...

LB - I like gentrification and I DO have nothing against the poor. Why do I necessarily have to have something against the poor if I am for gentrification. I only have something against individuals who commit crime.

Tom said...

I find that here most discussions about gentrification focus on "how to make gentrification work for everybody", which is one of the best things about this site.

Gentrification brings in money and – often – people with skills and confidence to get things done. This is surely a resource that should be tapped, guided and drawn upon rather than rejected.

This is not to say that poorer people don't also have these skills, but dislocated communities and individuals in social housing and elsewhere can struggle in this regard, especially as they lack the financial resources.

Be that as it may, those that argue against gentrification often find themselves making the odd argument that well-meaning incomers with money and community spirit are not welcome.

If you know Brockley as I do you'll notice that rich and poor do rub alongside each other and there's a community spirit that does seem to reach beyond class stereotypes.

It's not perfect (nothing is), but surely that's worth fostering and encouraging, rather than attacking those that try to do something for the area.

Brockley Nick said...

I think Tom has put it perfectly.

lb said...

[headhunter]: Simple, really - gentrification is the replacement of poorer social strata by those more wealthy. You admit that you approve of something that results in the poor's removal?

Of course, I'm not even getting into whether 'gentrification' actually reduces crime; that's a whole other argument.

lb said...

[tom]: Which is precisely why I think that simply rejoicing that the Burberry-wearing, fried-chicken-eating 'underclass' (or whatever casual stereotypes one cares to throw around) will soon be replaced by lovely, helpful, cosy middle-class people isn't necessarily helpful either.

Headhunter said...

LB - I'm afraid that as you say, the poorer social strata may be displaced to some small extent, as I was displaced from Islington, however I maintain that I have nothing against the poor as long as they, or anyone else for that matter, do not make life unpleasant for the community in general.

As Nick (and I previously) have pointed out, Brockley's conservation area was never originally built up to be social housing, if it returns to what it was originally designed to do - house the wealthy - then so be it.

As you say, the other argument was separate, that gentrification would help displace street criminals from Brockley. Although I do not have any hard facts to support this, I believe this would be the case.

Kate said...

I'm not going to get embroiled in the wider discussion (I'll save that for the next BC drinks!) but just a quick point on social housing - there may be a fair bit of it but it's still extremely unavailable. The problem is that once people get a socially rented property, they don't tend to move on, so the turnover rate is very, very low. Anyone who has tried to apply for social housing will know this - you have to be extremely needy and vulnerable to be fast-tracked up the waiting list (which is in most boroughs thousands of names long).

So 'volume of social housing' doesn't equal 'availability of social housing'.
The kids growing up in Brockley today will find it hard to get a tenancy near their families; in fact they'll find it hard to get a tenancy at all.

Tressillian James said...

LB - I'm not sure anyone is rejoicing that the 'the Burberry-wearing, fried-chicken-eating 'underclass' (or whatever casual stereotypes one cares to throw around) will soon be replaced by lovely, helpful, cosy middle-class people' - and I know that I certainly wasn't.

LB - please note in my original post, I wasn't saying that gentrification was the answer at all - I think I mentioned education and policing. Yes, I knew I was moving into a rough area (I don't see it as that rough, though) - but I shouldn't accept it blindly, should I? I'm going to praise those who stand up for any victim of crime - as I did in my previous post.

Tom said...

Two things – first, 'the poor' are not a single social and cultural class, so making conclusions based upon that assumption is clearly difficult.

Second, is there anything really that wrong with celebrating community action (commuters protecting a man being attacked) and condemning violent criminal behaviour?

Surely that is more helpful than criticising the language used in the condemnation?

Brockley Nick said...

@Kate - I bow to your unquestionable knowledge of this issue, but surely if the debate is about the economic balance between richer and poorer, then volume is the key issue, rather than availability.

Availability is a problem in the private sector too, no? Private housing is rationed by price, social housing by waiting lists.

Tressillian James said...

Interesting point Kate, about social housing availability. I was recently speaking to the Regenter Housing Officer for Tressillian, Breakspears, Wickham and Thyritt (sp.?) Roads; and was told that there is a high number of unauthorised tenants. In her own words 'suprisingly high'. Regenter are working to free these flats up for those on the waiting lists - but I was told it is a long process

G said...

I'm amused by the assumption here that this is a kind of private conversation for the property-owning middle-class residents of Brockley. All sides in this discussion seem to be assuming so, perhaps with good reason. I've seen no one say 'I live in social housing in Brockley and the way I see it is...'. It would be interesting, Nick, to do a survey of site users on their property 'status' - ie. is this blog, great as it is, only frequented by the extra virgin brigade? This isn't a criticism as such. It'd be interesting to get some clue. Are blogs and online communities such as this largely middle-class phenomena, another tool to get their grievances heard while others are (maybe voluntarily or through lack of resources) excluded? I'm speaking as a nice middle-class boy myself. But I suspect that these fora, while potentially a great democratic tool for people to be heard, are not being used evenly across social classes, and are a new variation of middle-class voices being heard disproportionately by those in power.

lb said...

I think the few long-term studies done have broadly shown that 'gentrification' causes a gradual (though not sharp) decrease in crimes against the person, and property crime remains largely unchanged, because the more wealthy offer a more tempting target. But correct me if I'm wrong.

G said...

Kate's very useful comments above are, I suspect, the exception that proves the rule!

lb said...

[tom] I see your point, but the language used in the condemnation is part of the problem. Crime is a product of the dynamic within a whole society; not just because of a simple state of 'exclusion' (if you take the more classically liberal view) or of entrenched criminality (in the straight conservative view) affecting one particular group. Our attitudes are an integral part of the relationship, and it's only by starting to realise the implications of this (something of a vain hope, I admit) that we could ever eradicate this kind of behaviour.

Kate said...

Nick - yes of course there are still plenty of social tenants around. I was responding more to back up lb's comment:
'Given that there's barely any 'social' housing left, do you perhaps expect them to all live in the same house until their parents die?'
To which you responded:
'There is quite a lot of social housing in Brockley.'

My point was to say that you are both correct; there is still plenty of social housing in Brockley, but it is also extremely difficult for today's potential social housing tenants to secure a home in Brockley.

I could go on to write about the impact of the Right To Buy, how most London boroughs are now housing tenants outside London because of the money they can make by selling their well-located central stock (housing assocations are doing this too), and how the vast waiting lists mean that social housing is increasingly becoming a form of tenure that's only available to the most vulnerable people in society, thus creating pockets of really serious social problems ('residualisation') ... But I'd bore you all to death ...

lb said...

[kate] Far from it, I could talk about the short-sightedness of Right to Buy, and its statutory basis, for hours :)

Brockley Nick said...

@G - it's a question that interests me greatly too. I have done some polls along these lines. For example, polls about the kinds of jobs readers do and the length of time they've lived in the area. Use the search function to look for "poll" if you're interested in the results.

I also know a certain amount from the traffic stats and it's certainly true that blogging tends to be a middle class thing.

I don't think (and have never claimed) that the views expressed on this site can be a representative sample of the wider community - however, I think it's a lot more representative for the purposes of local consultation than more traditional forms of engagement with community groups, which are often woefully small. This is not a criticism of those groups, it's a reflection of the power of the internet to engage a wider audience, rapidly.

As for whether anyone is excluded, of course, some people have limited access to the internet (though public libraries, etc offer free access to all) but no form of public engagement is perfect - many of the same people

I think it's important that anyone should feel comfortable posting on here and I try to use (and encourage) appropriate, non-discriminatory language at all times, as well as covering a broad range of topics.

Occasionally, the blog is accused of being hung up on bourgeouis concerns, but I think that overlooks the wide range of topics the site has addressed.

I have rarely, if ever, rejected anyone's suggestion for a story for the site. So if there are issues that are not being addressed which are important to local people, then I am always open to ideas.

lb said...

There's a related point in that the pressures on rents and on prices caused historically by Right to Buy, and by the deregulation of the private rented sector, have affected us all.

Headhunter said...

LB - gentrification itself is surely a very gradual process. Certainly, although it may seem that Brockley is about to be submerged by the "extra virgin brigade" as "g" puts it, I really don't think this is the case. Consequently crime is not likely to dramatically decrease all of a sudden

TJ - regarding the availability of social housing in Brockley and illegal sub-letting, this was a problem in Islington too. I lived in an ex-LA flat but there were certainly people in the building who were not true, needy council tenants. I suppose this is increasingly likely to happen as an area becomes more desirable and rents increase in the private sector.


LB - "Crime is a product of the dynamic within a whole society", this liberal view that crime is society's fault is just a joke. That youths should be forced to mug each other for their mobiles and i-pods is simply not true.

Although the "gap" between rich and poor is widening, I doubt it is so wide in Brockley that poor people are forced out (by circumstances dictated by society) onto the streets to rob the rich (or should I say middle income commuters, simply trying to eke a living to pay mortgages/rent on a 2 bed flat) simply to survive! For that reason "they" do not get any sympathy from me and need to take responsibility for their actions.

lb said...

[headhunter] I wasn't saying that youths were 'forced' to mug each other; that's the 'exclusion' view, the classical liberal view I mentioned elsewehere. It's not that simple; neither is it as simple as the conservative view you seem to be putting forward.

I'm saying there are a whole series of dynamics, here. Our society, such as it is, needs a low-earning class to function. It also functions on the desire for acquisition; without either of these things, our lives would not exist as we currently know them. The two taken together almost inevitably produce crime; it's a product of a particular type of western, late-capitalist society. I'm not saying that this is a 'bad' society or a 'good' one, incidentally; I'm just saying this is how it works, and just shrilly demanding that 'people behave differently' isn't going to get you anywhere.

I'm not in any way stating that gentrification 'forces' the poor out onto the streets to rob people. I'm saying that gentrification displaces the poor (or, as Kate identifies, their extended families in particular) creating yet more social instability. The robbing will always happen as long as social divisions of any kind exist, and gentrification isn't going to eradicate those.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I suppose you also think 'fortuitously' has come to mean 'fortunately'.

lb said...

Oh, and [brockley nick], to go back to the original post - if Brockley's residents are not atomistic, and show concern for other people, then I agree wholeheartedly; it's a great thing.

I'm just not sure that gentrification necessarily makes such an attitude any more prevalent. It might, or it might not; we can't really say.

Headhunter said...

LB - Certainly society needs a low earning class to function but it does not need a criminal class. The fact that criminality has existed since time immemorial does not make this any better or make me believe that the poor dears need my sympathy.

Mother nature has made us all – human beings, animals even plants – competitive. We fight to survive, this is innate in all of us. Animals fight each other for food, however we humans have of course constructed close knit societies and set up complex networks to allow distribution of limited resources without reliance on survival of the fittest or sink or swim mentality. We also arguably have the intelligence to see potential effects of any given action including crime. “They” know they are doing wrong.

I realise that me demanding that people behave differently is not going to make any difference, I am simply saying that I have no time or sympathy or time for anyone causing upset and anguish for any other person.

lb said...

[headhunter]: Yes, I know you feel this; you've made that abundantly clear. You're against petty criminals - indeed I suspect we all are. But we're getting away from the central point: I still agree with elijahbailey, and think that your comments regarding 'civilisation' have an implicit content regarding class, income, and almost certainly race.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Hang on LB - you can't start saying Headhunter is making implicit remarks about race - that's a low card to play. Indeed - aren't you making implicit remarks re Headhunter's race?

Keep the argument to the point

Anonymous said...

Iz it coz I iz black?

Monkeyboy said...

Erm....anyone watching the game tonight?

By the way, this is a good a place as any to give a link to the 'Fried Chicken' issue.

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,2268045,00.html

Headhunter said...

LB - I understand that surely everyone is against criminality, what I was trying to say that I do not agree with the view you seemed to be suggesting that criminality is society's fault. You almost seemed to imply that individuals committing petty crime were only doing so because they were forced into this situation by society. You say that due to a "desire for acquisition" poorer members of societies are simply pushed into crime. I say they should get a hold of themselves and take responsibility for their actions. If they are simply acting on impulse and in response to desire, what separates them from animals?

Returning to what we discussed yesterday about civilsation, it just depends how you see the word civilising and civilsation. As I said yesterday, I see no imperial overtones, merely that gentrification has the effect of reducing crime, bringing money and inreasing diversity in an area. To me this is civilising.

Headhunter said...

LB - Just noticed that you insinuate that I make claims and inferences regarding race, class and income. These are your words and your words alone I’m afraid! In no way is civilising meant to infer that I want Brockley to turn into some kind of white, middle class, middle income enclave! For a start I live with a Japanese bloke...

Brockley Nick said...

@anon - I really must stop rising to the bait, but they weren't my words, the Dictionary.com discussion of this issue was taken from the Random House Unabridged dictionary. It clearly shows that the meaning has fluctuated over time (launguage does evolve, after all) and was originally used in the way I meant it, so it's not some lazy, new-fangled approach.

I appreciate linguistic precision (don't get me started on the misuse of "less" when people mean "fewer") but the way I used it was perfectly valid. That is all.

lb said...

[headhunter]: What, are you trying to claim that "pikey" and "chav" have no class content (or ethnic, in the case of "pikey")? Do you know where the words come from or are you just flinging them round indiscriminately? Are you saying "gentrification" has no class content?

[KFH]: See above. I don't know what race or class headhunter is from, and it doesn't really matter. All I do know is that they seem to think it's quite acceptable to label people "chavs" and then wish them off the face of the planet via a process which by definition is one of an increasing middle-class presence.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

...but it is acceptable for you to label people racist?

I'm Chinese and find your attempts to introduce a race element here laughable.

I think the whole pikey thing has been debated before - so I won't kick it off again

Tom said...

I should stop rising to the bait also!

It is difficult for academics (or students) to say something is simply wrong or right; there is this terrible compulsion to explain, and then to blame those in power for all sins.

If handwringing was an Olympic sport then some people round here would be winning medals.

LB – you point to the complexity of criminal behaviour then trot out an analysis of society that reads like a Janet & John book (Frederic Jameson's Marxist postmdern edition)! One word response: economism.

Moreover, I would have thought that in a discussion about civilisation, glibly accusing someone of racism is not good form.

Brockley Nick said...

KFH is right, it is not fair to accuse people of racism - please stick to the arguments, don't resort to abuse.

You've got to try really hard to find racist or imperialist undertones in the use of the word "civilising" - I wasn't aware civilisation was a Western imperialist invention - that might be news to the Eyptians, the Mayans, the Guptas, etc, etc.

lb said...

What I said, or was trying to say, is that the terms "pikey" and "chav" shouldn't just be thrown around when someone is trying to say "petty criminals", because yes, they do have racial and/or class ontent whether you like it or not. Saying "Out, damn chavs" is not really a good place to get started, is it?

[tom] Frankly I didn't think that there was space here to go into a discussion of that kind of thing.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

that came out kind of bad - sorry! Trying to be provocative!

lb said...

[brockley nick] I fail to see how pointing out to someone that the terms "chav" and "pikey" have an unacceptable content qualifies as "abuse". If headhunter meant to say 'petty criminals', that's what they should have used.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb - I (and others) were referring to this line you wrote:

your comments regarding 'civilisation' have an implicit content regarding class, income, and almost certainly race.

If you don't mean to imply he is being racist, then please apologise for the confusion and then we can all move on.

lb said...

Here's what I really took issue with:

"I stand by my statement, the sooner these undesirables (pikeys, hoodies, chavs, whatever clan they hail from) are out the better"

'Pikey' has an implicit content regarding race. Headhunter may not have meant to draw on this, but it's still there, and these word should not have been used. Use of terms like this degrades everyone involved. I don't know whether you'd construe that as 'accusing someone of racism'; I'm accusing them of using terms which do have some racial content, and saying that they should be careful of using them.

Headhunter said...

I suppose at a stretch that pikey could be considered a racist slur on gypsies and Romanies but to be honest most "gypsies" in the UK cannot in any way claim any connection to true gypsies.

As for chav, hoodie I don't see any class inference in either. As far as I am concerned the latter refers to a yobbish youth with criminal tendencies wearing hooded garb and the former relates to something similar, perhaps without the hood. Perhaps I am getting it all wrong though?

I do claim that gentrification has no class aspect to it. To me one of the things gentrification entails inreasing numbers of individuals with money in an area, increasing investment and yes, a demand for extra virgin olive oil and trendy bars and cafes perhaps! They do not necessarily have to come from the any particular class group.

lb said...

[headhunter] I accept that it's likely you did not mean to make any racial inference by using these words. I'm glad we've got that straightened out. I just think that using them casually leads to the very atomisation that BN spoke about in the original post.

brockley mutha said...

Now let's be clear - I'm not accusing anyone of racism, but I would like to make a couple (OK 3 points) of points on the subject.

1. living with a japanese bloke does not make you not racist.
2. being chinese does not make you better able to judge whether an argument is racist or not.
3. and pikey is a dangerous word to bandy about - to wit.


A gardener is thought to have made legal history after being convicted of racially aggravated harassment for using the word 'pikey'.

Lee Coleman repeatedly used the term, a derogatory reference to gypsies and Travellers, in a drunken outburst over a nightclub entry fee.

He was arrested after hurling abuse at a manageress and punching a bouncer at the club.

The 28-year-old denied the charges at first before pleading guilty.

Anonymous said...

Brockley Nick said...
@anon - I really must stop rising to the bait, but they weren't my words, the Dictionary.com discussion of this issue was taken from the Random House Unabridged dictionary. It clearly shows that the meaning has fluctuated over time (launguage does evolve, after all) and was originally used in the way I meant it, so it's not some lazy, new-fangled approach.

I appreciate linguistic precision (don't get me started on the misuse of "less" when people mean "fewer") but the way I used it was perfectly valid. That is all.


Just admit the mistake.

Headhunter said...

BM - No living with a Japanese bloke does not necessarily mean I am not a racist but it’s pretty damn unlikely! If I were, I doubt I would want to live with anyone outside the usual white, British stock and equally I doubt my Japanese mate would want to live with me. I know that I wouldn’t have wanted to live with some Japanese supremecist when I was out there.

To be honest I had never even heard the word “pikey” until that film Snatch came about and I don’t actually believe that most travellers in the UK can even claim to be a race apart or trace their descendents to the original Romanies who travelled to Europe from India.

Most are simply people who, for whatever reason (and whatever extraction) have decided not to live in homes of bricks and mortar and travel the length and breadth of the country

brockley mutha said...

I don't know you or your flatmate, so can't comment on what you would or wouldn't do. my point is that your argument is flawed. For example it would be like saying - I'm not sexist I'm married to a woman.

Also that there are many kinds of racism, to be tolerant, welcoming even of one group does not necessarily prove that you feel the same towards another.

None of this is to say that you are racist. It's just that you need to rethink your argument. It's the classic cringeworthy - 'I'm not racist, my best friend is black'

Additionally most of us (black, white, chinese, japanese) are guilty of various low level forms of racism. I don't believe that it follows that we are therefore all racists.

so your use of the word pikey doesn't make you a racist, but it is generally considered to be a racist expression.

But as for Chav - i have not the faintest idea.

lb said...

Chav? It's originally a Romani term (probably from the following http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=rmy, though I'm no expert) which spread into south-eastern dialects of English, where it's become applied to a certain stratum of society in general.

"Pikey" is a perjorative English term specifically directed against travellers.

Brockley Nick said...

For those of you who find this debate about the use of the word pikey endlessly fascinating, there are 100+ comments on this very subject to be found here:

http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/
2008/03/increased-security
-at-stephen-lawrence.html

It wasn't that long ago...

Anonymous said...

And I thought it came from "Pikey, Pikey, do as you likey" - which refers to people who are not community minded, or thinking of others.

Also - being Chinese may not make KFH any less likey to be a racist - but having been on the end of (I suspect) recist abuse in the past, he is probably more likey to recognise a racist arguement - than someone reading about it from their A-level textbook.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

All please note how Kate cleverly avoided the Ch*v or the Pik** word on the Trees Reprise thread - all bloggers please note: "Anti-social wankers" or "ASWs" is the new way forward to clearer and less LB- infuriating debates...

Now can we get back to how great it is that some Brockley commuters stood up against an ASW?

Headhunter said...

Yes I noticed the use of "ASW". Anyway, having just looked at the debate attached to the Stephen Lawrence security article I see this has all been done before with so much more aggression, so in the immortal words of Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless" - I'm Outty...

brockley mutha said...

@anon of 16.42 - who would be reading about it from their a level textbook?

@kfh - it is great the brockley commuters stood up to an asw - undoubtedly, unreservedly.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I quite like KFC (tip: drive to the Old Kent Road branch who have a drive-thru)

Danja said...

Just admit the mistake.

Pedantry is all well and good to a point. The OED lists both meanings, with the one you are criticising as the first - with a note "often considered as loose usage".

I think you should ask him to repent his "loose usage" rather than a mistake, as it was clearly deliberate.

Or possibly loosen up yourself, just perhaps.

brockley mutha said...

the stephen lawrence debate - ouch - a particularly stirring discussion I see. haven't got time to go through the whole thing - did it rival the 'chattering classes'?

TM said...

Anon@17.31

How can you drive to the Old Kent Road for fried chicken from a multi-national chain when there are all these local artisan independent fried chicken shops on your doorstep in Brockley?
OK franchisees then.

Incidentally do any of the local shops or KFC for that matter use free range chicken as advocated by Jamie and Hugh?

Or for that matter does anyone know if there are any organic lamb kebab shops in SE4?

Thought not......

jon s said...

Good grief,

how did we manage to get into a class and semantics debate without Ross?

Can people agree that a concept is normative, and not engage it with their interpretation picking a fight?

Let's call the young man's behavior toerag or platform 3 (The first place to get a train home when the going get's tough) behavior and leave it be. No one is actually condoning his behavior are they?

As to gentrification debate and lack of liquidity in social housing a couple of points:

1. We can create wealth, i.e. gentrification does not have to include dislocation of an underclass, in fact it can involve the expansion of the middle class and contraction of the underclass.

2. Re lack of social housing, that's a policy issue that I don't see linked to the right to buy hangover. Granted right to buy was a stuff up, but the problem with fixed council housing is that is is given without strings. If a peppercorn lease was provided for 10 years with other incentives, including vocational education, it would become more elastic and serve it's purpose as opposed to becoming a junket.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what a member of the underclass was doing at the station so early in the morning.

Accusing a magazine seller for being a beggar? Or was he making a political statement in response to our genial communist bucket rattlers' clear intention to forment political rebellion?

Or was he just tetchy. One hangover taking exception to another?

No excuse for a younger man being aggressive to an older one for no good reason.

Anonymous said...

In a Housing Federation
report Lewisham was shown to have the third highest waiting list for social housing in London.

In recent years it has risen from 15,000 to 17,535. In a parliamentary answer it was said from 1996 to 2006 only 2,733 new social homes were built in Lewisham.

Although you may see the council announce it has built 200 new homes, you may find it has demolished 190 homes to provide the space.

It is not beyond the council to have sold 140 flats to a developer and the receipt being only sufficient for the council to provide only 100 replacement homes.

jez said...

A dictionary should be a guide, not the law, but if any are to be used then Chambers has a lot of words.

The last time that I was racially abused was in Japan in 2004, on a train, by a man who got a surprise when my Irish friend replied in fluent Japanese.

Does everyone get offered weed outside of the Brockley barge?

Nicki Fianders closed because the new landlord put the price up astronomically. I am interested to see if this is a gentrification issue.

I have four 'hoodie' tops.

I wish that I had a unifying conclusion, but I don't, so I'll leave it there.

lb said...

I think most commonly held definitions of gentrification, from dictionary definitions downwards, agree that it usually, or often causes the displacement of the working class.

As far as I know, surveys of evidence-based studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of evidence is that gentrification is socially divisive, encourages instability through pressures in the private rental market, and displaces low-income households from the areas affected, or into lower-quality accommodation within the same area. There is little evidence that it encourages 'integration'.

.

Danja said...

A dictionary should be a guide, not the law

Agreed - but they are a much more authoritative guide than a random anomymouse on a wobbly high-horse.

Anonymous said...

It seems the local commercial Landlords are dead set against all this gentrification business.

Short term leases and substantial rent hikes mean many businesses become unprofitable after a few years.

Long leases or freeholds and better rental terms are obtained by larger well financed companies with legal departments. But they only target sure bets.

I am rather curious to know how commercial landlords make a profit when their policies so often result in shops being empty for long periods of time.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Ib, are you crazy? If you think the economic implications are as easy to summarise as that then you should go back to kindergarden and think again!

You state to many assumptions as to what 'working class' actually means. I'm not going into it on here, state a balanced arguement then we can talk.

lb said...

[AP] Those weren't my summaries, those are the findings of several long-term studies based on actual demographic trends in these kind of areas.

If you have any evidence to the contrary that is a) based on quantifiable data and b) not a rehash of current government policy on 'regeneration', then show it. I maintain that the supposed benefits of gentrification for the 'whole community' are barely applicable in the case of low-income groups who are often either no longer in the area to enjoy them, or are suffering the effects of higher rents.

Danja said...

So, have we established to everyone's satisfaction that run-down areas are cheap to live in, then?

Tom said...

LB - by alternating between 'working classes' and 'poor people' you are making a circular (and rather irrelevant) argument about gentrification.

Of course as wealthier people move into an area there are fewer poorer people.

But it is how this works and how it affects everyone, rich and poor, that is important, and is a hot topic of debate here.

(For instance, the arguments I and others have had about Brockley's lopsided food retail choices.)

But pointing to unreferenced 'evidence' that you're right about how gentrification negatively affects all of 'the poor' cuts little mustard.

Do 'the poor' not also appreciate good parks, schools, fresh food etc?

lb said...

"Do 'the poor' not also appreciate good parks, schools, fresh food etc?"

I've no doubt they do (assuming it's affordable, in the case of food).

Perhaps I should clarify and state that I'm referring specifically to low-income or lower-income groups. And if you want references, try this meta-analysis for starters:

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sps/cnrpaperspdf/cnr5pap.pdf

It comes to some varied conclusions, but amongst the most pertinent, I think, is that "the majority of research evidence on gentrification points to its detrimentral effects [...] research which has sought to understand its impacts [...] suggests a displacement and moving around of social problems rather than a net gain either through local taxes, improved physical environment or a reduction in the demand for sprawling urban development".

Tom said...

Thanks for the reference but I'm struggling (still) to work out what you're arguing.

If you are saying that gentrification is not an unalloyed good, then I think you're arguing against a straw man. Certainly not with me.

The problem I have with anti-gentrification whinging is that it is so unproductive and often is the product of ideological grandstanding.

Brockly IS gentrifying (however you define the term), but how it does so is in partly in our hands.

If your research can be used to help guide and inform this process so that we can think of ways that gentrification can work for everybody then cool, and I look forward to lots of interesting posts from you.

If you just want to (self?) flagellate the liberal middle classes, then I struggle to see the point.

lb said...

I was originally asked to be specific about why I was concerned that gentrification would drive out low-income residents. Studies show that (in general) it does in fact do just that, hence my concern. The discussion then went elsewhere for a while.

I returned to what 'gentrification' means in practice because someone then said "gentrification doesn't have to mean displacement of an underclass", (also arguing that it could involve the creation of wealth). I went back to the point because I was trying to show that according to studies gentrification usually does displace the "underclass" (and even if, as low-income homeowners, they're able to make money by selling up, they still end up moving out of the area). The risk of all this is that it creates homogenous areas, not 'integrated' ones.

lb said...

And yes, what to do about it - if we don't want to create 'atomised' communities - is a real problem. Recent Government policy on regeneration has been overwhelmingly structured around a kind of blind faith in the transformative power of private property initiatives, but it runs into the kind of problems I've just been describing, i.e. that problems just tend to get shifted around, and that the very kind of things the policies claim to alleviate (crime , instability, 'atomisation') can actually get aggravated by this kind of development.

lb said...

Having re-read my last post I've realised that my syntax was teetering on the verge of gibberish, but I'm sure you get the point.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb - I read that study you linked to. It basically says, yes, the majority of studies highlight some detrimental effects, "however, this is also linked to the research agenda that has so far been undertaken".

This is a polite way of saying that nearly all of the studies they researched have been written by angry marxists, so they are bound to highglight the problems and belittle the benefits.

The report's authors don't reach any conclusions one way or another themselves, except that they say the term "gentrification" is generally unhelpful.

lb said...

I thought their ultimate point was that based on the studies we know about, gentrification could not be considered a "panacea", with an eye on current Government policy in particular. I had seen that it mentioned the "research agenda", but assumed that it was making the point that surveys examining statistical evidence had largely been looking for statistical evidence of displacement (and had found it); the counter-arguments, on the other hand, had failed to come up with any compelling evidence (as yet), and not enough studies had been undertaken to underpin the sort of assumptions made by current policy. But this was precisely my point: the majority of studies we have show negative effects, and there have been few compelling studies undertaken to show positive effects, so the latter still need to be proven.

just chill a bit said...

so you're saying that the fact I can now get a decent chocolate croissant is not a positve effect of gentrification....personally I think it's a wonderful effect. Oh that and the mini bottles of champagne you can get at Degustation....

spincat said...

are there any angry marxists in existence any more to write reports? all the ones I knew in the 70s are working for the man.

Anonymous said...

Search, Joe Montgomery Lewisham ...

lb said...

[spincat] I think all the most vocal Sparts are blank-eyed PFI-monkeys these days, yes. Either that or they've gone all New Age, which is possibly worse.

Brockley Central Label Cloud