Last summer an Asian chappie cunningly disguised himself in "the paint-splattered overalls that were meant to make me look like a Pakistani immigrant doing odd jobs to survive in his new home
" and went to hang out for a few months on the Southmead council estate in Bristol to make this BBC documentary
about the hideous racism of the native inhabitants. I do hope he wasn't taking a flat away from a local ;-(
Now the point of it all was to show the dreadful racism etc etc. But this tremendous piece of reporting
in fact reveals the young inhabitants to be dreadful full stop, despite the fact that the target appears to be (sigh) the Daily Mail.
The impulse to segregate was compounded by the messages that seemed to reinforce the idea that the treatment in Southmead reflected the mood and views of the rest of Britain. "Hundreds of thousands of migrants here for handouts, says senior judge". "Britain paying migrants £1,700 to return home BEFORE they've even got here" "The violent new breed of migrants who will let nothing stop them coming to Britain" These headlines were just three of many that were printed in the Mail, a right-wing daily during my time in Southmead. I don't usually take much notice of the headlines in the Sun and the Mail unless they are truly shocking, but in Southmead the headlines seemed to have an impact on the treatment we received. The level of low-level hostility from adults seemed to be directly linked to the content of the headlines. More outright hostility from younger adults and children followed a day or so later.
That's right. The Mail comes out, those adults who can read immediately start giving grief to incomers, and a day or two later, when the less literate natives picked up the message, they kick off as well. Puh-leese !
I wonder if they thought of going to the local paper shops and asking what the daily orders were ? Bet they didn't. I'll lay odds the Mail's not the Southmead paper of choice.
The whole thing is in fact a Daily Mail reader's underclass nightmare and could without much editing easily find a way into that mighty organ :
Hundreds of cans of high-strength cider littered the streets every Saturday and Sunday. I saw unemployed drunken youths accost shoppers in the mornings. The green spaces that looked inviting from afar were littered with used condoms, pregnancy test kits and the excrement of pitbull dogs that were popular pets amongst residents. In the daytime, teenage mothers pushed young children around the estate. I saw the partner of one young mother call a toddler a "****ing little ****" before smacking him hard enough on the back of the head to make the child drop to his knees and cover his head in the expectation of further violence. In the early evenings, young teenagers would sit at benches swigging from bottles of cheap alcohol...
A group of local girls, none older than 15, were talking to each other loudly. Amongst all the squealing, the only words I could make out were "****", "*******" and "****". Occasionally one of the girls would pull her skirt up at a passing car of boys and the others would cheer and hand her a bottle of brightly coloured liquor to swig from. Every now and again, one of the cars would stop and another girl might stand in front of the passenger window and pull down her top. The boys would try and persuade them to get in. Eventually, two of the girls got into a crowded little car with wide tyres and lowered suspension.
I had been absent mindedly watching the events in front of us. After the car drove away, the Sudanese father turned to his daughter and said; "That's what English girls are like. Never talk to people like that."
Roy Jenkins "civilising mission
" is complete. The culture is FUBAR. Quite properly he don't want his daughter to be like a native. But what his son will make of the native girls may be different
Just before they got on their bus, a group of teenagers outside the chip shop behind us proved the technicians' point by rounding on a passing elderly local.
"Look out, he's a perv," shouted one boy. Before another pushed the girl standing next to him in front of the old man and said, "I bet you wish you could **** her". They all then burst into laughter.
Poor chap. Old, white, male, straight, poor. Not a member of any designated victim group
. No hate crime there. No help to be had. The BBC would never be so judgemental as to spend two months just to prove that Southmead has some very scummy youth therein. That would be picking on the most vulnerable in our society, after all (the chavs, not their victims).
Southmead is a locus classicus for the idea that you can make people better by throwing social workers at them. Remember the wise words of Charles Murray
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Americans tried everything: pre-school socialisation programmes, enrichment programmes in elementary schools, programmes that provided guaranteed jobs for young people without skills, ones that provided on-the-job training, programmes that sent young people without skills to residential centres for extended skills training and psychological preparation for the world of work, programmes to prevent school dropout, and so on. These are just the efforts aimed at individuals. I won’t even try to list the varieties of programmes that went under the heading of “community development”. They were also the most notorious failures.
We know the programmes didn’t work because all of them were accompanied by evaluations. I was a programme evaluator from 1968 to 1981. The most eminent of America’s experts on programme evaluation — a liberal sociologist named Peter Rossi — distilled this vast experience into what he called the Iron Law of Evaluation: “The expected value of any net impact assessment of any large-scale social programme is zero.” The Iron Law has not been overturned by subsequent experience.
In fact these programmes go back before that. My hero Norman Dennis worked in Southmead
in the 1950s :
He had lived on a notoriously bad housing estate in Bristol, Southmead, for more than a year in the 1950s. It was one of the two worst housing estates in the city. As part of his research, he had participated in local life, as well as interviewing people in their houses, often for hours at a time. He was the sociologist with the Bristol Social Project, which was designed to apply the techniques of improvement elaborated by the Chicago Social Area Projects of the previous 20 years or so...
Dennis' hindsight view was that 1950s Southmead 'by the standards of the early 1990s would have looked almost entirely civilized
The Bristol Social Project is also a bit of a locus classicus - run by a doubtless intelligent and competent public schoolboy (John Spencer, St Pauls and Balliol
- his report is here
) and a total failure
The Bristol Social Project, which ran on the estate from 1953 to 1958 engaged in counselling, group work and community development on the estate and bequeathed a Community Centre and Adventure Playground, both of them still functioning. However Southmead’s fortunes did not improve significantly over the next 30 years and, by the end of the 1980s, social conditions had deteriorated to such an extent, that major disturbances were occurring in the streets of the old estate and Southmead was front page news.
UPDATE - not all of John Spencer's report
on the Bristol Social Project is available via Google Books, but what you can read is pretty much 100% waffle (I liked the bit where they discovered that one of the local shopkeepers was also fencing stolen goods and running a moneylending operation. The locals on the Project wanted immediate action taken against him, whereas for John Spencer the discovery was 'an opportunity for learning and discussion on the variety of moral standards on the estate
'. The locals were 'irritated
' by this. I bet they were). No wonder he ended as Edinburgh's first Professor of Social Education.
The project was considered 'influential' - 'Bristol's experiments might well be followed elsewhere
' said the Guardian, and Town and Country Planning noted the use of 'trained community workers, a relatively new shere of social work which is rapidly gaining recognition
'. We're awash with the buggers now, and Southmead is still what it is (only worse) after 50 years of social work.
(via, of all places, Liberal Conspiracy