In their latest attempt to demonstrate their Neanderthal moral values, Wahoo recently presented us with the opportunity to enjoy a ‘Country Estates and Council Estates’ fancy dress night. Next week, the esteemed discothèque will hopefully give up the pretence altogether and throw a jamboree with a ‘Golliwogs and Golly Gosh, Aren’t We Privileged’ theme.
We all know that Wahoo are morons and put on terrible club nights. But in more general terms, the visualisation of the council estate by the British media often follows a depressingly familiar trajectory.UK hip-hop legend Skinnyman’s track ‘Council Estate of Mind’ speaks to this sense of anger and alienation with its depiction of an urbanised and utterly isolated mindset.
His illustration of poverty on the estate is grimly compelling: “I live amongst smashed syringes/squatters’ doors hanging oï¬€ they hinges/hookers looking for Bobby/shotting in they minges”. Even the phrase ‘sink estate’ is derived from the biological notion of ‘behavioural sink’, a collapse in animal behaviour when population density passes a critical tipping point. Originally modelled on rats, it has subsequently been mapped onto the poor of Britain.
The original biological report speaks of “a pathological withdrawal from which individuals would emerge to eat, drink and move about only when other members of the community were asleep”. It is diï¬ƒcult not to be reminded of ASBOs forbidding people to leave the house after daylight hours, and histrionic calls for blanket curfews from the right-wing media.
Skinnyman also acknowledges this fear when he raps: “Blud, you go to sleep round here and have nightmares/wake up and ï¬nd the worst reality is right there”. The dehumanising implication is clear. Crowd the rats together and they will start to eat each other: crowd the poor together and they will rob and kill each other.
Of course, there is a distinction to be drawn between Skinnyman’s legitimate depiction of the urban decay of Britain and the lazy stereotyping of Matt Lucas’ shellsuit-clad abomination Vicky Pollard. It would be irresponsible to submerge the hardships of life in many of our council estates under a deluge of cheery community spirit.
Admittedly, TV shows like Misï¬ts and Shameless might attempt to map warmth and humanity onto the streets of London and Manchester, but there is a ï¬ne line between well-meaning and aï¬€ectionate caricature and cruel stereotype. In 2012, Southwark council banned ï¬lm crews from two of its estates, sick of being depicted as the worst of our society condensed into a handful of towerblocks. For the people of Southwark, the line was overstepped once too often.
“What I don’t expect you to ever comprehend is/why I got all actin’ so self-defensive”, Skinnyman raps. In the sneering distinction Wahoo are drawing between country estates and council estates, one is implicitly worse.
Council estate dwellers are depicted as nothing but animals, the same vermin the rich hunt on their country estates. If you wouldn’t go to Wahoo in blackface, you shouldn’t be going to Wahoo in Burberry and fake gold chains. As long as they keep perpetuating this poisonous mockery of the working class, perhaps we shouldn’t be going to Wahoo at all.