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Gangs of MK: Walking the West Walk in Summer 06

Short story By: Doc Scurlock
Editorial and opinion

I've just had this published in a local magazine. My readers here might find some pretty severe overlap with the stuff I've posted on here in terms of themes, but I thought you-all might be interested.

Submitted:Apr 2, 2007    Reads: 226    Comments: 4    Likes: 0   

{He} is infinitely worse than the ordinary robber, who generally spares life if he can get money, in that he is utterly reckless of human life... He glories in being regarded a terror. There should be no hesitation in driving this element out... and it should be done at once. {They} should be declared outlaws. They should not be permitted to enter {town}. They should be hunted down the same as hostile Indians, and, if necessary, the military should take the matter in hand. There is neither justice or sense in allowing a community to be terrorized by these... savages, and we hope that the Tombstone Vigilance Committee will act promptly and do their work effectively. It will not be hard work; the rope for a few ringleaders, and the rest of the cowards will thereafter give the place a wide berth.

The above paragraph, taken from Casey Tefetiller's often fascinating biography of Wyatt Earp, was written by the San Francisco Exchange in 1881 on the subject of a gang of outlaws known as the "cowboys" and its conduct in Tombstone, Arizona. That it could so easily be about Milton Keynes and its chavs tells us something important about the clique, the fraternity, the gang, the small group of like-dressed folk uniting to pursue the same pastimes or grind the same axe. It reassures us that such groups and their members are if not an inevitable product of human society- the student of history is often surprised at what phenomena different societies have thrown up or failed to- than at least with precedent. We are not only social beings, we are prone to becoming completely dependent on the company and approval of our fellow beings. Knowing that people share your sense of humour and have a similar outlook in the world is a huge comfort and inspiration, particularly when you're young and strange and looking for some definition of yourself and also when you're somewhat warlike and like the idea of something to dedicate yourself to, something to be patriotic about. Of course, it's utterly contemptible: it's just another way of keeping people in divisions and categories (I'm English, so I love doing that) and it's a bum lead for a person who's young and impressionable: it makes it likely that you'll think of yourself as one of a group rather than an individual until you're absolutely forced to think otherwise. But you can't throw stones at someone in their mid teens for being insecure enough to want the comfort of membership, fraternity, enough to dismiss any practical or ethical considerations to the contrary.

The gangs I knew weren't united by cattle theft, skill with a firearm or the red sashes they wore: the one I was closest to was routed in a shared appreciation of Ramstein and Slipknot and a theatrical air of disaffection and eccentricity. There was a time when the Gangs Of MK, the greeboes, chavs and metalheads, each had their own area of space surrounding the West Walk at Midsummer Place. They were each of them talk and bluster and show, and there wasn't one that was more genuine or valid than the others. Many of the greeboes were more or less bearable (some of my best friends, as they say, were treeboes). The one that dominated in numbers and presence was the chavs.

Oh, my friends, the genocidal hyperbole I could write you on the subject of the chavs: the theme raises my ire such that, pompous though it sounds, I don't doubt my ability to write an article which could lead to the immediate convergence of just the type of Vigilance Committee the Exchange advocates. I have been heard to say that there's very little wrong with the world that can't be solved by sending the sock cuckers to New Zealand and nuking it (have you ever been to New Zealand? It's shit) and I will probably make like statements in the near future as their mindless burberry-fucking arrogance and cruelty accrues more and more recognition and credibility. There was a time when they were just an irritant.

(Aside: about a year ago some back birth in the media decided that "chav" meant "working class," a use I had never heard it put to before then, and there have since been a number of articles and jokes on TV shows, often written by people from working class backgrounds who are now, obviously, middle-class, to the effect that the word is a sign of arrogance and ugly, creeping class snobbery. Well, bollocks. It doesn't mean working class, it refers to someone who wears a baseball cap and a tracksuit and walks around looking for trouble, the worst examples of whom are the middle class ones: they're the ones with something to prove.)

The greeboes, the black T-shirted sometime Monarchs of the Oak Tree, were the only ones I was even slightly close to, and it's a point of pride with me that even there I was always an outsider, indeed that I was somewhat frowned upon by a few of the Ironclad greeboes (all of whom were arseholes and probably still are) as being not quite the thing. At the same time, I can admit now that I found something romantic and appealing in the whole idea: being part of a group of people known for their eccentric and anti-social (though rarely aggressive) behaviour made sense to me at the time. "I don't belong with those fuckers, so I suppose I belong here." I didn't, of course. Nobody does. All the people I knew from those days worked that out quickly enough: maybe they still smoke weed and listen to sub-Spinal Tap rock bands, but you won't hear anymore evangelical tirades on the plight of the matted-haired outcast from them. And when I see them today, pathetic though it may seem, I'm saddened by the absence of these speeches and the general aura of self-righteousness they were symptomatic of. The people themselves are just as interesting as they were, but straight off the bat I don't know who I'm dealing with like I once did.

You hate me.

At any rate, walking the West Walk this summer I felt a mixture of comfort and disillusionment when I see their heirs, and I suppose mine too, occupying their traditional place at the Oak Tree. First off, they're so serious: I remember the whole scene being a bit more playful, but I could well be blinded by nostalgia. But what really gets me is seeing the tourists and the straights unhesitatingly sitting next to them: the days when the Sheriff and his Posse were called upon to evict the bunch of us are myth. Clearly the whole thing isn't genuinely exciting or dangerous anymore (the square who wants to tell me that it never was can seek me out and tell me to my face).

Let's return to the chavs by way of summary, because the bastards are everywhere: they're throughout Midsummer Place, circling the Oak Tree like cranes, they're a few feet down outside Starbucks, on the benches, they're outside Midsummer Place waiting for their accomplices, they're at the point, they're at the Exscape and there's one reading this magazine over your shoulder. Well, he's looking at the pictures. They've won, by virtue of number and might: when the media's quite finished wagging the finger at those of us who would persecute them (and I hope I might someday be recognised as king of the chav-persecutors) they will pass in to legend as the face of contemporary England: in big Hollywood movies set in twentieth century England, absolutely everybody will wear burberry caps and talk in strange monnosylabic sentences. The greeboes in ridiculous looking Matrix leather coats will be just out of shot. Because in the view of history, one gang has to be right: they can't all equally be idiots. Which we were. Or at least, we are, this Summer: I was at the West Walk earlier today and I had no time for any of them. I wanted to go home and do something none of them would approve of, maybe find a band that combined garage with death metal so neither group could give it its whole-hearted blessing.

The Cowboy gang were defeated not by the rope or legislation or the military but by another gang, albeit one wearing badges, a gang that had got pissed off enough to dedicate all its time to tracking down and shooting them until the handful of survivors ran away back to Texas or Lincoln County to pass the rest of their lives in undistinguished solo criminal careers. All that was left of the gang was the memory, the legend. That was all there was ever going to be.


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