2000s >> 2006 >> no-1224-august-2006

Greasy Pole: Be kind to a hoodie

Although David Cameron, in his speech on youth offending, did not actually advise us to get out and hug as many hoodies as we could find, he should have suspected that his speech about the need to “…understand what’s gone wrong in these children’s lives” would be quickly summarised by the media in those sensationalist terms.

 Perhaps he thought he was being original (he wasn’t) or courageous (gambling would be more accurate) or progressive (in fact it’s all be thought of and said before). By the time of his speech hoods and hoodies had become, in New Labour speak and other such trendy verbiage, an issue.

For example last May the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent banned anyone wearing a hood, along with those who swore or behaved in similarly challenging ways. But there were apparent problems in this as there has yet to be a satisfactory definition of a hoody – does the term include the enthusiasts who gather on railway platforms to make a note of train numbers? When does an anorak become a hood, with all that implies in terms of a threat to mug old ladies who have just collected their pension from the post office? If a hood is made of the finest cashmere wool and sold in a trendy Notting Hill boutique is it still an aid to an offender trying to hide their identity? And what would the genuine hoodie think about having a fleshy Old Etonian approach him in the street, when he was out looking for an opportunity to do a bit of swift robbery, and start to hug him? Wouldn’t that be enough to put anyone off a life of crime forever?

Bluewater said they were delighted at the effect of their measure, which they claimed was responsible for a marked increase in their customers – although how many of  these were reporters and assorted media hacks is not known. Hood manufacturers made no comment; the company Bon prix continued to advertise its wares with pictures of pretty girls and muscular, handsome young men and slogans like “Ladies, your favourite hoodies at great prices…” Tony Blair was delighted – with his eye on the readership of the Daily Mail he recruited Bluewater’s experience as justification for his government’s introduction of Anti Social Behaviour Orders. Amid the panic a few voices were raised in question – like Harold Williamson, a policy researcher at Cardiff University, who thought “We need more politicians who are courageous, who stand up and say ‘Look, this is a complex issue and we need to think about it
seriously’”. And there was David Cameron, adopting the role of the courageous politician who had something to gain by taking a markedly different, possibly unpopular, line :
 “The hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem in itself…But hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They’re a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in, don’t stand out.”

And then, crucially:“…it’s about family breakdown. It’s about drugs, it’s about alcohol abuse, often it’s young people who are brought up in care.”             

Perhaps, like Blair and his drive to erect New Labour, Cameron calculates that his best chance of winning power is to make the two parties so similar that it is not justimpossible but also pointless to search for enough difference between them to beworth a vote either way. But reality is clear. The politics of capitalism is the process ofchoosing between two or more parties which to all intents and purposes are identical.

To make that choice is crass futility, while capitalism’s problems, like violent crime,remain impervious to all efforts to legislate them out of existence. Instead, why not go out and hug a hoodie?


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