by Jim Aitken

Do not call me Ishmael
or anything quite as grand
but call me instead a radge
or a schemie or a scaff
a bam, a ned, yob or chav

extend the vocabulary
and label me as other
poke fun at my accent and clothes
blame me for all that goes missing
for how standards are falling

criminalise my entire class
and judge me by my home address
raise your eyebrows at my manners
and at my failure to impress
turn indifference to contempt

and smugly feel good with yourself
since you seem to have done so well
and cringe at how I go around
sneering at my lack of taste
my words all wrong and out of place

and search my face for coming rage
confirming your deep prejudice
and fail to comprehend how this
responds to your great ignorance
of the class divide between us

Jim Aitken is a secondary teacher in Edinburgh. This poem was inspired by an incident in his first year class, with one pupil commenting on another – He’s such a chav, isn’t he? The opening line is adapted from the start of Moby Dick and this, together with the title, illustrates the monstrous, oceanic class divide in today’s Britain.

Some of Jim’s writings are in From the Front Line of Terror, published by the Stop the War Coalition & the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. £3 from SPSC, Peace & Justice Centre, Princes St., Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ.