In the past couple of years there have been numerous publicised cases of feral teenagers murdering adults. Last week there was the murder of a big issue seller, a few weeks earlier we read of this, and there was Gary Newlove. There have been other horrific murders that ddn't get as much media coverage. These are not isolated incidents but part of a trend of increased brutality and savagery amongst a minority of our young people. Primarily, this violence is directed at other young people but if any adult dares stand ground against the feral underclass then they too may become the next victim.
In the work I do I deal with violence regularly, but usually on a lesser scale. Thankfully, I've only had direct experience of one killing so far. One young lad I worked with, a loveable rogue, was brutally slain by a friend of his at a party. He was stabbed in the head as he slept. A colleague of mine worked at a project in the south where several residents were involved in what is called "tramp bashing", the youths took crowbars and repeatedly beat a homeless man asleep in a bus shelter. He was left for dead. They filmed the incident on their phones.
Now, perhaps like many of my colleagues in Supported Housing and Residential Children's Care you find yourself musing over the possible reasons for this disturbing trend of muderous violence amongst a minority of our young. However, unlike most of the people working in the aforementioned sectors you will have postulated common sense theories such as a lack of discipline, the complete abdication of adult authority, an emasculated police force, poor parenting, an intrusive welfare state, i.e the actual reasons.
In my industry, my colleagues tend to make excuses on behalf of young people's anti-social behaviour. This doesn't help the young person as it removes personal responsibility and choice. Here are a few of my favourites I've heard over the years from various men with beards in loose-fitting wooley jumpers and middle class tofu munching dread-locked ladies in sandals:
·“They are from a rough background/ rough estate and this has led them in to crime”
i.e. it’s not their fault they robbed your house they were brought up that way.
If their parents and family circle failed to instil in them the difference between right and wrong it is then up to the wider society to do so, this was traditionally done by punishing young criminals. Punitive measures are eschewed nowadays in favour of “prevention”. Preventative measures include things like DJ courses, excursions, and counsellors. Another way of putting it is the young criminal is rewarded for crime in the hope he wont re-offend. Some people call this bribery, I am one of those people. These reward schemes for young criminals are adminstered by local youth offending teams. This approach doesn't work. Look at the re-offending rates amongst young offenders. More about this at a later stage. This particular excuse is extremely prejudicial of people from working class estates and fails to expalin why the majority of people from these neighbourhoods do not get involved in crime. This theory is really a middle class socialist's patronising prejudice of the working class, the majority of whom are decent law abiding citizens. The people who promulgate this theory don't recognise this prejudice. In their minds they are being altruistic and compassionate. They air their views weekly in the Guardian's Society section.
· “They have no where to go. There aren’t enough youth clubs and services for young people in the area so they end up in trouble as a result of boredom.”
This is an excuse you will hear all the time in the social sector as well as in the media. I even heard someone being interviewed on TV lately stating that the teenage stabbings and shootings currently blighting the country are partially as a result of young people having nowhere to go and no services available to them. Now, maybe I was just imagining it the other evening but I could have sworn I passed by a skateboard park, a football pitch, a swimming pool and a Youth club on the train, all in the same neighbourhood, and an under deprived neighbourhood for that matter.
Besides, when has boredom become an excuse to stab other teenagers to death or beat homeless people with crowbars? I remember being bored as an integral part of adolescence. In the many evenings I spent stupified with boredom on street corners neither my friends nor I ever pondered stabbing each other or hitting passers by with bricks to pass the time.
·“They are poor but live in a materialistic and consumer driven society and they are unable to achieve the same levels of wealth as others due to inequality and a poor education so they turn to crime in order to prescribe to the norms of the materialistic culture in which they live.”
I’ve heard this nonsense off several colleagues down through the years. I also vaguely remember reading a theory formulated by a Sociologist during my degree that blamed the rest of society for criminal behaviour. I don’t buy in to this theory at all for several reasons. The first one is that the “poor” with whom I work are not poor at all. They may be relatively poor compared to someone earning the average salary in the UK, but our residents that don’t work have free spacious bedsits with central heating and all their bills paid for by the state as well as other benefits.
The majority of them have TVs, microwaves, toasters, DVD players, video game boxes of one sort or another and enough cheap processed food to live on. Somehow, many of them also have money to spend on illegal substances and cheap beer. Now, compare this kind of “poverty” to that described by George Orwell in “The Road to Wigan Pier.” In this book Orwell vividly describes the abject poverty experienced by people in Wigan and the north of England during the nineteen thirties. The poor of this era regularly went without sufficient food, shared one outdoor toilet with several other houses, had no access to a health service, no welfare state and even worse there wasn’t a playstation, cheap lager or bag of skunkweed in sight. How would so many of today’s ‘poor’ have coped in those days I wonder?