Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Excuses, Excuses

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?


Jennifer said...

Thank you for not being a "left wing trendy", as my very socialist parent would scathingly put it.

dpax said...

hello winston
I agree with you for once winston being bored was always a part of growing up for myself and my mates but we never got involved in serious crime, the children and youths of today know they can kill or seriously hurt their "enemy" and be back on the streets in a reasonably short ammount of time. There simply is no deterrent. I think it is only gonna get worse. judges should toughen up and I think new laws should be put in place for repeat offenders. I think a military option should be considered as some of these kids just need to grow up and learn some sort of skillset. I have a young son and I dread the day when he is a teenager on our streets, as I can only see a future where violent crime and depravation is the norm in our towns and cities.

Unknown said...

We need a good shooting war with these vermin in the front line.

TimS said...

Below is a letter I sent to the Guardian following an article earlier this year - they did not publish it. I also read your article later and thought this was still apt.

"How do you start to respond to the relentless and depressing situation that Nicholas Blincoe encountered with the youths at his block of flats in London? (Weekend 07.02.09)
A number of children or youths now seem to have the notion that they do not have to do anything that they really do not want to do. If anyone tries to make them, they can respond in an aggressive way, safe in the knowledge that they can make accusations against this person that will have to be investigated. The youth will not worry that his behaviour or actions contributed to any altercation or unpleasant outcome. His view will be that the adult was wrong to have done anything to him – no matter what the provocation.
Where has this come from? Some of it, I think, has come from well intentioned, but dubiously interpreted Child Protection legislation. Whilst the intention was to offer protection from abusers – actual or potential – the outcome has been that any child or youth can make an allegation against an adult, especially one in authority, if they do not like how they are being treated by that adult.
We have, over the years, taken away the traditional methods by which adults exercised their authority over young people. Have we evaluated whether these more acceptable methods have been equally effective? If we continue to see all those in authority over children as potential abusers, we will find that they are increasingly unwilling or unable to exercise any of that authority, with the potential for consequences as described in the article."

A Train Driver said...

I'm always a little concerned when people advocate military service (of any ilk) as somehow being of benefit to the thugs.

Based on my experience of dealing with young military personnel on the railway, and the mayhem those personnel have caused, there will indeed be a benefit to the thugs - they will be taught how to be better thugs.

Sure, some may well be diverted from a life of crime, but others will simply gain proficiency in weapon use, an understanding of how discipline and planning can improve chances of success when they're out causing trouble, and so on.

The problem is that I have no idea what we can do to deal with these people whilst not adversely impacting on the genuine beneficiaries of the schemes these people misuse.
It's pretty obvious that no-one else has any real idea, either, which is why we end up trying everything an anything - from left wing trendy to fascist right wing. None work, though.

I have the horrible suspicion that we may end up actually having to wash our hands of an entire generation; restart things at school level by reintroducing appropriate punishment (instead of the current preference for bribing badly behaved kids), accept that it will take a generation or two for the societal changes to work their way through and just hang on as best we can.

The only other option I can see is ghettoised society, with gated "quality" communities to keep the chavs out and areas outside those gated communities effectively abandoned to those chavs - and do we really want our country to end up like that? I certainly don't.

Mind you, I'm only a train driver. What do I know about anything? ;-)

skandal said...

I must be entertained 24/7 otherwise I may commit violence against doo- gooders. it's not my fault it's society. I am entitled to bare minimum 1 bag of skunk weed and 4 cans of high strength lager every night, plus cash on the hip. This is England! From a YOUT

Bertie Humbug's Ranto-O-Matic said...

Brilliant post. I wonder if a change of Government will help with some of these problems.

Unfortunately I dont think it will, the Conservative leadership just don't have enough grey hair amongst them.

I am intending on doing a blog post soon on 'Military Solutions to social problems'. I.e. the use of Bad Lads Army/50s style military training to beast some sense and discipline into scrotes.

Such a project would have to be very well researched,monitored and implemented. But i think it would be a great help.

For those who dont have the respect for authority they should have, have 'offending' ways and need a damn good kicking they should be made the Army's bitches. They should learn discipline and learn it good.

Some caveats on the implementation would include correctly screening the clientele to ensure they would actually benefit from such a programme (a teenager who has had a life of loveless bullying abuse from a father would probably go over the edge in such and environment), also it would have to be tailored such that it doesnt turn into a reward for bad behaviour. Many decent kids and younger people could also benefit from such a programme.

You might have to wait until i am Home Secretary for such a programme to become a reality, but you know what, it might just work.

Anonymous said...

Dear Winston,
I've just found your blog and read lots of posts at one go.
I wish you wouldn't resort to hackneyed insults such as bleeding-heart liberal and tofu-munching, sandal-wearing, Guardianista. One of the awful things about being anywhere near the care industry is hearing people parrot idiotic catch-phrases and buzzwords to their own ends (i.e. getting more clients for their care agency, keeping their jobs, moving more Motility cars). Please don't do the same. People need to listen to what you have to say.

PS. I agree with this post, as I do with your others.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Dear Mr/Miss Anonymous (above),

I dont intend to be insulting when describing tofu munching, bearded sandle wearers etc etc. I myself am a vegetarian and read the Guardian, I just dont swallow its bias hook line and sinker as so many of its readers do. It tends to have a default position in the same way the Daily Mail does just at the other extreme of the spectrum. I was merely being descriptive of the types that tend to work with the underclass and they usually fit the stereotype to some degree. They are normally nice people they often end up becoming quite reactionary as the reality starts to conflict with their ludicrous idealistic theories. Im not saying I completely agree with reactionary methods either. However, I believe the required methods to deal with youth problmes would be a mix of conservative and liberal methods. What we are doing now is failing our young in education, the care system, youth offending services and so on.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Hi Bertie Humbug here is a charity you would be interested in. Im thinking of perhaps getting something similar running in my part of the country in a year or two:

Mark Gradwell said...

How would the people that Orwell saw in the 30's have coped given today's opportunities?

Quite well I should expect. You answered the question yourself in a way. The Iraqi guy you mentioned in the other blog came from a situation which had it's similarities with Britain back then.

Primate said...

I think you're overly dismissive of the "materialistic society" explanation. That's not that I support the "they're (a bit) poorer than other people so have to rob" part of it, because I don't. Where I do feel that there's a kernel of truth in the theory is that success and worth today are almost entirely depicted as being down to ownership of vast quantities of material goods. Moreover, if the celebrity magazines are to be believed, these things can be obtained by "wanting it enough". If success is measured only through stuff, rather than deeper qualities such as integrity, charity, helpfulness and not being a murderer, why not be a grasping, selfish, agressive bastard?