Friday, 16 July 2010

A Brush with Authority

Once upon a time about a year ago at a care home for teenagers I had another run in with a disaffected youth or unsocialised brat as I prefer to call them. Which terminology you use will depend on where you live and what your life experience is. If you suffer from middle class guilt and live very far away from such youths in a nice neighbourhood you may probably make excuses for them based on the slight understanding of social problems you have acquired from the Society section in the Guardian (which despite my criticism often has very good articles). However, if you live next door to such feral youths in a working class, underclass or even a lower middle class estate you will probably use less politically correct terms to describe such teenagers. You will also possess a more realistic understanding of the remedies that need to be taken to deal with anti-social youths.

Anyway, back to the care home, I use the word care loosely, I dont see how allowing children to grow up free from boundaries, discipline and effective authority is any form of care. Just after I had made three separate lunches for the teenagers there I asked them to help me clean up. The two girls just ignored me as they sat transfixed in front of some insipid music channel, I am also using the word music loosely, noise would be more apt. The third teenager, Wayne, 14, a small skinny lad took offence to being asked to assist in household duties.

"We don't fucking do cleaning up, we are not skivvies, that's the staff's job," he smirked, hoping to get a confrontational reaction.

I just ignored his comments and didn't bother trying to convince him to the merits of contributing something to the small community in which he lived. I had tried this earlier and it hadn't worked. It was time to just admit defeat. I carried on cleaning whilst Wayne went outside and smoked a cigarette next to a staff member who was also having a nicotine break. Needless to say this is highly unprofessional but very common. In fact, Wayne should have been at school but he refused to go that day. In fact, he often refuses to go.

When he came back in to the kitchen where I was finishing off my cleaning he started to complain about being bored.

"Well, perhaps if you had gone to school you wouldn't be so bored," I remarked.

"Oh shut the fuck up Winston. I hate school, its full of pricks telling you what to do. I just want to head to town and get stoned with my mates."

A few seconds later he picked up the broom and started spinning it around. It almost hit me so I asked him to be careful and stop fooling around. Instead, he shoved the bristles of the dirty broom in to my face. Not a nice experience I can tell you. I took a few paces back and again Wayne lunged the brush towards my face. Only this time I wasnt going to passively accept his bullshit behaviour. As the brush came towards me, I grabbed it by the handle.

"Listen Wayne. Im not going to stand here idly whilst you try to humiliate me with that brush. It's just not going to happen. Im a good ten inches taller than you and several stone heavier as well as extremely physically fit so it will take you some effort to get me to relinquish my grip on this brush and if you get too violent about it I will not hesitate in restraining you."

My little speech was like a red rag to a bull. Teenage boys like Wayne rarely encounter male authority figures, any males in authority they do encounter are usually emasculated figures who have been indoctrinated in the mantras of the ultra-liberal apologist brigade for anti-social behaviour. Therefore, when the likes of Wayne encounter the likes of myself it becomes a power struggle as they are usually used to getting their way.

Wayne spent a good ten minutes with all his might trying to pull the brush from my grip. He was livid with anger, but at no point did he lash out violently which surprised me as these power struggles often escalate. However, the battle for the brush was quiet physical and agressive as he pulled and swung me around the kitchen with all his might, but to no avail. In the words of the reformed bigot the Reverend Ian Paisley there would be "no surrender, never, never, never!"

Eventually Wayne tired himself out, he had to admit defeat, so he let go of the brush and I locked it in the office. For the next view hours he swore and glared at me every time I passed him by in the lounge. He was seathing that he wasn't able to exercise power over me in the form of humiliation.

A while later I was in the office doing some paperwork when there was a knock on the door. Foolishly I opened it fully as opposed to using the partial lock and as soon as I had done so Wayne had thrown the dirty water left in the mop bucket all over me. I stood there dripping wet and Wayne wandered off laughing as he went. In his mind the balance of power had been restored.

However, before you judge poor Wayne too harshly, as I mistakenly did, perhaps you should consider the theory that he has no control over his behaviour as he is suffering from a psychological condition (actually it is those in his company that are suffering) known as conduct disorder or was it oppositional defiant disorder or even school refusal disorder. Here's an interesting piece from the Telegraph on these conditions.

I considered the theory that Wayne was 'suffering' from conduct disorder and then I immediately dismissed it as the nonsense that it is. Instead I judged him to be the feral brute that he is at this point in his life. Hopefully, this may change at some point in the future. With the right guidance, discipline and boundaries (the things he doesn't get in 'care') Wayne could actually make something of his life. I spent a few weeks working with him and in the times he wasnt pretending to be a hard and tough yob there emerged a teenager with an excessively curious mind with regards to History and Geography and whose vocabulary was much more advanced than many of his peers. This inquisitiveness along with the ability to retain and recite factual information indicated the signs of intelligent life beneath the feral exterior. It's an awful shame that none of the services that have been involved in his life to date have been able to assist Wayne in developing his potential.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Up on the Roof

One day at the care home where I had the misfortune to be employed for a period of time, we were having another particularly difficult time with Liam the unfriendly giant.

On this particular day, Liam was trying to climb out on to the roof of the three storey house in which he was being accomodated in and rewarded for his feral ways by the state. Allowing Liam to play on the roof was deemed to conflict with our duty of care towards him so myself and two other Support Workers were wrestling with Liam to prevent him from getting up on to the roof and potentially falling to an early demise and thus never realising his adult potential as a future inmate of one of her majesty's salubrious penal establishments.

However, Liam viewed our intervention not as a display of our concern for his physical well-being, but rather as an interference of his right to do what he wants and also as a power struggle between himself and authority figures; a battle he has almost always won with threatening and violent outbursts.

Anyway, one of the other project workers, Dean, and myself managed to hold Liam's legs so he couldnt climb on to the roof. As he is a strong lad he managed to struggle free a few times and lash out a few kicks, but luckily we backed off in time so they didnt connect. However, in between us trying to restrain him and his kicking out, the third support worker present, Jim, managed to secure the lock on the skylight window which Liam had been attempting to climb out. This outcome didn't go down too well with Liam and threats of violence ensued, of which I was the main recipient.

"I know which fu**ing room you sleep in Winston and tonight when you are in there asleep I'm going to kick the f**king door in and mash you up and there wont be anything you can do about it."

I simply ignored his comments and daydreamed about enticing Liam out on to the roof by taking the lock off the skylight window on the thirdfloor and leaving it wide open and pouring goosefat all over the roof tiles.