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Matthew
Hi everyone, I don't post too often, but some of the recent news reports on the events in London recently have got my brain up to full operating speed...

For those who don't know, a sixth teenager was stabbed to death in less than a week, and the British national news and media have sensationalized events yet again, with far too many knee-jerk reactions across the board.

I've been reading the posts put on the BBC's own website by members of the public, cries of the decline in civilization, feral youths roaming the streets, of American gang culture being at fault, and most disturbingly, an awful lot of thinly veiled racist comments. Now, I've been following the stories/reports/shit-storm for a few reasons... I grew up in a city where carrying a knife was, I'm sad to say, common. I also used to live in the area of London where all of this is taking place.

Some say this is the fault of lack of discipline in schools, absentee fathers, our culture of me, me, me.
Others say it's a black problem. (These comments surprise me... no-one has dibs on violence. We're all capable.)
I'd like to hear the good folks of this forum's considered thoughts and opinions on the matter, from what they believe to be the causes, to perhaps even some ideas on possible solutions... I'll leave it there for now, but I'm really curious about what you guy's think/feel.
bryden42
I havent been keeping up with this that much, but my initial reaction is that there is a distinct shift in the ability or willingness to take ownership of actions and consequences by some of the later generations. (not a blanket statement I might add!)
I think it may have something to do with the fact that England has lost/Is losing its national identity. No one feels they belong to it and therefore start to belong to themselves. Once we get to this point its very easy to see a decline in care for "your fellow man" because they are not "your fellow men" anymore.
I currently live in Wales and the national identity here is very strong. There seems to be less of the antisocial type of behaviour that I found very prevelent when living in England.
I know almost all of my neighbours, In England I didn't.
Community is being lost, without community we stand alone. With no friends everyone is an enemy, or at best a neutral possible threat. I honestly feel that this is a major contributor to the issue.
Matthew
That's a very good take Carl-san, and I agree with you in many ways.
Community is key, and realizing that we're all stuck in this together and that it's an issue that can effect any of us regardless. I think lack of identity has something to do with it, more on that in a bit.
I think cultural identity though, has been twisted to fit agendas, and because of this, it's part of the problem.
Growing up poor, or from a disfunctional situation, or from any minority does in no way absolve you of any responsibility for your actions.

The media have been all over this, but have been ignoring equally tragic events with teenagers stabbing each other in different cities, and it seems to me all it's helping to do is polarize opinions of those who really don't read between the lines. Of course the media have an agenda, but it's almost as if they're inviting people to pour petrol on the fire.

I realise re-reading my first post that it's a huge topic that can be looked at from so many angles, so what I'll do is start off with some of my own ramblings and thoughts on one aspect of this.

'Gang culture'
One of the ideas central to the media accusations of gang culture, for me, is the issue of identity.
Theres always been a link, to me, anyway, of 'gang culture' and teenager's sense of self.
Most of us, growing up, have some kind of gang foisted upon us, albeit innocuous.
Ie: football teams, chess club, geek, jock etc, etc... It's part of human nature to split ourselves of into groups. There's always been gangs, and we all need to feel accepted or to have family... Sometimes gangs can be amazingly positive in the absence of family, but I find it hard to accept that somehow people forgot that killing is wrong?
Witless
Bored waiting for my next workshop at uni to start.. so here I am...

You get a merit badge if you manage to read this whole post

QUOTE
Others say it's a black problem. (These comments surprise me... no-one has dibs on violence. We're all capable.)


In fairness, that comment is born of the fact that it is very disproportionately black people commiting the stabbings. So pretending it's not might cause us to miss something important. But yeah, you're right, it everyone's capable and indeed, all races seem all to happy to contribute to the violence given the oppurtunity *coughschavscough*.

I can't even begin to scratch at the surface of this topic very well, runs far to deep. For example multiple killings within a week aren't exactly new to the world. Remember the cray twins? It's weird, back then people weren't as afraid of violence then as now. Infact they were almost celebrities of a form. In that case you could argue that it's not a case of things being worse than before, it's more the way we view them.
Like how in the gulf war, we now say it was wrong to use depleted uranium shells because of the high cancer rates of people that were shot but then survived. Can you imagine going to a scientist of the second world war, and telling them to be careful of the bullets they design.. it might have health implications on the people shot by them.

A lot of the noise created recently is a case of the times we live in where people are a lot more easy to outrage than they were in the past, I am not particularly sure Londons ever been a safer or more dangerous than nowadays at any point in it's history to be honest.

If that is the case (a big IF there I know), then the cause of violence is something that's been around since we've been keeping records. Maybe it's just intrinsic about big cities that the anonimity of being in a crowded city creates more oppurtunity to get away with things like murder, and violence.
Maybe as some research has suggested, humans are 'supposed' to live in smaller social groups. Our powers to adapt mean that we're making a success of bigger communities, but at this new cost of feeling unable to care as much about thy neighbour.

Hmm.. I have some alternative theories too...

Maybe it's just a numbers game.. London has around 7 million people in it. That's more than wales and scotland combined. I wonder how many people are killed per 7 million people in the country. I have no idea to be honest. I am writing this part of the post as my brain thinks it up (this is a first for me..). But it would be interesting to see if cities and big towns have more violence per population amount as outside of them.

QUOTE
I know almost all of my neighbours, In England I didn't.

That's only really true of the towns and cities of england, the further into rural lands you get, the more community like the towns becomes. At least in my experience of england. It's an odd thing too. When I visit my friends in rural england, I find my brain switching into a different mode, it's suddenly perfectly normal for neighbours to come round and knock on my friends door just to say hello because they heard he has visitors (I quite like that smile.gif ).

Oh.. here's something you guys might be interested to hear about.

A economist named Steven Levitt (author of the book freakonmics) made a contravershial but hard to ignore theory. It's never been proven, but it has a wide amount of support in the states, and a lot of the governments of the world quietly took notice. In the states in the 90s there was a unpredicted fall in violent crime in many major cities, the government jumped on the statistics claiming it to be the new harsher sentencing policies, and new policing attitudes that got the job done. Problem was that as more states and cities took on the policies they couldn't replicate the effect. Steven Levitt suggested the link was a more subtle one. Basically 20 years earlier abortion was legalised across the states, in the 90s all of these kids that would have been born didn't exist. The crime rate fall was a result of that. The types of families that were going for abortions were basically mothers not in a situation to be able to support their children very well in poor areas. With abortions being legalised a lot of those same familes had their abortions and then 20 years later.. crime rate fall.
It would follow to say that in the past, our prudish attitudes of no sex before marriage, and taboos on single motherhood 'forced' us into situation where we were in a better position to support our children (this all assumes of course the crime rate was indeed lower than now, which I am on the fence about).
When sex between unmarried teens became more and more of an acceptable norm. With more and more people not in the best position to bring up kids started having children. Then children from those familes are more likely to grow up into people that are more likely to commit violent crimes.

Man.. I'll get flamed for that paragraph if people read.. But I'll elaborate some more. I'm not saying "if you have sex out of wed lock you WILL produce thuggish children". I am not even sure I like the idea of marriage yet. It would be foolish for me to suggest we should return to ways of old.
Infact the stats also suggest, that a teenage mother who waits until their late 20s (preferably 30s) for their second child, has the same chance of raising grand lovely children as someone who has all their children in a stable relationship. It's more that the theory is saying that people who have kids when they are not ready are having a high proportion of the children that go on to commit crimes. (If you're wondering and still reading this far then yes, it is a lot of black people at the moment that are teenage mothers and fathers, and parents without jobs.)

It would also then follow that in smaller communities where everyone knows everyone. A lot of people don't particularly want the scandals like " ooh did you here that Anne that works part time in the post office slept with Cecil from Morton secondary school? I here she's pregnant with twins" cropping up every month. So it's kinda instilled a lot more vigorously than in more crowded places where as far as people are concerned losing your virginity 16 means you're the 'lamest person eva!!'.

Ok.. I have touched on race, culture, teenage pregnancy, the media.. shall I go onto religion.. nah.. I'll stop now... I may want to ramble on some other topic.. dry.gif
Matthew
QUOTE (Witless @ Mar 20 2007, 01:08 PM) *
In fairness, that comment is born of the fact that it is very disproportionately black people commiting the stabbings. So pretending it's not might cause us to miss something important. But yeah, you're right, it everyone's capable and indeed, all races seem all to happy to contribute to the violence given the oppurtunity *coughschavscough*.


I mentioned it as I found it a bit blinkered... 'It's not our problem it's their problem' Kinda attitude. A scary amount of the public responses, from supposedly intelligent people, were along the lines of as long as it doesn't effect white people than it's ok... That's what surprised me.

It's a big subject, but worthy of a little thought I think, and I knew I'd get some sensible responses here that would help me in my own attempts to analyze things.

The part about Steven Levitt's book intrigued me, and I'd like to read his stuff, as this is part of what I'm interested in. Chicken and egg stuff... If you come from a single parent family are you destined to be criminal? To decide that well, the worlds not fair, so that gives me the right to behave anyway I see fit, because I've decided the rules no longer apply to me.
But you still have a choice, just not the same ones as a child from a middle class family.

Greek philosophers had a concept of 'a social contract'. And basically, I'm paraphrasing of course, if you wanted to be treated like a citizen... Well, then act like one!

I would like my merit badge please!
pgrmdave
There is a possibility of truth to the abortion yields less crime idea. As far as I know, violent crimes are more often committed by poorer people. As far as I know, abortion is also more common among the poor. However, I don't know if abortion is high enough to cause a noticable drop in crime rate. It is possible that a little abortion goes a long way - it might only take a few people to not be there to help alleviate overcrowding enough to reduce the crime rate. As for the media's reaction, I don't know the British media well enough to comment. Is there a link to the article?
bryden42
QUOTE (Matthew @ Mar 20 2007, 01:46 PM) *
Greek philosophers had a concept of 'a social contract'. And basically, I'm paraphrasing of course, if you wanted to be treated like a citizen... Well, then act like one!


I like that about the Greeks, I also thier idea that a little of everything helps you to be a more balanced and productive individual. I'm kinda wondering what population figures and crime rates were like for the Greeks. It would make for an interesteing comaprison

*rummages around for a Toga to wear*
Daedalus
QUOTE (Matthew @ Mar 20 2007, 12:52 PM) *
Growing up poor, or from a disfunctional situation, or from any minority does in no way absolve you of any responsibility for your actions.


Justification and explaination are two different things. Of course, everyone should be held accountable for their actions, but it is no coincidence that the violent crime is far more prevalent among poor communities than affluent, black communities than white, and dysfunctional backgrounds than the stable 'norm'. These factors are all interlinked. Blacks are still the underdogs in British society and are (for entirely societal reasons) more likely to have a poor, dysfunctional background.

Social deprivation limits choices, and when you've got very little chance of getting a decent job because you attended a sinkhole school, and your peers are dabbling in the illegal, then the idea of criminal behaviour becomes a hell of a lot more enticing than it ever will for a kid born to an affluent, well-to-do nuclear family that sent them to a decent school with other nice well-to-do kids. Sure, the choice, and therefore the responsibility, still lies ultimately with the individual, but certain choices become more appealing when other choices are put completely beyond reach by circumstance.

As for the moral panic that seems to accompany every apparent surge in crime these days, I put that down to people not having enough to complain about. The chattering classes are more comfortable than they ever have been, and face relatively few problems of their own, or have very little of any great worth to say. Therefore, they prattle on about how society has gone to the dogs and that they're all afraid to step outside their front door. Crime is falling, but people are getting more and more frightened of it because they have nothing else to be worried about. When Society is bored, it creates phantoms of problems at which to be appalled.
Daria
QUOTE
That's only really true of the towns and cities of england, the further into rural lands you get, the more community like the towns becomes. At least in my experience of england. It's an odd thing too. When I visit my friends in rural england, I find my brain switching into a different mode, it's suddenly perfectly normal for neighbours to come round and knock on my friends door just to say hello because they heard he has visitors


It's also perfectly normal to leave your front door open if you're sitting in the garden, letting yourself into other people's houses to say hello or to drop off something, to leave your door unlocked when you pop down to the post office (which is also a greengrocers and butchers) and have a natter to the owners, and to say hello to every single person you meet whilst out.
However condescending and cliché it feels to say this, life in the country IS a lot slower than in cities or towns. In my own experience, the seasons change with what the farmers are doing, not what the calendar may say, and growing up in a place without any street lights makes you not afraid of what may be lurking in the shaddows. Because you are lurking too.

Back to the topic- I haven't actually paid much attention to these stabbings. I feel awful for saying so, but I have only been living in London since January and my general image of the place was that these things happen all the time. Not having a TV, and not regularly checking the news, also hasn't helped. I feel awful to admitting to that (the former, not the lack of TV) because I feel that I should care more, especially as I live in the city and especially as it is happening to young people.
Being brought up in a middle-class family in the countryside for all of my life, I don't really feel that I can comment on what might drive the kids to joining gangs. I mean, my life hasn't been peachy all the way through, but I would be naive and ignorant to say that it has been hard. I know people who weren't as fortunate as me, who did have very difficult childhoods but they didn't immediately turn to crime or to gangs. Probably mainly because there were no gangs, and the only crime you could do and get away with in small communities would be arson or graffitti on farm machinery.
There was a lot (and still is) of drug taking- mainly weed, ecstasy, speed, LSD and mushrooms (I used to pick them with my friend at her granma's house), and sometimes you would come across coke and heroin users- but it didn't always result in crime. Infact, very rarely. They would only usually show up at raves and parties (apart from weed, of course, which was around all the time). I really have no idea what it is like to grow up in a city, to go to a bad school with thousands of pupils (my highschool had just over 350 pupils) and to be in fear of groups of kids, or what it would be like to not know what you want to do in life and how you are going to get there.

This post isn't very helpful in the debate, but I thought a coun'ry bumpkin's viewpoint would be interesting.


It probably wasn't.
bryden42
This is always something that intrigues me. I don't want to add another "this is my life" post but i had a good mum, an absent dad, a dire stepdad and a large and unruly school and i grew up in a rough-ish area, I honestly dont know if I "had it rough", Matthew is probably better suited to make that assessment of me than than I am.

But what I do know is that there is always a choice!
Witless
QUOTE (bryden42 @ Mar 23 2007, 10:53 PM) *
This is always something that intrigues me. I don't want to add another "this is my life" post but i had a good mum, an absent dad, a dire stepdad and a large and unruly school and i grew up in a rough-ish area, I honestly dont know if I "had it rough", Matthew is probably better suited to make that assessment of me than than I am.

But what I do know is that there is always a choice!


I could too, my dad went absent before my memory starts, also I grew up in a fairly rough area (two drug dens have been been raided in my block of flats and counting!!).

Though I am told I am well brought up and decent (yay for compliments). True they could be all wrong and secretly I steal sweeties from babies, and push old people into puddles for fun. But let's assume I am not, and am all decent and stuff.

I believe everyone has choices, but I still also at the same time believe how you grow up has a huge effect on you. An example would be 'black' schools. I remember hearing about a guy who started at a school where almost everyone was black. When he started he was shocked to discover that he read at a level 2 years higher than the other students. As soon as kids learnt that this guy was being all good and wanted to learn and heard the way he spoke, then basically the picking on him and daily beatings started. They only really stopped when he started to fit in with them, and basically all the dodgey goings on they did. To say he's foolish to caved in under that level of peer pressure is a bit strong.

I didn't get it as bad as that at my school. I managed to get to top set of old school in the first year, but I do remember the feeling I got from my peers in that class, and it wasn't a pleasant one. I spent a good deal of my school life without friends as a loner. Only really got picked on physically a hand full of times, (those didn't bother me so much). But I can say with a fair amount of certainty I would probably have done better than I did do when I finished school if I'd not felt quite so jilted by the experience. Not to mention that I would have left with a lot more self confidence than I did have.

Thankfully humans are a diverse lot, and some people create their own roads through life, so some people don't just follow the road they are dumped on. But a lot of people do. I am not saying for an instant that they are 'victims'. They made their choices and that's them. But not everyone's very good at spotting other roads ahead of them. I would say kicking people in the right direction would help the situation with at least some of the more.. (how to word this right) idiotic members of society.

Humans are social animals, about a million studies have been done and humans since the beginning of time have worked out the same thing: "children learn from their elders". It's simple. Don't care about kids, and and a lot of the time they'll grow up and not care about society right back.
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