Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"You don't understand"

Nope, you're right, I don't understand at all. I don't understand some peoples insistence that only THEY understand a situation, and you could not possibly begin to get it because of your are, sex, location, beliefs etc. Single minded thinking, refusing to believe that someone else can possibly have any understanding of something is in itself a root problem in resolving issues.

Before this gets too confusing, I shall be a bit more specific.

Yesterday around midday, an 18 year old lad was stabbed in the chest on Sydenham High Street outside the Co-Op in SE26. The air ambulance was called and landed just up Mayow Road, and the area was closed off. Sadly in the early hours of the morning the lad passed away from his injuries. My condolences go to the friends and family who have lost a young loved one in such a tragic manner.

In the midst of this lad fighting for his life, and the police scrambling to get answers quickly and the suspect(s) in custody, Twitter and Facebook had the whole situation wrapped up and solved in a tidal wave of guesses, assumptions, sweeping statements, and opinions. Daring to question any of these would result in a true internet flaming.

Taking some time to read through some of these posts, and interact and respond to a few of them, one thing became very obvious. People have opinions set in concrete and refuse to be moved on them. Its gangs, its racist, its estate wars, whatever the opinion, it was vague and sweeping. Tarring all with the same brush, and stating that there was no hope, and no end in sight.
Well with that attitude and jumping so quickly to conclusions, you are right, and also a cause of the vicious circle of violence and retribution.

Something has clearly gone wrong in society, there is no doubt about that at all, but playing the blame game, or the I know best line isn't going to solve a thing. Nor is locking your doors and hiding away from it all in the belief that it all ends in some kind of Armageddon. Truth it, its not!

I realise plenty are just airing their misguided concerns, and others a fearful of what awaits their growing youngsters when they reach the age of independence. However living in fear only perpetuates the cycle. People not wanting to speak out, give information to the police, or speak to anyone about things they know, just in case someone comes for revenge. "Snitches get stitches" etc. The same old one liners that have been touted around for decades, yet 99.9% of people giving evidence in court, even against some of the most dangerous people and families are still walking amongst us today, without so much as even a nasty letter or phone call.
Of course revenge is real, and people seek retribution, but the fear of it is far more common, and a thousand times more powerful.

So taking the above point into account, it is really sad to see people totally uninvolved in matters throw such comments and empty threats around Twitter and Facebook. You are not involved, you play no part in the situation. Take your wannabe gangsta comments and threats and go away. People like this strive to belong, be a part of something, and somehow want to be portrayed as dangerous. Believing it gives them power and respect. Well let me set the record straight here, respect it earned, not demanded. Fear, yup you can command that with cowardly actions like internet threats, empty aggressive behaviour, and strutting around like you are a someone. But it is nothing more than respect for cowards. Worthless keyboard warrior.

Then there are those who preach there is no hope, all hope is lost, and it will spiral into self destruction.
For starters, growing up in the area (i.e within a mile of the scene) for the whole 42 years of my life, I would like to say I have seen the changes and am aware of the situation. Some would disagree, somehow saying that my age means I have lost touch with the youth and the area, and am unqualified to speak on such matters. A sweeping statement I might say, and one that again just categorises and dismisses me without any consideration or knowledge of me. Just simple rejection.
Having been interested in and involved with the police from an early age, and being quite socially aware (i'm not blinkered, I realise some things have gone un-noticed by me) I like to think that I am open minded and somewhat in touch. Taking the time to speak to the police on a regular basis, discuss goings on around the area, and play an active role in crime reduction where possible, in any way required.

Sadly the toughest crowd are the youths, gangs, crowds, crews, call them what you may.
The South East struggles with various on going anti-social and violent behaviours, as well as the "usual" street robberies, burglary and car crime that it.
Put a higher than normal density of young people in a small area, make them believe that they somehow have to matter more than the next person. Give them unrealistic goals to achieve, be it wealth, material items or fake respect. Then watch how it all unravels. Groups form, a mini power struggle ensues, and from within that, another struggle to be the head of the now group evolves. Human nature you might say, survival of the fittest, but on steroids.
But what is causing all this? Why suddenly has society exploded with hundreds of mini empires, and people wanting to believe that they have the right to stamp their authority on others, with threats of violence or unwanted behaviour?

From riding around on moped and motorcycles with no crash helmets on, popping wheelies in traffic, jumping lights and snatching the occasional mobile phone or bag on the way, to hanging around in gangs, carrying weapons, and intimidating others to do as you say, or at least never speak ill of you, there is a wide span of things going on, certainly in the South East which all need addressing.

But how?

Well that IS the question of the moment, and indeed a large quandary. While the adults run about like headless chickens blaming governments of days gone by, preaching that the current government are failing the youth of today. Blaming parents, and quoting back to days gone by when youngsters stood for older people on the buses, or leaving your front door unlocked. None of this helps. While people are out there shouting, posturing and blaming, the youth look on for guidance and find nothing. Nothing that is other than the generation before them rioting, "solving" issues, or having a voice with, yup, you guessed it, violence and disorder. Masks on, bricks in hands, the right to protest is exercised by vandalism, property damage, and running amok. Taunting the police who have been told NOT to intervene. not to appear heavy handed, and to gather intelligence and strike later when its all calmed down.

So I think we are starting to see where some of these groups get their ideas of disorder from. Not totally of course.

There is no over night solution, there is no quick fix, but there is hope. There is always hope.
Somewhere in the not to distant future the infighting and bickering, within the groups who can actually influence change, will stop, and sensible open discussion on what can be done to calm the situation will begin.

There is much talk that its the lack of parenting, open spaces, opportunities, employment, funding and so on, that is to blame for the situation. Individually none of that is true, but together it makes sense. There ARE without a doubt some terrible parents out there, not only leading by very poor example, and influencing their kids to behave in a totally unacceptable manner, but also those with little or no interest in their kids behaviour when outside the house. Poor school reports, exclusions, getting in trouble with the police and so on, with little or no consequence. On the flip side there are parents out there working 2 jobs and every hour god sends, to try and provide a stable home for their children. Some sadly unaware that the child is up to no good, and too exhausted at the end of the day to pick up on the signs and markers displayed during their short time with their child at home.

The hands off approach in schools has not helped particularly, with kids thinking they can behave in any way they so choose, again with little consequence. Violence and aggression towards teaching staff, assaults on them too. Somehow over the generations, as the ability for leading figures, such as teachers, police officers, and others figures of authority, to have any form of intervention other than saying "stop that", so the youth has stretched their reaches, daring to push the boundaries further and further, until we are where we are today. Again this is not "the cause", a high percentage of kids of school age show a lot of respect towards such figures, but the minority have the loudest voice. Setting the example, showing what is possible, and tempting others to join them in their unruly ways.

Government, well I guess at some point there is a level of responsibility for society in general, but to feel there is something that they could do, that they are not is maybe a little misguided. There is no magic fix. Suddenly offering every member of a gang or group a job is not going to dissuade them from their ways. Why work 40 hours a week for what you can earn in a few hours, grabbing a purse or phone, or swiping someones motorbike. Stereotyping at its finest there I know, but its just an example. Forget their age for a moment, and just look at how many battle to stay ON benefits, because working a long week to be in the same financial position just is not appealing.

That doesn't make that thought process right of course, from experience I would rather be working than sitting around, and would rather have the pride and rightly earned respect of working for a living, rather than living on handouts, and demanding the state supports me. But again, just like the riots and yobbish behaviour of the older generation, the same applies to the "why bother" attitude of the youth and their older generation. The example set is very much why work when you can be given it all on a platter. Mix that with the ability to impose fear on others for gain, and you are doing quite well for yourself.

I could ramble on all day about this, and air all my own opinions, but in fairness the whole point is, its an open platform, and it awaits all those with an opinion, a voice, and something to say and contribute to the melting pot, which in turn might one day become the beginning of the improvement.

All is not lost, other than the heads of some, and the common sense of others. So lets gather our thoughts, get involved, and start to understand the situation from all perspectives, and not just the single track, narrow minded view that we currently hold on it.
Pigs DON'T like living in mud, but common perception teaches that they do. Kids DON'T all like being in gangs, carrying weapons and scaring the elderly. But the media and some loud voices on social media would like you to believe that it is all a child strives for these days. It's nothing more than a way of life to most, and a way of life they would happily shake off if they were offered the sense of belonging they somehow falsely feel when surrounded by those in gangs and groups on the streets.

I'm not going to go as far as hug a hoodie. I won't try and preach that we can all play a part in this. Truth is, we cant. But I will say one thing, and something that I believe strongly in, and I guess is the point of this whole blog.

The negative press, the negative comments, judgements, and beliefs of the youth in society today. Yes they are as much to blame for their own behaviour as any parent, role model, or other influential figures in their lives. But to condemn a whole generation to the gutter, to believe that every child or youth on the street is armed, means you harm, and will grow up to be a criminal is probably THE most damaging influence on society out there right now.

Stop the pigeon holing, stop the judgements based on the actions of others, and open your mind a little. If you care enough to have an opinion, try and care enough to have an influence on this lost generation and help make the change. One baby step at a time.

Feel free to air your own opinions on this post right here, anonymous always welcome. Although try and keep it constructive. Or if you are reading this on Twitter and think it makes sense or is a load of rubbish, feel free to share or say.

Thanks for reading, and please, don't give up.

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