Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Today's theme is FEAR. It does strange things to you. Some of you might know what I'm talking about.

QUESTION: When is the last time you felt a real and present danger to your physical safety because of another person / group of people?

For most of the people who think of violent kids as 'born evil', the answer is probably "not since I was at school". That's because they've moved somewhere safe, and are able to avoid dangerous places and situations. This location and avoidance is £expensive. For a minute, imagine that you were truly in danger, every day, and there was truly no realistic way of avoiding it. What would you do? Have a think please.

When was the last time you saw teenagers wierdly congregating in a really uncool place: a toddlers playground in a park. It happens a lot. Have you stopped to ask yourself WHY? Might it not be that they feel *safe* there? This is very different from thinking of it as deliberately malicious behaviour designed to offend parents and park goers. The kids might not even realise consciously that this is what they are doing (they certainly would not readily admit it as to admit fear is to admit weakness and become a victim, in their primal culture).
I have run this idea past two independent sets of gang members via mentoring networks. Both came out strongly in favour. One group said they regularly go to a wooded wasteland to mess about because they feel safer there.

Now imagine this: you are a kid and you get bullied every day very badly in the street on the way to / from school. This has gone on for 2 years. In the background you have friends whispering in your ear. "Join this gang, let people know you are running with them, and no-one will touch you". They don't bother spelling out the new types of different danger you will encounter, but tthose types are less certain. You might get caught and arrested carrying a weapon but you might not. You might get 'shanked' or shot... but only if your gang is less smart or less strong. You are more in control. It is better than being battered and robbed every day. Imagine the strength of character and foresight you would need to resist this offer, this offer that is reiterated every few days. Think it through.

Today (9 June 09) the story is out about Shaquille Smith, killed in a park. I know of rather a lot of killed teenagers, killed in a park. So where are all the letters demanding that we patrol parks more visibly such that children can be children and actually play in safety without having to tool up and gang up for mutual protection?

I once had a senior London Metropolitan police figure tell me that 'bad policing does not *cause* violence. Wrong: if a group of people feel that the police is not dedicated to protecting them in real and practical ways, then they will form alliances and tool up in order to protect themselves. This is so obvious if you think about it. That's why I asked you to imagine what you would do if you were in danger, unprotected and unable to move away from the danger. I submit that you too would be capable of travelling the same pathway as some of these kids.

Now you might think I'm an airhead lefty, claiming all these viscious teenagers are just misunderstood kids. Wrong, you will find why out if you stick to this blog over time. I just want you to think outside the press, think outside the box. Notice I said 'some' of these kids in the previous para. There are some kids who do have genuine alternatives, who can relatively easily live without danger, but seem to willingly enter a world of danger and violence. This is a separate issue altogether - I'll address this in another post.

Remember: try to think honestly what you might do and how you might behave if you were in constant danger, in a constant state of fear.

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