A very UN-glossy look at popular culture... and whatever else takes my fancy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dave has all the answers.....?

Daily, it seems, we see and hear more and more about Britain's 'out-of-control knife crime', how our streets are unsafe and our lost yoof are falling victime to gang cultur and violence. Our, ermm, 'wonderful' new Mayor, Boris, has been vowing to make tackling this his number one priority and has started bringing in plenty of effective, hard-line zero tolerance policies which will no doubt knock this 'epidemic' on the head. Such as banning us from drinking cans of beer on the tube.

Ok, I probably shouldn't joke about or belittle the subject too much. When 15 teenagers have been murdered so far this year in London, there is clearly something going terribly wrong here. It is a tragic waste of life and demands that we take a look at ourselves and what kind of society we have built where this is able to go on so regularly. But I just can't take politician's supposed cares seriously when they seem to merely be putting together superficial plans that may temporarily paint over the symptoms of the problem but refuse to even glance at their deep-rooted, underlying causes.

For starters, it's hardly a surprise that at the same time as hearing how instances of knife crime and teenage violence are rising, we are seeing statistics that show how poverty, inequality and social mobility are worsening too. I'm not even going to start on the links between poverty and violent crime. They are proven beyond reasonable doubt and the evidence is there for anyone to find if they wish.

Whilst our politicians harp on about the breakdown of the family, they are embracing free trade full throttle, even to the point when David Milliband is going to The States to lecture their politicians on its virtues. How can I even begin to take seriously any bleatings about tax cuts for married parents or talk of metal detectors in schools when they are so far in bed with the system that creates these social problems that they are practically woven into its mattress?

Coupled with an economic structure that creates and sustains mass poverty whilst keeping the select few dripping with diamonds, we have rampant indivdualism and its ugly offspring - celebrity-worship. Fame was once a by-product of doing something important, significant or noticebale. Now it is not even fame, but infamy and notoriety that are held up throughout the media as what the young should be aspiring to. Coleen McLoughlin and Paris Hilton are seen as 'shrewd business women' despite doing nothing other than sleep with other celebrities and wear expensive dresses. And let's not even discuss Big Brother.

What we appear to have created is an underclass of poverty-stricken young people devoid of the traditional dream of working hard and gradually 'making something' of yourself. The top rung of society seems so far away it may as well be on the moon - something that won't be helped by the fact that, in a few years, both the prime minister and the mayor of London will be men who passed through both Eton and Oxford together. There are no examples held up for them of people from their communities who have worked hard or done something of value to society. They're not the ones who get the local notoriety and the national column inches - it's those involved in crime or gangs that are famed and revered.

For those who don't see much prospect for themselves or hope for what life might give them, crime is a warped way of 'making' something of yourself, forming an identity and gaining celebrity. We can't hope to fight this unless we address the values we currently hold ourselves - where striving fame and self-involvement are de rigour rather than encouraging and praising those who work to give something to to others and to their communities, and until we live in a society where every young person feels they can 'make something' of themselves the traditional way, that the higher rungs of life are not totally out of their reach.

Until then, we'll see if the Mayor and future Prime Minister manage much through banning alcohol on buses and paying people to live together. All I know is, I'm bloody pissed off without my can of kronenberg on the 8.35 pm bus to east London on friday nights......


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