The Kids Are Alright

August 24, 2007 at 9:14 am (students, TWP, youth)

Am I the only one who has found the constant references to the “feral yobs” who supposedly are “terrorising” our streets insulting and degrading to the youth of Britain? It seems the media in the midst of a very rainy silly season have nothing better to do but quote David Cameron and his ironically titled comments about “anarchy in the UK” and use the very real problem of gun crime to try and claim that the youth of Britain are out on the prowl intent on stabbing, harassing and murdering the upstanding and law abiding adult population.

Meanwhile the media pours scorn and ridicule on the same youth for getting the highest grades ever in the GCSEs. “GSCEs must be too easy!” they cry. “There are too many pupils taking soft subjects like Sociology!” bellows another. So even the vast majority of Britain’s youth who are excelling at education have this achievement belittled by the media who seem intent on making them into underachieving menaces.

We’ve been here before, particularly in the youth culture of the punk heyday of the late 70s. The difference now is there doesn’t appear to be a definable sub-culture in the way that punk and even the new-age music that followed gave to groups of youths rebelling in some way against the adult world. Instead of “Anarchy in the UK” we have Rhianna’s annoyingly catchy “Umbrella”, Pete Doherty’s drug addled ramblings and the occasional wit of Lily Allen’s lyrics.

And then there’s alcohol. The stuff the supposedly upstanding adults drink in blinding quantities and again pour ridicule on the youth for following in their footsteps. It’s hardly surprising that under aged drinking is so widespread and indeed we all know that experimenting with alcohol – at whatever age – can often lead to mayhem of different varieties. This is a much bigger issue for society and not some kind of “youth problem”. In fact who is it exactly that sits in corporate boardrooms and comes up with the idea that they need more colourful varieties of drinks to attract the youth? Who is it that comes up with strategies and creates campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to drink? It certainly isn’t the young people themselves.

The bottom line in all of this is that the youth are a good measure of society as a whole. What I see are a lot of kids who want to try and get decent jobs, do well in school and try to become full members of society. However, they are also tremendously concerned. These kids are growing up in a world where the insecurity of capitalism is evident everywhere and there is a certain environmental consciousness that doesn’t exist among their elders. But too there is a certain despair that us adults seem to think is our special preserve. They feel the decline and it affects them too. They see the instability in their future, the rising cost of education, seemingly endless war and they get down just like we do.

So yes there are some young people, just like there are plenty of adults, who engage in criminal activity. There are some young people who make bad decisions and get involved with people and situations they shouldn’t be involved with but on the whole, Britain’s youth are not “feral yobs” intent on taking over the street. They are rather human beings, perhaps more disheartened than previous generations about what the future holds, trying the best they can to get through life under an increasingly unstable capitalism. The kids are indeed alright.


  1. Louisefeminista said,

    Yeah, I agree with your sentiments. I also think it also reflects the further atomisation and alienation under capitalism

    But there have always been moral panics about “yoof” mainly whipped up by the tabloids from Mods/Rockers to kids in hoodies. So the way to deal with them is slap an ASBO on them or lock ’em up! It really is appalling and shocking locking kids and young people up who have mental health problems, self-harm and sometimes suicidal (and the number of them who do indeed take their own lives). Utterly obscene.

    What has also been rather worrying is the screaming, hysterical headlines on the front of the tabloids in the past couple of days regarding Learco Chindamo who killed headteacher Philip Lawrence 12 years ago. They (Jack Straw and the screaming mob aka the tabloids) want the guy, who is now 26, deported as he was born in Italy but left when he was a young kid. His solicitors have used the Human Rights Act to stop this and now utter tossers like David “call me Dave” Cameron want to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of some kind of “rights and responsibilities”. Yeah, I can see it now, it will be all “responsibilities” and no rights for the powerless in this society.

    The Learco Chindamo case was a high profile case and now he will be free next year all hell has broken loose. The guy was 14 when he committed the crime. It really reminds the mob mentality when Jon Venables and Robert Thompson (who killed James Bulger in 1994) were released in. Anonymity was granted to them and the Commission on Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled the original trial of Venables and Thompson was “unfair”. Again, at the time there was screaming tabloids and mob mentality. I remember at the time thinking that these two boys were kids and couldn’t believe the treatment they were getting. I was indeed “understand a little less and condemn a little more”. They were two ten year-olds who committed a horrible crime but under the current law, the age is 10 for criminal responsibility (8 in Scotland). So they were tried literally as adults for a crime committed as kids. Absolutely crazy!

    Even when they were released there were to arguments to send them to prison to finish their sentence. Fortunately, that didn’t happen (unlike other “child killer” Mary Bell who was sent to Styal prison which helped her not one bit!).

    There was no understanding why these kids committed the crimes they did though there have been interviews with Mary Bell (caused the tabloids to go crazy). Like any high profile crime, in these cases crimes committed by kids and teenagers, you are not allowed to get on with your life. You have done the time but for some that is not enough and incareration for life (life meaning life) is the only possibility, which I find inhumane. Vilification and stigmatised as “evil” and never totally out of the public view. Years roll on but the photos taken as kids will always flash up either on the telly or the newspapers and never out of the public consciousness.

    There was a piece in the Guardian the other wk of people incarerated for life as teenagers. One bloke was in his 70s for a crime he committed when he was in his late teens! It shows how backward and draconian this society in treating crime. Punishment outweighs rehabilitation and boy, do we punish! People make mistakes throughout their lives sometimes terrible ones but have the capacity to change and evolve esp. when kids and young people. Someone who commits a crime at 10 shouldn’t have their liberty taken for ever.

    Sorry to have gone on TWP but this subject makes me so angry….

  2. Louisefeminista said,

    Sorry, the piece I refer to in the Guardian the other wk was about people incarerated for life in the USA.

  3. pmg said,

    There are real problem in some inner city areas with gun crime, gangs, and anti-social behaviour. It’s causes are complex and solutions difficult, as we all know. However the left has found it difficult to recognise the impact on working class life by groups of “alienated” youth. It’s real and in some areas getting worse.

  4. Louisefeminista said,

    pmg: Just think there needs to be some perspective regarding “alienated” youth. The underlying issues are social and needs a political response. Yes, there are “hot-spots”, I don’t deny that but surely we need to understand why this is happening. The hype and hysteria that comes from the tabloids and which the government likes to pander to will also have an impact on perception. Capitalism is alienating and the impact it has on people especially working class needs to understood. It is also contradictory as the youth in question are usually working class impacting on other working class people.

  5. pmg said,

    But to say, well that’s capitalism, what do you expect is the left’s stock answer and to be honest doesn’t explain the specific dynamics of what’s going on now.

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