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  • Knife crime ‘epidemic’


    by Sunny
    11th July, 2008 at 2:57 am    

    I’ve written an article for CIF on the knife crime ‘epidemic’. Typically, the audience is so defensive that they think I mean knife crime isn’t a serious enough issue (it is), or that somehow I’m excusing the kids involved (I’m not). But it really is amazing how many people buy into the idea that politicians and media must say and do something while simulateously complaining on other articles that we live in a nanny / police state. Don’t they realise the two are related? The fact that knife crime summits are being announced by the day should make people think whether anything will come out of this once the media agenda has moved on.
    Point of note, I also hat-tipped Septicisle, John Band and Anton Vowl in my article but they took those links off. I think that’s bad etiquette.


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    Filed in: Civil liberties,Culture,Economics






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    1. Banditry » Blog Archive » On why society is basically doomed

      [...] has a good piece on Commentisfree on the knife panic - worth a read. Apparently the original version linked to this post here, but the Guardian subs took it out - bad Guardian [...]




    1. Amrit — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:51 am  

      THANK YOU, SUNNY - you are performing a valuable service for me and people in my position!

      I am sick of people raving on about this with the backing chorus of the tabloids, the freesheets and TV.

      It gives my parents an excuse to go nuts about my wanting to have a social life and coming home around midnight. AND I’M ALMOST 21.

      Nobody, other than on the Internet, seems to have any rational response to this topic. All the media and politicians want is a justification for CCTV-ing every inch of the country.

      I am almost starting to believe that we will soon see black Middle Eastern suicide knife-bomber murderers taking over London and, er, other select major cities in a few months’ time.

    2. Amrit — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:58 am  

      Also, I love the sheer delusion behind the suggestion of ‘national service’ for criminals.

      So, hang on… you think they’re a ‘menace to society’ but you potentially want to have them in charge of defending the security of your cherished nation? What sense does that make? If they’re the sort of evil scum you’re making out they are, why would you trust them with the wellbeing of your country? Let’s have the truth here: rehabilitation is too much like work for the right-wing morons to dwell on, so running away from the problem’s better. And hey, if you can ship the bastards out to Iraq or whatever, that’s a few less public schoolboys becoming suicide bomber fodder!

      Come on kids… just one more knife crime… get rid of Paul Dacre and make the world a better place!

    3. sarah — on 11th July, 2008 at 4:11 am  

      Amrit- would you grow up!

    4. MaidMarian — on 11th July, 2008 at 8:31 am  

      ‘it really is amazing how many people buy into the idea that politicians and media must say and do something while simulateously complaining on other articles that we live in a nanny / police state.’

      Absolutely correct, too much of this seems to want it both ways. This is, of course, hardly unique to knife crime but it is another good illustration of the point.

      The really sad thing about the media coverage of knives is that for all the reams of coverage no one seems to have come up with any sort of credible response, let alone one that is palatable.

    5. Golam Murtaza — on 11th July, 2008 at 8:38 am  

      “……….it really is amazing how many people buy into the idea that politicians and media must say and do something while simulateously complaining on other articles that we live in a nanny / police state. Don’t they realise the two are related?”

      Excellent point.

    6. cjcjc — on 11th July, 2008 at 9:16 am  

      Oh come on.

      There is a difference between a nanny (don’t waste those leftovers) state and a police (on the ground now) state.

      We have had far too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

      You offer nothing in your article except a moan at the Mail (yawn) and a sideswipe at BoJo.

      The NYC solution: we need twice as many police officers as we have now (not useless and rather sad PCSO’s) and they need to be better managed and focussed.

      Do you really believe that violent crime is almost half the level of 10 years ago? Really?

    7. Letters From A Tory — on 11th July, 2008 at 10:29 am  

      This has nothing to do with the nanny state. The government is responsible for our police force and our police force are not doing enough - therefore it’s the government’s responsibility to sort this out, even though in other areas the government is most certainly responsible for creating a nanny state.

      http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

    8. MaidMarian — on 11th July, 2008 at 11:07 am  

      Letters From A Tory (7) - That all may well be true, but it looks like only half a story.

      The only route I can immediately think of that would be a short-term quick fix to knife crime (and let there be no doubt that the media mentioned in the article are thinking in terms of quick fix first and foremost) is a quite authoritarian set of actions.

      This would probably include police profiling, stop and search, CCTV monitoring, a heavy police presence with an emphasis on selected areas, some sort of greater regulation on legitimate knife ownership and so on. I also suspect that it would mean taking the bull by the horns and stepping on some very sensitive racial toes.

      I make no value judgment as to the validity or otherwise of doing all this and I certainly do not pretend I have any better ideas. It is however fair to say that at a time when people are going off on one about civil liberties, demands for this sort of authoritarian action are not comfortable alongside widespread civil liberty sentiment. Authoritarian action on knife crime has a corollary not dissimilar from action on terror.

      I absolutely agree that this is not the nanny state (an over-used term) per se but the point in the article, that there is a tension between civil liberty sentiment and demands for substantial action, stands.

      One could also make the point that this may suggest that pro-civil liberties sentiment may be wide but thin, but that’s a different story.

      I would also add that to say, ‘it’s the government’s responsibility to sort this out,’ seems somewhat short-sighted. Surely parents and wider society are important? Are you saying that government is exclusively responsible?

    9. Parvinder Singh — on 11th July, 2008 at 11:39 am  

      You don’t need to read the tabloids to realise that something is seriously going wrong in our inner cities these past few years, and I don’t think Crime Surveys are picking up everything especially as it doesn’t cover under-16 crime. Also, accident and emergency departments in ‘seven major cities have recently reported a 13 per cent increase in injuries from stabbings for the first 6 months of this year from the same period last year.’

      Also, what’s happened to the family unit in these areas and are they to blame?

      Sunny, what’s your take on the following?

      “half of all black children live in single parent households where they were five times more likely to be poor and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. Too many black men have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

      I give you 2 guesses who said this.

      Is Britain headings to this also? I would add though that it applies equally to some poor whites as well as poor blacks here.

    10. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 12:46 pm  

      I work with the age group that is behind the panic. I tell you plainly that these British born and raised kids have been seriously let down by the country.

      I remember being told years ago that the most dangerous person is one with no hope or aspirations for the future. Many of these kids see their future as bleak and it is no wonder they act recklessly. They don’t exactly have much to look forward to. This is in no way excusing knife crime but put simply, if you create the environment that fosters the growth of this type of nonsense - don’t complain when it happens.

      Here are some ideas:

      Stop hiring South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders etc. for the good jobs in the city and use the people we have here (there is something very racist and classist about this in my eyes.)

      End the white middle class theological domination of the state education system. Their “philosophy” is ill suited to the majority of urban ethnic children and I suspect, working class white children too.

      Adopt a remotely spiritual philosophy in the indigenous culture encompassing some collectivist thought. Are we seeing the natural results of the celebration of individualism, where everything is OK if you are?

      Severely and publically punish some rich fat cat corrupt white system men. Most of these youths see the government of this country as corrupt and immoral itself. It is hard to explain why we must act morally to these youths when they point out that the very people at the the top of the tree are pretty evil themselves. The war in Iraq is often cited as an example. As a suggestion maybe we could use Tony Blair as the example here?

      Name and shame fathers/mothers who neglect their children. Maybe we can call that big bald security guy from The Jerry Springer show to help?

      If we consider that the levels of mortality from knife crime in this country is actually comparable to the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan we can come to the conclusion that someone has seriously fucked up in the UK.

    11. john b — on 11th July, 2008 at 1:53 pm  

      Stop hiring South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders etc. for the good jobs in the city and use the people we have here (there is something very racist and classist about this in my eyes.)

      In mine too, although possibly not in the same way that you meant.

      C’mon, do you not see the utter ridiculousness in saying “the problem for minorities is that immigrants are taking their jobs”…?

    12. MaidMarian — on 11th July, 2008 at 2:07 pm  

      ‘Many of these kids see their future as bleak and it is no wonder they act recklessly. They don’t exactly have much to look forward to. This is in no way excusing knife crime but put simply, if you create the environment that fosters the growth of this type of nonsense - don’t complain when it happens.’

      No, sorry, but that IS excusing knife crime.

    13. Amrit — on 11th July, 2008 at 2:28 pm  

      ‘Amrit- would you grow up!’

      No, thanks!

    14. Ravi Naik — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:02 pm  

      But give black families some credit please. Plenty of them have been speaking out against knife crime (and gun crime, remember that?) for years.

      You acknowledge that there is a problem, but your main focus is how it is not epidemic, how tabloids exaggerate, how politicians are clueless, oh the racist police, oh the helpless minorities. In other words, all the usual suspects from a Leftist perspective are there. However, you yourself have not said what are the positive steps to minimise the problem. Furthermore, you sound very condescending when you urge people to give credit to black families. Surely, this is not a “black”/race thing, but rather something that affects some socio-economic groups.

      My view is that the police needs to be tough on youth crime and have zero tolerance with knives and guns. If kids continue to bring knives, they should be punished. There should be clear guidelines as to how the police should proceed in these cases. Communities affected by this type of crime should be given the tools to get rid of bad elements that suck good kids into gangs. Parents should have the capability to make good choices for their kids: rather than letting them hang in the streets, there should be recreational activities to go to. Kids should aspire to do great things, and schools should promote that.

      At the end, parents are the key: their neglect is the reason why kids kill. If you don’t take care of your kids, somebody else will.

    15. Kulvinder — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:15 pm  

      There is a difference between a nanny (don’t waste those leftovers) state and a police (on the ground now) state.

      The former suggests you do something the latter arrests you if you don’t. Are we now reaching the stage where people start advocating statism without accepting they’re doing so?

    16. Kulvinder — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:24 pm  

      Nb regarding the comments on cif, its amusing that when Sunny points out the sutble references at the ‘black boy’ problem hes a leftist bent politcally correctness etc; when Janet Daley says ‘be honest we are talking about black boys’ shes a free speaking champion against political correctness.

    17. Kulvinder — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:26 pm  

      No, sorry, but that IS excusing knife crime.

      how?

    18. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 3:31 pm  

      ————
      “Stop hiring South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders etc. for the good jobs in the city and use the people we have here (there is something very racist and classist about this in my eyes.)”

      In mine too, although possibly not in the same way that you meant.

      C’mon, do you not see the utter ridiculousness in saying “the problem for minorities is that immigrants are taking their jobs”…?
      ————-

      No you’re misunderstanding. My point is that these kids (both those of immigrants and those of indigenous working class) have slim chance of getting these jobs at all and always have. Most don’t even aspire to them as a result. If they were realistically achieveable, I think more kids would aim for them and this would go a long way towards straightening a lot of them out. Instead they have to dream about fiddy cent or something.

      Also at the heart of this lies that age old conundrum of whether those children who are born and raised here but are not WASPS qualify as British. The question that needs to be asked is whether the indigs will ever see commonality between a non white person raised in the same town as them over someone brought up in a foreign land like Austrailia or South Africa etc. but is also white.

      ———
      ‘Many of these kids see their future as bleak and it is no wonder they act recklessly. They don’t exactly have much to look forward to. This is in no way excusing knife crime but put simply, if you create the environment that fosters the growth of this type of nonsense - don’t complain when it happens.’

      No, sorry, but that IS excusing knife crime.
      ———-

      It is not excusing it at all BUT an attempt to identify the antecedents of the problem.

      Let me elaborate further if I may. Another KEY force in this is role models. British society provides bullshit ones. The (to my eyes) unfuckingbelievable fascination with miscellaneous twats in Big Brother, David Beckham etc. doesn’t wash or strike with the majority of urban youth in my opinion. The shallow fascination with physical looks over substance that is the culture of England plays a part in this mess.

      Personalities are not solely developed by families but society (especially media) also plays a large part in this day and age. I recommend people read some of Bandura’s material on modeling for anyone wanting a more indepth study into the power of models both immediate and indirect (as in via media).

    19. MaidMarian — on 11th July, 2008 at 4:16 pm  

      I’m sorry Dalbir, but this won’t do. Society can not and should not run itself basis of whether a group of home-grown kids will decide to take offence and carry knives to use on people they don’t like the look of. That way you are handing a control over society to violent people.

      This glib argument, ‘people at the top of the tree are pretty evil themselves,’ would hold a bit more water if I believed that these knife carrying kids sat around reading various sources and independently drawing informed conclusions about Tony Blair or businessmens’ or others’ morality. Are you really asking me to believe that street stabbings are a direct response to informed conclusions about public figures? One could of course ask whether the talkboard hysteria about public figures has played a role in forming a knee-jerk reaction.

      Indeed, a part of me wonders if, when you work with this age group you yourself refer to, ‘evil at the top of the tree,’ and reinforce any crackpot and dangerous ideas already in impressionable heads – but that’s a different story.

      There are many people who opposed the war on terror, had a miserable time at school, feel the balance of the collective and individual is wrong and so on but very few of them support, let alone carry out, stabbings on the streets. These people are not ‘forced’ or ‘driven’ to carry out these acts; they are making conscious choices to do so - and to my mind they could have chosen not to do so very easily. They should not need a role model or the media to tell them that stabbing people is wrong.

      Not a comforting thought for those who would rather blame ourselves and our government for the acts of violent people, but you are looking to attach blame everywhere but to the people themselves that carry knives. It is an unwise justification, however much you want to dress it up.

      The root cause of knife carrying is a conscious choice to do so as is using that as a weapon. That choice may have an edge of rationality to it, I’m not denying that. That is why I agree with the point in the article – that we either want an authoritarian crackdown and what used to be called social control, or we always and everywhere want civil liberties but that there is an inherent tension in those propositions.

      I would also add, on a slightly more personal note that my wife is an immigrant and I rather resent the implication that my marriage choices and her hard work are somehow to blame for a knife culture. When my wife stabs someone, come back and attach blame then – until the day that happens you may want to have a long hard think about who it is actually doing the stabbing.

      ‘The question that needs to be asked is whether the indigs will ever see commonality between a non white person raised in the same town as them over someone brought up in a foreign land like Austrailia or South Africa etc. but is also white.’ Suffice to say that with that bad attitude I don’t feel that I have or want commonality with you and I couldn’t care less what colour your skin is.

    20. Parvinder Singh — on 11th July, 2008 at 4:28 pm  

      #15 Ravi: ‘police needs to be tough on youth crime and have zero tolerance with knives and guns’ and
      #20 Maidmarian
      totally agree.

      It’s time to get away from this ‘mamby pampy’ liberal thinking of excusing the behaviour of some inner-city kids on the environment, David Beckham or whoever. Many of us came out of inner-cities when our parents were busy working hard and sometimes struggled to put bread on the table, but that didn’t automatically mean we could be excused to carry knives etc.

      I would go further than just looking at knife or gun crimes. Inner city gangs, who mimic gangs in the US with their ridiculous nonsensical gangsta ‘music’ should be identified and smashed by the police. And their parents be held to account. This is my ‘urge’ which may seem too authoritarian to many, but it’s my gut response to a situation which a lot of people I know, of all backgrounds, are saying is getting out of control.

      We all know the problem, it’s what is to be done that should be talked about, and in that, Mr Cameron is, whether you think he’s opportunist or not, trying to move us to this, not pussy footing as to whether the media is blowing it up or whether there’s a race angle to it. I dred almost everyday the headline while I walk past the evening news stands in London on another fatal youth stabbing which has become a daily event.

    21. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 4:58 pm  

      You know MaidMarian it is one thing to sit around and pompously have an opinion on everything on the earth. It’s another to actually get off your arse and try and communicate with and understand those crucially involved in matters. Especially when those very people are being demonised like hell in the media (the mad white obsession AGAIN) and have no chance of having their voice heard beyond some idiotic “yoof” program.

      ——-
      “Society can not and should not run itself basis of whether a group of home-grown kids will decide to take offence and carry knives to use on people they don’t like the look of. That way you are handing a control over society to violent people.”
      ——-

      Your explanation of exactly why this is happening is moronically simple. To solve something it helps to understand why the thing is taking place in the first place. I’ve offered some explanations based on my experience of what I think are key contributors. You’ve seemed to have crapped yourself at the sound of it.

      This is a multifaceted problem as you may have gathered if you tried to actually read what I wrote. Instead you jumped on one factor (the disillusionment with state politics) and ran riot with it.

      This type of thinking by yourself is another issue I’d like to highlight:

      “Indeed, a part of me wonders if, when you work with this age group you yourself refer to, ‘evil at the top of the tree,’ and reinforce any crackpot and dangerous ideas already in impressionable heads – but that’s a different story.”

      If we look at MaidMarian’s writing here it seems to imply that those I work with are potential “crackpots” and “dangerous”

      I don’t even know where to start to tell you how wrong this is! But you have conveniently highlighted the type of idiotic mentality and presumptions that may well push an impressionable mind over to the dark side. Young kids can have lots of ideas - some smart some NOT. Maybe you was some sort of genius as a youth - most of us weren’t. I know for a fact most young people will have some stupid ideas that they will grow out of.

      Whether I believe the people at the “top of tree” are tossers or not is irrelevant. What is important is that many/most urban youth believe this to be true. However, this is not the only element in the matter. It is in fact a mixture or flux of factors that cause the problems we are discussing including familial breakdown, rejection of a perceived demasculinised identity, perceived hypocrisy by those in responsibility. Another one that is key is the feeling of being threatened many sensible youth feel and their carrying knifes to protect themselves.

      Are we on the same page yet? Do you understand me?

    22. Dave S — on 11th July, 2008 at 5:16 pm  

      Dalbir @ 19:

      My point is that these kids (both those of immigrants and those of indigenous working class) have slim chance of getting these jobs at all and always have. Most don’t even aspire to them as a result. If they were realistically achieveable, I think more kids would aim for them and this would go a long way towards straightening a lot of them out.

      Why is there so much emphasis on jobs in our society?

      Is employment an end in itself?

      Is there no more to life than getting an education in order to become employed?

      Is work the purpose of life?

      Come off it!!

      I don’t have time today to go into lots of detail about my views on this, but here they are to the best I can manage at the moment:

      The very foundations of this poisonous Industrial Growth Society are based on ridiculous, dehumanising ideas. The idea that we need to buy (consume) things in order to have a happy / complete life, and that the way to accomplish this consumption is, for the most part, through employment (or through criminality).

      This is laughable crap!

      If human beings are “naturally” so greedy and acquisitive, then why is billions spent on advertising? Most of our “wants” are artificially manufactured, implanted and exacerbated.

      Are human beings just “naturally” competitive and dog-eat-dog? Rubbish! We are naturally cooperative creatures, but it is beaten out of us from an early age.

      The school system - with it’s focus not on education, but on using coercion to create new workers - is largely to blame. (Note: I’m not blaming teachers - I’m blaming the school system.)

      You can’t form a well-rounded human by taking away their freedom from an early age and forcing them to do something they don’t want to do! The message that sends to kids, from day one is: “your time is not your own.”

      That’s the very purpose of the school system - to destroy all traces of real individuality and creativity, and replace it with the artificial equivalent “individuality” (through acquisition of a “desirable” lifestyle by consumption of the “right” products).

      “Freedom” becomes watered down and equated to purchasing choices or mobility (in the “right” kind of car, or from being able to go to “desirable” holiday destinations).

      In short, the entire make-up of this society is designed to dehumanise us, turn us into unquestioning workers, and sell us things.

      In a society this fucked, is it any wonder we have violent crime!?

      No politician or police officer or school can (or would) ever address the underlying issues that have brought us to this point: consumerism and the erosion of what it actually means to be a human (to live in true freedom, to have control of your own life and a fair say in your community etc.) are what needs to be fixed.

      Anything else is just rearranging the chairs - and often this is willingly done by the opportunist bastards “in power”, because they love being seen to be “doing something”.

      They’ll never do what needs to be done, because to do so would mean their cosy little seats of power would necessarily have to be removed.

      We need an entire redesign of our society, from the bottom up. I think it may actually happen at some point soon (and I’m doing what I can to bring it about) - particularly since the entire global capitalist machine is currently doing a great job of destroying itself - but the process of getting there is going to be cathartic to say the least.

      Knife crime is a symptom - a tiny piece of a much more fucked-up bigger picture - and it will never be solved without addressing the violence and inhumanity that almost our entire way of life revolves around.

      Bollocks to jobs - they are the stumbling block between us and our own humanity!

      (Note: employment is not the same thing as work, which can be a very enjoyable activity when participated in freely.)

    23. Ravi Naik — on 11th July, 2008 at 5:20 pm  

      “My point is that these kids (both those of immigrants and those of indigenous working class) have slim chance of getting these jobs at all and always have. Most don’t even aspire to them as a result. If they were realistically achieveable, I think more kids would aim for them and this would go a long way towards straightening a lot of them out. Instead they have to dream about fiddy cent or something.”

      Your point is completely off the mark. These kids have no chance of getting those jobs, because they are lousy students (I will not even comment about your jab at SA, NZ immigrants). These kids, however, do have it harder. As I said before, your chances of success depend on two factors: the level of education your parents have, and their annual income.
      Which means kids in those troubled socio-economic groups have a steeper mountain to climb in order to succeed than people like myself. Race, ethnicity and religion are hardly factors in my view, but that’s a distorted narrative that is fed by both the Left and the Right.

      Problem is that kids are lousy students because of a number of factors: you are unlikely to be motivated to be a good student if your parents are absent, don’t follow your school work because they don’t know or don’t care. Furthermore low income and lack of higher education means parents or single parents will have other priorities than to motivate their kids to do better. A kid in a school full of lousy students is also unlikely to do well, and teachers will unlikely motivate them. Chris Rock used to joke that some people would boast that their kid was not in jail. Welcome to world of low-expectations when you are a kid in that socio-economic group. More needs to be done at family and community level to break this vicious cycle.

    24. Dave S — on 11th July, 2008 at 5:55 pm  

      Ravi @ 24: I suggest that you are unlikely to be motivated to be a good student when the entire school system is designed to make you into an unthinking, working, consuming machine!

      Or when the entire world around you is set up for unthinking, working, consuming machines!

      Sure, kids think they want all the latest stuff, and that’s likely to carry through to adulthood - but who told them that’s what they wanted or needed out of life?

      School is unlikely to motivate anybody (hell, I’m surprised I even survived it intact, and I was a pretty “good” student most of the time) because the assumptions it’s based on and the way it’s set up are total bullshit.

      It’s just that if you have the “right” sort of parents (middle class), you’re undoubtedly more likely to go along with it, because the values it’s trying to foster are much more familiar.

      Schooling must be destroyed, and replaced with lifelong learning (of whatever you are interested in) for pleasure and deep personal fulfilment.

      But of course, that’s not good for business… hence we have a knife crime problem (in a round-about sort of way).

      Is any of this making sense to anyone else, or am I just a nutter with “unusual” points of view?

    25. Don — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:26 pm  

      Not that unusual.

    26. chairwoman — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:27 pm  

      ” I tell you plainly that these British born and raised kids have been seriously let down by the country.”

      Absolutely, and I have been saying this for over 30 years.

      But, like it or not, 20, or is it more by now, young people stabbed to death in under 7 months is an epidemic.

      And if it isn’t enough for goodness sake, how many deaths will it take for everybody here to accept that there is one!

    27. soru — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:27 pm  

      Is any of this making sense to anyone else, or am I just a nutter with “unusual” points of view?

      Dunno about nutter, but I do think you have things about backwards.

      1. Hunter-gatherer societies, e.g. in Papua, have a murder rate of about 40% - nearly half the people who die do so from stab wounds.

      2. Societies with more, and more rigid, education (Japan, Korea, the 1950s) generally have lower crime rates than here and now.

      Knife crime (well, spear crime) is pretty much the natural state of mankind. What we are talking about is a failure to move away from that natural state.

    28. marvin — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:41 pm  

      Ravi, great points as usual.

      Wasn’t Chris Rock’s term “low-expectation motherf****r” :P

      The lefts’ response to violence in the streets is: it’s all in the mind of the Tories and the right wing press! Yes, ok, 4 people got stabbed today, but would you stop going on about it?! It’s probably due to inherent police racism, anyways…. Let’s just focus on attacking the Tories and the tabloids. Let’s face it, they are the real enemy! They want to hang us all! etc etc

      Any chance of actually developing some progressive policies that could actually work? I can see the left being stuck in the whinge mindset for the next 5-6 yeats.

      “In practice, that means certain “suspicious-looking” (read: black) kids will be harassed”

      Oh the hypocrisy! Then you have the gall to say:

      “But give black families some credit please.”

      I can’t believe you said that! What are you implying, that all knife and gun violence is by blacks?

      Sunny, your argument boils down to: rather than search suspicious acting youths (who may be black, and therefore it would be racist), we should not get angry or upset when the kids kill each other with knives or guns. The important thing is nobody should go through the abject humiliation of getting searched! If kids are going to kill, the who are we to intervene! It would be racist, and become a police state!

    29. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:41 pm  

      ——-
      Why is there so much emphasis on jobs in our society?

      Is employment an end in itself?

      Is there no more to life than getting an education in order to become employed?

      Is work the purpose of life?

      Come off it!!
      ———

      I completely agree with you. There should be more to education than just producing cogs for the economic mill. But sadly this seems to be the state of things today.

    30. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 6:53 pm  

      ———
      Which means kids in those troubled socio-economic groups have a steeper mountain to climb in order to succeed than people like myself. Race, ethnicity and religion are hardly factors in my view, but that’s a distorted narrative that is fed by both the Left and the Right.
      ———

      I disagree that these are not factors. I think it is pretty hard for people who are not at the receiving end to truly appreciate this matter with any degree of subjectivity, however well meaning they are.

    31. MaidMarian — on 11th July, 2008 at 7:16 pm  

      Dalbir (22) - I don’t want to prolong this, but now you have all this off your chest!

      What you are saying this that knife crime is the fault of everyone except the person holding the knife isn’t it. That may well be a valid world view and one you are entitled to hold. I just don’t concur. There is no need to throw insults and a hissy fit.

      Incidentally, it is interesting that you seem to assume that I don’t work with young people. I volunteer at a local sport club. Suffice to say I would never indulge the gibberish about, ‘evil,’ that you do.

      And, yes I do think that, reading your first post the people you work with may well be potential crackpots and dangerous. Your words at 11 were that the people you work with, ‘act recklessly.’ I don’t want knife crime and reckless together if that’s OK with you.

      Of course I accept that there a great numbers that influence the likelihood of someone being exposed to the risk of crime - I just think that you are being very blithe.

      And I only, ‘crapped,’as you so eloquently put it when I read your anti-immigrant tirade. Again I can only wonder if you tell the people you work with that immigrants have taken all their jobs?

      On the same page as you - crikey I don’t even want to be in the same library.

    32. Ravi Naik — on 11th July, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

      “Is any of this making sense to anyone else, or am I just a nutter with “unusual” points of view?”

      I understand what you are saying. The ultimate goal of life, I guess, is attaining happiness, to yourself, to the people around of you, and to people who are outside your circle (the distance that you go is proportional to how altruistic you are).

      However, when you are a kid, teenager and even a young adult, it is difficult to understand what you are good at, which is important to get a sense of achievement, which affects your happiness (which will be different from individual to individual at different points of his/her life). School/education as flawed as it is, gives you the chance to explore different areas. Things that you learn in school from maths to history are tools that allow you to make decisions in life, economically, financially and politically. Obviously, it is a pain for many to learn Maths and History, and if one goes to what makes kids happy, you would spend most of the time playing games, watching MTV, and doing whatever else teens do. Not sure if doing what you want as a kid makes you a responsible adult later.

      I think the bottom line is that while current schooling system is flawed, I feel it does open doors for individuals to make choices later in life in their pursuit of happiness.

      Is there no more to life than getting an education in order to become employed?

      But how do you support your family and yourself, if not through employment? How do you perform a job without basic knowledge? How do achieve knowledge without studying and hard work? How do you know what you are good at if not exposed to a number of areas?

      Are you an anarchist?

    33. Ravi Naik — on 11th July, 2008 at 7:43 pm  

      “I disagree that these are not factors.”

      Why do you disagree?

      “I think it is pretty hard for people who are not at the receiving end to truly appreciate this matter with any degree of subjectivity, however well meaning they are.”

      Whatever.

    34. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 7:48 pm  

      Maid

      I refuse to believe that kids “all of a sudden” will pick up knives and start to stab each other with no external stimulus. The scale of the problem today tells me that there is something seriously wrong. Yes those kids are the ones who are ultimately responsible for what is being done: does this mean we shouldn’t explore and attack societal factors that may be contributing to them doing this? WE need to try and stop them doing this as a society/community instead of drawing a line and saying “their bad.”

      The fact that many youth today see the powers that be as malicious should come as no surprise to you because if you read many of the postings here - plenty of adults seem to think so too.

      My point is:

      State wise: Give the youth of UK some positivity and realistic opportunity and stop putting garbage in their heads.

      Familywise: People need to shoulder their responsibilities.

      You know, I suggest you actually spend time with those youth who are at the highest risk of not only perpetrating these crimes but also being the victims of them. Then form your opinions. They were not born bad. Things often turn them that way. Have the courage to face what these might be. Then we may have a half arsed chance of turning them around. Other than that our options are draconian or disengaging and possibly making the problem worse.

      For the record - It’s very unlikely that I would enjoy being in same library as you - but I would do it to try and tackle this thing that is happening.

    35. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 7:52 pm  

      ————-
      “I disagree that these are not factors.”

      Why do you disagree?
      ————-

      The fact that racism and discrimination exist and are not figments of our imagination.

      ————-
      “I think it is pretty hard for people who are not at the receiving end to truly appreciate this matter with any degree of subjectivity, however well meaning they are.”

      Whatever.
      ————-

      Witty response. You should have tried “talk to the hand.”

    36. Sunny — on 11th July, 2008 at 9:13 pm  

      Heh - thanks for maing the point about black boys. I wasn’t really passing judgement on whether its racist. but I do find it hilarious that when the right wants to blame black kids for everything, then its free speech… when I say race is being used a stick, I’m a bleeding heart liberal. Great thinking.

      I’m sorry Dalbir, but this won’t do. Society can not and should not run itself basis of whether a group of home-grown kids will decide to take offence and carry knives to use on people they don’t like the look of. That way you are handing a control over society to violent people.

      There is something in this, especially since the same point can also be made for white working class people. Why else is there a huge panic about immigration?

      You can frame an argument by saying that if these young black kids had more job opportunities (though I do think lazy schooling is a big issue), then people will say you’re making excuses.

      But say that white working class communities are being decimated through immigration and globalisation, and you’re held by the Daily Mail as the messiah.

    37. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 9:28 pm  

      Darkies responsible for all this violence? Watch this please:

      http://www.cbc.ca/sunday/2006/10/100106_1.html

    38. douglas clark — on 11th July, 2008 at 10:41 pm  

      Dalbir.

      As my son lost a friend to a knife, yes, in Glasgow, can I be permitted to say, that, that cbc link is an utter abomination?

      This is hysterical journalism, I think.

      Based on hyperbolic ‘evidence’.

      So, folk think that that is downtown, Glaswegian killing zone.

      It is fucking well a painted
      picture, is it not?.

      I have, on the whole, been able to walk, the streets of Glasgow without that fear.

      Oh! You want to know what ‘on the whole means’? It means that I completely reject your hypothesis.

      The kids on CBC were being dramatic actors. Sure, we might get killed by violence, but the chances are we’ll be killed by old age, quite quickly, given the stats.

      I have walked those streets without personal fear. D squared has made the important point to me that I am not a target. Being old and ugly. However I can cross their territory without fear.

      This is a young person’s war, perhaps based on territoriality, or more likely based on a junkie gangs. War, causes deaths, I’d say.

    39. Dalbir — on 11th July, 2008 at 10:55 pm  

      Douglas

      No offense intended. I was merely trying to highlight the fact that youth violence is not solely an immigrant/black issue as some people are subtly (and no so subtly) trying to imply.

    40. Ravi Naik — on 11th July, 2008 at 11:47 pm  

      Why do you disagree?
      -
      The fact that racism and discrimination exist and are not figments of our imagination.

      I didn’t say that these do not exist. Yet, I do not believe that they are obstacles to success in this country. If you do badly in school, you are likely to have a limited choice of jobs, unless you excel at sports or arts. That’s a fact.

      I also think that in this day and age, worse than the ugly racism from the BNP, is the bigotry of low-expectations from parents, community, society and the well-intentioned Left. Kids should not be given a victimised mindset that from the beginning tells them that they will never amount to anything - or find good jobs - because they are black, Muslim or brown, and that racism and discrimination exist. Instead, kids should be given incentives to aim higher, to aspire to be better than their parents, and that they can achieve what they want by hard work.

    41. Dalbir — on 12th July, 2008 at 12:14 am  

      ———-
      I didn’t say that these do not exist. Yet, I do not believe that they are obstacles to success in this country.
      ———-

      Tell that to the people who have to have tribunals for unfair dismissal and stonewalling in their careers. Are you a “I’m OK so everyone else must be” type of person? This approach is flawed because it would play down the experiences of those that do go through this.

      ———-
      Kids should not be given a victimised mindset that from the beginning tells them that they will never amount to anything - or find good jobs - because they are black, Muslim or brown, and that racism and discrimination exist.
      ———-

      So we should deny the existence of discrimination then? Wouldn’t it be better to teach them to overcome these obstacles should they face them rather than denying their existence?

      ———-
      Instead, kids should be given incentives to aim higher, to aspire to be better than their parents, and that they can achieve what they want by hard work.
      ———-

      This I fully agree with.

    42. Ravi Naik — on 12th July, 2008 at 12:50 am  

      “Tell that to the people who have to have tribunals for unfair dismissal and stonewalling in their careers. Are you a “I’m OK so everyone else must be” type of person? This approach is flawed because it would play down the experiences of those that do go through this.”

      Are these the exception or the rule? I guess that’s the real point, isn’t it?

      “So we should deny the existence of discrimination then? Wouldn’t it be better to teach them to overcome these obstacles should they face them rather than denying their existence?”

      Ok, my sentence was poorly constructed. I didn’t mean to say that we should deny the existence of discrimination. Let me rephrase that: “Kids should not be given a victimised mindset that tells them from the beginning that they will never amount to anything - or find good jobs - because they are black, Muslim or brown, or because racism and discrimination exist.”

    43. douglas clark — on 12th July, 2008 at 9:35 am  

      Dalbir @40,

      You are quite right.

      No offense intended. I was merely trying to highlight the fact that youth violence is not solely an immigrant/black issue as some people are subtly (and no so subtly) trying to imply.

      As my son lost his friend on the basis of white on white knife crime, you’ll get no arguement from me about knife crime.

      It is a disgusting phenomena.

    44. El Cid — on 12th July, 2008 at 9:53 am  

      I think it would be churlish to deny that gang-related teenage violence has a strong Afro-Caribbean element to it. It would be silly to claim that it is only a black problem. The white working classes have other related problems too. But come on, let’s be practical. And I know a lot of black people would agree with me. I also know it is a cliche. But it is not only that too many fathers are absent, it is that they are too distant and instutionalised to train their boys to duck and dive in a society they perceive as hostile and fair game, i.e. ‘keep it real’, and have low expectations. It’s shit really.

    45. El Cid — on 12th July, 2008 at 10:00 am  

      Also, what to people mean by police state?
      Do people mean the DNA database, CCTV, plus more bobbies on the beat — or some of these things?
      Because I for one would like to see more police on the streets of big cities.
      I sometimes wonder what people mean by ‘progressive’. But if it means helping to improve the quality of life of the vast majority of people, particularly the bottom 50 percent who do not live in leafy suburbs with quaint gastropubs and cobbled mews, then there is nothing regressive about wanting to have more police.

    46. El Cid — on 12th July, 2008 at 10:00 am  

      where’s the editing thing?

    47. MaidMarian — on 12th July, 2008 at 3:52 pm  

      Sunny (37) - Thank you for your comment.

      ‘There is something in this, especially since the same point can also be made for white working class people. Why else is there a huge panic about immigration?’

      Yes, absolutely - the root cause of knife carrying has nothing to do with colour and it is a false argument to say that by definition this is a racial issue.

    48. Dave S — on 17th July, 2008 at 7:23 am  

      Damn, I hate it when I have to go away in the middle of an interesting discussion like this one! I hope those who replied to me are still here!

      Soru @ 28:

      Dunno about nutter, but I do think you have things about backwards.
      1. Hunter-gatherer societies, e.g. in Papua, have a murder rate of about 40% - nearly half the people who die do so from stab wounds.

      I’m not advocating a return to hunter-gatherer societies - I’m advocating a vastly different take on the way we look at “work”, and the priorities we place on things in industrialised society.

      I believe in the need for work, but generally I do not believe in the need for employment. I’m not saying employment opportunities shouldn’t exist for those who really honestly want them - but I think the idea that we need to spend our entire lives either in employment or looking for it is wrong and very harmful to society.

      For starters, unemployment is a built-in aspect of capitalism, because capital creates and requires a reserve mass of unemployed people - not least as a way to control the employed. From the perspective of bosses and politicians, either too much or too little unemployment can easily lead to instability. Mass unemployment is simply a necessary condition for the economy to be in equilibrium, and this way of thinking is nothing new.

      Now, imagine if instead of being crippled with endless, futile, motivation-destroying “job seeking”, we just changed our attitude to unemployment, and saw those who are not in employment as potentially (and often already) a valuable asset to society?

      For example, I have more than a handful of friends who are on the dole, but are also doing absolutely invaluable voluntary work in their communities - the type of stuff that literally prevents societal collapse, no word of exaggeration.

      The simplistic views on the unemployed (that they are all scrounging scumbags) posed by the likes of the The Sun, The Daily Mail, the BNP and so on are not based on fact, but on dislike of an imaginary foe; the person who is “getting something for nothing”.

      Whereas in reality, a great many unemployed people are already doing an incredible amount of valuable stuff for themselves and their communities, and this should be encouraged, not clamped down on.

      But we need a society with the assumption of trust - of most people’s good nature, of most people’s sincerity and honesty - that would free these people further from being mere “jobseekers” (or “dole scroungers”, depending on who you ask) and make it clear that there are many other valuable pursuits in life, and that ultimately just about everything pays back into society and creates a variety of different kinds of “wealth”.

      Instead of shackling the unemployed into an endless hunt for employment, free them to realise their own potential and creativity, to become self supporting, or even self sufficient.

      Sure, there are probably some people who will abuse the system and do “nothing” (though really, and this isn’t a rhetorical question: how many people can actually stand to do absolutely nothing of any value for a period of years or more?), but isn’t that a small price to pay for the hundreds of thousands of people who would take the opportunity and make extremely good use of it?

      Tomorrow’s inventors, artists, musicians, writers, food producers, carers, home makers, youth workers, you name it - they are out there, and they are not being seen for the valuable asset that they could so easily be. Instead, they are being made to fill in forms and feel a crippling level of guilt and alienation from society, simply for not being in employment.

      I know this idea can’t just come about overnight, but I believe there is a factual basis to support it and prove it is correct - if only it wasn’t attacked so readily by reactionary and opportunistic elements of the media, who are of course supporting corporate riches over public fulfilment.

      But surely even a hardcore right-winger must be able to acknowledge that not all measures of “wealth” can be counted in terms of money, or that crime rates would undoubtedly be much lower if the armies of unemployed were truly freed up to make better use of their time, because of the benefit they could offer to society?

      I think it would prove to be cheaper and more effective than having more police and more prisons, anyway.

      The guilt that society (stoked by the media) piles on the unemployed, and the workhouse mentality hangover Britain has from it’s Puritan days is what keeps them wasting away.

      I propose that the dole is a peanuts payment for what so many of these people would give back to society, if only their potential was unlocked by removing them from the hunt for jobs. We should be shaking them by the hand and saying “thank you for your contribution to our world”, not “get a job you scrounger”.

      Of course, then they’d cease to be a stick to control the employed with, not to mention less prone to consumerist tendencies (more fulfilled so less susceptible to advertising, and with little disposable income) so I think that’s probably why it hasn’t been allowed to be this way, and is unlikely to unless this idea takes root and we fight hard to bring it about.

      The “something for nothing” reactionary Daily Mail ranting just makes a convenient scapegoat and maintains the status quo.

      I actively support active unemployment.

      2. Societies with more, and more rigid, education (Japan, Korea, the 1950s) generally have lower crime rates than here and now.

      Japan and Korea also have some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Could that be because hierarchy and erosion of self-worth before “authority” are very present in the culture? I don’t know so much about Korea, but this is certainly the case in Japanese culture.

      There is mountains and mountains of evidence to demonstrate that while authoritarianism may on the surface appear to reduce crime rates, it is only effective in the short term, and is actually as ineffective as it is unmaintainable.

      (Eg. harsh penalties imposed for things are only effective for a short term, until it becomes obvious that the chance of getting caught is pretty low. Case in point: Hordes of pickpockets working the crowds at the public hanging of other pickpockets in Georgian times and before!)

      Not only that, but it creates a deep misery in society, because it goes against our natural tendency towards freedom and enjoyment of life. It devalues us as worthy individuals in a community, and instead deepens and ingrains harmful economic and social divides.

      As a cartoon I once saw put it:

      “Mummy, why are some people rich and some people poor?”

      “Well, once upon a time, some men had some big sticks…”

      Authoritarianism and attempted imposition of artificial rigidity on society maintains that.

      So far from what you appear to advocate, I think a much more libertarian approach to education (and actually, everything to do with humans) is needed. Power between people as a mutual creation of their community, rather than of a tiny elite over everyone else.

      Put trust in children, and give them the means and the freedom to spend their time doing whatever interests them, and they will amaze you with their achievements and creations.

      If you’re about to say “surely they’d just spend all their time on Playstations”, then I would ask if such a society would even have led to the creation of Playstations? Or whether games consoles are actually just quite a convenient way for large corporations to make consumers out of kids?

      It’s probably not quite as clear cut as all that (computer games arguably do have some worth - leading technical advances and so on) but I really do believe the way to fix just about everything in society is to allow greater freedom in all aspects of life. (Though this freedom must be mutual and universal, and therefore does not include the freedom to harm others or their communities. It is a positive freedom because of other people, rather than in spite of them.)

      Again, this is not profitable, which is why it is not the way things are at the moment, which is (in a roundabout way) why we have knife crime.

      Knife crime (well, spear crime) is pretty much the natural state of mankind. What we are talking about is a failure to move away from that natural state.

      Freedom is the natural state of humanity. Being surrounded by nature, not concrete, is the natural state of humanity. Creating beautiful things for ourselves rather than purchasing mass-produced crap is the natural state of humanity. Having real control of our own lives and destinies is the natural state of humanity. Spending time with and getting to know the people who live near us is the natural state of humanity. Caring and sharing together in our communities is the natural state of humanity. Living sustainably in a culture with a rich past and a promising future is the natural state of humanity. Being a fulfilled human, not merely a corporate sales figure, is the natural state of humanity.

      So please don’t talk to me about “natural state” when just about everything we are surrounded with goes entirely against our natural state. It is our natural state we need to return to, not depart from, and it is our natural state that will enable us to solve the problems that are created by our unnatural society.

      As the (allegedly) African proverb says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child”.

      We just need to pull the parasites (bosses, politicians, authoritarians etc.) off, so we can get on with being human. That is the way to solve knife crime - and everything else!

      (As this is a pretty long reply, I’ll start another one for Ravi @ 33.)

    49. Dave S — on 17th July, 2008 at 9:31 am  

      Ravi Naik @ 33:

      I understand what you are saying. The ultimate goal of life, I guess, is attaining happiness, to yourself, to the people around of you, and to people who are outside your circle (the distance that you go is proportional to how altruistic you are).

      I would say not happiness, but a sense of deep, collective fulfilment (not quite the same thing).

      We need sad times and a certain amount of challenging / difficult situations in our lives in order to appreciate the happy times. Together and in combination with a number of other factors, they can lead to fulfilment.

      My ultimate goal in life is to attain fulfilment.

      But perhaps I could attain that from realising that all I need to do is simply live? That trying to “attain” something like fulfilment is what makes it impossible. At least, that’s partly what I’ve come to realise over the last few years.

      These days, I try not to try - I just am - and for the most part, I am quite a good deal happier, as well as able to weather the bad times a bit better.

      My dad killed himself in 2004. Nothing brings home a sense of perspective quite like that kind of thing. Ironically, that incredibly sad event taught me a lot about how to find happiness, though I’m sure there are less tragic ways to figure it out.

      However, when you are a kid, teenager and even a young adult, it is difficult to understand what you are good at, which is important to get a sense of achievement, which affects your happiness (which will be different from individual to individual at different points of his/her life).

      If I can substitute “fulfilment” for everywhere you say “happiness” (I think we mean pretty much the same thing as each other and it’s only a semantic difference), then I agree.

      A sense of achievement is vital, but that is what I think gets crushed in school.

      School/education as flawed as it is, gives you the chance to explore different areas. Things that you learn in school from maths to history are tools that allow you to make decisions in life, economically, financially and politically.

      Yes and no. I’m not saying there should be no schools, but that education should be led by investigative, instinctive “play”, rather than a top-down curriculum imposed by authoritarian teaching.

      You can force someone to “learn” something (to perform a certain motion such as differentiating an equation), just as you can teach an elephant to do tricks if you coerce it with positive (reward) or negative (punishment) means.

      But for someone to really become educated requires their own freedom, and requires time too - lots of time. Nobody has ever become educated in school or college, but plenty of people have had their love of learning destroyed for life there.

      School has become a forced experience, with children drafted into it. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to ask (and indeed, many do, if only subconsciously), “If learning is so great, then why force it upon us?”

      Does a mother force milk on their baby, or wait for it to cry out because it is getting hungry?

      If education is to really happen, then there has got to be a reason other than threats and coercion for the teacher and student to be together. This is not the case at the moment, which is why, although we have a whole lot of people in school, so very few of them end up educated there (or ever).

      If we want people (and thus society) to become educated, we have to stop forcing them to attend school.

      But as I mentioned before, this is not profitable (in a monetary sense).

      Obviously, it is a pain for many to learn Maths and History, and if one goes to what makes kids happy, you would spend most of the time playing games, watching MTV, and doing whatever else teens do.

      See my post @ 50 for my thoughts on computer games etc. However, if we’re talking about merely “playing games” (meaning real games, where we generally have fun and learn a multitude of skills at the same time, such as cooperation, problem solving, fitness, exploration of curiosity etc.) then I think that’s absolutely the most valuable way of learning. It is in destroying “play” that we destroy real learning.

      Not sure if doing what you want as a kid makes you a responsible adult later.

      So it is by removing responsibility altogether that you propose to create it? Does there just come a “magic point” at which we supposedly make the switch, and suddenly become responsible for ourselves?

      I think it’s pretty clear that idea isn’t working! It’s paternalistic to say the least - creating dependent, not free-thinking people. (How much evidence do you want? Just go for a walk down the street!)

      You simply cannot cultivate a sense of personal responsibility by amputating it in early childhood! That means we have to give kids the freedom and the means to make their own choices, so that they can educate themselves (with our help).

      Besides, what can you actually remember of the maths you were taught at school, beyond what you find interesting or useful today? Perhaps the saddest thing is that this legacy of forced learning has undoubtedly destroyed so many people’s love for numbers, or for Shakespeare, or for conducting scientific experiments, and tipped countless amounts of human potential down the drain with it.

      I think the bottom line is that while current schooling system is flawed, I feel it does open doors for individuals to make choices later in life in their pursuit of happiness.

      I believe in it’s current state it closes more doors than it opens, and it churns out unhappy adults who are unable to make any real choices in their lives. Not only that, but it also makes most people fairly immune to the realisation that most of the choices in their lives have been taken away from them, and replaced with hollow so-called “choices” such as what career to follow, where to go on holiday, or which mobile phone to buy.

      Those may well be choices, but they certainly don’t constitute freedom or responsibility for oneself.

      The whole point of consumer capitalism is that whatever we “choose”, they (the owners and controllers) profit, period.

      But how do you support your family and yourself, if not through employment?

      Simple! My partner and I work directly to support our needs (and that of our first child, who is due in six weeks) as far as we can at the moment. We grow a bit of food, we try not to get machines to do too many things that we can do ourselves, and we try never to hire other people to do something we should learn to do ourselves. There’s probably more to it than that, but we haven’t got a recipe - we just do it. I’m sure in six weeks time, it will change a fair bit - but at that point also, we’ll just do it, as it comes along.

      The way I see it, you can work to get money to get things done, or you can just get them done yourself. Most of the things that you can’t do yourself, that you “need” money for, are things that you don’t actually need, or are things that you can find for free if you have the time to look. Money is a quick fix for those who don’t take the time to do stuff themselves, or to find other ways of accomplishing things.

      In time, I hope my ratio of these things will increase almost up to total self-sufficiency as part of a community. Yes, we will grow or find almost all of our own food, and provide nearly all of our own water, power, education and so on. This is not a pipedream, but a very real plan that is being laid down and worked towards as we speak. (A kind of “eco village”, though really, just a village - unless we’re in the habit of adding qualifying descriptors to everything, in which case, we might as well call London “The Unsustainable Nightmare City of London”.)

      For now, I also supplement the stuff I can do myself with self-employment as a web designer and programmer, and part-time employment (one day a week, plus unpaid preparation time) as a university tutor. If you’re wondering what kind of teacher I am, after my rants about education, then I can tell you: I’m the kind that says “I’m only here to help you find your own way”.

      Incidentally, I have no teaching qualifications - just a largely self-taught skill (I only honed my skills to shining point after I quit employment) and a reasonable degree of experience in it.

      Money is always a bit tight, but that doesn’t matter - we make do with what we’ve got, and we generally manage just about OK. I often give people loaves of bread and jars of jam that I’ve made, and in return, lots of interesting stuff comes my way (favours, food, computer bits, website work, whatever). Creativity with what we have available to us is the key.

      I’m happy enough that I don’t need expensive items to plug the gaps. When I see an advert trying to sell me something, I recognise that there is generally nothing I actually need.

      When parts of almost any day can be a holiday, I don’t need to limit my “freedom” to several weeks a year. I just work when I need to, and pursue other things (generally creative things: music, writing, cookery, gardening) when I feel like it.

      I also don’t need a car, because I have chosen real freedom (time to spend doing things) over an artificial sense of freedom (“mobility”). I’m generally as mobile as I need to be with a good split of cycling and public transport, and sometimes just admitting that somewhere is too far away, or that if I want to get there, I will make an adventure of it.

      We don’t buy crap that we don’t need, and we got rid of our TV long ago.

      We will also have plenty of time to spend with our child(ren), which is something I’m really looking forward to! (Imagine missing out on that!? Madness!!)

      How do you perform a job without basic knowledge? How do achieve knowledge without studying and hard work? How do you know what you are good at if not exposed to a number of areas?

      Almost everything I learned that has been really useful to me is stuff I picked up from spending time with other people, and stuff I have taught myself because I wanted to learn. I constantly expose myself to new areas of interest, generally just by following my nose, or through the people I (actually have the time to) meet and befriend.

      Are you an anarchist?

      Absolutely! But so is almost everybody - at least partially - because nothing could be more natural. We are all born anarchists, and however much it’s conditioned out of us, we still maintain quite a bit of it when it suits us.

      Or are you telling me you need to elect a committee in order to have a picnic with some friends? ;-)

      We encounter anarchic situations almost all the time in daily life, and we sort them out and deal with them just fine. Yet for some reason, it doesn’t dawn on most people to demand that our society runs on the same principles!?

      A type of “anarchy” is already here - but at the moment it’s the bad type of anarchy, in which those with the means do whatever the hell they like, and everybody else is powerless to stop them. An anarchy that is synonymous with disorder, chaos and destruction.

      That’s generally the reason used to discredit the type of anarchy I am in favour of (“it would descend into murder”… hello, that’s already happening!), in which we all live with a the maximum possible freedom in cooperation with and because of each other, rather than in spite of each other.

      The chaos and destruction imposed by a tiny elite on the rest of us at the moment is millions of times worse than any anarchical disorder you might experience under the kind of anarchy I love so much and live (as far as possible) on a daily basis!

      (Sorry that was another really long one folks - and thanks for reading this far!)

    50. Ravi Naik — on 17th July, 2008 at 3:29 pm  

      David S - I really enjoyed reading your post (#51), and I shall comment on it soon.

    51. soru — on 17th July, 2008 at 5:16 pm  

      dave: I sort of actually agree with a lot of what you say.

      It used to be that 90% of people worked in agriculture, and up to 60% were in the militia (the difference being mainly women and children). These days those numbers are more like 2% each. In the future, you could see mining, manufacturing and everything else take up similarly small percentages of human effort, without anyone having to live in caves.

      That would be cool, and a society like that would be very different from here and now in lots of interesting ways. You probably could get most things done by volunteers and hobbyists, without needing to orient society around rewards for work.
      Only two problems:

      1. you can’t wish it into existence, it has to be worked towards. It’s definitely not a short term solution for this weeks headlines.

      2. all things being equal, it’s pretty likely such a society would be more, not less, violent than here and now. Without differences in material goods to express status, violence is quite likely to take it’s place.

      For example, Finland is more equal and less materialistic than the UK, and has much higher violent crime rates.

    52. Ravi Naik — on 18th July, 2008 at 12:22 am  

      I would say not happiness, but a sense of deep, collective fulfilment (not quite the same thing).

      We need sad times and a certain amount of challenging / difficult situations in our lives in order to appreciate the happy times. Together and in combination with a number of other factors, they can lead to fulfilment.

      My ultimate goal in life is to attain fulfilment.

      We are talking about the same thing. To me happiness is not a state of constant bliss. As you well say, we need to be down to appreciate the up. But I call happiness the overall state where you feel blessed with everything you have around you and with your life, and feel your life has a purpose or a meaning. My goal is to attain this state.

      My dad killed himself in 2004. Nothing brings home a sense of perspective quite like that kind of thing.

      I am really sorry to hear about that, Dave. My father died around that time, as well. But he was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and during the few months he was alive after the news, I became very depressed and angry. But after his death, I began to see life in a new perspective. Suddenly all those little stupid things I worried about… they just vanished away - they seemed trivial and irrelevant. And I felt very light.

      Yes and no. I’m not saying there should be no schools, but that education should be led by investigative, instinctive “play”, rather than a top-down curriculum imposed by authoritarian teaching.

      I agree with you in principle, but there is surely an element of discipline at some point in education: science after all is a rigorous discipline… and I remain somewhat unconvinced that you can learn everything with “instinctive play”.

      Does a mother force milk on their baby, or wait for it to cry out because it is getting hungry?

      Unlike hunger and cry - which are governed by instinct, I don’t believe children and kids know what’s best for them. My father used to force me to practice classical guitar every day for at least 30 min, and I hated it. But after a while, it grew on me and I still continue to play. If it were by me, I would never have endured hours of practice, but then I would have lost the ability to play and appreciate music.

      School has become a forced experience, with children drafted into it. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to ask (and indeed, many do, if only subconsciously), “If learning is so great, then why force it upon us?”

      But they would ask the same thing about broccoli and vegetables, no? And they might also ask: if sweets and ice-cream are so bad, why do we want them so much?

      Money is always a bit tight, but that doesn’t matter - we make do with what we’ve got, and we generally manage just about OK. I often give people loaves of bread and jars of jam that I’ve made, and in return, lots of interesting stuff comes my way (favours, food, computer bits, website work, whatever). Creativity with what we have available to us is the key.

      I smiled when I read this. Good for you. :)

      Absolutely! But so is almost everybody - at least partially - because nothing could be more natural. We are all born anarchists, and however much it’s conditioned out of us, we still maintain quite a bit of it when it suits us.
      Or are you telling me you need to elect a committee in order to have a picnic with some friends? ;-)

      When I asked whether you were an Anarachist, I meant it in the “political” sense, not as someone who likes disorder. I have a different take on this: I do believe that finding consensus among a group of friends or a small group is attainable and even desirable. But it’s less suited in larger groups, or governing a country of millions of people. Instead, I believe there must be a coordinator who has the last word on the matter because there are arguments that have no resolution or compromise. And the coordinator has the role of breaking the deadlock. Which means that elements of Anarchism can - and should - be introduced in this model, but are not enough.

    53. BenSix — on 18th July, 2008 at 12:27 am  

      “However, when you are a kid, teenager and even a young adult, it is difficult to understand what you are good at, which is important to get a sense of achievement, which affects your happiness (which will be different from individual to individual at different points of his/her life).”

      More commonly, I believe, children and young adults don’t know what they want to be good at.

    54. Dave S — on 18th July, 2008 at 11:53 am  

      There are plenty of times when I wish we could sit around and have these kind of discussions face to face. I don’t know what it is about Pickled Politics posters, but even many of those I disagree with (Rumbold, quite often), I still feel a sense of warmth towards. This thread is no exception! Right…

      Soru @ 52:

      That would be cool, and a society like that would be very different from here and now in lots of interesting ways. You probably could get most things done by volunteers and hobbyists, without needing to orient society around rewards for work.

      This really is what I think the next stage in the evolution of human society is going to be all about. If we’re lucky enough to make it through the next 30 or so years (which I’m sure are going to be a pretty difficult time to be alive), then I hope with a bit more luck, I will see the beginning of it happening before my time here is up.

      Only two problems:
      1. you can’t wish it into existence, it has to be worked towards. It’s definitely not a short term solution for this weeks headlines.

      I fully agree - which is why I spend as much time as I can working on alternative solutions and ways of living. Not because they fully work now, but because we need to start adopting bits of them now, in order to practise, and to be able to fully adopt them when the time is right.

      I’m involved in a few such projects, and it’s very exciting to see that already, they work pretty well. One of the best so far is a “skill share” school, where every Saturday afternoon, people share their skills on a different subject in a free workshop.

      Someone runs the workshop, but others who already know what they’re doing are encouraged to help out and chip in with their own knowledge, and it really does work!!

      So far, we’ve had over 30 sessions on everything from bread making, mending clothes, bike maintenance, vehicle maintenance, jams and chutneys, knitting, reflexology, woodwork, mass catering, growing vegetables, Linux and more. Even though I’m only involved on the sidelines, it’s still an incredibly inspiring project, and I’m sure it’ll continue to improve.

      One of the best skills we’re learning, actually, is how to organise this kind of thing entirely by volunteers, and without a whole lot of funding - which is a skill in itself! I hope the idea will spread to other cities!

      2. all things being equal, it’s pretty likely such a society would be more, not less, violent than here and now. Without differences in material goods to express status, violence is quite likely to take it’s place.

      For example, Finland is more equal and less materialistic than the UK, and has much higher violent crime rates.

      I don’t know enough about Finnish society to comment on that - maybe there is another underlying cause of the violence? However, I hope you can see that I’m not saying that I have all the solutions, or that “this is the way” or anything. I’m just trying to get people to think about what could be the starting point or first few steps away from the mess we find ourselves in at the moment, and towards something better.

      When it comes to violence, the first step is probably to learn to recognise our own violence, and voluntarily give it up. I’m not just talking about not punching people in the street(!!) - I’m talking about recognising all aspects of our lives where we exert power over other people to get them to do what we want, because that is a type of violence. I am far from perfect myself on this! (As I mentioned on another thread recently - have you ever tried to give up your power over somebody else? It’s really, really hard to do, even if you want to do it! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!)

      Of course there will be problems, and maybe they’ll never be solved - but there is always going to be something that can be improved, or lessons that can be learned from. The non-violent society is something that will be attained over time, not overnight - because we have to actively seek out and dismantle the things that perpetuate a violent society, starting with ourselves.

      These reasons are why I laugh (and also cry) when some people doggedly maintain that transnational consumer capitalism, consumerism, representative democracy, cold hard science and so on are the pinnacles of human evolution - what rubbish!! We have so much more potential than that!!

      Everything has it’s time and goes on to be replaced by something better. I’m not even sure anarchy is “the answer” - it’s just a small piece of the puzzle, and a step in the right direction.

      Nobody who claims to have “the answers” ever has the answers - not even close!

      If only people would realise that about malevolent bastards like the BNP… or even just politicians in general! But then, the way society is at the moment, the vast majority of humans seem to just prefer to distrust their own capacity for sorting things out, and instead defer to “leaders”, even in the face of mountains of evidence demonstrating that the leaders are no better - and often far worse - than the rest of us!

      We don’t even trust ourselves on observing that (and it’s obvious!!) enough to actually act on it, so we’ve definitely got a long way to go. But I think we’ll get there eventually, and with a bit of luck.

      Coming back to solving knife crime for a second - these are reasons why I don’t believe that “clamping down” on violent youths is the answer - because it is a violent, vindictive approach that will lead to more violence. This is why, if we actually want to solve knife crime (as opposed to just be seen to be “doing something about it”), we have to address the underlying causes.

      The foremost underlying cause, in my opinion, is a society that is riddled with violence and oppression, from top to bottom. We absolutely have to fix that - no two ways about it!

      Ravi Naik @ 53:

      We are talking about the same thing. To me happiness is not a state of constant bliss. As you well say, we need to be down to appreciate the up. But I call happiness the overall state where you feel blessed with everything you have around you and with your life, and feel your life has a purpose or a meaning. My goal is to attain this state.

      Cool, I was sure we were on the same page there.

      I am really sorry to hear about that, Dave. My father died around that time, as well. But he was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and during the few months he was alive after the news, I became very depressed and angry. But after his death, I began to see life in a new perspective. Suddenly all those little stupid things I worried about… they just vanished away - they seemed trivial and irrelevant. And I felt very light.

      Absolutely! A horrible death really close to you is a very traumatic experience to go through, but I think it’s an incredibly valuable life experience - not least because it wakes you up a bit about what actually matters.

      I was about to say “sorry to hear about your bad experience too”, but I think we can both recognise that actually, without those experiences, we wouldn’t be where we are now. They are difficult experiences, but through them we learn so much!

      But we have to learn to acknowledge and express our pain under such circumstances - not bottle it up and deaden our emotional response to it.

      We live in a society which sees pain as something which makes us dysfunctional, something to be shunned and blocked off - by pills, by distractions, by consumerism, by scapegoats. When really, if we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience our pain - and to learn to recognise it’s true source - we become dysfunctional human beings, far less connected to our emotions.

      Interestingly, I think this is very much related to things like denial of environmental catastrophe - because to honestly allow ourselves to fully experience our pain for the world (that we’re totally destroying and poisoning our beautiful home, of which we are an integral part of that beauty) is actually more than most people can deal with.

      How could we allow ourselves to so callously wreck the utopia we find ourselves given in trust, to in turn give in trust to future generations? That sort of irresponsibility is so far off the scale, we can’t even acknowledge it!

      So instead, we just shut down our emotions, deny our own responsibility, deny that there is even a problem, and busy ourselves with other things.

      But the longer that goes on, the more catastrophic the situation gets. I suppose it’s a bit like burning your hand on a flame, but stopping just at the part where you scream “ouch!” (maybe you even just whisper it subconsciously, in case anybody else notices your silly mistake?), so your hand continues to get burned.

      That’s our society at the moment. (Sorry if that’s a rather bleak image - but there is a message of hope contained within it too.)

      I agree with you in principle, but there is surely an element of discipline at some point in education: science after all is a rigorous discipline… and I remain somewhat unconvinced that you can learn everything with “instinctive play”.

      Discipline… or self-discipline?

      I maintain that we have made most, if not all of our greatest discoveries off the back of following our instincts (and previous discoveries, arrived at by the same means) in “playing” with our surroundings. Instinctive “play” has brought us everything we have!

      Unlike hunger and cry - which are governed by instinct, I don’t believe children and kids know what’s best for them. My father used to force me to practice classical guitar every day for at least 30 min, and I hated it. But after a while, it grew on me and I still continue to play. If it were by me, I would never have endured hours of practice, but then I would have lost the ability to play and appreciate music.

      I was also forced to practise musical instruments, and I hated it. I only became a good musician when I quit music lessons altogether, and just went and played and wrote music for fun. Now I’m a semi-professional musician - both player and writer! (It’s not like I make a lot of money doing it, but given the inclination, I could be a full-time “professional” if I wanted to be… but I enjoy music too much to want that!)

      I plan to surround my child(ren) with the musical instruments I have, and just let them experiment. Admittedly, they’re not getting their hands on my nicest instruments until they are a bit older! Kids love to make noise, as I’m sure you are probably aware! If they want it enough, they will find their way to musicianship, and will ask for lessons in the right direction when they feel the need. Sure, I’m going to encourage them, but I’m never going to force them against their will.

      I’m confident that in time, my approach will prove successful, and that they will grow into excellent musicians without ever having any formal training, or being forced to practise.

      Give me about 18 years from now, and I’ll show you the outcome! ;-)

      But they would ask the same thing about broccoli and vegetables, no? And they might also ask: if sweets and ice-cream are so bad, why do we want them so much?

      Well, my experience differs! :-)

      The kids I know who will gladly eat most vegetables, garlic, hummous, lentils and so on are the ones whose parents didn’t force it upon them - didn’t even feed it to them really - but allowed them to follow their instincts, and eat with their hands from a plate of food that was put in front of them.

      Yes, the stuff on the plate was all good food, the same as the parents were eating - but in giving them the freedom to feed themselves (and accepting that this is messy) they don’t decide that they hate vegetables, and they will eat them (and eat as much as they need) because they are hungry. Again, experimentation, adaptation and freedom are the important factors.

      I’m incredibly lucky because my partner is a total bookworm, so has been reading about lots of stuff like this that I might never have found out about if it wasn’t for her (although I do have a few friends whose kids love vegetables).

      We think it’s a myth that children won’t eat their vegetables - it’s just down to incorrect methods of (force) feeding them, based on popular misunderstandings stemming from misplaced worry. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      A year from now, I hope we’ll be having the same experience with our child. I can’t promise it’s going to work, but we believe that it will, and there’s quite a lot of work out there that suggests the same. (I can point you towards some of it, if you’d like?)

      I smiled when I read this. Good for you. :)

      Thanks!

      When I asked whether you were an Anarachist, I meant it in the “political” sense, not as someone who likes disorder. I have a different take on this: I do believe that finding consensus among a group of friends or a small group is attainable and even desirable. But it’s less suited in larger groups, or governing a country of millions of people. Instead, I believe there must be a coordinator who has the last word on the matter because there are arguments that have no resolution or compromise. And the coordinator has the role of breaking the deadlock. Which means that elements of Anarchism can - and should - be introduced in this model, but are not enough.

      Well yes, I am a political anarchist too - and not just in name, like some punks or whatever, who identify with elements of anarchism. I really am an anarchist - though I don’t go around wearing black, throwing bricks and spray painting circle-A on everything, and neither do most of the other anarchists I know.

      It’s a common misconception (which the press love to perpetuate) that most anarchists are violent, black-clad nutters. Many true anarchists don’t even realise that they are anarchists, or don’t label themselves with it, because it just comes naturally.

      Mine didn’t quite come naturally - I certainly did a lot of reading on it at the time when as a pissed-off liberal/green/socialist (all with small letters - I never identified with any particular political party) I found the idea interesting, but couldn’t see how it could actually work.

      But I didn’t answer your question directly before, because I wanted to clarify what anarchism means to me, rather than say “yes” to something which might have you half expecting me to come round and brick your windows or something!

      Finding consensus in a larger group can be difficult, but there are strategies and approaches for assisting it, as well as strategies for dealing with when it’s not possible.

      Also, ask yourself: how much practise have we have at doing it now, really? Starting from square one, it’s not going to work overnight, but it really can be done - I have now experienced this directly on a number of occasions!!

      First off, we have to recognise that the most important thing is reaching group consensus - not getting our own way. Secondly, having good facilitation of the discussion is vitally important, and this skill takes time to learn. Third, it can seem tedious at times - and it often is - but the more we do it, the better we’ll get at it.

      When to most people get to directly come to group decisions like this in real life? NEVER! Hierarchy is so ingrained in our society that it will take some time to learn a better way of doing it, but in all honesty, it can be done, and it’s a very beautiful thing to partake in and behold.

      The best explanation I have seen is contained in the book “Do It Yourself: A handbook for changing the world”, here:

      http://hbfc.clearerchannel.org/

      In fact (hooray!) as luck would have it, the sample chapter PDF you can download from that website is the very chapter I’m talking about, and it’s well worth a read:

      http://hbfc.clearerchannel.org/sample_chapter.pdf

      BenSix @ 54:

      More commonly, I believe, children and young adults don’t know what they want to be good at.

      So do we tell them what to do and force them to do it, or do we simply provide them with the means to find out for themselves? I think the latter is by far the right approach, though it takes longer - maybe even a lifetime.

      But really, how many adults do you know who really know what they want their life to be about? I’d argue that nobody honestly does, even up to our dying breath!

      Sure, we often have a vague concept, and certainly in Western society we are addicted to the idea of being in control of our lives. But does that have even a shred of basis in reality, or are we just deluding ourselves?

      We’re on a rock, hurtling around in space. We are not in control or able to predict our destiny - not even slightly! So the best we can do is try ourselves, and allow other people the freedom to try as well.

      So what if kids don’t know what’s good for them? Look at the shit example most of us are setting, and ask yourself: who the hell are we to tell them what’s good for them?

      I don’t think we have the right to tell them diddly squat - though we’re well equipped to let them learn from our mistakes, but it has to be by observation and casual dissemination of wisdom - not by force. Forcing people to do things is probably the current biggest mistake we need to recognise, admit to and learn from for ourselves!

      (Thanks again to anybody who has read this far! Being a fast typist can be both a blessing and a curse at times!)

    55. Ravi Naik (to Dave S) — on 20th July, 2008 at 11:23 pm  

      We live in a society which sees pain as something which makes us dysfunctional, something to be shunned and blocked off - by pills, by distractions, by consumerism, by scapegoats. When really, if we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience our pain - and to learn to recognise it’s true source - we become dysfunctional human beings, far less connected to our emotions.

      I totally agree with you. On the education front, I understand that my beliefs are conditioned (and limited) by my upbringing and based on anedoctal evidence. I did enjoy school - specially maths and science. I had a feeling of achievement when I got good grades, specially those subjects that I didn’t like. And subjects like Philosophy, which I didn’t understand what was the point… it served as basis a few years later to study on my own.

      With that in my mind, I have two points to make:

      1) You believe that kids have enough maturity to know what’s best for them. You seem to be projecting your mature-self to kids. But kids do not think about fullfillment (lots of adults are not mature enough to get it either), but focus on short-term pleasure. I would venture that your friends, while not prohibiting anything, they don’t make candy or unhealthy food available for them to eat. And that’s wise: our brains do crave for them if we start eating them. To me this is parenting - but there is no freedom of choice. To me freedom of choice starts when they are out of the house.

      2) You were a product of “forced” schooling and music lessons. Surely something you learnt from those years as a kid, are now being employed even when complemented by knowledge acquired from being self-taught. I believe learning to use a tool is different from actualy using it: the latter is far more fullfulling and enjoyable than the former. Learning new things can be hard: I don’t believe there is a magic formula that makes kids want to learn everything they need to know for adulthood. But I do agree with you that learning should be made intuitive and kids should be motivated to learn. But to me, parents can complement school in that sense.

      Incidentally, my wife had our first baby a couple of months ago. The little boy is just the best thing that happened in my life. As a guy, I know what you are going through in these final weeks… all the best to you and your partner! :)

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