Youth gone bad

Make your educational laws strict and your criminal ones can be gentle; but if you leave youth its liberty you will have to dig dungeons for ages.

Michel de Montaigne, French Renaissance writer.

Childhood. Remember that? Innocence, sweet sweet innocence. But innocent childhoods are now a rarity rather than the norm. Heck I didn’t even kiss a girl till I was 15. That would be quite dorky in today’s age. Children are growing up a lot faster than we did. I don’t know what they putting in our water system but they seem to be bigger before we did as well! I’ve seen huge teenagers and even 12 year olds around 6ft!!

I once had the opportunity to talk to one of Boris’s aides. He was the advisor to the Mayor on issues of youth; I forget the exact title. This was before the national youth riots. He told me how they were targeting supermarkets to stop selling alcohol to under aged teens and stopped short of criminalising the small supermarket. I asked him if he had ever worked in a supermarket. No was the prompt reply. I had and had witnessed firsthand the scenario he was talking about.

I had seen in many stores different gangs of youths charge in, sometimes up to 20 of them. They would charge around in a circle grabbing as much as they could, not just limited to alcohol and charge right out while the 2 or 3 helpless staff looked on. It’s like a human train if you haven’t seen it….they move in at an arm’s length one after the other really fast and walk up and around the isle and straight back out. On other occasions, I had seen a group of 6 or 7 “kids” come into a store, grab alcohol from the chiller, walk to the counter and tell the cashier he could either serve them or they will walk out without paying. Either way they alcohol was going with them. This was in west Hampstead; considered to be a ‘posher’ part of London town.

In Kilburn once a couple of kids were chased out of a shop when trying to steal chocolate bars and when I came out running of my office next door to see what the commotion was, one kid said to the other ” look the big fella is coming”. His friend calmly replied ” so what? I am 12 he can’t touch me!” I just stared in disbelief. When I was closing up the office later there was another commotion in the shop. This time the parents of the same 2 kids, along with neighbors’ had come in and started abusing the 3 staff members for chasing their “innocent sweet” kids.

In Shepherds Bush another time I saw a group of five kids move into a shop and do a grab and run like I mentioned earlier. Only this time a member of staff tried to stop them. He was bottled in the back of the head with a wine bottle by a kid with total disregard for whether he killed this person or not. I’ve even stood as security at a football parade in Chelsea where kids would run around the shop I was working at chanting racist songs at the staff while older fans giggled and smiled. I’ve done security at Ladbroke Grove in a supermarket at the Notting Hill Carnival, and witnessed kids starting a commotion with staff to cause a distraction as their mates robbed the place. The Notting Hill Carnival is not a Carnival after dark I assure you.

I’ve seen a shop in West Kensington where two kids jumped on the counter and yanked off shop cash till. I’ve even watched outside a pub in Farringdon when a cyclist left his drink on seeing 2 kids trying to rob his bike. When he told them off they spat at him, verbally abused him and reminded him that they were underage. As he walked away, these kids walked along side him swearing and spitting at him, and there is absolutely nothing he or anyone else could do. So many more things I’ve seen children do, some freakishly big for their age, all unrepentant and some even downright proud of what they are doing. Not one of these instances I’ve mentioned involved anyone over 16.

So I told this fellow, advisor to our great Mayor, how impossible it is for this to be controlled by the police. Many a time I’ve called or seen either the shop staff or other customers call the Police. They say the matter is non urgent and turn up 2 to 3 hours later with no interest in ever catching the kids as there is no point. They just need to write a report. The individual is left to fend for himself and that too not by touching the aggressors. The Mayors advisor told me I had shown him a different angle he hadn’t ever considered or seen. Really? And these are the people who run the city? A year or so later as I watched my City was looted and I hoped he was thinking about me. I wondered perhaps he might now believe that I had been talking about the same city in which his innocent youth were being victimized.

I am no expert on society or its workings but I do have my own theories. See, these kids I tell you about, they no longer see stealing as a bad thing. They call it a “raise” and it’s perfectly acceptable. It’s an accomplishment to get something without paying for it. Something that gets them respect from others in their age group. And they feel untouchable. If they get caught they will be more in number usually than the “opposition”. They will have no opposition to their violence and usually the intimidation will be enough. Even then, the people in the shops can’t legally touch them and the Police will never be there in time to catch them. If they are unlucky enough to get caught, no judge can convict them. So the deterrent is what?

This is the future? This is the youth that will run society when I am an old man? This is who we pass the torch onto? More than 400 yrs one, that quote is still relevant, maybe even more so. For I can see us needing many more prisons in the future at this rate.

Maybe it’s already too late to revolutionise our society to protect it from these youths. The mindset of the children is wrong. The concept of consequence is the basic teaching of any society. But it has eroded from ours, dramatically as well at that. We have become a society that always looks at the wrong to one individual a law can make, rather than the right to 100s the law enforces. If a person steals we will say well the sun was at an awkward angle and the stars had aligned a certain way which forced the culprit to steal. What we should do is ENFORCE the fact that no matter what, and under no circumstances can you steal or harm another person. No matter how big your problems are, no matter what the causes are, there will be no acceptance of the act of theft or of harming another person. There may well be the odd person who gets the rough side of the law, but the many that abuse the law on the basis of protecting that one individual is what is destroying our society. Consequence for your own actions.
I am talking dramatic earth shattering changes like these…

– School children must wear uniform up to university. This way they can be identified as children and if they have school crests will at least fear being traced back to their home or school.

– Specific criminal laws are strengthened for youth offenders, punishments more severe to create fear; not necessarily jail sentences. But if you are old enough to do the crime, then you must be punished, not the same as an adult of course, but punished.

– Right to protect an individual extended to protection from minors with of course limit on amount of force to be used. Of course this will be really hard to assess what level of force is acceptable.

– Age curfews, why should children under 15 be out past 9pm anyway?

– After school activities. Children are bored they say, let them study and play more then! If schools whose children are the highest offenders are identified, then that school must be supported to promote after school activities.

– Legal drinking age lifted to 22. Ok so we all started drinking early. But that’s not being hypocritical, that’s being sensible. I for one couldn’t control my drink at all when I was 18!

We cannot choose who breeds or how someone brings up their child/children. We can however enforce our right not to suffer due to bad children or bad parenting. There are hundreds of reasons, excuses for children behaving this way. TV, video games, poverty, rappers and rockers and a million others that people use. We will stamp out the problem only when we say as a society, no matter what your problems or reasons are, we do not tolerate this behaviour in our society. I think in a sentence, Michel aptly tells what needs to be done. The question is, do we have a political personality strong enough to do what is right?

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