Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 9 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
- Factual information might be outdated.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
In a perverse way, the ongoing coverage of teenage knife crime amuses me. Tabloids will insist that all teenagers are delinquents, and yet come August, they all have 25 A-Levels as a result of dumbing down. In reality, only a minority of teenagers sit A-Levels (let alone pass them), and far fewer still are ‘bad kids’ (no matter how they might look).
And let me bust one more myth. We are not in the middle of a knife-crime explosion. Here’s a graph. Not a particularly pretty graph, but a graph nonetheless.
Knife crime has been at reasonably consistent levels over the last ten years. It’s reasonable to hypothesise that the teenagers of 1996 were involved in just as many knife crimes as the teenagers of 2006. There have been around five fatal stabbings per week for the last ten years. There has been no dramatic increase. But suddenly, every one of those five has become headline news. It’s being noticed more, but it isn’t happening more. Sorry to burst the dead-tree media bubble.
But that doesn’t answer the crucial question: Why is there teenage knife crime on our streets?
It’s nothing to do with a lack of activities for teenagers. If you apply that theory to any other section of society, its flaws are clear. Did Ian Huntley commit the Soham Murders because he didn’t have a social worker to take him bowling every week? Did Harold Shipman bump off old people because he didn’t have a club of like-minded individuals to socialise with in a controlled setting? Was Hitler a community volunteering project away from sticking with painting and decorating? I think not.
And it’s nothing to do with the prevalence of knives on the streets, either. Sixty years ago, knives were much more common amongst teenagers, and teenagers were also much more adept with the use of guns thanks to National Service. Weapons don’t kill people: People kill people.
Also sixty years ago, there was a very clear, defined enemy. The Germans. Teenagers would probably have had little hesitation in taking out their frustration on any Germans they happened upon, but fortunately that didn’t happen very often. They were rebels with a very defined cause, and a cause which society supported and viewed as ‘healthy’.
So what’s the ’cause’ today? Who are our enemies?
In the absence of a clear enemy, society as a whole has started to attack within its own group. Football rivalries become as embittered as those between warring nations, and so violence ensues. Rivalries between middle-class parents to get their children into the schools at the top of artificial league-tables get out of hand. Minor road incidents turn into violent road rage. And rivalries between gangs of friends escalate to stabbings. It’s not rocket science.
As a nation, we have nothing to unite against and fight. Yet we have a human need for rivalry and fighting, so in the absence of a defined enemy, we fight each other. It’s happening throughout all age groups and in many walks of life, but because the media has an obsession with demonising the youth, it’s this that gets highlighted.
This is not the end of society as we know it. We do not have a generation of evil teenagers. It’s a natural development, which will probably subside as the nation becomes united again behind some visionary cause.
So please, just for me, can we stop harassing these poor teenagers? Life’s tough enough for them without criminalising them with silly ASBOs, slapping discriminatory policies all over them, and constantly criticising them.
Fix the behaviour of your own generation before criticising theirs.