Friday, August 24, 2007

Is it worth it?

Every so often, a market research company that I am signed up to sends me a questionnaire. It always begins by asking me whether I am feeling generally positive or negative about a range of subjects. This invariably starts with personal issues, things over which I have some control. My home life, my relationship, my career and so on. Mainly I feel very positive about these. It then moves onto financial issues, the state of my neighbourhood, the state of the country and the state of the world.

And sadly, my answer to the final three is rarely anything but negative. Yes, there are positive things that I could say about them all, but usually, invariably, something has happened that week which makes me think that we do not live in a very safe or pleasant society, most of the time.

I almost cried on the tube reading about the needless death of another child, victim to selfish gun-culture. This time the child was barely into double figures; had yet to reach secondary school. And killed by another teenager. At the time of writing this, the police suspect the person responsible may be as young as 13*. It makes me so sad. Two wasted lives; on dead, one (when caught) serving a lifetime sentence in prison. And for what? Who knows what reason one boy has that is worth the cost of another boy's life.

And this incident was not isolated. 8 young people have been fatally shot in the UK so far this year. This week there have been two other incidents reported in the mainstream news involving guns being fired, not to mention the shooting of a motorcyclist on the M40 two weeks ago. How did we end up living in such a society where gun crime is so prevalent and so easy. I read today that guns change hands for as little as £50. Such a small amount of money, such an easy decision, such a devasting effect.

The question that needs addressing I suppose is why troubled teenagers are behaving in such a way; why they have such little respect for the value of life, their own and that of others that they would attack and even kill another child without, it appears, second thought? David Cameron spoke following Rhys Jones's murder, stating that he "blamed rap music bosses, lad mags, feckless fathers and the video game industry for the rise in gang violence and yobbish behaviour". I have no real answer to that but I suspect that there is a wider, deeper problem here. It is very easy to lay the blame at the foot of easy 'targets' but are they really the root of the problem. After all, plenty of boys read magazines, listen to rap music, play computer games and are being brought up by single mothers but know the value of life, of manners and do not hang around causing trouble. I would have thought that these people which David Cameron seek to blame maybe only symptoms, not the cause.

There is a boy that rides up and down my street on his bmx, his grey hoodie pulled up over his head. He doesn't sit on his bike when he peddles, he stands up, leaning to the left. He rides slowly past me, up and down the street. I find him vaguely threatening. I suspect that, far from being out to cause trouble, he is bored. I am cross with myself for finding him 'scary'. If he thinks I am scared and he is that bored, maybe one day he will try something, just to see what happens. Luckily for me, he is usually on his own. But, I suppose that, probably, he does have some friends and I suspect that on other occasions they all hang around together; bored. And then peddle up and down the streets in a pack, shouting at each other, because they have nothing else they can be bothered or interested enough to do. So they start showing off, because all little boys do, and jostling for position. And a while later, they have a leader. But round the corner is another group of equally bored little boys. And the two groups meet, start to jostle for territory this time. And soon enough they are emulating the bigger boys. And this time there is more at stake.

It concerns me that boredom is acceptable because everyone is too busy and there is not enough time and money to prevent it from taking hold. It concerns me so much that I have decided that I should do something to help. It won't be much, but I read that there are lots of boys who want to join the scouts but there are not enough leaders. They are desperate for adult volunteers. It's not much, but it's a start. And if only one or two more boys are involved in scouting in my area, that's one or two more who are not peddling their bikes up and down the street and maybe, just maybe, that is one or two more boys who will know that there is more value to life than starting wars over boredom.

*update - police have arrested a 16 year old in connection with this offence

1 comment:

James said...

A nice little piece Rachel.

I have been wondering what is causing the social breakdown in some of today's youth. I agree with you I don't think the root cause can be laid at the feet of such things as rap music and computer games. There is a far deeper problem and unfortunately at the moment I fear it will only get worse.

Well done on offering to help with the scouts that is a really positive move.