Monday, 10 July 2006

Hug a hoodie??

David Cameron has had his say on the issue of youthful behaviour and I have mine in a couple of hours - at a village meeting, organised to debate the all too continuous levels of anti social behaviour in the village. This is the jist of what I intend to say....

In the last 15 to 20 years things have gone terribly wrong. 20 years ago I was 15 and, along with other 15 year olds, we knew pretty much where we stood in the community. As I approach the moment when my own children need three hands to count their age, I discover that teenagers still know where they stand, but it is absolutely not the same place.

Why is it then that a generation of kids born in the mid to late Eighties, of parents themselves born in the early sixties, have turned the entire adult - child relationship on its head? Unless I am very much mistaken, adults now fear teenagers in the way teenagers used to fear adults.

Why is it that villages and communities like my own, allow their lives and desires to be dictated by the threat from teenagers. We can't put up cricket nets or renovate the 5 a side court because "the youth will trash it". We can't do anything in the village because the kids will wreck it, threaten us and ruin the village. Trouble is, we are having this meeting because the youth are wrecking things, threatening us and ruining the village anyway.

So the kids trash the village for want of something more constructive to do, but we can't give them anything more constructive in case they wreck it. How does a cycle of negativity like that start, but much more importantly, how does it end?

The clamour is for more and better policing. I agree wholeheartedly. I wish that policing had a more robust character. But police are just citizens empowered by citizens to uphold the law. They reflect society because they are society. So if we adults all sit in our homes refusing to confront the youth who threaten us or avoiding people and places for fear that they might pick on us, we can't expect the police to be much different. Community policing draws its confidence and character from the community it serves. Apathy and ambivalence will be met with apathy and ambivalence. If we look round for someone else to solve our problems, then so will they.

Anyway, let us for a moment imagine that we got our dream. A village Bobby dedicated night and day to the safety and good order of Buckden. Within weeks, we would have a person employed, to all intent and purpose, to chase the same group of youth round the village in a game of cat and mouse.

In that same time, you can guarantee that the first thing he or she will do is stand in front of the Parish and Village Hall committees and beg for us to do more for the kids. He will tell us that with more facilities and amenities and without more involvement from parents and elders alike, he stands no chance of guiding the teenagers into more constructive activity and preventing the younger ones from following the current example of their older brothers.

So the point is that which ever way up you turn this problem, the answer is for us, the grown ups, to be the adults in this situation. We have to be the ones to break the cycle, we have to be the ones who give first, we have to endure the initial contempt and failure but we have to persevere and prevent the next generation from following suit.

We have to dominate our village, support our police, provide the evidence and stand up and be counted. For whilst the youth think that we are not interested and not going to confront behaviour which they know to be unacceptable, they will not change and we continue to suffer.

I ask you all - we must do more to provide more for the youth. We must lead the way and set the example, so that those who sit on the side lines abbrogating their responsibilities feel unwelcome and out of place.

There are a great many kids who stay at home for fear that they will be tarred with the same brush. We need to get them out and into the village so that we all dominate the village and repel those who have nor respect, no care and no thought for others.

I have said before and I say again, we must do three things - encourage firmer policing, provide better amenities and educate the youngster in our primary school - and we must do them together.


ems said...

I agree that communities must work together to confront poor behaviour and that adults have to be the ones to 'break the cycle'. Policing alone is clearly not the answer.

Words like fear and domination worry me though. Authoritarianism doesn't work. Teenagers, like anyone else, need to feel valued and to feel they belong.

Anonymous said...

I think cameron should be commended for trying to deal with a sensitive issue. As soon as he had spoken the Labour spinners were making him out to be soft on crime but he is right - the current government has been all too quick to punish young people without looking into the causes and the reasons why. It is always easier to try and stop the problem than look at the cause. Take depression for example, Prozac and other biological treatments may help the person in the short term but they do not treat the under-lying problems as to why the person is depressed.

Read my view of the hoody issue here.