The Cutting Edge (Archive - 2008)

The problem of violence amongst Britain's youth has for a long time left me and my friends largely uneffected. The horror stories I've read in the press have been just that - stories. However, in the last week, an acquaintance of mine, Edgie, from my street back home in Bury, found himself attacked whilst on a night out in Manchester and was left in a coma. Thankfully, it looks as though he might pull through, but it certainly made me realise that anyone can be effected by the violence and anger on the streets of my country and, even when you are walking away - as Edgie appears to have been doing - you can still catch that one maniac in the wrong mood who will smash you across the head with a metal bar.
Anyway, I thought I'd re-post something I wrote last year when the stories coming from the British press were getting too much for me to take. I apologise for the language. I was a little angry when I wrote it.

I'm a regular visitor to the BBC News website and, let me tell you, that is how you make a website. Quick, easy to navigate, thorough, impartial, informative...and utterly depressing. A standard visit to the UK section of the website will regularly show these headlines - credit crunch, stabbing, credit crunch, stabbing, credit crunch, stabbing, rape. And since the credit crunch bends my head (I have no idea what it means; Forte explained it to me one time but I've drank since then so I'm just going to presume it's an alliterated work of fiction designed to keep us ignorant and the war funded and carry on living my life) I spend most of my time reading about the delightful little terrors that are running around England, stabbing each other to death.

There is, undoubtedly, some Daily Mail-style scare-mongering going on here. A brief glance within the pages of that racist, stuck-in-the-40's, wasn't-Diana-wonderful, right-wing pamphlet of hate would suggest that you can't leave your house without bumping into two young, working-class boys duelling with steak knives. Now, granted, I've been out of the country for some time, but I'm assured things aren't quite that bad. You can't argue with the figures though.

The UK does not have a huge problem with gun crime. Definitely not on the same scale of a country such as America. I cannot begin to get my head around America's gun laws. They terrify me. If I was ever living in a country where my local nutcase could buy cereal, milk, duct tape, eggs, condoms, bread and a bloody Mac-10 in the same visit to Wal-Mart then I would just move. I'd be out of there in a minute. But, since there aren't many handguns lying around in the kitchen drawers of English homes, our angry, disaffected youth are finding shiny, sparkly, serrated blades in their stead.

And the scary part of all this is it's almost understandable why the kids are arming themselves in this way. If I found myself wandering the streets of an inner-city council estate because my benefit-grabbing mother was too busy raising the 6 other pay cheques she'd dropped since I was born to keep me entertained then I'd probably carry a knife too. Because you can be damn sure that the other group of lads has got one and what am I going to do? Not defend myself??

I didn't have a knife as a child. I never saw anyone with one and I never knew someone - or even knew someone who knew someone - who carried one. Now we are told that that there are 400 victims of knife crime a week. Whilst we must take these statistics with a huge pinch of salt, it can't be disputed that young people in Britain are killing each other in large numbers. But why?

It's my own personal opinion that the youth of Britain are angry. And with every justification. They've been abandoned by the system and, without the luck of having a good family or the naivety to be drafted into the forces to fight an illegal war, they are sent out onto the streets to fend for themselves. They are constantly bombarded by the tabloid media and TV abominations like Big Brother and told that there is this 5-minute, effort-free route to fame and fortune. But then, when it doesn't happen for them, who's there to explain that life isn't like that? The parents? They're too busy grabbing benefits, remember? Then we tell the kids that they are stupid and ignorant, that these violent episodes must be provoked by rap music, or movies or video games. That's not patronising is it? And they are constantly told that they aren't performing in schools like they used to...and then the GCSE results come out, they are the best results we have ever had, and it has to be because the exams papers are getting easier! How demoralising is that??

We live in a culture of anger and hatred and this is perpetuated by a media which has to be held responsible. We always have to be angry about something. Whether it's Russell Brand leaving a slightly lewd voicemail on the 'phone of some old actor that nobody cared for previously, or the Baby P scandal which, whilst tragic and terrible - truly awful - was just another example of child abuse which just so happened to receive more coverage than any of the others did that week. If we keep allowing our kids to feel this anger towards people and happenings, then can we really be surprised when this anger manifests in violence? Just today, one of the people on my facebook joined a group called 'Dem ppl who caused dem fires dat killed da orse shud be torchered n burned'.

What? Is that a fucking joke? Are you serious right now? 'dat killed da orse'? And are you seriously advocating that some arsonists that killed a horse should be burnt at the stake like Joan of Arc? Let's castrate rapists as well shall we? And while we're at it, let's cut the hands off thieves. And stone adulterers to death. Oh wait, hold on, now we're Iran. It's this sort of misplaced, vengeful anger that leaves 16-year-old boys lying dead in the street over an Xbox.

The Government has a responsibility to promote positive ideals and alternative resolutions to conflict. We need to elect a leader who will set an example. Invading a country and leaving thousands of people dead in order to pillage its most saleable asset and, in the process, lying to your people about the reasons for committing these atrocities is not sending out the right message. Why would a young lad think twice about stabbing some lad for his 'phone when his Government is capable of such appalling behaviour?

We need to rebuild the moral fabric of our society and move away from this obsession we have with celebrity culture, the get-rich-quick, the material fantasy. We need to find aspirations that are less transient, more attainable. Peace, love, unity, friends, family, happiness...these are the things that will keep the knives in the kitchen drawer. If we can demonstrate this to our young people, then perhaps we could lead them in a more positive direction where they can achieve the best that they possibly can in life. And this doesn’t mean being the most successful businessman, or having the biggest house. This means building a happy home, a family, leaving a legacy - no matter how big or how small.

These people have been lost in a world where reality TV 'stars' take the front page while lost soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are hidden in corners on page 6. No wonder the line between right and wrong has become blurred.

Peace and love,

Smithy x


Postman said...


Motion seconded on the user-friendliness of BBC News and the idiocy of the Daily Mail. I was just reading a book about Nostradamus last night which said that the Daily Mail came out the day after 9/11 with its "Did Nostradamus Predict It All?" story. Way to be sympathetic, guys. Save it until the dust clears, will you?

But I really must protest at your implications about gun laws (oh ho, you knew THIS was coming, didn't you?).

First of all, "any old nutcase" cannot just walk into a Wal-Mart and buy a bloody Mac-10. First of all, it's not a Mac-10, it's an Uzi. Second, they don't sell Uzis at Wal-Mart, even though that would be wicked cool. Knowing some of the people Wal-Mart employs, I can understand why. Third, automatic weapons are (scoff if you like) STRINGENTLY controlled in this country. A thorough background check is necessary for ANYBODY even expressing interest in buying an automatic weapon. Fourth, said weapons are INSANELY expensive. In my Dad's latest copy of Gun Digest, there's a Thompson on sale for $20,000, and a Swedish-made AK-47 for $10,000. Bit pricey for your run-of-the-mill nutcase. Fifth, automatic weapons are taxed to high heaven. There's an enormous tax stamp on them that has to be paid before ownership is transferred.

They're not available in any store I've ever seen; pretty much by mail-order only, as far as I'm aware. That pretty much makes it impossible for a nutcase or any other undesirable to get a hold of automatic weapons. The only reason the drug-dealers have got 'em is because they buy them from a one-eyed man in Pakistan who sells them by the case.

I've got more to say, but I'm going to be late for my flight lesson if I do. I'll be back (spoken in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Postman said...

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, I remember.

I don't think we ought to stone adulterers (egging is more like it), nor cut the hands off thieves (straitjackets would be more humane).

But I DO think rapists ought to be castrated. There's neither excuse nor pardon for that kind of crime. I'm completely, utterly serious as I type these words. Castrating them would simultaneously ensure that they never commit the crime again, and also prevent these scum from reproducing.

But I hear you on everything else. We need to rebuild the moral fabric of society. And the way to do that is for our leaders to set an example, and leave a positive legacy. Well said, friend. Let's ditch the celebrity gossip and build a better world, eh?

You gotta read my novel. It's about doing just that. Rebuilding society with peace, justice, unity, happiness, rationality, and prosperity for all.

You might not like it, though. There's guns in it.

Smithy said...

Mr Postman, allow me to stand corrected on the issue of automatic weapons in America (although Snoop Dogg refers to it as a Mac-10 so I shall continue to do so) but I think my point remains valid that any old nutcase can - and has - got their hands on guns in America and, automatic or not, can cause plenty of damage with them. I think the ridiculously high number of school shootings in America would attest to that.
I do not know what right any human being has to castrate another human being. I think this argument falls down when I ask you where the line is. If you are going to castrate a rapist, what are you going to do someone who batters a man half to death with a baseball bat? How do you distinguish between the severity of the crimes? I don't think we have the right to physically punish each other, I really don't. If a man (or woman) is deemed a danger to society due to their propensity to rape or sexually assault others then they should be locked up.
And I would LOVE to read your novel. Put me on your list of proof readers. I'll charge you mates rates ;)