teenagers, street gangs and Anarchy

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Peter Good
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Aug 14 2007 11:11
teenagers, street gangs and Anarchy

I always bristle when the A word is mis-used on the media.

On a radio phone-in on teenagers this morning a caller claimed there was "Anarchy out on the streets". [If only! If only!].

I tried, unsuccessfully, to respond. Here's the points I would have made:

1. In Elizethan times it wasn't uncommon to find teenagers as ships' officers, traders or farmers. Now you are more likely to find a youth banged-up in the nick rather than farming the land.

2. Our compulsory education system is run as an economic model. Inevitably it must produces any number of "fails".
Such kids seek meaning and self-esteem through physical expression.

3. Thus we "the great British Public" get the kids we deserve.

4. The State wants its citizens as individual consumers. It wants you and I sat quiety watching the telly. Keep your nose clean. Don't worry whats going on outside your living unit.

5. The police are most reluctant to surrender their management of criminal behaviour. Even if this means some poor old dear has to sit for a couple of hours amid shattered glass after a brick has been heaved through her window. When the police eventually arrive their interest is in completing tick boxes on ethnicity, age, post codes, etc.

6. Instead of acting as individuals the community must re-claim itself by the people who live there. Hence vigilanti or militia groups become the first step in taking control of where we live.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

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Steven.
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Aug 14 2007 13:30
Quote:
1. In Elizethan times it wasn't uncommon to find teenagers as ships' officers, traders or farmers. Now you are more likely to find a youth banged-up in the nick rather than farming the land.

Is street crime worse now than in Elizabethan times? I would've thought it - and crime generally - was much lower now.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 14 2007 13:31

someone does need to add the word 'anomie' to journalists' vocabularies, that much is true

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jef costello
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Aug 14 2007 18:04
John. wrote:
Is street crime worse now than in Elizabethan times? I would've thought it - and crime generally - was much lower now.

Crime generally is higher now, mainly because wealth is much more portable. A friend of my uncle's is a copper and apparently there is a trend for falling burglaries and a rise in streetcrime because the value of easily stolen household goods has dropped so much and the value of personal goods has risen. Why nick a DVD player that you'll be lucky to sell for £15 when you can get an Ipod a mobile and however much cash they're carrying.
I suppose now more people have flatscreens that might change things a bit.

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jef costello
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Aug 14 2007 18:26

Well he is a copper so he would probably know a bit about crime statistics I would imagine. It is relevant because he is arguing that the level of street crime is afected by the relative amount to be gained from street crime. A mugging is much more risky in terms of getting caught and in terms of the sentence, but if house burglaries are not worth doing stret crime will go up.
If we are talking about sttreet crime as muggings (rather than prostitution, assault etc) I'd imagine it's a lot higher now. Basically because the people worth mugging would have frequently carried weapons and the poor couldn't afford them. Portable wealth was less frequent then and I would imagine harder to fence as well.

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welshboy
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Aug 15 2007 06:47

Apparently crime figures began dropping in the early nineties so the government started introducing more and more offences. This had the effect of criminalizing more people, think ASBO's etc and kept crime as a political subject for the parties party to use as a vote winner.
It was talked about on radio 4 the other day
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/radioplayer_holding.shtml#c

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Aug 15 2007 07:04

I'm pretty certain that street crime was rampant in urban areas in Elizabethan times, mainly because of the awful poverty of this period. It was partly to combat the spread of the twin poles of poverty and crime that the Poor Laws were introduced. Of course, most crime was theft and it was punishable by hanging! I think even as late as the 18th century London was a shockingly violent place.

The question of urban violence, intimidation and general social decay is important though. There is a general perception that "crime" is getting worse and especially the kind associated with young people. Assuming this is accurate - and there is a debate to be had here, even though it matches my personal experience - the question is why?

All the points raised in Peter's post are constants in capitalism, certain since the 20th century. Why are things worse now?

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jef costello
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Aug 15 2007 07:15
revol68 wrote:
why is rape and assualt not a street crime if it happens in the street?

It is a street crime, the point I was making was about theft so I limited it.

Peter Good
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Aug 15 2007 07:27

My point was not so much to do with crime figures (though it would be interesting to compare reliable figures in Elizabethan times with our own heavily-regulated society) but more to do with the perception of teenagers then and now.

At present the state catergorises teenagers into three divisions:

1. In education.

2. In work-based training schemes (i.e. defaffinated apprenticeships working towards NVQ's)

3. N.E.E.T. Not in Education, Employment or Training.

Current state funding is targeted at category 3 with the aim of extending compulsory attendance within 1. or 2.

Anarchists recognise the dangers of compulsory education and in particular, any system that attempts to churn out kids on an economic model. In the end we get the kids we deserve.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

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Aug 15 2007 07:46

Peter, I don't think education is the problem, at least not in the way you're presenting it. The state has controlled the education system as you describe for generations. The period of education has lengthened certainly. My mother's generation had a school leaving age of 14, today it's formally 16 but could well be 18 in the not too distant future.

The problem of "feral children" is largely concentrated in the most impoverished sectors of the working class and its lumpenised fringes. (That's not to say the children of other social classes don't have problems (and how!) but they're expressed differently). The worst affected have either opted out or been excluded from the education system, so I don't think "compulsory education" is, itself, the cause of the problem.

The real problem facing young people today is that the full violence of the social crisis hits them with maximum force. You're talking about kids whose families have now suffered several generations of unemployment and who live hand-to-mouth. This sort of social environment means there is frightening lack of perspective. And, although largely apolitical at present, there is an awareness of the general lack of perspective of the system as a whole. Insoluble wars in the Middle East, insoluble climate change, insoluble everything.

The responses to this pervading despair are manifold - on the positive side, it expresses itself in an increasing questioning of the social order But it also manifests itself in the development of what can best be described as hedonism. While the indolent rich like Paris Hilton hoover up sack loads of cocaine in posh nightclubs, the more impoverished create their own version by sitting around in parks drinking cheap cider.

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Aug 15 2007 08:18
Demogorgon303 wrote:
but could well be 18 in the not too distant future.

Wow, is there talk about that over there? Or is that just a guess of yours?

Peter Good
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Aug 15 2007 08:54

Dear Demogorgon 303,
Yes, I accept the problem is much wider than I've chosen to present it.

I look towards education as only a single factor. Compulsory education was one of the biggest scams to come out of the Industrial Revolution. I believe that if the social control element could be subtracted from education then both teachers and pupils could be "co-discoverers" together. Teachers chosen for their passion in the subject and kids because they were interested. I see no point whatsoever of having kids in a classroom who don't want to be there.

I'm sure you would agree that "feral children" don't only come from the most deprived areas. There is many a small town away from the city centres where it's considered unwise to venture outdoors after 9pm. There are now few pubs in my locality that are not dominated by youths, loud music and flashing gambling machines.

It's much safer for me to sit around with my middle-class comrades knocking back bottles of wine and complaining about the kids running wild outside.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

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Anarchia
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Aug 15 2007 09:15

Interesting - Cheers for the link, Jack. As so often happens with things like that, I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone starts pushing that over here...

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Aug 15 2007 09:54

I was referring specifically to school-age children, I doubt many of which manage to get into pubs. The wider problem of drinking and violence, etc. is part and parcel of the same thing of course.

Despair, lack of perspective, etc. infects the whole of society and, in fact, first and foremost the bourgeoisie because it's their system that's collapsing! Different social strata express the same thing in different ways though. Middle class kids tend to have bigger houses to go to and their antisocial behaviour takes the form of things like that MySpace party girl that happened a few months ago.

Working class kids who have nowhere like that to go, go into town or hang around the estates.

As far as education goes Marx, in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, has some interesting things to say:

Marx wrote:
"Elementary education by the state" is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school. Particularly, indeed, in the Prusso-German Empire (and one should not take refuge in the rotten subterfuge that one is speaking of a "state of the future"; we have seen how matters stand in this respect) the state has need, on the contrary, of a very stern education by the people.

But I don't think the structure of the education system is the main factor at all here. We've had state education for decades and I don't think it has really changed much in its essential characteristics post-war. The pressure on students has increased, certainly, but this is driven by the wider changes in the economy - the development of mass unemployment has increased competition among workers and intense competition between the bourgeoisie requires them to educate their children more as well. The extension of education (e.g. from 14 to 16) is an inevitable consequence of the increasing complexity of production and society i.e. the need for an educated workforce.

Peter Good
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Aug 15 2007 15:56

Dear Demogorgan 303,
If Marx said that then I'm happy for him.

I'm certainly no Marxist scholar but have travelled in the old Eastern Europe and as an ex-Trade Union leader, worked in close proximity with many Marxist abbreviations. And I'm not impressed.

The point I make is on our perception of teenagers. And our compulsory education system plays a significant part in their development. Similar arguments can be built from the effects of housing, employment, media and relationships between the young and the old.

Yet it isn't all negative. I'm full of hope and praise for those teenagers who get together and organise bands, publish zines, organise raves or attend climate camps.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

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Steven.
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Aug 16 2007 09:22
jef costello wrote:
John. wrote:
Is street crime worse now than in Elizabethan times? I would've thought it - and crime generally - was much lower now.

Crime generally is higher now, mainly because wealth is much more portable.

You what? Now maybe history gives a bad image, but the general view of society in 1600 presented is that it was pretty fucking bestial. I've had a quick look for crime figures from the period but can't see any... you wouldn't think there would be any body capable of even recording most crime back then anyway.

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Aug 16 2007 09:31
Peter Good wrote:
I'm certainly no Marxist scholar but have travelled in the old Eastern Europe and as an ex-Trade Union leader, worked in close proximity with many Marxist abbreviations. And I'm not impressed.

I'm not surprised, but Eastern Europe had very little to do with Marxism and hasn't had much to do with trade unionism for a hundred years.

Peter Good wrote:
The point I make is on our perception of teenagers. And our compulsory education system plays a significant part in their development. Similar arguments can be built from the effects of housing, employment, media and relationships between the young and the old.

Perception is an important thing. In some respects we're a lot more intolerant of children now. Today even kids playing football in the street are demonised. Unfortunately, it springs from real concerns as recent headlines have highlighted.

Peter Good wrote:
Yet it isn't all negative. I'm full of hope and praise for those teenagers who get together and organise bands, publish zines, organise raves or attend climate camps.

Okay. Why not include all those young people who organise Christian youth clubs or join the Youth Parliament? Does forming a band, etc. present some kind of challenge to capitalism??

Peter Good
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Aug 16 2007 10:51

Dear Demogorgan 303,

But who am I to deride young people from coming together? And there isn't much I can do if they want to start worshipping supreme beings.

My concern with any group is when they attempt to restrict my life with menacing street gangs or have music blasting through the walls of my house.

I think a case can be made that Punk (least in the mid-70's) did cause some alarm to the authorities. It certainly put Anarchism in the public domain far better than we few Anarchist Trade Unionists managed to do.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

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Aug 16 2007 12:46

Elvis and the Beatles caused alarm to the American authorities. The CIA actually discussed their threat to the youth of America. Ironically, Elvis gave evidence to a panel (FBI I think) on the matter of the Beatles. Can't imagine he was miffed by the fact they kicked him out of the charts wink I remain unconvinced that they challenged capitalism. Far from it.

I can't tell, to be honest, if the rest of your comments are serious or not.

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Aug 16 2007 14:11

i'm engaging in the debate because some people really do think forming bands, organising raves, etc. does challenge capitalism. I know at least one guy who thinks the rave scene brought down Thatcherism confused

I just can't tell if Peter is serious when he says it.

AliceC
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Aug 16 2007 14:41

I think it has a lot to do with the education system. It is completely geared to churning out people to do work, with the priority on economic prowess. If you fall outside this categorey, in you natural ability, you are effectively treated as second class or a failure. Very few other talents are nirtured or encouraged. It is no wonder young people are either depressed or agressive, as if they don't fit the economic dream, they give up on society or take it out on society. Educators should be discovering youths talents, whatever they are and expanding them, then the whole world will benefit from much greater diversity of types of life, and their contributions.

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Aug 16 2007 14:57

But education only exists because the economic system that requires it exists. The education system cannot be changed until we destroy the entire economic basis upon which it is predicated.

More to the point, as I said above, we've had this education system for over 50 years for all intents and purposes. But I don't think youths murdering people because they protest at them throwing chocolate bars into their car has been around quite that long.

Peter Good
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Aug 17 2007 07:07

Dear Demogorgan,
Sorry, I'm late coming back to you - all sorts of things happening here.
I tend to take a light-hearted view of life but, yes, my comments have a serious base to them.
But why shouldn't they ?

Shifting the debate to what would bring down capitalism is a much bigger ask than what acts cause alarm to the authorities.
Most of us are involved in piecemeal activities: meetings, publishing, demos, etc. So I'm really cheered when I see teenagers working out for themselves similar events.

I suppose much of what I say comes from my involvement in education over the past six years. It really does get to me to see what the machine is churning out.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

AliceC
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Aug 17 2007 13:46

Demogorgon wrote: [/u][/u]But education only exists because the economic system that requires it exists. The education system cannot be changed until we destroy the entire economic basis upon which it is predicated.

I think education existed before capitalism. Education is sharing knowledge with others. It can be changed with having to get rid of capitalism first.

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Aug 17 2007 14:27

Of course education existed before capitalism, although it had a far more limited scope. But what is education? Nothing other than a formal process of equipping members of society with the knowledge and skills necessary for it to function within that society. In any class society), the ruling class controls education. Education thus serves their purposes, first and foremost. The fact we might benefit from it as well is purely incidental. It's only because capitalism needs workers who can read that, for the first time in history, there is mass literacy amongst the working class.

Providing anything beyond this necessary education constitutes a burden for the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system. In these days of crisis, they're actually finding it more and more difficult to provide even the necessary education because of funding cuts, etc. Hence, we have university graduates who can't spell properly or even construct a sentence!

If the bourgeoisie can no longer even provide the populace with education necessary for the needs of capitalism, how on earth can they provide a truly human education? It's only when we get rid of capitalism and construct a human society that real education will be possible.

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Aug 17 2007 16:52

Isn't this because education is being used to park lumpeproletariat in an attempt to neutralise them? or at least delay their entry into the world of (no) work?

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 17 2007 20:44
guydebordisdead wrote:
I'm not sure if anyone on here thinks that though, but I'd agree that loads of people do think that.

It's basically a warped version of the unnuanced ICC binary, where instead of proletarian and bourgeois you have conformist/normal and non-conformist/individual. It's an evolution of hippy ideology, the drive towards individuality through plagiarism. Cunts. Just form a band cos playing music's fun and it'll probably get you laid.

Peter Good
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Aug 18 2007 06:59

Dear Demogorgan 303,

I tend to wince whenever I see a sentence that begins: "It's only when we get rid of capitalism can we....."

True, it's the party line and few would disagree. But it is essentially a holding statement, one that projects a problem somewhere into the future and accordingly, relieving ourselves of everyday responsibility.

I don't know how this tired mantra could be of comfort to the people on our local estate who find themeselves living under siege most nights after 9pm. Nor can I see how the same would be of help to the menacing groups of teenagers who gather outside to party until the small hours.

You might as well tell them to ring the police or it's the will of Allah or the Messiah will come this year.

I refer back to my earlier proposition that communities can re-take control of their own streets. There are lots of problems with this (i.e. vigilanti groups often turn out to be controlling conservative outfits) but leastwise it's an attempt to take on responsibility to an everyday problem.

Regards
Peter Good(TCA)

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 19 2007 21:57
Peter Good wrote:
I don't know how this tired mantra could be of comfort to the people on our local estate who find themeselves living under siege most nights after 9pm. Nor can I see how the same would be of help to the menacing groups of teenagers who gather outside to party until the small hours.

You might as well tell them to ring the police or it's the will of Allah or the Messiah will come this year.

I refer back to my earlier proposition that communities can re-take control of their own streets. There are lots of problems with this (i.e. vigilanti groups often turn out to be controlling conservative outfits) but leastwise it's an attempt to take on responsibility to an everyday problem.

Sorry, so you want people to take control of the streets, but when some young people do it, they're "menacing"? Are you Alf Garnett?

Peter Good
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Aug 20 2007 06:16

Dear Alan,
Yes, I see what you mean.
But by community taking control I mean a community as a whole not where one section holds another section as victims.
Regards
Peter (Alf) Good(TCA)

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Aug 20 2007 14:06

Agree with Peter that anti-social behavious does not constitute the working class taking control of the streets. It is, as he says, one part of the community holding the rest hostage.

As far as the working class really taking control of the streets, Peter says in his first post, "the police are most reluctant to surrender their management of criminal behaviour". Reluctance doesn't come into it, they simply will not willingly surrender it under any circumstances. It is a direct challenge to the state itself.

Any initiatives that spring from the community either end up being recuperated in the state or being dissipated. Neighbourhood Watch is the classic example, it springs from a genuine desire to protect communities but ends up being implemented under the aegis of the state. It cannot be otherwise. A more militant challenge to the authority of the police would invevitably mean a confrontation with the police that can only end in one of two ways: defeat, whether this means the physical crushing of the movement or its absorption; or victory, forcing the state to retreat.

The latter can only really be achieved during a revolutionary situation (in fact, by definition, a victory would be a revolutionary situation). It's only at this point that class consciousness can develop to the point that the class as a whole can come together make collective decisions and enforce those decisions, including that of "policing" its own communities.