12/02/2007

Is this a phase?

Hello,
After my wonderful readers responded so well to my cat question below, I thought I'd ask another question or two while I've got your attention.

Does everyone go through a 'political breakdown' in their early thirties? Was I right before or have I now become delusional? Or have the scales fallen from my eyes?

I just wonder because I've become a bit 'law and order' and 'decline of society' of late. Well I say of late at the age of eighteen I remember remarking and feeling very strongly that over the last two years or so things in Glasgow had taken an awful turn for the worse. I was shouted down and told I was talking nonsense by people who drive cars and don't have any contact with hassles on the streets and public transport.

Anyway to give you a depressing insight into my thought process before I get into this post properly I shall tell you how I arrive at conclusions. Various things come to my attention and I have a gut reaction, then I reflect, do some reading, reflect some more and arrive at a position. That does make it sound more clever than it is -it can be as simple as reading two opposing viewpoints that I think are well argued and then leaping straight in.

As I've said law and order has got my goat of late but I'm finding it difficult to arrive at any firm conclusion on the matter. In truth I feel like a bit of a lost soul. Life was much simpler as a fifteen year old Marxist let me tell you. Usually when I encounter something too big for my brain it involves right angles and maths. I can usually manage ethical and moral issues. Libra rising you see. But as ever I'm wandering what follows below are mere assertion, random thoughts and brief reflections on what I've seen here and there. I'm not looking for praise or condemnation but I few directions out of this mental cul de sac would be nice. In brief I want guidance.

There is of course a lot of debate surrounding crime on one side we have folk hopping about in a most disagreeable fashion and on the other folk who reckon things are pretty much as they've always been but that we hear more about crime. Well I have a splinter in my left buttock in this debate. I suspect that serious crime is more or less as it's always been but is easier to prove than ever, hence why not a day goes past without reading of some trial for sickening violent wickedness. What I do feel has got worse and I think fuels at lot of fear of crime is 'petty crime'.

The chaps who spat on me leaving work a few months back and the girl who slapped me on the bus are petty criminals. Whilst I was furious no-one was really harmed but their actions were wrong and if I'm not mistaken illegal.

Similarly I see people racially abused at least once a week on the bus, aggressive and bullying behaviour directed towards anyone out with the ned code of acceptable. Everyday I see some horrible bit of wicked intimidation directed towards someone. Again let me stress that these are not the worst examples of criminal behaviour.

I also have a number of clients mainly refugee or disabled but not exclusively who are the subject of constant intimidation in their homes from gaggles of neds who take exception to and I'm quoting here 'mongs', 'peados' ,'niggers' and 'pakis'. Many of their neighbours are appalled by this but being elderly or otherwise vulnerable dare not speak out. Once again this isn't the worst of criminal behaviour. I should inform you that the definition of peado is very different on the schemes and is mainly used to insult middle aged men that can read.

The above is only what I see personally. I have relatives in the north of Glasgow who could tell you similar tales. I also know people in other parts of Glasgow who again could tell you equally depressing tales.

When I first formed an interest in politics, I was only six or seven and had a world view much like Terry Kelly's. I like to think that as years have gone by I've got a little more sophisticated in my reasoning. The one thing I was and remain a political bigot about though, is being on the side of the underdog. I hate bullying. Cannot stand it. Get so angry I can't even articulate why it riles me so much. To look at someone weaker and take advantage is the lowest act I can imagine. Which brings me to my point on 'petty' crime.

If each of these acts I described above were committed by the state in the form of the army or police. I'd like to think everyone in this country would be outraged. In fact I know they would and one word they would quite rightly use to describe it is oppression. As we know these petty crimes are not committed by the state but by the hopeless young things rattling about our schemes. Why does no one seem to be upset about the most vulnerable amongst us being intimidated in this way? Why when I talk about the area I work and express sorrow at the crimes committed against people who unlike me don't have the luxury of sleeping somewhere more civilised am I told that's what I should expect in Easterhouse? Why if I push the point and express anger about this state of affairs am I told I sound like a Daily Mail reader and dismissed?

The truth is, and I've no reason to disbelieve my own eyes or the people who tell me these things, that no-one cares. The suburban left and right are united in their indifference to this crime wave unless of course it has the effrontery to to touch them in some way.

It may interest these folk to know that I'd never met anyone with and MBE until I started my current job. It may interest them to know that there are legions of people running voluntary projects funded out their own pockets on Glasgow's schemes. It may also interest them to know that there are many more people willing to help out but are too frightened to leave their homes. In truth the council schemes of Glasgow are populated by the best folk I've ever met but also some of the worst which is where the problems start.

Let me say it again, if these people were frightened of the state there would be all sorts of campaigns. Instead their lot is to look out the window of their high rise, see the neds gathering, be too frightened to go out and console themselves with the idea that things are as they always were and know that no one gives a fuck.

Glasgow was always rough by the standards of other Scottish cities but it simply wasn't always this bad. My parents who both grew up in council schemes will happily tell you that. My late granny was so distressed when children started taking her home grown strawberries without asking in the mid-seventies that she applied for a 'pensioner flat'. When someone reached in her open kitchen window and nicked her wedding ring from the ornament it was hanging from, she felt engulfed by a wave of crime. My grannie was born in 1910 and well aware of the razor gangs of the 30's and the high crime rate surrounding them. What she did not expect was that lawlessness to visit her council scheme or indeed any other. She viewed that sort of behaviour as understandable in a slum but not in the post war world of the welfare state.

Now my Dad's family were a bit more 'ghetto'. Great grannie was up before the beak for breaking an American Marine's jaw during the war. Her son once broke a fellows finger in his car door to punish him for looking at his car. Worst of all my dad was up in front of the beak and fined some shillings for stealing British Rail property. The property concerned was the coal that fell off the coal tracks as they passed by his back garden. Other than the above they've been law abiding ever since. They too disdained gang violence.

To go a bit further back my granny on my mothers side once found a ten bob note in the street. She took it home to show to her mother who marched her off to the police station with it. At the time my great granny was struggling to support her nine surviving children who remained on two meals a day as a result of her honesty. Every time I heard that tale as I child I thought my great granny was a total fool, now I esteem her refusal to let her lowly circumstances compromise her morals. To me that is real class.

My point being that all of the above folk were deprived and poor. My dad's lot were the least deprived of all and made a very nice living through money lending. All of us alive today enjoy better opportunities then any of these folk. Some of them chose illegal money whereas some of them chose to go without despite being desperately in need of food. They were all poor but all of them had morals, some more elastic than others.

Mr Clairwil grew up on a scheme, had little materially growing up and has managed to stay out of trouble. In fact he's more law abiding than I am with my chemical adventures. Once again I should stress that everyone above was genuinely poor and deprived. With one exception- me. Yet I have to my knowledge broken more laws than any of them. This notion that poverty cause crime really must end as a reason to excuse evil acts. Oh come on we'd all be relaxed about calling them evil if the state were committing them. Oppression is oppression. As far as I can tell most scheme crime is caused by the unchecked thuggery and wickedness of the physically strong.

If the perpetrators were jailed and punished (which they're not) the victims would feel better. If the police actually patrolled these areas on foot, rather than scoot through in car a great deal of crime could be averted but it isn't. Why not?

Neds, thugs and bullies have always existed and for all I know they always will but is that any reason to give them the whip hand as I submit we do at present? Mob oppression is just as evil as state oppression. Why the reluctance to acknowledge this? Why the reluctance to do something about it? Having a swastika spray painted on your front door isn't the worst thing that could happen but isn't it telling that the thugocracy have stumbled upon such a potent symbol of oppression to signify their reign over our weakest.

Don't have nightmares....

Cheerio

8 comments:

ZinZin said...

http://zinzine.blogspot.com/2007/12/as-you-get-older.html

iLL Man said...

What Zinzin said. Not a lot else I can add really............

Is that zinzin back blogging again?

Anonymous said...

The first thing that springs to mind, as an issue of "sociology" perhaps, rather than practical politics is that "social wealth" has radically gone down in a lot of areas.

My own experience isn't about Glasgow, but mining communities in Yorkshire. Those communities have a long history of physical violence in the streets, especially around the pubs.

But, the society of the time structured that public violence (largely) as men on men. Bullying existed, but wholesale picking on weaker types (esp. the elderly) tended to be frowned on. That kind of issue ripples through most of the historical attitudes to crime.

That social fabric is largely dead and gone. The community links just don't exist.

So what can replace it? That's where it gets really difficult. The ASBO was created in part to address the very frustrations you articulate.

But...

What we've learned so far is:

a) This kind of law is actually very difficult to enforce. It's like an experiment proving that the police officers of old didn't do that much in of themselves, it was the community backing that mattered.

b) There are real civil liberties problems with making laws about things like "neds gathering together with ill intent" and these mean the law gets used and seen as a tool of oppression.

All of which is to say that the law and police are very blunt instruments to affect problems that essentially result from the atomisation of communities, the ghetto-isation of the vulnerable away from the rest of people.

Now is that atomisation the result of poverty directly? Clearly not, but it's obviously correlated with poverty in our modern societies and it is in part the result of changes wrought by laissez faire economics.

Whichever route you take to try and fix it, legal or economic, it's going to be expensive. And that's why nothing is done.

The problem with the "Daily Mail" approach is that it largely wants to take a "legal" route without actually paying enough for it to be effective.

Clairwil said...

I'm not terribly keen on ASBOs either. I think a lot of this could be dealt with without any formal legal procedure. Rather than pass a law preventing folk hanging about, they could be repeatedly moved on until they decide to congregate somewhere less problematic. I also wonder how many people spiral out of control because their minor transgressions aren't even noticed.

You highlight an important point about the role of community values in 'policing' behaviour again without recourse to any formal legal process.

'Whichever route you take to try and fix it, legal or economic, it's going to be expensive. And that's why nothing is done.'

Exactly.

douglas clark said...

Clairwil,

I don't think it is you as a person that has changed, it is perhaps the society around you. You are against bullies. You are against them, whether they represent the state or our new concern - rightly - wee pricks with bottle. And no idea.

I share your concerns, but I'd agree with the Ill Man, Zin Zin said it best.

Katy Newton said...

I feel exactly the same way, girlfriend. (street talk is appropriate here, yes?)

I think that what makes it seem worse is that when we were kids teachers and adults generally were allowed to deal out a bit of rough justice. If kids were fighting in the playground you grabbed them by the arms and pulled them apart. If someone else's child misbehaved in your house you shouted at them, and when you told their parent their parent shouted at them too and apologised to you. If you stole someone else's lunch money you were sent home from school and your parents made your life a misery.

What's different is that adults, as a group, seem to have bought into the concept of children having rights to the extent that they no longer feel capable of putting them in their place. And so the only way of dealing with them is to treat them like adults - so suddenly if you are 13 and you hit someone and steal their bike, you don't get sent home; you get taken to the police station and charged with robbery and possibly tried in the Crown Court, and then you might get sent to prison, which is ridiculous.

I am rambling. I am going away now.

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