Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Killing Time

Greetings from the dark place usually known as my mind. Thanks to everyone for all the lovely comments and emails. Things got a bit hairy there for a while, especially after I shot Ben in the head. I wasn’t intending to do so, but well, call it a crime of passion. Do you think I’d get away with temporary insanity in a court of law? Probably not as most people know it to be a permanent state with me. It is surprisingly difficult to convey a story with your narrator in a coma. I suppose I should have thought of that before I fired shots in anger.

Speaking of which I’ve just had a new estate agent around. He is nice enough, a sort of teletubby in Hugo Boss. Can I bear to go through the whole business again? Remembering to take out the garbage, keeping bits of unfinished book and half read research hidden under the sofa bed, arranging DVDs so that no Tom Cruise titles are visible, bleaching the bottoms of my feet (so much easier than doing the floor)? Yes - after the hell in a handcart of a week we’ve had in Mission Impossible UK (this country will self destruct in the foreseeable future).

Last week UNICEF released a report iterating the obvious – that Britain is the worst place in the developed world for growing children. It gave me no cheer. It’s not one of those occasions on which you get oodles of pleasure out of being right. I always hoped that it was just the crazy, dystopic way I viewed the world that made it appear that we’d completely failed young people. Just because every business letter I ever receive is a miasma of misspellings and non sequiturs, does not necessarily mean that education is failing to convey an ability to form proper sentences. It could simply mean the Government has imaginatively met its Gershon cost saving targets by teaching monkeys to type. There is not yet a basic wage agreement for primates as far as I know.

But now all hope that I was just being a sniping misanthrope is lost. We really are just as bad as my wild and frequently flippant pronouncements indicated. At any moment I expect someone to turn up on Dragons’ Den with a Hackney-based business proposal to employ five year olds to sweep chimneys and to witness the distasteful spectacle of the dragons literally breathing fire in each others’ paths to get a piece of it.

So what does Government intend to do about creating a nurturing environment for young people where now exists a huge development black hole? Lock itself away in a room for a year and compose another hand wringing White Paper I shouldn’t wonder. Watching the Parliament Channel (I really must give that up), is not much cause for optimism. The Black Youth and Justice Committee hearings which were held in January are on continuous rotation, like a sadistic mortification ritual, to remind us of just how clueless we are when it comes to doing what every other animal species seems to take in its stride.

The procession of professors and experts in Nehru jackets from organisations with brand consultant inspired names stutter their way through their particular take on what is wrong with society. Interestingly, the shortfalls usually align with the type of ‘services’ they provide. Broadly speaking these all constitute some form of ‘mentoring’ as the perception still persists in Britain that youth disaffection is entirely due to an absence of adequate ‘role models’ for boys. Girls are fine of course because they have Victoria Beckham, Jade Goody and Kate Moss to aspire to.

You would think from the way everyone is talking that there simply aren’t any men around to parent and generally provide a good example to the youth of today. Did I sleep through another war then? Plenty of men seem to be lining up to make accusations but who exactly are the ones not fulfilling their duty? Absentee fathers seem to be carrying the can for the ‘breakdown of society’. So do we assume that every boy that grows up without a father is going to turn to crime? Where does the theory stand on children whose father died nicely, of say, cancer?

What about the other kinds of example men in society used to provide but are now no longer deemed appropriate? A male teacher would be very ill advised to take an interest in an individual pupil for the purpose of encouraging the spark of an ability or talent. Employers no longer take cadets under their wing and show them the ropes. They’re more likely to gripe if they have to spend any time at all on their training and resent every penny they have to pay them. In their spare moments, they speculate on what their recruits might be getting up to the minute their back is turned. I think we can safely say that neither Alice in Wonderland nor Peter Pan would spring from our present social structure.

Young men taking to crime in the absence of an opportunity to get ahead any other way is not entirely new to Britain. London has an especially grand tradition of criminal activity. In fact, there are currently only four routes out of poverty here in the East End – crime, football, music or getting a part on East Enders and/or The Bill. One thing that youth leaders are saying that does actually make sense is that criminal gangs are plugging a hole that used to be occupied by apprenticeships. They operate a merit-based hierarchy and a code of practice that is open and transparent. Work hard, keep your head down, take some risks and you will get rewarded. No one should underestimate the immediate recognition of the advantages of that model.

But joining a gang is often not a matter of choice for young people growing up on our doggedly rough council estates. For all its rhetoric about child protection, this Government and its initiative-loving police service can’t even provide children with enough personal security to get them from home to school and back without them having to swear allegiance to a bandana. Call me an equality-mad socialist, but there’s something not quite right about that.

Anyway, I’m back and I’m hard. I just shot a man in the head after all.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali


Ms Baroque said...

Yes but didn't you also just make him get better?

Meredith said...

Ah, you equality-mad socialist you. Welcome back TSP.

That's so pants said...

True, Ms Baroque. I sort of had to for the sake of the story.

Hi Meredith - cheers.

Reading the Signs said...

You're back - bleaching your feet? That's well hard.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs - yes, I thought so.

Leesa said...

You have been nominated for the Battle of the Blogs. Sorry this sounds "canned" because, well, this is canned. I have received lots of entries. I will be working on the ballots that will probably come out next Tuesday (2/27), but this is what I would like from you:

1. First: do you want your blog to be entered?
2. If you could, could you send me a brief (one paragraph) description of your site for me to include with a link to your URL (blog name). I am taking the names from the top of the blogs. Oh, and use the bloggerbattle(at)

You can use the link above to visit the Battle of the Blogs if you have no idea what this is. And, relax, it just means you are loved.

That's so pants said...

Wow - Thanks to whoever put me up for this.

Reading the Signs said...

I know it's none of my business but - why so silent and/or how are you? Only you said you usually announce when you're about to have a blog break.