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I Know This is Controversial, but I am Bored of Shanking

Posted: 30/11/11 00:00

I don't want to hear about it on the news, I don't want to see it depicted in Channel 4 dramas of questionable content (*eh-hem* Top Boy) and I certainly don't want to see Jason Gardiner tweeting about it. Oh, and for anyone who is currently reading this with their brows furrowed, wondering what could be so boring about a cut of lamb, a 'shank' in this sense is a knife or sharp object. Ergo, 'shanking' is 'stabbing' or if you want to be really PC about it, 'knife crime.'

Flippant? Maybe. But at the end of the day, and forgive me for being ludicrously simplistic here, I just don't see the bloody point of it.

For a start, in a war of violence there is never a winner. The shanked is either injured or killed, but either way, the likelihood is that someone will seek revenge. Cue... Another shanking. And so on and so forth until somebody somewhere (who's inevitably called "Shorty" or "Bigz" or perhaps... "Ginger Dave") calls the whole thing off OR until everyone Is maimed and/or dead and there is nobody left to shank.

And the saddest thing? These days, around the major cities in this country, the 'shanker' is most likely just a kid. And probably one that never really meant to use the damn knife as a weapon. But the fact of the matter is that there are youths all over the country, aimlessly waving their flailing limbs back and forth, shanks in hand, piercing everything in their paths.

A staggering 46% of 15-17 year olds have admitted to carrying knives for protection...as a defence. But hold on a sec, when exactly did it become commonplace to pocket a blade on your way out of the house? What on earth can any teenager have done that warrants then being stabbed, injured and potentially killed? Well...other than shanking someone, of course?

Do you see it now? It's a vicious cycle. To these kids, the bigger your weapon, the more powerful you are. Carrying a knife shows you mean business. It screams: "Don't mess with me."

The hardest thing to comprehend about Cameron's "sick," rioting, gang obsessed youth, is that they are just normal kids. Get to know them in the right way, that is, treat them as equals and not a persistent nuisance, and you would see that aside from the grades, accent and living situation, these boys (and forgive the generalisation, girls are involved in this demographic too) are in essence just that. Boys. Trust me, I know a couple of them.

As a photographer, I spend much of my time with people that wouldn't normally enter my sphere of influence. In the last few months, I've made friends with two brothers, 19 and 16 years old respectively. They are dealers, the kind that shot 20 bags of weed from their push bikes - urban businessmen if you will - and you know what? They're sweet. Polite. Funny. Attractive. One is a karate champion behind the scenes and the other one is aspiring to be a screenwriter at just 16 (and believe you me, if he writes the story down as well as he says it out loud, it will blow Top Boy out of the water).

These boys are by no means any different to the guys I've met throughout my life, from all places, backgrounds and walks of life. They might not speak the same as I do (sometimes I think I need a translator to keep up) but I would like to make it clear that the troubled youth that so many speak of now ARE NOT a different species of person. They don't walk around menacingly with scowls on their angry faces, whilst saying "f*ck" repeatedly with no respect for anyone, not even their mothers! Well, not any more than football supporters after a losing match, anyway.

These guys both still live with their mum, or when she occasionally kicks them out (she's a messy drunk, I'm told), they stay with their nan. And they love them both too. I recently found out, during a bog-standard chat with the younger one that he had (on at least one occasion) gone out with a knife on him. I didn't pose this as a question to him. He just told me. Like it was nothing. I was shocked. No, I was gobsmacked. MY boys have been out with KNIVES? I couldn't picture it. Seriously, these guys are adorable. You'd let your daughter date them. They aren't just sweet and polite, they are kind and caring, they are intelligent and devilishly attractive.

And I am absolutely convinced that neither of them would ever hurt a fly. Unless of course, that particular fly threatened their family, their friends or their livelihood. And then to be honest, I can't speculate, because the truth is that if you go out carrying a weapon, there is a chance that one day, you'll get caught in a situation where you are forced to use it. And then my boys would go from being men in the making, to murderers in prison.

And I for one, don't want to see that happen.

With the current recession pushing back all community projects and stalling the development of youth programmes, I can't help but think it's not the kids that are "sick," but the world they are growing into. Our world, where fast money and reality tv stardom has usurped hard work and steady earnings, where sports or music seem like the only options for kids who never thought they were clever, where laziness is bred and spreads like disease, where aspiration stops at money and forgets about dreams, where we disregard the serious manifestations of wider problems that affect the forgotten youth of today.

The forgotten youth who have been failed by their families, their education and by a government that tells them they are "sick" when they are so desperate for help that their cry for attention has gotten extreme to the point that they're running riot like a bunch of arrogant little pricks with knives in their pockets, burning down buildings in Croydon and looting the local Argos for no reason other than they have NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

I do sometimes wonder if these kids understand the wider ramifications of what they're doing beyond 'protecting' themselves, their peers and their respect. I can't help but think that if no one had a weapon, no one would need to protect themself with a weapon... After all, we don't want to end up like the States with a gun in every sock drawer now, do we?

There must be a way for us to give these kids back the confidence they need, to exist in the world as real human beings and not the gang version of themselves, criminal super heroes with silly code names. Surely we should be nurturing the drug dealers into entrepreneurial businessmen? Turning the cunning thieves into detectives? Sending the aggressive ones off to fight in to a boxing ring and not on the street? Lord knows there are some transferable skills there!

Tomorrow when I wake up, I hope there's something altruistic to read, and not another headline that points the judgmental finger at teenagers who aren't even old enough to vote.

Vote Cameron out, that is.

 

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