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Challenging gang culture

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Mark Easton | 18:04 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

The values of black gang culture are as warped and vile as anything preached in al-Qaeda's terror camps. The death and suffering which follow from its violent, misogynistic dogma are no less devastating.

Shakilus TownsendJust read the background to the murder of 16-year-old Shakilus Townsend if you don't believe me. It makes one weep.

The young man lying in a suburban cul-de-sac cried: "Mummy, mummy, mummy. I don't want to die."

But die he did, with a gaping hole in his stomach where one of his killers had twisted the blade of a knife.

So many aspects of this tale make one catch one's breath:

• the fact that young Shakilus had been led to his gang-land execution by his ex-girlfriend, a 15-year-old schoolgirl;

• the fact that the victim had posted a social networking site profile of himself wearing a stab-vest and holding a knife next to a message in which he warns that if you mess with him he will "slash your face up"

• the fact that two of his killers had "tried hard" to build up a criminal record - the pre-requisite of a true gangster;

• the fact that Samantha Joseph - the girl in the "love triangle" - was prepared to see Shakilus murdered in order to win back gangster Danny Mclean, a man who beat her regularly.

These are the features of a parallel morality, a distorted interpretation of the creed of capitalism where bling is king, where tolerance is weakness, where women are whores, where a criminal record is a badge of honour, where lack of "respect" justifies bullying, torture and even murder.

It is a form of imported fundamentalism as alien to democratic society as the views of the most hard-line Islamists.

When fighting al-Qaeda-inspired terror, the focus is not on the weapons but the ideology. When fighting murderous gang-culture, it seems to me, the focus is not on the ideology but the weapons.

Politicians obsess about knives and guns but do far less to counteract the values which inspire the behaviour.

British gang culture models itself on the criminal underworld of black ghettoes in America. There are, of course, white and Asian youths involved in gang violence and crime here in the UK. But look at its victims. Look at the mug-shots. Overwhelmingly they are black - tragic black youths corrupted by a culture which should have no place here.

So why do we tolerate the preachers of black gang culture? Who is effectively challenging this stuff? I don't mean banning it - that almost certainly wouldn't work.

A better approach might be to mock it - make it appear so unsophisticated and out-dated that no self-respecting young black kid would want to be associated with it.

That was President Obama's strategy, you may recall, when asked on MTV last year to comment about a municipal ban on "saggy-pants", the low-slung trousers designed to echo the beltless clothes of prisoners.

"Brothers should pull up their pants", he said. "There are some issues that we face, that you don't have to pass a law, but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear - I'm one of them."

Gordon Brown couldn't get away with saying something like that, of course. But black British writers, commentators, artists, musicians, designers might.

There are examples of brave individuals who are working hard to fight against the preachers of gangsterism. But too often they are shouting into the wind.

The billions spent on marketing gang culture, by businesses who deny responsibility, blow away the counter messages.

It is that poisonous wind which killed Shakilus Townsend and the hundreds of other young black victims of gang violence over the last few years. It is that toxic ideology that turns shiny-faced young children into murderers.

Comments

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  • 1. At 6:34pm on 09 Jul 2009, mymother-sdaughter wrote:

    How many of these kids have stay at home, hands on fathers? That is where the problem lies. No father = gang replacement.

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  • 2. At 6:54pm on 09 Jul 2009, harryesque wrote:

    This is an excellent article. The point about Government policy focusing on the weapons rather than the values of street gang culture is right on the money.
    Unless people are engaged with the main society they live within they will create their own sub-culture with its own rules and standards.

    Imagine xthousands of young people with no belief in their own future, no stake in society, no respect for the law, no fear of being caught, no ability or desire to empathise with people outside their clan,and finally not even believing they will be alive past the age of 30.

    Collective nihilism mixed with alienation is toxic, and unless challenged/discredited it will have an increasingly significant impact on the way we all live our lives.

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  • 3. At 6:55pm on 09 Jul 2009, angrymeerkat wrote:

    Absolutely. Black kids need to see black adults behaving responsibly; so do brown and white kids respectively. It's called a working family unit, and it starts with loving parents bringing up a child with two good role models.

    Come to mention it, I think that might solve a fair few other problems, too...

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  • 4. At 7:19pm on 09 Jul 2009, Ubergunner wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 5. At 7:21pm on 09 Jul 2009, David Gale wrote:

    Wasting your time Mark; you need something that gives these guys the "fame" they crave. In an age which lauds talentless celebrities and adores offensive and offending talented ones this is their way to celebrity; the deprived kids version of reality TV fame!

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  • 6. At 8:25pm on 09 Jul 2009, silkeno wrote:


    Having said all these usual things about lack of family and strong role models, you do have to concede that the problem lies almost entirely with male youths, not females, though they lack the same parental guidance and role models as the boys you'd assume, so why do they not go off the rails in the same way?
    It's obviously something inherent in young males which needs to be quelled, the aforementioned problems only exacerbate the issue rather than cause it.
    It's certainly true though that having no one to look up to but footballers, rappers and miscellaneous celebs cannot do anything but produce a bunch of lazy slackers who never intend to do a days work in their lives.

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  • 7. At 10:00pm on 09 Jul 2009, chatteringclass wrote:

    I'm just watching a bbc three programme about gang culture in london. It's driving me nuts! It's doing what all documentaries do when they approach this subject, i'ts adding to the problem by adding to the culture, overlaying images of young black gang members with the soundtrack [they would probably have chosen themselves] which unarguably glamourises the subject matter, and compounds the problem. gang culture may seem unavoidable and the only culture available to many young people in certain areas and from certain backgrounds but when news items and documentaries overlay these images with gangsta rap or black urban music they are throwing petrol on the fire. It corrupts objectivity and adds to the theatricalisation of violence and violent lifestyles which is at the heart of the matter.

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  • 8. At 10:35pm on 09 Jul 2009, joeblogger wrote:

    I used to send my teaching colleagues into their classrooms each September with a perennial epithet ringing in their ears. If you don't manage the children in your classes effectively,they will manage you.I repeat that mantra now that I have retired but aim it at society at large and in particular at the British Establishment. Government policies are to blame for the demise of morals standards and caring.NOTHING is done to deter the violence,drugs,sex and alcohol industries all of which target the young as their future customer bases.The greed driven,obsessive pursuit of profit knows no bounds. The media is obsessed with using violence and sex to sell programmes across the board. Horrific violence is a staple diet on British TV and in the cinema and it is in the faces of young impressionable,vulnerable exploited kids on a constant basis.Educational achievement is seen only as the acquisition of largely watered down GCSE examinations aimed at skilling a workforce for which no work is available and not seen as understanding how our own behaviours impact upon the quality of life of others.Sentences for the worst of these horrible crimes of violence are unhelpful. I heard this morning that the likely sentences for these youngsters will be life imprisonment. Rubbish! Whatever the sentences turn out to be, we all know that they will not consist of life imprisonment for any one of the vile murderers and for the probable relativey few years they each serve in comfortable surroundings with all mod cons and better services probably than they were used to at home, they will survive the ordeal much better than the family and friends of the victim will cope with their loss for a genuine lifetime.Perhaps if sentences really meant life albeit the criminal treated in a civilised manner but consisting only of three reasonable meals a day, sufficient exercise WITHOUT the mod cons including TV, cinema, inappropiate media and drugs, allowing only Radio 4, light classical music and a 'decent' newspaper and if these murdering youngsters really knew that the punishment would be consistent and definite, then we might get some progress in this country regarding unnecessarily gratuitous,violent crime.

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  • 9. At 00:57am on 10 Jul 2009, Rogerborg wrote:

    Kids being born into career welfare households is the root problem. Long term contraceptive implants in return for benefits is the solution.

    Objections? I mean from anyone who doesn't make their living from my tax money, one way or another.

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  • 10. At 01:00am on 10 Jul 2009, tarquin wrote:

    6 silkeno

    I think you overlook some details - girls are shown to be involved, Mark made reference to a 15-year old girl in his story - she may not have been doing the stabbing but she was just as culpable - the role of girls in gang culture is, quite naturally, different to the role of the males, who are driven by a sense of machismo, but they are just as involved - it's been highlighted in many documentaries, I suggest you check out the 'girl gangs' (sic) one, which looked at the rise of female offending rates

    Very well thought out piece Mark - I particularly like the exposure of the government's obsession with the 'tools' of crime when it comes to knife crime (no doubt a knee-jerk reaction to the media) but ideology when it comes to islamic extremists - which works better?

    And I agree with the opinion about gang culture being promoted in the media - naturally I can't agree with a ban, but the glorification and exploitation of the gang culture by the media is clearly reckless and profit-driven - I feel the industry, which sets the agenda anyway, could easily destroy the gangster rap culture if it started mocking the behaviour instead of pandering to it, politicians don't have an effect and policing is no long term solution, it needs to be cultural

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  • 11. At 09:36am on 10 Jul 2009, sparkleanderson wrote:

    perhaps Mark Easton can clarify the following:

    do we have a disproportionate amount of black boys being born in any given period that could suggest 'over supply' therefore combining a range of variables such as poor education, poor housing, crap parents, violent culture etc would result in more self inflected deaths than in other populations. we know that poor white boys fight each other on a regular basis IE football, pub closing hours etc , however,the death rate appears to be lower.

    we also know that 'male violence' has existed since time began IE no period exist without war

    what we don't know is why hundreds of thousands of black boys go to school every day and come home and have dinner with their parents.......boring I know, however, the fact remains, is that rather than study black boys who do not participate in gangs or crime journalism favours the headlines of black boys who do participate.

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  • 12. At 10:15am on 10 Jul 2009, U14064950 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 10:28am on 10 Jul 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 14. At 11:05am on 10 Jul 2009, noblemattfrost wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 15. At 11:07am on 10 Jul 2009, clickem wrote:

    Spot on, it's a shame that debate in these terms is closed down. Perhaps it is because it would inevitably lead to a broadening out to include the violent entertainment that lucratively drenches our society, which study after study shows has no effect on us whatsoever, perhaps they only survey middle class media types. Whereas the slightest nipple slippage on prime time requires the covering of children's eyes and talk of legislation. What twisted values we weave.

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  • 16. At 11:49am on 10 Jul 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    When what we enjoy in media entertainment becomes manifest then we really have to look at the roots of the problem.

    much as the blog would not allow me to say something that will put the suggestion of committing a criminal act as it may seen to be influencing someone to act so should TV and music entertainment be judged the same way. we have lost the watershed due to technology so its time to apply moral substance to how we produce programing and influence our young through media interaction. This would require what we seem to lack though, people in position of influence that cared more for content than popular rating.

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  • 17. At 11:50am on 10 Jul 2009, pandatank wrote:

    "Imagine xthousands of young people with no belief in their own future, no stake in society, no respect for the law, no fear of being caught, no ability or desire to empathise with people outside their clan,and finally not even believing they will be alive past the age of 30."
    It was thousands when I was a teenager (I'm now 47) and nothing has changed in 30 yrs. Correction, something has. The hypocricy of Govt. Media and Corporations is now blatant. The "legal" ways of making money (bankers, arms dealers, MP's) appear to be even less moral than the criminal( who at least have some sort of Code, twisted it may be). Education is no longer a way out. We have legal recreational drugs whose effects are more harmful (or unknown, in the case of the newer ones) than the illegal ones. We have illegal wars being fought in our name. We (all of us) are now indentured slaves (for the next 10 yrs) to the very people who caused the crisis to begin with. If we are serious about tackling Gang Culture (and Religious Extremism which I believe has the same root cause). We need to put our own house in order. Every hypocricy, every unequal application of the law, every unmandated Act passed in Parliament and every Tabloid inspired "Meeja" campaign only serves to recruit more kids to the other side, where they mistakenly believe their lives hold some kind of meaning.

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  • 18. At 12:03pm on 10 Jul 2009, jlarkin wrote:

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  • 19. At 12:56pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:

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  • 20. At 1:01pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:

    There are no social excuses for this segment of society behaving in this way.
    The UK has seen all sorts of immigration of the years, black, asian, european etc.
    Asians in general quickly move out of poor areas once they are established.

    West Indian immigrants it seems perpetuate their own predicament. They need to get their act together pretty quickly

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  • 21. At 1:05pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:

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  • 22. At 1:08pm on 10 Jul 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    #4 how did you turn this into a racist comment... maybe the same toxic ideology....

    "It is that toxic ideology that turns shiny-faced young children into murderers."

    shiny faced young children is a nice statement for children that reflect all the wonders of life in there face.

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  • 23. At 1:31pm on 10 Jul 2009, U14065314 wrote:

    Q/ If News Programs stopped showing War Coverage on the Box and in the Newspapers would it stop War?
    A/ No

    There was Gang Crime long before Rap Music
    "Rap Music is the Black CNN" (Chuck D P.E.)
    Prez Obama likes Rap but is no gangbanger
    +
    Why is Conscious Black Music like Reggae also banned?

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  • 24. At 2:08pm on 10 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    Gang culture is completely natural for pack animals such as we all are. In our 'society' we like to think of Family as our pack but when family breaks down, and those morals or ethics are not indoctrinated in the same way as they are with others, there will be a moral divide as the generations pass.

    Most gang members consider their 'colleagues' as family, in one way or another, and that is not wrong. Being a member of a gang, much as being a member of a pack or family, is in answer to the basic human instinct to belong.

    Most of the comments here already acknowledge that in some way, but that is the root cause - same as religion, same as community - a basic need to belong.

    If you don't feel like you belong in the community or society where you live, it would be quite natural to create a new community - a one where you feel you could belong. That is the nature of gang culture.

    Where it diverses is in the discipline of that culture. In our mainstream culture we have rules, morals, ethics and laws that effect discipline, but in an alternative culture, there may be alternative disciplines, and this is where it gets difficult.

    Gang membership can be black, white or anything in between, but I agree, much of the 'coverage' of gang violence seems to focus on black youths. Maybe that is because of role models, maybe because of parenting, or lack of parenting skills, maybe it is a cultural warp that UK mainstream society finds ugly, maybe something of all of this, but what I find apparent, is that a change of focus could be achieved by giving the youth a sense of belonging, race, colour and creed aside.

    Whatever the problems in the world today, none of them are of our childrens making, but our children are of ours.

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  • 25. At 2:24pm on 10 Jul 2009, SSnotbanned wrote:

    Funny isn't it ??

    Initially,school gangs are formed in the lunchbreaks at school.Supervision can put a cap on their activities but these days they are allowed to hang out/roam the streets at ''our'' insistence(school meals non-compulsory).
    This gives the school gang some good ''practice''.

    nasuwt.org has a recent''gangs and schools'' report out.

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  • 26. At 2:30pm on 10 Jul 2009, SSnotbanned wrote:

    At the end of the day though,it's just another in-group v out-group situation.Human nature.Apparently we live in a material,secular society.

    Mocking birds, the answer ?
    Have you been to bible class ''black gang, preacher man '' recently ??

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  • 27. At 2:30pm on 10 Jul 2009, Brian wrote:

    I am not for one moment denying that there are a disproportionate number of black youths involved in gangs; in fact, it has always amazed me that the BBC, no doubt being 'politically correct', has always avoided pointing out the obvious ...... However, the issue is not colour, but social background. All these children are living in places where they are at the bottom and, if those at the bottom, as in some parts of the North, are white, or, as in East London, Bengali, then they are in gangs and they are moving in the direction that these youths have already gone. In a few years time you will see the same knife culture in Poplar and on the Isle of Dogs, and an increase in drugs and knife crime. If you want to do anything about this, change the nature of a society that places significant numbers of youths in dead ends and on the scrap heap while others, easily visible to them, flaunt their affluence. And all this under a LABOUR government.

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  • 28. At 2:44pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:

    The UK and England in particular is the most violent country in Europe and perhaps most the first world, according to pan-national statistics.
    Today's newspapers are also highlighting another survey commissioned by Expedia, which claims the British are the worst behaved abroad.
    Now, given what we know, is it any wonder that problem sections of society which have their origins abroad are going to have their defiencies multiplied and negatively affected by the British influence.
    What is wrong with this country!!!

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  • 29. At 3:26pm on 10 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    28. At 2:44pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:
    "...The UK and England in particular is the most violent country in Europe..."

    I've never read that statistic, and being an England-dweller, and a UK-ist (of Celtic descent so please don't confuse me with the Anglo-Saxons LOL), I resent that, but I agree that we're not the most saintly nation either.

    Why is that? I don't know - but I don't think that there is one simple answer to the problem. The sense of belonging idea that I put over in #24 is one angle, but there are so many things wrong.

    You asked "...What is wrong with this country!!! ..." - I don't think the BBC servers have enough GB spare to write a list that long, but a lot of it, as far as I'm concerned, is the lack of 'belonging' that many people feel nowadays, myself included. The spirit has gone, and the country has undergone so much change, dynamically, financially, spiritually and politically (devolution and so forth), it has damaged the state of the nation. One nation no more. Every part of London is akin to a different nation, and logically, as you move around the country, the same becomes apparent there too.

    I favour immigration, I favour diversity and I favour humanity, but what I don't see on any level for any of those things is integration.

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  • 30. At 3:36pm on 10 Jul 2009, delminister wrote:

    it seems some areas of humanity are based on pack mentality but not all so partialy to blame is this global planet where cultures are moving into areas they dont belong.
    gang and weapon culture is fueled by poor parenting and rubbish media that these persons are subjected to.
    there is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink, this is relevant becouse you can teach these youths etc that gangs and weapons are bad but will it get past their cultural heretage.

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  • 31. At 3:47pm on 10 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    This is really a symptom of a society that has lost deference, genuine respect and, more importantly, lost control. The child-centric society we have created has only resulted in a Lord of the Flies type situation. When young people have no authority that they recognise or respect, they create their own rules. And as any psychologist will tell you, when immature people start seeing themselves as their own controllers, the rules of law and society are junked. Power corrupts those who have neither the intelligence nor the maturity to use it.

    We have lost the controlling influence of the church. Many families have lost a father as a controlling figure. Schools are so frightened of litigation that they will not impose any real form of discipline. Single mothers or dysfunctional families have neither the will nor the resources to reinforce the rules. Society tolerates wilder and wilder behaviour, instead of condemning it. Politicians and any other groups who seek to impose morality or regulation are derided by an increasingly feral media, who sees only profit in telling people what they want to hear, rather than risking cool points by condemning it. Does anybody respect our Prime Minister? Exactly.

    We have lost our deference as a society. We do not respect religion, family, schools, our betters and our elders. Young people in particular have lost any concept of positive respect, and increasingly mistake it for fear. To make people respect you, the thinking goes, they have to fear you. This negative thinking leads to the twisted set of values that respects a man for killing someone, but demands violent retribution for perceived slights or injustices. Young people are crying out for someone to look up to, and a code to follow. If society will not give them these, they will look to from their own codes elsewhere. Paradoxically, as the forces of law become weaker, our children are showing us in their own ways what it takes to gain their respect. Women tolerate the kind of bigotry in a gang that would never be tolerated in normal society. Gang members accept that beatings and murders are reasonable punishment for breaking gang rules, yet scream blue murder if a policeman so much as takes their name!

    We desperately need to assume control. Where there is no control, a power vacuum forms, and what rushes to fill this vacuum is whatever happens to be nearest and easiest. Morality becomes a matter for each individual to decide, and many simply cant be bothered with it. The situation can only decay further as children raised in these conditions go on to raise children themselves. You cant impose control with a brutal police force this is the very last line of defence. Control and real respect starts with a loving family, possibly a religious input, and a school system that is supported by the State and the parents. It is nurtured by a society and a media that holds up examples of good citizenship, and condemns the wrong sort of behaviour. Provision of a robust police force, although necessary, is one of the last pieces to fit into the jigsaw.

    We need to coerce people to live the right sort of lives, rather than let them drift into the wrong sort. I suggest holding up marriage and family life as the ideal both financially and through the media. Stop seeing it as boring, uncool and undesirable. As terrible as it sounds, we need to become more sniffy about single parenthood and marriage breakdown, because if we want to encourage better behaviour, we need to recognise the conditions that maximise this. We need to condemn casual violence rather than ignoring it, praising it, or turning it into a form of entertainment. We cant ignore the fact that our failure to condemn has condemned our children to failure. We have a generation or two of children so badly damaged by our societal neglect that nothing short of locking them up forever will be of any use. We need to give the lie to the vision of no society and let everyone know that there is a society, and that we are all part of it. For Heavens sake, the writers of the Bible over 2000 years ago knew a heck of a lot more about how to live in a society than we do now. Its like weve learned nothing and forgotten everything.

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  • 32. At 3:48pm on 10 Jul 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    It can be argued that the rise of the gangs, the `respect` and `baby father` culture is the legacy of slavery and colonialism coming home to roost. Those involved are most likely to be of West Indian origin. The cultural attitudes towards work, education and family are often markedly different between those of West Indian and those of African descent; the same applies in America.

    Slavery and the plantation system deliberately split up families, children were taken away from parents, slave owners deliberately forced women to bear children by different fathers. People from many tribes were mixed together (often without a common language) to remove any common identity, opportunities education and advancement was non existent, authority was enforced by violence.

    The result was that the idea of a family unit was deliberately broken down by the slave owners. (White) authority was simply not trusted and, (as with most poor people) disputes were largely settled amongst themselves; it produced a culture where resorting to violence and standing up for yourself is seen as being acceptable, if not an essential means of getting through life.

    The ending of slavery simply meant that those of African descent were left in dire poverty in the West Indies on smallholdings or in slums. Education and opportunities for advancement were limited. Men often had to move around to find work, there was no welfare safety net.
    Political independence for the West Indies nations is quite recent and even after independence - in sport, education, business, land ownership etc - whites remained largely in control.

    The ghettos of Jamaica in particular have for a long time produced notorious gangsters, and it lies on the supply route of cocaine into Britain and America. They saw the opportunities that lay aboard and took them, hiding amongst the honest West Indians that came to the UK to work.

    For many poor uneducated black youths of West Indian descent they are simply taking on cultural norms from Jamaica. Sadly, successful gangsters are seen as attractive role models and crime a potential route to some wealth. In a tough self sufficient, macho culture norms of violence flourish, particularly in densely populated areas where rival gangs vie for control of what profits there are.

    Solutions? I`m unconvinced there is one, but learning from America and American politicians, black and white, is one route. American cities have faced these problems for much longer than we have.

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  • 33. At 4:06pm on 10 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    Prohibition funds the gangs, they use the profits from selling drugs to buy weapons to "defend" their territory.
    As they get bigger they diversify into prostitution, people trafficking and other organised crimes.

    The Police have also effectively abandoned large parts of the country and only ever go there in large groups and in vehicles when they are called out, beat walking patrol officers are a dim and distant memory for many in these areas.

    These parts of the country are now, in effect, being run by the gangs who control the drugs and any child growing up in these areas has a good chance of being recruited to the gang, either for their own protection or as a result of peer-pressure. Even the most caring and determined parent would have a very hard time trying to stop their child from joining the gang as not being part of the gang leaves you very vulnerable to being robbed, beaten or even killed.

    In recent years there has also been an exodus of middle class people leaving what they consider bad parts of towns and this has left large areas that have become ghettos of deprivation & crime. When I was growing up in the 80s our council estate had a good mix of working people from manual labourers to professionals with unemployed people being in a minority, today the estate is populated almost entirely with unemployed people & their children.
    The people who helped convince me that I could better myself through education have long since abandoned the estate and now the only people most of the kids growing up there see are unemployed and/or gang members.

    For these reasons (and many more) many of our countries children are growing up thinking that unemployment, crime and gang activities are normal, every day occurrences and this is becoming their lifestyle model. The only people they see who have money and nice things are the drug dealers & gang-bangers & the people they see who are working are generally earning minimum wage for busting their guts in some dead end job and living in some run down house.

    Blaming the media, rap music, American culture and other such simplistic explanations is simply a case of over simplification and abrogation of responsibility from the government, society & the media itself.

    I grew up in one of the most deprived parts of the country listening to rap music, watching violent films, playing violent games and all of the other things people like to blame for the gang culture yet I did well enough at school to become the first member of my family to go to university, have now got a decent job in IT and have never been involved in gangs or crime.


    The first answer is to legalise recreational drugs for adult use.
    The second is to legalise prostitution.

    These measures would remove most of the profits from the gangs and they'd then have less money to spend on weapons, cars & recruiting new members. They'd also be less attractive to young people so would lose much of their current glamour.

    That's where the easy answers end though, from there we have to rethink the way we live in our country so that we get away from mono-cultured towns. Planning laws need to be changed so that any new development is a mixed development where the poor, working class & middle classes are living together instead of having the current situation where the poor & working class are thrown together into destitute ghettos.

    The education system needs changing so that the parents & teachers get back control of their school so that they can then focus on providing the right type of education to meet their childrens needs. The national curriculum has destroyed our education system by imposing a one size fits nobody approach onto all of our children, regardless of their needs and abilities and this has disenfranchised many of our children, especially those from deprived families.

    We also need to rethink policing, get rid of targets, get them out of their cars and get them back out walking the streets.
    Every residential street should have a Police patrol walking down it every single day and preferably a couple of times a day instead of the current situation where they only see Police when there's trouble.
    Bring back the community Police that are able to build up a relationship with the community so that they can again Police by consent and with the support of their community.

    This is really just the start of it though and none of the answers are easy, it's going to take many years and lots of hard work to even make a dent in this problem. Sadly, all we'll probably get is soundbites about being tough on crime & tough on the causes of crime and a complete denial that prohibition and prostitution laws are adding to the problem instead of minimising it.

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  • 34. At 4:10pm on 10 Jul 2009, Please-try-again wrote:

    Hang on Mark! I think you've forgotten that this is Britain, where multiculturism reigns supreme. We have respect all cultures in this country and it's racist if you don't respect someone else's culture. So what if one of those cultures is gang culture, it's still got to be better than the dismal white middle class culture that pervades this country, hasn't it? At least that's what the media has been shoving down our throats for the last 30 years.
    My goodness, you'll be complaining about medieval religions and honour killing next! You have to move with the times and try to embrace the rich diversity these cultures bring. Stop being such a biggot!

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  • 35. At 4:52pm on 10 Jul 2009, micomax wrote:

    I hope this doesn't sound unreasonable but like with most things we to do a better job of immigration.
    What is the purpose of immigration?
    Is it to replenish the population. Is it to expand the economy with skills not readily available amongst the existing population, or is it simply for humanitarian reasons......to simply say yes to people who want to live in our country?
    jamaica has some real and tangible social and behavioural problems amongst its population and yet we have welcomed immigration for there with no discussion as to what exactly Jamaicans bring to the table. This is not a colour thing at all.....i am not a racist. It is simply a case of identifying a problem and in the process trying to deal with it

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  • 36. At 6:36pm on 10 Jul 2009, donaldshelley wrote:

    Mr Easton should delay making any more grand sweeping comments about "today's society" and who-to-blame-for-it until he has read read Graham Greene's 1938 novel Brighton Rock. Pinkie Brown was a murdering, gang-leading teenage sociopath no less shocking than the appalling young men who killed Shakilus Townsend. The violence isn't new, it isn't worse - it's just different - and a little less media hysteria and finger-ppointing might help us find some answers.

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  • 37. At 8:41pm on 10 Jul 2009, bluechamp66 wrote:

    I must say that it is the government and media's fault. The government for embracing multiculturalism because it is an ideal wherever in the world it has occurred has caused nothing but abrasive confrontational unrest leading to violence and fear. Its like trying to force a cat to live with a dog just because they have both got the same chemistry, i.e. 2 eyes, 2 ears, a mouth and 4 legs and expecting them to function normally.
    It is also the media's fault for convincing the youth of this country that it is acceptable to be be part of a cult like Hip hop where the main image is one of being able to be rich and powerful and "bling" without having to be educated or work hard to achieve this status. You can just take it.
    I dont think it is racist to acknowledge the reality that every time their is a gang related incident the faces are 98.9 % certain to be black because they are the main purveyors and inventors of said Hip Hop culture, gangs are an integral part of Hip Hop culture so until the British media and society wakes up and starts glamorizing more respectable ways of life and stops rewarding talentless losers (Any reality TV show winner!) the blood of youth will continue to run on the streets.

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  • 38. At 10:08pm on 10 Jul 2009, bluechamp66 wrote:

    Oh and one more thing, who said that blaming Hip Hop was over simplifying the solution? Sometimes it is the simple truths that are the real truths and it is sweeping them aside in the deeper pursuit of over-complicated answers that has society continually chasing its tail! Having grown up in the 70's and 80's i have seen how music has the power to influence the youth, i dont seem to remember and gangs of youths black or white murdering each other in the 70's or the 80's or the early nineties for that matter, certainly not girl gangs!
    That is because during those years black American culture was just creeping into British society, it is only in the late 90's until present day that it has reached its full strangle hold (warts an all) bringing with it all the same social destruction America experienced in the 1980's.

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  • 39. At 10:16pm on 10 Jul 2009, stanblogger wrote:

    Yes, ridicule would be a very good weapon to use against this culture.

    It might also be used against another source of evil,fundamentalist religion.

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  • 40. At 11:11pm on 10 Jul 2009, U14065984 wrote:

    Watch what happens when Queens meets Harlem
    I ain't never said I rap you can't play that
    Besides it ain't my favorite track
    I got a date and I'm late and the trains packed
    Save that for another date maybe we can battle on the way back

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  • 41. At 10:19am on 11 Jul 2009, kaybraes wrote:

    This country has bred a culture of low life , with no responsibility to the community over the past ten years. It is almost entirely dependent on low level crime and social benefits. Sadly an enormous reservoir of jobs has grown up around this culture with social workers , probation officers , councellers and assorted hangers on dependent on the same culture for their livelihoods. This results in a lack of will to change the situation and a misconception that society is to blame for the problem, it is not,it is society's unwillingness to put these criminals in prison where they should be, and keep them there until they pose no threat to anyone else. Each and every one of them had the chance of education and the opportunity to have a reasonable standard of life, this however is not what they want, they think they should have what others appear to have, but have no intention of working or earning it; the fact that they chose a different course is their problem and they must either changes their ways or spend their life outside society.Curing the problem is not the priority, stopping it by any means is.

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  • 42. At 10:46am on 11 Jul 2009, Downhillfromhere wrote:

    Nothing will change until we start giving power back to adults in society. For the past 30 years, authority has been stripped away from parents, teachers and the police so that children no longer have any fear of adults and are able to roam the streets unchallenged. The influence of rap music also is incredibly damaging with the glorification of guns, gangs and ghettoes. These artists do a pretty good job of ridiculing themselves when you consider that their music videos often portray 30-odd year old rappers showing off how 'tough' they are and how popular they are with women. Most people grow out of that mentality by the time they leave school.

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  • 43. At 1:46pm on 11 Jul 2009, bonehead_2006 wrote:

    To micomax #35, a couple of points:
    1) Lots of these kids are not West Indian but actually British born and bred, so enough with the "them & us" speak.
    2) When the UK was on its knees after the WWII, who replied to the call to the colonies to come to the "mother" country and help rebuild it, not East Europeans or even Kiwi/Aussies but Afro-Caribbean men and women who did the work the indiginous people no longer wanted to do. London Tranport, British Rail, Post Office and the NHS were kept alive due to these people. So forget the old argument about the British people were not asked about immigration.

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  • 44. At 2:11pm on 11 Jul 2009, U14065984 wrote:

    this blog is like a game of chess with right wing arguments from the 60's
    no dogs no blacks allowed + the rivers of blood speech was 40 years ago

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  • 45. At 2:18pm on 11 Jul 2009, Karl Kraus wrote:

    It is not only culture, it is structure. Why is it that in Western Europe Britain has the lowest turn-out levels among youth for elections? The lowest educational attainment among non-elite youth? The highest teen-pregnancy? Is the only European country where crack found a significant amount of customers? The highest amount of teen alcohol abuse (binge drinkin' anyone?)? The highest teen murder rate? Why is it that when I go to a conference in the UK, it's the only country where I'm told better not to go out to the city center on a weekend evening because it might not be safe and there are drunk young people fighting? Why is that several resorts in Greece or Italy claim they prefer not to see British tourists anymore? And we could go on for a while. For us (the other European countries) the UK did an experiment and we all learned the lesson what not to do: Margereth Tatcher took away the welfare state as much as possible and gave the multinationals (including fleet street and trash media) as much power as possible and let them guide the nation...When in my country right-wing politicians claim we have to get rid of welfare for the most vulnerable sections of the population (because they are lazy on welfare) we point to the UK...We prefer 55% tax rates but have excellent schools, free hospitals, day-care for everyone starting at 3euro a day for those with the lowest income...etc...You have higher economical growth than my country, but you sold the lowest section of the population for it...Now that they behave no different than 19th century proletarians, you look down on them and blame the "rap-music"? Go and live in the 'Estates' for a year or two and than I'll tell you the best shot in life society can offer is flippin' burgers at 3£ an hour...and than we wonder 'where the good manners of yore have gone'...The French and Dutch cities that equally have trouble are those with 'Estates' from the 1960's and 1970's where they amass thousands of their citizens they can not offer a future in better parts of town (Amsterdam city center is so beautifull because all those they do not want in the city center live tucked away by the thousands in the Bijlmer flat blocks...). put hungy dogs in a small cage and you will notice that they will start killing each other of in no time....

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  • 46. At 3:51pm on 11 Jul 2009, brijl92 wrote:

    Congratulations to Mark Easton for a rare insight which goes beyond mere analysis of the symptoms and identifies the absence of public standards which lies beneath. I would go one step further : Until the UK media actually stand for something and are prepared to voice the principles which most people are desperate to hear, we will continue the spiral into the moral chaos which dominates the news every day. Rather than simply report this blight, or blame politicians, the BBC should lead and promote the values which are essential to reversing the 40 years of laissez-faire ethics which have created this desperate mess. Start the change Mark - start creating a BBC that stands for something.

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  • 47. At 4:18pm on 11 Jul 2009, alexander-curzon wrote:

    Well done MR E

    WHY IS THIS NOT AIRED PROPERLY ON PRIME TIME TV AND IN EVERY SCHOOL/COLLEGE?

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  • 48. At 5:48pm on 11 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    It seems that everyone has a pretty good idea what has caused the gang problem we now have in this country, but I don't hear many constructive ideas to of how combat it.
    We've all heard the extreme "lock em up for forever and a day, birch em, burn em" brigade and frankly it solves nothing, doesn't work in the long term as it has a negative effect on the psyche and only serves to satisfy mankinds bloodlust for revenge.
    I remember when I was young, I grew up in London in the 60's & 70's. The adults my generation looked up to were musicians and footballers. Not much changed there then, but the one person that had the deepest effect in my life as a teenager was somebody who helped drug addicts kick their habit and become productive members of society. This guy gave so much to and for other people and had a hell of a lot of success that it made me realise, you can punish till you are blue in the face but if you don't understand, I mean truly understand where these kids are coming from and reach down to them in their quagmire of a life then they or society won't change.
    Why is it when children become adults they have to preach, forgetting that that's the one thing they hated when they were kids? Isn't it much better to listen? 'Cos if you listen, you learn and by learning you can solve.




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  • 49. At 6:32pm on 11 Jul 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Micomax and #28.

    Re, "..UK and England is most violent nation in Europe.."

    You are of course having a laugh! A sad, foolish, hyperbolic laugh, but all the same a statistic (that you give no clue to actually being referenced) that has no relation to British society.

    Now, before you write again I suggest you locate the following facts and figures:

    For Gun-related crime see per-head of population statistics for any East European nation, plus Russia and Turkey that simply refute all you wrote.
    For Racial-related crime/violence/disorder you need look no further than France, Germany, Italy never mind the whole of East Europe/Russia for numbers that crush the UK's appalling statistics.
    For 'sexual-related/homophobic-related' crime the UK statistics place it just below the Scandinavian nations who have the very best record in these areas, however, nowhere is safe.

    It is worth also keeping in mind that any such Tables of Top-10/20 are wholly subjective pieces, particularly, if they are taken from an EU source: The political imperative of the Brussels' politicians is to invite unfavourable comparisons among all 27 Members as it reinforces the 'effectiveness through unity/union' and the overwhelming EU motivational aspiration is 'one-size-fits-all' and thus a recipe for 'loaded' Poll/Survey questions and collation of data.
    No, I am not saying the terrible violence among the youth of the UK/England nor of Europe is the fault of the EU, but, if you found your 'statistic' in amongst the EU morass then beware.

    Having written that I must admit that the underlying trend of ever younger people experiencing social break-down, propensity for violence and misogeny in the UK and England is truly alarming. I do commend Mr Easton's Article for highlighting how the Government has played the 'populist' card and followed the Mail/Sun line of 'guns' and 'knives' are 'killing our young' when all the time the reality is it is the 'Social-Cultural experience' these poor, sad, misinformed, unenlightened youths grow up with from the cradle that is most responsible for the casualties in our society.
    Others have mentioned and I too list that this 'cultural defecit' all too often includes 'absentee fathers', 'low income families', 'abuse by family members of drugs, alcohol, sex etc.', 'limited education (frequent truancy)', and 'impoverished cultural ties' (access to society is based on youth sub-culture that has a predominant interest/attraction of violence/sexual deviation that automatically excludes almost all adult intervention).

    The above is common to the entire civilised 'west' youth and some of the most advanced nations in the Far East given certain ethnic link-ups. If a child is given nothing but material expectation as a basis for their existence and then the reality is at the lowest end of that lifestyle some will find mental/physical sustenance by deliberate rejection of that society: What better way to do that than commit all the acts the society has listed as 'taboo'!?

    As Mr Easton alluded, there is a growing trend towards this sick view of society amongst young females: Afterall, if you are one of several siblings and a variety of fathers then your perspective of the traditional 'nurturing role' must be skewed from very early on. Therefore, if She 'can't beat' (the male) them why not join Him and see if on her own terms She can fare a little better than mother did!

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  • 50. At 7:23pm on 11 Jul 2009, PetePat wrote:

    Good man, Mark Easton! Well written.

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  • 51. At 10:39pm on 11 Jul 2009, bluechamp66 wrote:

    to bonehead_2006

    It is a them and us thing, if it wasn't we all wouldn't have so much to say about the negative side of black culture. And its always them and us when it suits them so why not us?

    Its a them and us thing when there exists a black police officers association as i dont see a white police officers association? So yes, it is them and us in many ways.
    Also, yes many black kids are born here but have chosen not to be proud of and try and emulate their British roots and accent, instead they try to sound a mixture of American and Jamaican instead of local dialect so that yet again shows a total lack of respect and pride for the country of their birth.

    As for the mass immigration after the war, yes as members of the old colonies they were invited over to Europe for a better life and to help rebuild this country so why now are they so quick to not want to represent a country that their forefathers had great pride in? They behave right down to their non-descript dialogue with absolute abandon.

    Everyone is born equal in Britain today and this country affords more opportunities than it ever did!!

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  • 52. At 11:00pm on 11 Jul 2009, U14065984 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 53. At 11:14pm on 11 Jul 2009, U14065984 wrote:

    bluechamp66
    You are the bone head.
    You should try socialising with them (black) and discover that they are nicer and more genuine than you (white)
    At the end of the day it is not about white/black friends, it's about who you trust

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  • 54. At 12:03pm on 12 Jul 2009, CHILLIMONTGOMERY wrote:

    Mark Easton appears to speak fondly of Muslims by comparing them to these unfortunate young minds who appear to be killing and fighting each other for no reason other than Reputation, Street Cred, and Respect.

    Yet if he did some real investigative journalism and research, or even used some straightforward logic, he would realise that only in exceptionally rare circumstances in the UK or Islamic countries do you get real Muslims acting in this mindless vandalistic, gangland manner.

    I mean how many Muslims have been accused of stabbing another youth to death simply for "Slipping" or for turf warfare?

    The media portrays Muslims in a harsh light however the facts say otherwise. Mark easton appears to jump on this band wagon in order to gain support for this otherwise decent article.

    Noone can deny terrorism exists, be it by the hands of those who call themselves Muslims, or Evangelists or Zionists, or Atheists, or Hindus, Sikhs, State sponsored etc etc, However any "Terrorist" will have an argument that has far more credibility than Street Cred and Respect.

    One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

    This gangland rubbish is not comparable to international injustices, regardless of whos affected and who is committing them.

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  • 55. At 1:16pm on 12 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    54. At 12:03pm on 12 Jul 2009, CHILLIMONTGOMERY wrote:
    "Mark Easton appears to speak fondly of Muslims by comparing them to these unfortunate young minds who appear to be killing and fighting each other for no reason other than Reputation, Street Cred, and Respect."
    If you were to read what Mark said properly you would see that he wasn't comparing muslims to teenage gangs. He was commenting on the way the two situations are treated. See comment below:
    "It is a form of imported fundamentalism as alien to democratic society as the views of the most hard-line Islamists.
    When fighting al-Qaeda-inspired terror, the focus is not on the weapons but the ideology. When fighting murderous gang-culture, it seems to me, the focus is not on the ideology but the weapons."
    Sorry but you're accusing him of something he definitely didn't do.

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  • 56. At 1:19pm on 12 Jul 2009, rogertheterrible wrote:

    I grew up in Seventies South London among the mix of immigrants and racism. In hindsight I've never understood past governments' naivity in believing immigrants would integrate without problems. The 'West Indians' I knew through school, Church and youth groups were just like me, despite their having to experience the racism of the time. I never imagined that youth in some of those same areas would become so nihalistic. Before I left London for good, to live on the south coast, I remember commuting to work in Victoria and definitely felt I lived in a city of two worlds. Me, degree and safe government job and them. I had no respect for 'them' I'd joined the army at sixteen, left after ten years, lived in Italy for a few years, returned and got into university. My ethos was I was as good as anyone else I just had to work hard to get something. For 'Them' they had every opportunity. They lived in the right place and in fact they had excellent opportunities to get selected to careers where certain minorities were under represented.
    I don't want to come accross as bigotted and I'm aware of the arguments regarding the alienation of certain groups in society, but what's happening is not on. Young men, both black and white, with no moral sense happy to live a short term existence. I really felt with the election of President Obama the nonsense of oppressed black youth would begin to subside (it is very early days, though). Of course, if family, the education system fails them and they have no motivation to enter the work force then what do they identify with to survive. What made me as I am? Far from perfect, but not a murderer or rapist and when I do wrong I have shame and remorse. It may be too late for some of these young men, but we can save others. Of course you can always leave them, move away and build a wall around their ghetto, but it will catch up with you in the end.

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  • 57. At 1:58pm on 12 Jul 2009, lifegrumpy64 wrote:

    I agree very much with chatteringclass in Message 7. The children, and they were children, in the programme appeared to see themselves as actors in a drama with roles assigned to them over time by the media. The posturing, the language, the grieving girlfriends all seemed to conform to what they thought was expected of them. It was profoundly depressing and unless that script is changed things can only get worse.

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  • 58. At 3:48pm on 12 Jul 2009, U14065984 wrote:

    ( I could be wrong but ) there may be links between
    (a) The Scottish + Knife Crime
    (b) The Scottish + Slavery

    Giving Voice to the Sad History of the Redlegs of Barbados

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  • 59. At 4:26pm on 12 Jul 2009, jones_gone wrote:

    racism is an still enduring issue facing many people in urban environments: true

    racism excuses the mindless and extremely violent way of life of inner city (black) gangs: false

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  • 60. At 7:45pm on 12 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:

    Parents are supposed to nurture
    Little bundles of human energy
    Blotting paper brains absorbing information
    Every detail of sound,touch and vision,
    Greedy for nourishment,
    the milk of human kindness
    If denied, little devils scream and scream and scream,
    For they are survivors
    Babies into giants grow with cuddles and kisses
    Nutrition and knowledge
    Their journey of discovery
    How, why, when, where,
    They definitely need a parent there.
    Not out at work, and for what prey tell?
    Home is where the heart should dwell
    Mummies and daddies imparting knowledge with love
    Of what is right, wrong, good, bad,
    Gangs, are, the little devils who screamed and screamed
    And screamed and screamed and .........
    were lucky for next to nothing
    No idea other than what confronts immediately
    Now big bundles of human energy,
    Angry and demanding respect!
    [Just acknowledgement of their existence really.]
    Loiter in threatening streets of despair
    Making 'hood' rules,
    Lacking basic social tools
    Its the law of the jungle out there
    Whether forest or concrete,
    wild animals will roam, hungry for prey,
    Living any which way
    We are all struggling for survival at the end of the day
    'Societys Powers That Be' do not help in any significant way
    Or simply choose to ignore so long as they get their big fat pay..

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  • 61. At 10:16pm on 12 Jul 2009, concernedmike wrote:

    The root of these problems may have some foundation in certain ethnic divisions, but I believe only in so far as certain group's "take" on the power of the judiciary, and its willingness to deal with transgressors. We now have a divided society, whereby some see education and conventional schooling as a taboo - to be avoided in order to preserve street cred. This attitude presents long before any real move toward the criminal aspect of what we are now experiencing in the older children. If this attitude was addressed via discipline in the school while the children were young, then the problem may not be as great today. We went through a radical social experiment, several decades ago, when basic discipline was outlawed when applied to childrens development. Punishment was seen as the precursor to tuning a child violent and incapable of interacting within normal society, despite the fact we had severe discipline structures in place since Victorian times and this had produced some of Britons greatest politicians, engineers, writers and poets. Unfortunately the social experiment still continues, and as each new generation is reaches teen status we are witnessing another stage of violence that we do not wish to acknowledge. Politicians outlaw guns and knives but still the exacerbation of weapon violence continues. We need to step back and look at the whole picture, the problem was evident long before the children found knives and guns, when they became teenagers, the signs were in their behaviour in early years at school, and if checked then the problem would not be as tragic as it is now. We have lost at least 2 generation of children through this liberal social experiment The gang culture is, in my view, a direct result of a sense of belonging that the teenagers seek after an earlier experience aimlessly drifting through intermediate schooling with no behavioural or social guidance being enforced.

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  • 62. At 04:21am on 13 Jul 2009, exalllse wrote:

    The middle-class banging on about the marginalised as usual. Not my fault, those Americans, those fundementalists, those gangsters blah, blah, blah. The same old boring stuff keep being trundled out except now the violence is no longer just in the poor areas but spreading and threatens the lives of those living in lovely suburbia. Could it be that poverty, alienation are the key players in this violent gang lifestyle. This is perhaps to simplistic. But how many nice middle-class Oxford-bridge students are caught up in this. How many white middle-class kids decide to take to carrying knives and hurting people?? Again this may be to simplistic but just like our friends in Scandanavia maybe sharing your wealth and opportunities would help reduce this violence by giving young people a feeling of hope and opportunity. Or you can continue to hide behind your fences and lambasting those terrible greedy Americans or criticisng black culture.

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  • 63. At 10:46am on 13 Jul 2009, outofthegarden wrote:

    I agree with Karl in #45. When I was a teenager in the 1980s in South London my mother died. My father was suffering from a mental illness and I ended up in the care of the local authority at 16, a few months before my GCSEs/O levels. I soon became aware after my mothers death when I was 13 that adults in the UK have little care or interest in teenagers. I met many young people at school, on the streets, in care who were intelligent and eager for meaning and received absolutely nothing from adults. Almost everyone I knew then had parents who were divorced. I realised I had to look after myself as noone else would.
    An example of how disinterested the Bits are with their young is that not one adult from my parents extensive families and friends phoned, visited or asked how me and my brother were doing when our mum died or in the years that followed. Noone ever mentioned it.
    My experience was an unusual foreboding of what was to come. Children thrown on their own devices at a very young age and adults who only want to criticise and offer no help or support whatsoever.
    The change in the political landscape in the form of Thatcherism now has institionalized the lack of will to confront the world adults are creating.
    I used to socialise a lot as a teenager and adults assumed I was sleeping around. Nothing could've been further than the truth! I knew that if I ever succumbed to drugs or became pregnant I would be doomed. If I had no help and support anyway what the hell would happen if my problems increased?
    My parents had struggled into the middle class from working class families. They were intelligent and I received a good state primary education and a nice standard of living before my mother's death. I therefore had some personal resources to draw on, unlike many friends who buckled under the pressure and dropped out of school and productive society. Eventually I got to University (at 23) married and have three children. But my husband is not British and after living in the USA for 14 years we now live in Germany. I never want to live in Britain and I don't want my children to grow up there. I know firsthand how little they care about young people and how lost most adults are as a result. Mix in Thatcherism and you get modern Britain.
    In Germany young people have a high involvement from their parents, they are expected to do something useful with their lives. Hanging around in the streets drinking at 15/16 is unheard of in my experience. Parents and children respect each other. Even in the US I met many more intact, focused families of all classes and backgrounds than I know in the UK.
    I was shocked to learn that many of the financial benefits I received as a parentless teenager from the state (for food and housing) were abolished and I don't know what would become of a contemporary teenager in a similar situation.
    Children need caring adults, if you ignore them why be surprised when they ignore you and your values?

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  • 64. At 11:37am on 13 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #31 LippyLippo

    "For Heavens sake, the writers of the Bible over 2000 years ago knew a heck of a lot more about how to live in a society than we do now. Its like weve learned nothing and forgotten everything."

    There was a time when the Christian church ruled the whole of europe, when everyone believed in god and followed his words and his representatives, the priesthood. We call that time the dark ages. I'd prefer not to go back there.

    Yes, we have lost our deference to politicians and to the church. Neither deserve it.

    I would also ask you what right you have to decide that other people should be coerced into living the "right" sort of life. Would that mean your sort of life? Could it be that the petty authoritarian in you is calling for other people to be forced to live exactly as you do? Not yourself of course, there's no fault there, you're perfect and if everyone would just come around to seeing things the way you do we'd all be just fine.

    This is the same opinion you have on the drug debate, you refuse to look at the real world. People, myself included, don't all want to live your middle-class CofE life and trying to force them too makes for a worse society than the one we have.




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  • 65. At 12:10pm on 13 Jul 2009, rockawelly wrote:

    It's so frustrating to hear MP's discussing gang culture and associated issues - they speak as they are which is outsiders looking in.
    I literally watch them on Question Time and other such programmes and I just want to scream. It's like they live in a parallel universe! My reality is not their reality and thats just one of a number of issues.
    I would have welcomed an MP to live my life on my estate to view it through my eyes and those of my peers. A sharp reality check would soon explain to them why there are so many kids and young adults being tempted into gang culture and unfortunately in most cases crime.
    I grew up hanging around on street corners but was one of the lucky ones that managed to obtain employment and improve my prospects through that channel. It could have been so different. Im one of the lucky ones.

    Unfortunately many of my male peers were thrown out of the education system very early on in secondary education - this effectively meant that from aged 11/12 in some cases their education stops.
    What do they do for the next 4 - 6 years? Hang on street corners!
    How are they going to earn any kind of money ? Crime!
    What hope do they have of obtaining gainful employment in the future - none! This is just one small issue amongst hundreds.
    Just as an aside issue I thought it worth mentioning that from the age of 13-14 I attended a youth club that all the kids from the estate used to attend, we even started a netball team for the girls, the boys started a football team and even raised money to buy their own kits etc.
    The youth club was open 2 nights per week but closed during school holidays! Then it was closed full stop. That was nearly 8 years ago.
    That means that for 8 years teenagers on that estate have had literally nothing from this labour goverment, no football pitch, no swimming pool, no activities just a concrete estate to rule over - a way of obtaining respect perhaps? Their misplaced loyalty is to eachother rather than to themselves.
    Their parents have no money to pay for activities, a large majority are single parents struggling to make ends meet with a series of low paid jobs, do they stay at home and be criticised for not working. Or do they go to work and hope that their childern will behave in their absence? Childcare is out of the questions it costs more than they earn.
    Im one of 4 children raised by a single mother - although only 25 I live in a nice area with a good job Im lucky enough to be excited by my future.
    My older brother has been to prison.
    My youngest brother has already spent time in a youth offending institution.
    I still visit close family on that estate - and I could cry for all of the youths that have been left to rot on street corners, forgotten by our goverment, discarded by our education representatives, failed by their parents and reliant on their peers.
    The most shaming aspect of this is that most of these young adults probably would have had something to offer society but for too many years now they have been left to their own devices, finding their own paths with little or no guidance or role models.
    Street Life as it is percieved by them is now about survival of the fittest and that it scary.

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  • 66. At 12:13pm on 13 Jul 2009, rockawelly wrote:

    # 62 - could not agree more!

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  • 67. At 1:56pm on 13 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    64. At 11:37am on 13 Jul 2009, Gothnet wrote:

    "There was a time when the Christian church ruled the whole of europe, when everyone believed in god and followed his words and his representatives, the priesthood. We call that time the dark ages. I'd prefer not to go back there."

    Sorry but you seem to be under a misconception, the Dark Ages had nothing to do with the church (of any type). The Dark Ages came about when we *rejected* the church to succumb to the invading Saxons. When they took over they reintroduced paganism. They stayed in control for around a 150 years. In that time writing was abolished and as there are very little records of that time it is called the "Dark Ages". The church were the ones who brought us *out* of the "Dark Ages, by converting the populous to Irish catholicism.

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  • 68. At 2:19pm on 13 Jul 2009, newSweetMonkey2 wrote:

    A couple of points. Why does being poor suddenly mean you are outside society and have to follow a certain route in life?

    Not too long ago when I was at school there were many families who were really poor, but the children still went to school, learnt and went on to work for a living. They weren't fat, tattoed or foul mouthed. Being poor (ie: not having the latest wide screen TV and i-phone) isn't an excuse for anti-social behaviour, but you hear time and time again that poverty is one of the causes.

    Rubbish.

    It's the break down of society, the acceptance of bad behaviour and the lack of any punishment and jail time. It's kids playing violent games on the computer instead of playing outside and forming a friendship and bond with other kids. It's lack of discipline and girls of 14 having kid after kid after kid, not having a clue how to parent. It's the culture of greed and entitlement. It's fatherless boys with no leadership and no discipline at home. It's control taken away from teachers. It's kids who think 'respect' means knifing somebody and talking in rapper speak. It's the benefit culture which has taken away any need to work.

    These are just some of the issues which need addressing. Most law abiding people know this but are just powerless to change anything.

    I just despair when I read about another violent murder, see yet another documentary about gang culture and knife crime.

    NOTHING is working. The powers to be can debate and talk all they like but until drastic measures are taken to contain these problems nothing will change.

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  • 69. At 2:19pm on 13 Jul 2009, john wrote:


    stop making excuses they (the gangs) know that we are a nation of do-gooders
    they commit the crime then we make the excuses for them,

    instead of allowing youth workers , courts, and others to make these excuses, make it were they pay the full price for there stupidity
    if its lack of funds instead of prison serve in the army not trained in weapons but working in deprived area,s around the world and at the same time gaining a solid education


    it is easier to belong to a gang than being respectable

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  • 70. At 2:43pm on 13 Jul 2009, rockawelly wrote:

    #4 ubergunner

    It's comments like yours that arise fear in authorities to challange aspects of society that need challanging.
    The fact is that a large percentage of black youths are involved in gang culture/crime. Black youth's make up a large percentage of the victims of gang culture gun / knife crime.
    This is fact you've seen the numbers in the media.
    I cannot understand why black adults within our communities and the media are not jumping on this to find out why so many of our kids are getting involved in the first place.
    Operation Trident - police resource set aside to deal specifically with black on black gun crime. We should be grateful to the police for identifying this issue and trying to do something about it. No instead we laud over the racist implications.
    Stop and search - the outcry was a joke. The answer is simple if you are not carrying a weapon you have nothing to be fearful of.
    Why aren't parents explaining the reasoning behind this rather than using it as yet another example of their childs disadvantage in our society.




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  • 71. At 2:48pm on 13 Jul 2009, TheFirstRalph wrote:

    We should be looking at the commonalities that link those who join gangs be they white, or black. Black people are simply more likely to be in a class of people (urban, poor, lack of education, etc) who to join gangs. If we dealt with those problems rather than an inane focus on how they dress, or what they listen to, things might change.

    And Mark gang culture isn't 'alien to democratic society', it is just an aberrant form of the groups we are free to become become part of. Muslim fundamentalism is about the imposition of an ideology on others, and thus fundamentally undemocratic.

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  • 72. At 4:30pm on 13 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:

    Mr Easton - Your piece is ignorant and racist. `Black gang culture` indeed? It is amazing the BBC allows this kind of BNP-lite nonsense.
    You need an education in criminality.
    There are murderous gangs of young men in every major city in the world. They could be in Moscow, or Zagreb, or Budapest. Rio, La Paz, Sao Paolo, Naples (the most murderous gangs in the world 3,500 dead in ten years), Rome and Milan...every city in the world.
    Not only are there gangs in every city in the world there have been murderous gangs of young men in every city of the world since industrialisation. In all but a few examples they share two things - they come from the same socio-economic groups (they are basically poor with very limited horizons, for example, their estate/favela) and they are male.
    It is about class and gender but you have racialised the issue - as is so fashionable these days - and I'm afraid that makes what you wrote appallingly racist.

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  • 73. At 5:05pm on 13 Jul 2009, scott heatherley wrote:

    Be careful Mark, peolpe don't like you raising these arguements!

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  • 74. At 6:14pm on 13 Jul 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Beautiful! The one reporter who actually writes about a repressive ideology that keeps 1 in 8 black men incarcerated in the U.S.
    I've never understood why gang members aren't considered terrorists due to the mayhem they cause in our cities and the burden they place on our social systems. I think gang members as well as corrupt politicians and corporateers, are a subset of men who suffer from arrested development. "Lost Boys" who chose the easier path of criminality. Some of the most promising, bright kids turn to gangs when they could have been so much more, strong leaders for a positive revolution of change.
    Instead they spread their contagion to nameless poor children who lack an identity. Wa's up wi'd dat?

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  • 75. At 6:27pm on 13 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    Some interesting statistics:

    Murders (per capita) (most recent) by country

    # 1 - Colombia: 0.617847 per 1,000 people
    # 24 - United States: 0.042802 per 1,000 people
    # 46 - United Kingdom: 0.0140633 per 1,000 people

    Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita


    Murders committed by youths per capita (most recent) by country

    # 1 - Colombia: 84.4 per 1,000
    # 14 - United States: 11 per 1,000
    = 52 - United Kingdom: 0.9 per 1,000
    (Scotland 3.1 per 1,000)

    Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_com_by_you_per_cap-murders-committed-youths-per-capita


    Murders with firearms (per capita) (most recent) by country

    # 1 - South Africa: 0.719782 per 1,000 people
    # 8 - United States: 0.0279271 per 1,000 people
    # 32 - United Kingdom: 0.00102579 per 1,000 people

    Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir_percap-crime-murders-firearms-per-capita

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  • 76. At 8:07pm on 13 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    I just don't get why some people think this blog is racist? Is it because Mark's subject is black gang culture? Are we only allowed to comment on subjects now that involve the white middle classes?

    These are not hardened "murderous" criminals as one person put it, they are in the main young school kids with a warped sense of values that comes from spending too much time with each other and their music and not enough time spent with adults learning how to become adults.

    I thought it was a good piece, although I think if a link to the BBC3 programme "My Best Friends Murder" it would've backed his artical up a bit more.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ljxll/My_Best_Friends_Murder/

    If you put away prejudice and listen to the youths themselves, they explain where their behaviour stems from and it surprised me how simple it was.

    Watch the programme....and learn about our young.

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  • 77. At 05:47am on 14 Jul 2009, exalllse wrote:

    I think Mark with good intentions has tried to show that gang culture, in this case black gang culture, does influence certain people into a criminal or subversive life style. In response some of the people want firm action, yes lock them up and take away their Plasma TV. And the effects I can only guess from the statistics offered from previous posts #75 is the gang culture carries on. Locking people up is fine in the short term makes some people feel better but it usually fails to work and after prison many of these people go right back to their old lifestyle. I am not suggesting they should get away with hurting people, of course not but smacking someone round the head and telling them not to do it again is almost pointless. If you have kids you would not think to lock them in their bed room or hit them if they misbehaved (or you might). If you did you may find yourself in prison. No we educate, we encourage, we show by example the right way as others have mentioned. Why do we fail to see this when we talk about this issue. In order for this issue to be tackled properly we need to address this in terms of class and race (I guess those two words have sent some people to the next blog) and the part they play in creating gang mentality. We are social animals and grow up in social groups whether some like to believe it or not. We learn and behave according to those group dynamics and whilst we all have some free will to say yes or no some people grow up in areas were there is little choice. It is this freedom of choice that our rigid class structure has rationed. The poor working class are impoverished from the day they are born though poorer access to good schools because of where they live, then schooling itself stigmatisies children and does not encourage critical and creative thinking, poorer transport, access to shops, to health care and on and on. But it does not end there as they are growing up they see how negatively they are represented in the media day in and day out. This constant reminder that you are not equal, not as good or as valuable as the white middle class (please dont take this personally, it is meant as a group), regardless of the laws on equality we have legislated, only further that damages some peoples soul. The black community still make up a large part of working class and are doubly sanctioned for being working class (poor, see social mobility stats., if you dont believe me) and discriminated due to their colour (race if you prefer it). Is this an excuse for gang members to do what they do? N0! But at least we can see how this might be addressed and locking people up does will not work in the long run. The system is broken and divided. And amazingly in this country we are still divided by class. Heil Blare did little to change that and probably further polarised society. I would not be surprised if this has not had an impact on gang culture by further driving young kids away from good social norms and leaving them feeling even more remote from society and its benefits. So I believe we need to address Class and Race to try and de-alienate and re-integrate those pushed out to the margins. Yet many people still have an issue with class and like to brush it under the mat, as they want to do with race issues. The PC movement has done nothing to encourage real debate of social issues by scaring people into silence and probably setting back good social policies for years. How hypocritical we are, lock up the working class and black people if they are break the law. So whilst many want to punish the weakest groups in society without trying to come to grips with why they do it we allow these 'profanity' MPs and bangsters to get away with impoverishing Britain for many years to come. Somehow we believe the privileged few can do what they want. Yes, yes they did not break the law just did their cheating within the law so it must be OK?? Yet some of you talk about role models for black children, I am amazed! Whilst the MPs and bangster are not directly role models for all children they do shape in a large way how the middle- class kids interpret the world- OK to steal, lie and cheat as long as you are not caught or prosecuted. We are a divided country and until we stop believing that taking away someones Plasma TV and locking up some one out of sight for a while is good social policy we will continue to have these problems.

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  • 78. At 11:43am on 14 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    BLACK? Did someone say BLACK, is that word allowed?
    I think that word has been withdrawn from the OED - it's racist to use that word now!

    Or at least you'd think so, reading some of the responses to Marks piece here. If the subject is 'black gang culture' then it is NOT racist to mention 'black gangs' or 'black males' is it Shellrigger?

    We have become so tainted in this country. If you say 'black' you must be either black (then you're allowed) or BNP and / or racist (take your pick). I have no problem speaking to black men and women and using the word black to describe them much like I'm called white, even if I am a kind of pinky / reddish / tan sometimes (take your pick). It's not racist to talk about an issue that affects us all, whether it is predominated by one racial group or all races.

    Black isn't so black and white and white isn't so either. People need to feel they belong otherwise they will create their own sense of belonging. Where is the integration in this country. There isn't any - just ghetto(isation) and segregation.





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  • 79. At 12:32pm on 14 Jul 2009, DeniseCullum222 wrote:

    So we all have shiny faces its because black people are clean and wash I suppose and we look after our skin, black don,t crack. You are something else told to bring up hate on black people and you do gangs no gang will ever win of the Krays and what colour were they and the Richards gang, and the killers Huntley, Mores Murders. Rose West what colour are these people

    Stephan Lawrence was not in a gang but should have been or Anthony Walker they were just BLACK their killers were white what colour was the killers of the little boy Jones and Bulger I could go on and on. If these gangs signed up to go to Afghanistan and kill for the USA and UK that would be okay as they would be doing it for the country you must think we are as daft as the whites both war men of colour came to the mother country and when it was all over what?

    I notice a few BNP on the site what colour are those who join that British pride Nick Griffin with his dark hair and none Anglo Saxon looks I say to you look to your own first before pulling anyone else gangs are universal look at sports game especially football, jingoistic chauvinistic and racist what has throwing bananas on the field got to do with kicking a ball. The most races are those at the top of the tree as many in the media are and the Govenment we see token blacks but they must be more your Condi Race type of black than Martin Luther King or even better Malcolm X.

    All countries have male gangs with women who for some reason usually they are the 2% that are more male than female who follow them they come in all colours men join gangs to have power were they have no power many black men saw their parents come here to the mother country and watched them fight for the country and work for it and still have no respect from it but then they should have seen that the white race has no respect for its own, the BBC is a good example.

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  • 80. At 1:22pm on 14 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    79. At 12:32pm on 14 Jul 2009, DeniseCullum222 wrote:
    "...You are something else told to bring up hate on black people and you do gangs no gang will ever win of the Krays and what colour were they and the Richards gang, and the killers Huntley, Mores Murders. Rose West what colour are these people..."

    What translation software did you use - cos it's not working very well! :)
    I've had to read your post a few times to get what you're saying, and I think I just about managed.

    Racism is wrong - any way you cut it, and that is not what Mark intended to do, I don't think. He could have just as easily have said white gang culture, but it wouldn't have been as strong a message, or image. Plain 'gang culture' is too broad for what he is aiming at.

    Yes, there is a 'gang culture' across the board here in the UK, and I'm sad to say, a lot of it is racist, but that does not mean that the subject cannot be addressed for fear of being racist itself.

    We are all part of one race - we are not multi-racial - but multi-cultural. There is only one race; the Human Race.

    There are, however, issues surrounding the way that black youths, in particular, view the world around them. In many ways, they feel let down, marginalised, segregated, and the blame for that lies in all quarters, but what we need today is integration. A natural integration would have been nice, but we're beyond that now, it needs to be forced, at least given a push.

    It goes beyond black and white, and I don't want to be the instigator of an 'off-topic' thread here, but the largest contingent of British society that feels neglected is that of black youth. That's not racist.

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  • 81. At 1:57pm on 14 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:

    inothere
    What impressed me most about the film was how nice the boys were as individuals. One point though, why send them onto the streets with bulletproof vests? That was the worrying part. If it were my son, I would scream on Downing Street doors until there was action.
    I do not think the boys are a threat here, more at risk really. The big boys into crime and drugs are the ones we need to focus on. Of course, if the young earn the stripes, [bad enough or live long enough] they will graduate to the big boy gangs. [Bling, fast cars and girls, the honey pot.]

    They interacted well on film indicating a territorial mindset. Expecting danger if they ever encountered boys from other areas. Where did that come from and why? This is the UK and we are free to roam wherever.
    I understand that serious incidents are random and impossible to predict but police should be actively out on streets. A police box on every corner with two officers on duty at all times. CCTV is not the only answer, we need real people guiding and directing young in an informal, friendly way.

    Unfortunately, there will always be incidents but that is a historical fact. Our society needs to reclaim family values. Mothers and fathers insisting on better facilities for their young people. They should GANG together and demand action!




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  • 82. At 2:36pm on 14 Jul 2009, bigsammyb wrote:

    It is insideous black african tribal culture. You can't blame it on social inequality because you would have to ask why the poles don't do it? Or the asians? Or the countless other non african minorites in the UK.

    We should mock not just to change things but also because its pathetic! The BBC doesn't help, it glamorises it playing rap music etc and acting cool when talking about gang culture.

    Tell it how it is make them realise how pathetic and weak they are.

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  • 83. At 8:25pm on 14 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:

    It isn't racist to discuss gang culture. But black boys, asian boys, white boys and all the various mixes are all in gangs. When you choose to single one out as particularly bad, then it becomes racist. They all perform the same function, violence and varied forms of petty crime.

    It is about men and masculinity and socio-economic status and has nothing to do with race or skin colour. That is why the piece is racist, as are many of the replies.

    The posh black/middle eastern/asian kids who are the sons and daughters of diplomats, politicians and oilmen and live in Knightsbridge and South Kensington are not forming gangs.

    But the kids from awful estates who come from parents with no hope who live in Glasgow or Middlesbrough or Huyton are also killing, selling drugs and so on and they are not black.

    Seriously this piece is truly awful. If you even want to understand anything about British violence, crime and gangs start with reading Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears by Geoffrey Pearson.

    I doubt many of you want to though as your own prejudices and fears are being satisfied by this piece. Truly terrible work BBC.

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  • 84. At 00:02am on 15 Jul 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I don't think Mr. Easton's intent in writing this was racist at all. Why can't issues be openly discussed without pulling the race card? Even American Blacks realize that they have a problem within their own community. As far as limited access to education I say its all rubbish. If your children are hungry enough they'll get a decent education. It's time to stop making excuses and start demanding expectations from our young people. The whole ghetto attitude is just an excuse not to take responsibility for one's life.

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  • 85. At 00:39am on 15 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    @ Shellrigger

    It also isn't racist to choose a group of people to write about, just because they happen to be black does NOT make it racist. It is only racist when the intention is to belittle, insult and victimise a group of people because of the colour of their skin. It is also VERY middle class and crass to accuse another of racism when all he's done is try and highlight a very real problem we have in this country. And, I'm sorry but just 'cos you read a book doesn't make you an authority on the subject.

    @ Joan Olivares

    I agree with you totally, without debate how are problems ever solved??

    I think the white middle classes have gone overboard in recent years with this "political correctness".....most of it is just plain bonkers, and before everybody jumps on me I too believe that racism should be buried in a deep hole, but I'm adult and enough to tell the difference between a discussion and a bit of BNP literature.

    All this detracts from the main point of this discussion, everybody knows that there are gangs of all colours and all nationalities but that's not what is being discussed here. This article is based mainly on the death of Shakilus Townsend and other murders of the same ilk.

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  • 86. At 2:58pm on 15 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:

    You tend to look like you are losing an argument when you come out with things like "very middle class" and "political correctness" and other clichés. They are just insults.
    Again - gang violence is not "imported", it is not foreign, and it is not dependent on skin colour or racial parentage.
    Gang violence in the UK has always existed, including murders. The most gang related murders per head of the population was in the period after the end of WW2.
    It is a common theme, stretching back to the late 1800's and beyond, to blame `outsiders`. The word for gangsters has even changed, Larrakins, Street Arabs, and Hooligans (derived from the Irish name Hoolahan) all stem from a perception that gangsterism is a foreign import and `not British`.
    There is undoubtedly a problem with gang violence in the UK at the moment. What Easton says about a twisted form of capitalism is true.
    But if you even look at some of the gangs in London, like the MDP in west London you will find they are profoundly multi-racial. The thing is I actually know plenty of people in the criminal fraternity including plenty of black guys. What they share has zero to do with skin colour. It is more to do with financial reward, status and a very frustrating lack of horizons. It doesn't make them nice people either.
    Easton's work above - not necessarily the man himself - is racist because he is talking about something he knows nothing about and going `ooh these black kids killing each other` as if it is their `blackness` or hip-hop which makes them violent. It isn't.
    Compare them to the gangs in Naples where there are more dead in ten years than the entire civil conflict we experienced in N.Ireland. Firstly the members are almost entirely male. Secondly they are almost entirely lacking education - for a variety of reasons. Thirdly they have very strong allegiances to their friends/neighbourhood/warped value system and they almost entirely have no hope whatsoever of anything better. It isn't any excuse, these men in London and in Naples (and everywhere else) behave disgustingly.
    But these traits are central to all gangsterism, not just a group you single out because of their skin colour...

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  • 87. At 4:12pm on 15 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    86. At 2:58pm on 15 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:
    "...gang violence is not "imported", it is not foreign, and it is not dependent on skin colour or racial parentage..."

    I don't think that is what Mark or any of the respondents are saying, Shellrigger. Gang mentality is not an import, gang ideology is a human trait - as I believe, and have stated already, it is a basic human need to belong that creates gangs.

    However, what I do agree with is that the 'style' of gangs that exist, particularly those in the black communities, are modelled on an American / Hispanic theme. Seen as something to aspire to, particularly when your own home street, town or country does little to provide aspiration, the image purported by TV and literature, and the music that has emerged from those communities has driven gang culture in the UK. The fact is, these images are overwhelmingly of black US gangs which has attracted black UK youth. I am not saying that to be black is to be in a gang, but the image supports the fact that most street-gang members are black. A fact, not a racist comment.

    "...Gang violence in the UK has always existed, including murders..."

    Very true, and truer to say is that gangs in the UK have always existed, as opposed to gang violence, per se, but it is the subject of black gang violence that is up for discussion here. The point of the discussion is to form opinion that might help find a solution to a problem that affects everyone. No-one is shouting 'black' for the sake of inciting any kind of discriminatory hatred. No-one has said we're saints, but the fact that there is a growing trend of gang culture here is a cause for concern.

    As a kid, I was a member of a gang - my friends, mates. We used to roam the streets, playing (we were kids), and generally enjoying being children. Sometimes we might be troublesome, but in the main, we were just kids mucking around.

    As a man, I'm a member of a gang - my friends again. We go out, socially, get drunk, maybe, or meet at each others houses for whatever we want. We are generally enjoying time off work, and maybe sometimes will be troublesome, late on a Saturday night, maybe a bit of drunken singing but in the main, we're just blokes, mucking around.

    Nothing has changed, much. Boring eh?

    There is no violence though. No rite of passage. No initiation ceremony. No guns. No knives. No 'mentoring' of children to join our gang, cos there is no cause to join our gang. We're just a gang of lads.

    I've written this already, but as I see it, it's about a sense of belonging. The vast majority of gang culture, all over the world, is due to the fact that those involved have no sense of belonging for what is provided already, so they feel the need to create an alternative society where they DO belong. This is what we need to address - why do they feel this need? What is missing? Where is the integration in this country? There isn't any - just ghetto(isation) and segregation.

    As you rightly said, "...It is more to do with financial reward, status and a very frustrating lack of horizons. It doesn't make them nice people either..."

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  • 88. At 6:02pm on 15 Jul 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    What seems to be missing is the lack of parental direction. Many parents of gang members, many of them hard working, are unable to give their children a self identity. Strong parents raise strong children who don't need the association of a gang or group for self identification. That's why its important to target young children early in their life. I believe that in the absence of strong parenting the school and community needs to step in to help these children. If a child gets love and attention at school and he knows that people in the community are interested in his schoolwork and activities then that might be the difference a child needs. Also keeping boys really busy and active at school and work between the ages of 8-20 helps too. Society can't help the lack of good parenting but it can help to bolster a child's self esteem by taking an active interest in his life. I think children at risk need to be placed on a very strict regime of schoolwork, team sports activities,lessons and organised weekend work, camping etc. If children can be taught to commit themselves to the betterment of their own lives, then they have a much better chance of avoiding gang life. It's about personal responsibility and integrity. With the lack of sound morals coming from politicians and leaders today, it's very hard to win the fight against gangs. Leadership starts from the top and children look to us to supply them with these limits. We need to set a better example for the world's children. So parents and politicians need to get into rehab, stop toking the ganja and re-commit themselves to their children, family, school and community.

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  • 89. At 7:19pm on 15 Jul 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I agree with the whole notion of economic opportunity. It's easier to sell a bag of crack than work 40 hours/week. Some of the problems begin and end in the black community. A prevalent notion that getting educated and excelling at school was often considered to be "actin' white" is one reason why some Blacks don't excell at school. This is a problem only the black community can solve. I think most of the problems occur in the home and at school. When children start to fail and have no help to get them over their initial confusion, its like a spiral that's difficult to recover from. All children need extra care at different points in their lives. We need to focus on the needs of children early and intervene before things become too overwhelming for them. Really its about protecting children from the influence of other children and adults who feel they've failed in their own lives. You can spare many children the heartache of joining a gang but you need to do it around 6-12 years of age. A red flag is when children start to disconnect from school and friends. I believe that resources need to be in place at the school level because well qualified, sensitive teachers can identify troubled children. Chidren need home intervention, therapy,tutoring and mentoring. They need to be in sailing, swimming, kayaking, hiking clubs if their parents can't afford it. We need to make children the center of our focus and universe. We need to marginalise gang mentality and culture because it tears down communities. I was a single parent and worked two jobs to support my child who could've easily joined a gang. I always tried to stay one step ahead of her intelligent mind. I tried to give her every available opportunity and it paid off in a very big way. As a parent, I used every ounce of my soul to protect and educate my child. In the absence of this, we need to save and protect children from harming themselves through gangs, or at least lead them to make better choices for their lives or until they grow old enough to make better decisions for themselves.

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  • 90. At 9:14pm on 15 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    I'm sorry I didn't realise that calling a comment "middle class" was an insult? I also didn't realise there was an arguement going on.....have I missed something? ;)

    Yes gang violence has always existed, nobody here has intimated otherwise. It's been a problem in deprived areas since the year dot.

    However there is a difference between the gang culture of hardened criminals ie the Krays and the child/teenage gangs that have sprung up in the past few years, running around with knives and guns killing and maiming each other 'cos they feel slighted, or their "turf" has been invaded. They "aspire" to the "heroes" of gangsta rap 'cos they think it's cool, they dress the same as their heroes, talk like them, break the law like them etc. Our children are being killed because they don't want to known as "pussies", 'cos if you're a pussy you get hurt, and to prove your not may mean having to kill someone. They've gone one further than the "turf" wars of the school playground.....they've now armed themselves!

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  • 91. At 9:20pm on 15 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    @ Joan Olivares

    Couldn't agree with you more. Children need our time, love and understanding to overcome what to us are trivial problems, but to the young person they are insumountable, without our guidance they only have their friends to fall back on. Although friendships are are extremely important when growing up they cannot and should not take the place of the parent.

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  • 92. At 12:57pm on 16 Jul 2009, newSweetMonkey2 wrote:

    I'm sorry but when you analyse this gang culture it's just ridiculous. Fighting over 'turf'? What's that all about? This isn't some war torn country where tribes are defending their land. We are talking about residential streets where people live. Do these gang members realise how they are perceived by the average person on the street? Certainly not with respect - just pity and anger.

    How disaffected are these kids that they have to 'defend' a few streets which basically amounts to their world. When I read about the horrors which are happening in parts of Africa where kids are being forced into fighting and killing - sometimes witnessing families being slaughtered and poventy stricken kids in India who take on a job to pay for their schooling it just makes this so called gang culture a farce.

    Send them out to Darfur for a year to work with aid agencies and see how cocky they are then and how much 'respect' they demand in that culture.

    Of course you must give a child love, discipline and encouragement for them to turn out decent people and it's just tragic to think of the homes these kids have grown up in. But what is the point in teachers and other outside people getting involved with these kids when by the time they are 6 or 7 their lives are already mapped out for them? Every day they go back to the same house with the same people who aren't parenting them properly or responsibily.

    These are the people who shape their kids lives, for better or worse and if they can't do the job and are turning out time after time after time violent and anti-social kids then it's about time the spotlight was turned on them - not on the product of their parenting.

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  • 93. At 3:12pm on 16 Jul 2009, rockhallfame wrote:

    I joined the ranks of many Londoners to be mugged at knife point the other week. Three youths on bikes, two of whom were white and one black, attacked my flatmate and I while we were walking home at night. While the two white kids were frisking my flatmate, the black kid gave me a look of apology and shame and secreted my things back into my pockets before encouraging the other two to leave. It doesn't vindicate his involvement in the crime but it serves me as a good reminder that this negative culture is not exclusive to black youths.
    I have two thoughts on the matter, the first being that children are today literally almost getting away with murder even though I sincerely believe that children are not subject to the same rights and freedoms as adults. Adults need to take a heavy initiative to reassert authority over children so that they have a genuine understanding of respect as it should exist between the old and the young. I think adults are scared of children due to all these ridiculous policies limiting the discipline of the child and means for a child to land an adult in prison for 'child abuse'. Real child abuse is abhorrant, but if a parent can't discipline their child in todays world then its no wonder more and more youth gangs are springing up.
    This feeds into my second thought, which is that we should start holding adults responsible for failings as parents where they have not instilled the virtue of respect for human life in their children. It's a fundemental, human virtue, and I think if you do not possess it you are not human. If parents start to understand that they will also be held to account if they fail to raise their children with basic principles, or are happy to ignore their childs indoctrination by a horrific culture, then things might get better..

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  • 94. At 4:37pm on 16 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:

    I don't think there is much difference between the Kray gang and these younger kids. The Kray's were involved in many murders, beatings and extortion. They were deeply misogynist (for different reasons). And they were one of many many gangs who existed across London. The main difference is age of course, not that the Kray's started old, they were terrorising east London as kids as well. But many young `turf` gang kids will simply move higher up the chain, basically to work in the drugs trade, most of course will drop out. Remember many kids of all creeds join gangs for `safety`. There is a new book coming out called `Reluctant Gangsters` you should read it.
    The idea getting an education is bad in the `black community` only is daft. It is a well worn route for angry disaffected young boys. Also the notion that only the `black community` should work thing out is once again racialising a problem that is not and never will be racial.
    Yes, NewSweetMonkey2, imagine how disaffected these kids are. At the end of it all these `gangsters` are nothing of the sort, they are desperately depressed children and until that is addressed - and no one really wants to, locking kids up is much easier - very little will change. As an example I knew football hooligans who would stab 50 or 60 people in a single day, all that happened is they went to jail, moved into the drugs trade - after all why go to jail over football when you can go over money - and became genuinely terrifying people. Also, as an adjunct, until certain drugs are legalised and treated as a health problem and not a law and order problem, very little will change. As you can see, it isn't not a problem for black people - what music do you think white turf gang kids listen to? - it's a problem for everyone.






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  • 95. At 5:16pm on 16 Jul 2009, Shellrigger wrote:

    Rockhall - Sorry to hear about that indeed. But two white kids and a black kid? Where does that fit into Mr Easton's world?

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