I feel the world is stuck in a time warp. Every time I open a UK
or Irish newspaper someone is complaining about the so-called wayward
youth of today. Typical complaints include a lack of respect by
young people for social norms, excessive drinking and a penchant
for violence and vandalism. Recently, I scanned a copy of the UK
Sunday Times and was overwhelmed by the range of articles focusing
on so-called solutions to the perceived rise in antisocial behaviour.
article focused on a government report apparently recommending targeting
potential criminals from the age of three. Another blamed violent
sheroes such as Uma Thurman in Tarantinos film
Kill Bill for influencing thuggery by girls. Yet another considered
reinstating harsh boot-camp-style reformatories to bring young offenders
into line. There seems to be a growing trend towards seeing the
solution to troublesome youth as being about tougher policing and
tighter control. This is typified in the UK by the introduction
of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). These are civil orders
made against those involved in continual antisocial behaviour. They
can result in a person being banned from a specific area or associating
with named persons.
MORI poll found that 89% of the public support them. It is no wonder
the Council of Europes human rights commissioner suggested
that the UK was suffering from Asbomania. But is antisocial
behaviour really sweeping the nation? A recent Kings College
London study found that antisocial behaviour by young people has
little or no effect on the quality of life of the majority of the
population. That said, one in five people surveyed felt they were
affected. These problems, mainly associated with rowdy teenagers
in the street, were described as acute and were highest in areas
of social deprivation and inner cities. So the problem is not as
bad as the media would have us believe, although, if you are affected,
it can be deeply unpleasant and, like most unsavoury phenomena,
mainly affects the poor. I wonder if every generation feels the
youth are out of control. Think of the hippies of the 1960s, punks
in the 1970s, skinheads in the 1980s or, in the 1990s, rappers and
Pantsulas in South Africa.
I read that, after you lose your membership in it, the younger generation
invariably seems pretty bad. Is the older generation in Europe,
who are wealthier and more comfortable than ever before, simply
out of touch? I know I certainly am. When I see groups of young
people on the street drinking and chatting, I no longer know what
they talk about or what worries them. We should ask this basic question
first before passing judgement. I think this is as true in the UK
as it is in South Africa.
young people is not helpful. Only 39% of people in the UK feel ASBOs
are effective, even though they support their use. Talking about
young people, especially black youth, as is often the case in South
Africa and elsewhere, as if they are a bunch of criminals in training
is hardly useful.
us take one step back and diagnose problems properly and build solutions
on that. Out-of-control youth do not cause social degeneration,
but economic and social degeneration can create out-of-control youth.
we know anything about young people it is that continual prohibition
by adults leads to resistance. If things continue the way they are,
very soon having an ASBO or criminal record will be as fashionable
as having the latest mobile phone.
Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis
of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its
relevance to South Africa on Polity, see http://www.polity.co.za/pol/opinion/brandon/.
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