Anther teenager died from stab wounds today bringing the total of young people killed by violent crime in London this year to 19, as usual the media is asking why - and what can be done to stop it. A lot of emphasis is placed on knives, amnesties, heavier punishments and cracking down on people carrying knives but I think there is a better way - make these kids happier!
The whole culture of young people seems to be very aggressive and negative, there are no positive ways for many young people to channel their energy. Let's take an example of a young kid growing up on an estate in South London, the environment is not conducive to living a happy life. Not enough green spaces or peace and quiet, no spaces that they can really call their own, no sense of belonging to society and no straightforward way to do well in life. In short, no territory, tribe or status - 3 things fundamental to the happiness of any human being. See this post for more info:
So, to gain territory they spray their marks as graffiti, for a tribe they form gangs and for status they carry knives and stab people. What our society needs to do is offer them a better way of getting these essential elements of territory, tribe and status.
How can we do this?
Youth clubs, leisure centres, boxing clubs, the scouts, military cadets - and ultimately the prospect of an adult life that seems rich and fulfilling, a meaningful occupation with a reasonable standard of living and respect - tribe, territory, status.
Youth clubs - sounds crap, sounds like a Cliff Richard movie - but it gives kids somewhere that they can feel like they own. While they are there, give them exciting things to do - macho stuff like rock climbing and fencing. It all takes money though and I suspect that's why we don't have enough facilities like this. It's short sighted of the well off though to not fund a happier world because a happier world will benefit everybody. Even the super rich need somebody to bring them their drinks, wouldn't they rather it was a happy person? It's a symptom too of a world where kids don't see a happy fulfilling life ahead of them.
Activities also give people a way of gaining status, if a potential knife carrier finds that actually he's the best rock climber in the area, he's going to earn a bit of self respect. He might even find a career in climbing. He might be so absorbed in this that he stps stabbing people. I guess that's the other fundamental problem, the financial prospects of a lot of young people are not terribly good. If you go to Eton and Oxford, you leave education and have the world at your feet, in a deprived inner city things are a little bit different. It might look like the only way to make a lot of money is through drugs and crime, and lets face it in our modern world, we all want to make a LOT of money - not just the minimum wage delivering drinks to the super rich.
I might be romanticising the past but I think there used to be a dignity in labour, the working man was the salt of the earth, we had a social structure which gave a bit of respect to everyone. The rich were privileged but they realized how lucky they were and didn't abuse their position. Everybody played a vital role in the smooth running of the world from the road sweeper to the magistrate. From the waiter to the business tycoon.
Nowadays it seems like the very rich have lost any kind of connection with the rest of the world. They would rather warehouse or exterminate the poor - who no longer have any real function to perform. The road sweeper is replaced by a machine made in China and the kids stab one another in the street. Society does not offer a lot of people very much more than a life of boring low paid work and a complete lack of respect and status. Social mobility in Britain is very low:
The government is looking for ways to solve the problems of youth, they need to spend money intelligently on schemes which will allow kids a sense of territory tribe and status. Lets face it, happy people don't stab each other, if we plan for happiness we solve other problems at the same time.
The stabbing problem is asymptom of fundamental problems in the modern world, we have an unsustainable way of life which is not making people happy. We need to make fundamental changes towards a sustainable society whose aim is the happiness of it's inhabitants - and happiness and sustainability can go hand in hand.