This isn’t something I’d normally want to write about, but two stories in the Times of London today caught my attention. An apparently senseless stabbing today at a London rail station on the one hand and a near-riot as five black men were sentenced for murder at the Old Bailey for similar offences. I couldn’t help but feel that their facial expressions varied between defiance and stupidity. In large cities, knives are carried by an alarming number of young men and they’re not being used to sharpen pencils. Sometimes these are large enough to be described as ‘machetes’, normally used to chop away at undergrowth, fell small trees and so on. These, carried by young, often black men, are used as weapons of war to maintain control over what they regard as their ‘turf’ where draconian protectionism concerning drug supplies can be controlled against other predatory local groups seeking to overthrow them by force of arms. This isn’t new; inner city knife crime has existed since urbanisation but never, ever on this scale. People are afraid to walk the streets; they wring their hands, demand more police, community workers, park keepers and janitors; in fact any responsible adult who is just ‘there’. Mostly, they wait, helplessly, for someone to do something.
Some argue that parental discipline is at fault where children as young as 11 or 12 are simply allowed to do as they like and in the absence of appropriate role modelling, often from paternal absence, seek out similar to act as role models, to bond with, undergo initiation ceremonies and join an organisation to which they feel they can be part of, to belong. Frequently, they are used as drug mules to supply to outlying districts, the coke, MDMA, ketamine or whatever is currently in demand by the well-heeled and feckless who are inoculated against the social deprivation driving so many to desperate measures and care nothing for the social costs of supply.
Others argue that schools are at fault, but, like King Canute, they too cannot stop the tide, however much effort, money or professional investment is hurled at the problem. Children are excluded, mostly because they have proclaimed their disdain for education with such vigour that they become uneducable, disruptive and often violent. More police? Yes, of course – we shall see whether the magic 20,000 more actually materialises. I don’t think it’s nearly enough because the disaffection, disillusionment and sheer rebellion run too deep. The Church is considered by many to be a collection of meaningless fairy stories for the feeble-minded, its tenets suitable for old women and the notion of God is as irrelevant as a chocolate soldier.
The UK, in common with so many other places, has lost a moral compass. We have forgotten how we came to be successful, kind, hardworking and content, discarding, even sometimes refusing to learn the lessons our history has taught us. We live in an era of unprecedented privilege yet have allowed ourselves to be compromised spiritually and emotionally and in so many tragic cases, we are reaping what we have sown in the form of the bad fruit so very present in some of our children. One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This commandment stands at the centre of the Torah and enjoins individuals to treat each other as equals which requires first valuing oneself in order to be able to mirror that love towards others. As the great Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva is credited with saying: “you shall love the Lord your God …..and love your neighbour as yourself. Everything else is commentary.”