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Gang bangers
by Richard Berman
2007-06-03 11:20:46
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When I was at school over 12 years ago there were many kids that used to hang around together in groups of 10 or 20 around the southwest of London where I was brought up. My school was safe and we never had any problems, only a few old ladies who used to complain about kids smoking behind her house, or hanging out in gangs outside her front door.

The only thing bad event that really sticks in my mind was hearing that one of the female art teachers had been raped by a student at the school, but I never did work out which student had committed the crime because there was nearly 2,000 students in my all boy school.

I remember back to when a boy, who was three years older then me, in the same school mugged me of my pocket money. However, this went on all the time with older boys taking money off of the younger ones, but no one would go and tell the teachers. What would these boys get if you did tell? Not a lot, maybe a good telling off and a letter sent to their parents.

I went back to my school about five years ago to just say hello to some of my old teachers, but the school had changed so much. They had undergone a very big renovation project, plus I could no longer just walk-in and say hello. First I had to ring a doorbell and then be checked up and down by a video camera, and only then was I allowed into a reception area where they had a lady at the desk – the lady was a very old friend of mine and she told me about all the changes.

The one change that made my heart sink was that the school now had a full-time police liaison officer, with whom she would work if a student had problems with the law. In my day the school would just phone the police and they would deal with it. Apparently the school had been fitted out with a great new computer department and within a month it had been broken into and all the computers had been taken.

After hearing over the last few months of the gun problems that they are having with the young in the south and then east of London, with the killing of a 14-year old in his bed, and then a drive-by shooting of another in the street, it is starting to sound like a very dangerous place to live. The 14-year old boy, I was told by an old teacher, was a student at my old school, so it would be a shock to find out if the killers were also his fellow students; I do hope not.

But are the gangs in London a new thing? I don't think so. I remember some of my dad’s friends with whom he used to hang in the ‘60s and 1970s. They were very dodgy guys, plus their fingers seemed to hang with big gold rings and their necks were adorned with chunky gold necklaces. Actually, now I remember back, they were big guys and all had broken noses and very nice cars - I never did work out what they did for a living. I also remember asking my dad, “Why is your friend called Buster?” He told me to take a wild guess, and left it at that. I know that my dad did not get up to anything, he has always said that these are just good guys with which to stay friends.

I love London. It was where I was born and spent 18 years of my life, but I would never dream about moving back there. I know it has all these problems because it’s such a big city and a very expensive city in which to live. My parents and many of their friends moved from London down to the south coast, as did my sister, so it seems that the old Londoners are trying to get out and the new are moving in.

I feel sorry for the young kids nowadays. I remember the times we were allowed to play in the streets, walk to school on our own and to go on day trips without the parents - kids nowadays can’t do this, which is sad. In Finland we let our kids play outside and they love the freedom, but we still keep an eye on them without them knowing, but it is a great deal safer for them here, which makes me happy that they have what I had.

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Paparella2007-06-03 15:18:45
Indeed, the barbarians are no longer at the gate, they are now inside the citadel planning the final onslaught abetted and enabled by misguided political and cultural leaders who can no longer distinguish freedom from license. One of my daughters ran all the way to Alaska and found there a modicum of serenity and safety. However, when pressed she admits that even there the neo-barbarians are making inroads. One can run but not hide for very long. One can also fight the barbarians but that of course may mean the end of what Kant called "perpetual peace." One begins to wander if Epucurus and the Stoics had it on target: tend your own garden, for barbarism, the physical as well as the intellectual kind, is a recurring phenomenon, and then the gods return.

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