Friday, August 12, 2011
‘You’ve Damaged Your Own Race’: Philly Mayor Blasts black Flash Mobs
“You’ve damaged yourself, you’ve damaged another person, you’ve damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said in a fiery address before his congregation Sunday. “You damaged your own race.”
Nutter, who is African American, targeted so-called flash mobs of black youths who’ve been caught on video attacking people in downtown Philadelphia. “If you want…anybody else to respect you and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street,” he said from the pulpit at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, “then leave the innocent people who are walking down the street minding their own damn business. Leave them alone
Nutter’s chastisements—which didn’t spare parents, either—included:
“Take those God darn hoodies down, especially in the summer. Pull your pants up and buy a belt ’cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt. Nobody.”
“If you walk into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied, and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you? They don’t hire you ’cause you look like you’re crazy!”
“The Immaculate Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ took place a long time ago, and it didn’t happen here in Philadelphia. So every one of these kids has two parents who were around and participating at the time. They need to be around now.”
“Parents who neglect their children, who don’t know where they are, who don‘t know what they’re doing, who don‘t know who they’re hanging out with, you’re going to find yourself spending some quality time with your kids in jail.”
To fathers: “If you’re not providing the guidance,and you’re not sending any money, you’re just a sperm donor.”
Nutter announced yesterday that the certain areas of center city Philadelphia are now off limits to minors after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. As for the rest of the city, the curfew remains 10 p.m. if you’re under 13; midnight if you’re under 18.
London: Doling out excuses for the inexcusable
In trying to identify the causes of the London riots, we could start by reflecting on the comments from former Greater London Council police advisor Lee Jasper in analysing the mindset of the youths on the streets.
In a finger-pointing monologue on The 7.30 Report on Tuesday, Mr Jasper argued that the one group of people who should definitely not be blamed for the riots were the rioters themselves.
“We’ve seen huge levels of austerity cuts in many inner city areas that are leading to a great deal of anxiety and concern,” stated the one-time advisor to former London Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. “Unemployment continues to rise and there is a sense of anxiety but also a sense of moral crisis in the country. I think because of the MPs scandal, the corporate tax dodging issue of huge multinational companies, the News International corruption cases with the metropolitan police and phone hacking, there is a kind of failure really of people in power to uphold the kind of moral standards that we all aspire to. And as such, this has had an effect around the country.”
The first notable feature of Mr Jasper’s comments is that they afford a remarkably high level of current affairs knowledge to some of the dumbest and most disengaged people on the face of the earth. In the interviews this week none of the hooded hooligans were telling reporters that they had taken to the streets after reading the Telegraph’s expose of the House of Lords perks scandal – which happened four years ago anyway – or that they picked up a brick in frustration after watching James Murdoch’s evidence to the House of Commons inquiry on the BBC.
Second, Jasper’s comments sought to lend an activist quality to a civil disturbance which is campaigning for absolutely nothing, other than a free television and a shiny pair of sneakers.
This wasn’t a poll tax protest, it wasn’t a show of solidarity with the coal miners or the sacked printers, it wasn’t a G20 riot. At least burning down McDonalds outside a conference promoting free trade makes a crude kind of point.
This was simply an act of mass theft, violence and vandalism by people who, almost to a man, said that they were doing it for fun. It was the first bludger uprising the world has ever seen.
Thirdly, Jasper’s comments have at their centre a belief that, in this case, we are looking at a failure of government to do more. In reality these riots represent a failure of government to do less.
While there is enough material from the four days of rioting to sustain years of sociologists’ conferences, the key issue seems incredibly simple. If you tell several million people that they are under no obligation to work, to learn, to become socialised, and if your laws and your frazzled police and your packed courts don’t treat low-level crimes as crimes at all, you run a pretty obvious risk of ending up with the scenes that we saw this week. If you tell people that life is all take and no give then some of them will end up literally taking things off shop shelves.
One of the first priorities of David Cameron’s relatively new Tory Government has been to rein in the explosion in the British welfare system. Remarkably, one of the central proposals is to stop households receiving unemployment benefits which exceed the average weekly household wage. Remarkable in that things were ever allowed to get that out of hand, with such an enshrined disincentive towards work.
Cameron is a moderate conservative and his welfare overhaul is not extreme. One of his many fair-minded measures is that if you are able-bodied and offered a job but turn it down for no reason, you will be kicked off the dole for three months. This has been denounced as an act of brutality by the welfare lobby, in a country where the number of Britons in employment has fallen by 550,000 since 2004.
In a report on the reforms in The Daily Mail, the newspaper profiled a family in Anglesea, North Wales, Peter and Claire Davey, who have seven children aged two to 12 and receive £815 (AU$1288) a week in benefits. Mr Davey quit his job as an administrator after realising he and his family would be better off living on handouts. On the numbers it makes a sad kind of sense.
Within the welfare sector there is an unusual metric which holds that increases in government outlays on the dole and the pension are the best indicator of success in the portfolio. You see it here in Australia every year – if state or federal governments cut welfare spending in their budgets, even with the corresponding introduction of schemes to get people into work, groups such as ACOSS fire off accusations of heartlessness. These same groups have a broadly left-wing social agenda yet seem completely indifferent to the concept of the dignity of work, which was actually what Karl Marx spent his entire intellectual life working to achieve.
And then there are the likes of Lee Jasper playing the role of random excuse generator, handing out absurd alibis to those too dim to devise one for themselves. The perpetrators are the victims and government should have done more, when the mayhem created by these welfare-funded ratbags shows government has done far too much already.
Tough sentences? Forget it. These teen yobs will be treated as if THEY'RE the victims
David Cameron may have sounded tough this week, promising night curfews, tougher sentencing and new police powers in response to the outbreak of almost untrammelled anarchy in several of our cities.
Police leave has been cancelled and a crackdown on gangs announced. But the Prime Minister is sorely mistaken if he really thinks the rioters will be punished and made to pay for what they've done.
Why? Because the criminal justice system in this country is broken. From my experience as a youth offender worker, little, if anything, will happen to the young people who participated in the riots around the country this week. And what's worse — they know it.
One 15-year-old looter quoted in yesterday's Mail summed up the defiance: 'They can't touch me, I'm still a kid.... what is the worst they can do? Give me a caution or a curfew I won't obey.'
Sadly, he's absolutely right. While magistrates yesterday did seem to be cracking down on adult offenders, some of whom will get custodial sentences, almost everyone under 18 will end up with the ultra-soft, kid-gloves treatment I've seen being handed out on a daily basis.
Figures released so far suggest that could apply to as many as half of those appearing in magistrates' courts this week.
In an extraordinary perversion of justice, those underage rioters will be treated as if they are the victims of the very crimes they have committed.
Only a few will be given custodial sentences. The whole ethos of the youth justice system is to avoid incarcerating offenders — not least because there isn't the physical capacity to house them all.
Even those who are imprisoned will spend their days watching TV and playing video games. A colleague working in a youth detention centre recently told me he is no longer allowed to call their rooms 'cells' because it infringed their human rights. And these were offenders who'd done very bad things, including sexual assault and extreme violence.
The other underage rioters will be sent on an Intensive Surveillance and Supervision Programme (ISSP) — the laughable sentence that is the most rigorous non-custodial punishment young offenders can receive. It's designed to take them from their criminal environment and show them they can have a future on the straight and narrow.
What they'll actually do is spend the majority of their 'sentence' escorted by youth workers — whose wages are paid by the state — to gyms, adventure centres and even DJ-ing courses. Already this week, we've read about a group of offenders like this who were taken on a day trip to Alton Towers.
These violent youths will have their lunches bought and paid for, and even be given bus fares to attend their 'punishment'.
The surveillance element is worthless. Some offenders will be tagged and under curfew. If a tag is broken, a private security firm alerts the youth offender service, which alerts the police. In the time that takes, the offender can have carried out any number of crimes.
ISSPs are also supposed to involve community service, but often there is none at all. I know people in the Manchester Youth Offending Team who were reduced to driving offenders around for hours to fill up the time, because no community work had been arranged.
Instead, the programme usually amounts to no more than enforced leisure: football and tennis on Monday, boxing and squash on Tuesday.
One day, we took ten offenders to an indoor rock climbing centre. Each of them had a conviction for burglary — in effect, we were just improving their breaking and entering skills.
On another occasion, we drove a group to a youth club with a music studio. There they spent the morning listening to hip-hop, posing as gangsta rappers. When they got bored, they amused themselves by playing pool or being rude to the staff.
At lunchtime, the offenders gave individual orders for takeaways from a chip shop. Once the food arrived — delivered by a member of staff as though he were their butler — they fell on it like ravenous wolves, without the slightest restraint or manners, screeching foul abuse if their order was wrong. They then spent the afternoon on PlayStations or playing on Nintendo Wii games consoles.
Occasionally, these activities will be broken up by classroom exercises in a youth centre, pointless sessions where offenders' 'needs' are assessed — where they are viewed as children, as opposed to people who have done something very wrong.
'How are you feeling?' they're asked. 'Are you feeling better?'
Who cares how they feel? The offenders I saw had broken into old ladies' houses. What about the feelings of the decent, predominantly working-class victims of this new criminal underclass? The victims of the looters and arsonists this week, for example, who may have seen their livelihoods or homes destroyed.
Sometimes the offenders will hijack the classroom exercises themselves. In a recent session on homophobia, several members of the class were causing disruption. Eventually, the frustrated youth worker asked the ringleader to come up to the front and take over the class.
With relish, the chief culprit launched into an offensive comic routine about different types of homosexual. Afterwards, the youth worker boasted to me that the lesson had been a great success because the class was 'engaged', despite surrendering her authority.
I'm not an enthusiast for excessive punishment, particularly not for young offenders — who often hail from deprived backgrounds or dysfunctional families. But what I have experienced shows that the current, ultra-lenient approach is a disaster. It is hopelessly unbalanced, providing neither discipline nor boundaries.
The appalling message to juvenile criminals is they have nothing to fear from the courts or penal bodies. Far from being made to pay for their crimes, they are often rewarded.
I have escorted a 16-year-old, unemployed, criminal teenager by taxi from his home to the benefits office so he could sign on for the dole, even though he lived only ten minutes away by foot. He was from a large Albanian family of Romany gypsies who had come to Britain seeking asylum, but each had ended up involved in criminal activities, including violent muggings and burglary.
Despite his criminal conduct — because of it, in fact — the local youth offending team was desperate for him to claim as many benefits as possible, even laying on transport.
The bizarre logic, as it was put to me, was that poverty was the cause of his illegal actions (a trite and misguided argument trotted out this week by bleeding heart liberals in defence of the looters).
In the words of the youth worker: 'We need to work with him to remove the underlying causes of his criminal behaviour', by ensuring he received 'all the benefits that are entitled to him, his partner and future baby.' (He had got his Bulgarian girlfriend pregnant.)
My colleague's worry was that, if this support, including the taxi service, were not provided, the Albanian would slide back into a life of crime; even though she knew, from his expensive clothes, that he earned so much from crime he didn't even need those benefits.
Some of this week's rioters, having been processed by the courts, will end up doing 'poster work', where they will draw and colour in examples of criminal behaviour — just in case they're not aware that torching local businesses and throwing masonry at the police, fire brigade and passers-by are criminal acts.
One recent offender made a mockery of the programme by producing large drawings of cannabis joints. He received no punishment.
Is it any wonder we have such high rates of recidivism among more serious young criminals? Many of the rioters you saw on the streets will have been through the system already. They know that there are no real consequences for their actions.
Some of the young thugs who've been interviewed said they did it because the Government and the police couldn't stop them. And they are dead right. There are no boundaries to their actions, with or without any supposed crackdown by David Cameron. And so they will riot again.
When social mobility meant something
Encouraging social mobility has become a watchword of the political class for the past 15 years or so. Whether it is bribing working-class teens to stay on at school or making internships ‘open to all’, everybody wants to help ‘the poor’ to help themselves. The death this week of English novelist Stan Barstow is perhaps a reminder of when and why social mobility had real meaning in British society.
Barstow, who died aged 83, belonged to a pioneering set of working-class writers who chronicled new opportunities available to working-class youth in the late 1950s. Alongside his peers Alan Sillitoe, John Braine and Keith Waterhouse, Barstow was successful enough to avoid factory sweat and toil in the process as well. It led arch conservative Evelyn Waugh to complain about ‘these grim young people coming off the assembly lines in their hundreds every year and finding employment as critics, even as poets and novelists’ (1). It seems social mobility wasn’t always encouraged by the well-to-do after all.
Barstow was born in Horbury, a railway town on the outskirts of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. His father was a coalminer and the household was barely literate – not exactly the most promising background for an aspiring writer. Nevertheless, Barstow had already managed a modicum of social mobility through attending grammar school and becoming a draughtsman in a nearby engineering firm. As a result, he quickly experienced a tension and resentment between his new-found middle-class occupation and his working-class background – a tension brilliantly explored in his most famous novel, A Kind of Loving.
Set in West Yorkshire in the late 1950s, A Kind of Loving follows the ‘shotgun wedding’ and marriage between draughtsman Vic Brown and company typist Ingrid Rothwell. At the time, its frank depiction of sex and marriage among the northern working class made it a literary breakthrough. It was also subtle and complex enough to stand out within the slightly over-crowded ‘kitchen sink’ genre. Whereas Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning crackled with an incoherent rage against the post-war consensus, and Joe Lampton in Room at the Top rails against white collar ‘zombies’, Vic Brown appears pragmatically happy with what postwar Britain has to offer.
Underneath it all, though, Brown wrestles with his conscience: between wanting to uphold traditional values (getting married) and new-found sexual freedom (extra-marital affairs); between loyalty to working-class communal mores and the desire to broaden his horizons. Brown’s contradictory feelings for Ingrid – one minute infatuated, the next minute infuriated – reflect the pull of these new and alien social influences. In an earlier period, marrying such a gorgeous girl as Ingrid and having kids would be as good as it gets in West Yorkshire.
Barstow’s skill as a writer was to shed light on the confused inner world of the ambitious working classes of the period and, in the process, highlight broader social changes. In particular, the tortuous contradictions of class identity that Brown experienced anticipate such preoccupations for the ‘affluent worker’ that became sociologically documented in the early 1970s. A Kind of Loving was also fortuitous in recognising how despised the aspirational working-classes would eventually become. Not only is Vic Brown an effete draftsman, but he is also passionate and knowledgeable about classical music and literature. For his dreadful mother-in-law, Mrs Rothwell, this is a transparent ‘affectation’ and ‘our Ingrid’ doesn’t need to put on such ‘airs and graces’. She scornfully says the ‘airs and graces’ phrase so often that Vic wearily ends up repeating it for her. Far from Vic ‘not being good enough’ for Ingrid, these pretensions and ambitions mark him out as being ‘unworthy’. Fifty years on from Mrs Rothwell’s ethos of ‘know-your-place’, disdain for working-class aspiration has a surprising degree of cultural and political resonance today.
Barstow eloquently explored these themes with equal conviction in Watchers on the Shore (1966) and, a decade later, The Right True End. All three novels were adapted for a Granada TV series in 1982 starring Clive Wood and 17-year-old debutant Joanne Whalley. A trilogy set in the 1940s, Just You Wait and See (1986), Give Us This Day (1989) and Next of Kin (1991), appeared without generating much literary interest, but Barstow’s name was still instantly recognisable.
Barstow came of age long before Sure Start, education maintenance allowance (EMA) or patronising sermons from the political class on facilitating social mobility. Going to university wasn’t presented then as a life-or-career-death ‘option’ in the way it is now. What you did have, though, was a broad acceptance of the value of learning and high culture, reflected in the autodidacticism that influenced Barstow and his novels. Today, no amount of official ‘aim higher’ initiatives can compensate for the demise of such social and individual aspiration. You only have to re-read A Kind of Loving to understand that.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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