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What's next?


ENGLISH author Graham Greene once wrote a nihilistic little tale titled The Destructors.

In it, a gang of kids sneak into an old man's house while he is out, then proceed to destroy his home.

They smash up the bathroom; they smash up the living room; they smash up the kitchen.

They rip out the foundations and eventually the house collapses.

With the death of Rhys Jones, the 11 year-old boy shot dead by a young thug on the streets of Liverpool last week, it proves to be a very topical tale of youthful savagery.

Yet Greene wrote his story 53 years ago - in 1954.

Sixteen years earlier, he had published his novel Brighton Rock, about a razor gang rampaging through Brighton.

Greene didn't just write fiction. He was a working journalist and many of his novels, including Brighton Rock, were based on solid research.

Charles Dickens, another reporter turned fiction writer, also wrote about gang culture and under-age crime in Oliver Twist.

So there is nothing fresh or exotic about youth gangs.

They are as ancient as hatred, greed, poverty, violence, and everything else that makes us human.

But some things do change.

Progress means things get bigger, faster, more streamlined, more efficient.

The same can be said about gangs.

Yesterday's teenage thug brandished a snooker cue. Today's blows people away with a bullet.

However, it isn't just the access to dangerous weapons that has changed.

Society is also on the slip.

Fun culture is as dangerous as gun culture.

Our nation has lost its sense of duty; self-discipline has been replaced by selfish behaviour.

Absentee parents chase their own pleasures, caring little about the welfare of their children.

Scrounging benefit cheats refuse to set an example to their offspring by working for a living.

The slip towards savagery began in the 1960s, a decade of decadence, when it was decided that being young meant being right.

About everything.

"Hope I die before I get old," sang Roger Daltrey in The Who's My Generation.

"Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command," boasted Bob Dylan.

Youngsters weren't toting guns, but they were now armed with arrogance.

Cockiness came first, the cocked pistol later.

In the 1980s the slide continued.

The Tories talked about family values, but it was Thatcher who claimed:

"There is no such thing as society".

She may have been right to sharpen the economy, but she did so with no safety net. While her government looked onnn imperiously, old industries crumbled.

And so did the communities that relied upon them.

Meanwhile, a new attitude was celebrated in the city of London.

Red braces, brash behaviour. Sell, sell, sell.

Selfish, selfish, selfish.

The New Labour of the 1990s was no better, attacking the idea of a united Britain and replacing it with the multi-culturalist mantra.

Communities were encouraged to act in their own self-interest.

Meanwhile, the Government talked tough on crime and the causes of crime, but still hosed down singleparent families and benefit scroungers with cash handouts.

This is the legacy we have handed our children.

An heirloom of broken families, selfish parents, arrogant teens.

The guns might be coming into the country from the Balkans and Ireland.

But we forged the trigger-finger right here.

We have been our very own destructors, recklessly vandalising this home of ours that was once a United Kingdom.

We smashed up the bathroom; we smashed up the living room; we smashed up the kitchen.

The foundations are gone.

We know what comes next, don't we?


OUTRAGE: the pub car park in Liverpool where Rhys Jones was gunned down
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 26, 2007
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