Sunday, July 27, 2008

The solution to Britain's knife crime and gang problem - Vicars?

Switch the T.V or Radio on right now and you are bound to soon hear about the latest tragic inner-city youth stabbing or person being shot dead for having a slightly different postcode or belonging to a different gang. Britain certainly seems to be having a problem at the moment, and coming from a south London council estate myself I find it very concerning.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on what can solve this problem, usually involving a long prision sentence (or worse if you listen to some TalkSport callers) but I found the suggestion from a group called "Churches together in England" to be quite interesting. They are suggesting that clergy move into some of the most badly affected areas and act as role models to those perpetrating the crime and belonging to the gangs.

Could this work? I genuinely believe that one of the major reasons some young people involve themselves in activities like this is because they have not had strong enough role models in their lives, and as such have looked at Gangster rappers and 70's Gangster movies (just two examples) to provide templates, as well as "Ghetto" life in the USA, but I dont believe this is the primary cause.

Could these clergy really have such an effect that teenagers all over London and elsewhere who arm themselves because they are GENUINELY scared would be willing to follow a different path? or would an influx of white middle class men (or women) be seen merely as do-gooders and interferers, and put themselves in danger spreading a message that could be seem as other-wrodlty and completely out of sync with everyday life in these areas?

story can be found here:

The Churches Together report is at:


  1. Thanks Jason, this is a good blogpost. There are always multi-levels to these 'problems'. Sometimes 'problems' aren't really problems. Apparently crime has not escalated at all. The balance of type of crime has changed but crime in itself has not increased. Knife attacks have risen but other crimes (robbery, guns, etc) have decreased. So to add a bit of perspective, I think generally England, compared with other countries, is safe, non-violent and protects its people. On the other hand any crime is a 'problem' in itself. And all of it is nasty. Crime based on racism is particularly unfathomable.

    The article centres on a problem/solution agenda. The solution to gang crime is vicar intervention. The article parallels the two as each provides affinity, brotherhood, loyalty and familial belonging. Many criminals lack a 'good enough' fatherly influence and look for affiliation for safety. So the proposal is to exchange a 'bad' influence for a 'good' influence. A nod to what Jesuits and Catholic Priests did to children and the Native Americans in North America could shine a sobering light on the influence of the clergy asked to correct the 'problem' of heathens and orphans. But, mustn't tar the lot because of a few bad apples.

    There is something irksome about social agenda which presents a problem and fashions a solution. It always reminds me of going to the doctor. Symptoms and prescription. As we all know sickness can be temporarily diagnosed and corrected, but it mostly re-emerges. The 'problem' is never properly addressed. I think the 'problem' is mostly unknown and the best that can be done is the removal of the symptom. So, the only turn available is to address the human predicament. In doing, we turn from politics and social convention to philosophy which undercuts the problem/solution dualism. And that is why improvement does not exist. Symptoms get addressed and corrected but the removal of the cause stays the same. Humanity has not changed an iota since time dot. The problems change (knife crime has replaced gun crime, wars replace other wars, the treatment of women and feminism has given women an opportunity to now do 'everything' and are unexceptional if they don't - cheers to the libbers) but its impetus remains securely lodged. Every 'change' that is reported, the environment, for example, imparts impending doom. The media is filled with change indicating imminent catastrophe. Well, I think it has never been anything different. The fear of change, in a changeable world, is the pole that humanity is scrambling against without any chance of making significant difference - and it never will

    Anyhow, enough. Vicars into a community may correct an imbalance. Probably will. And then a new problem will emerge. And then the vicars can be removed from the community to correct new problem.

  2. Great reply Shelly, but I am a little confused; are you suggesting nothing should be done?

  3. Astute Jason. Yes I am in a way. Maybe the practice of reform, without ever achieving reformation, edges humanity closer to a 'goodness', in an ontological sense. That could be one way of seeing it. On the other hand edging towards 'goodness' is about as unlikely as apple trees bearing oranges. I personally think humanity has been on a course of devolution since about 2000 and 8 years ago. Heaving vicars into deprived communities is unlikely to make much of a dent. Political and social reform seems more like pandering and satisfying the media - the masses are so distinctly not a consideration - media fame, celebrity, power, popularity and image are far more important. It is a sickening disease, Jas, but hey, that's life

    So as above stated, go ahead and march in the vicars to batten the symptoms and silence the voters. But sure as apple trees bear little green apples there will be a new symptom to replace it, probably arising from the vicarage

  4. I'm not sure what kind of comfort that kind of stance would give to a 13 year old too scared to stay at school for extra maths lessons in case he is robbed on the way home, or a mother who has lost a child etc. It's also a very pessimistic view isn't it?

  5. Surely this approach is but that of a band-aid. It fails to address the underlying issues of societal structures that are evident in the apathetic attitudes within the youth of today in most western "civilised" Nation States. Shelly got it partially right by recognising that there is a problem. However suggesting that socio-political reform would simply appease the media, is I suggest short sighted. Part of that necessary restructure is the power of the media. An old addage:- "He who owns the media controls the people". For too long, media has been a tool used to market, used to create a cultural divide for the purposes on MNCs, thus the wealthy elite. Governments also fulfill this roll. A system of Governance that reflects the humanitarian aspects for the good of our species and those with which we interact for long term gain is the only true and proper way to resolve these issues within our society.

  6. Thanks, Jas, for your response; it is great to be challenged. No. I am not pessimistic. The philosophy of existence finds anxiety in the existent. Our temporal world and its changeable quality offers absolutely no stability or solace. What does humanity desire primarily in life? Stability and solace. Our world cannot offer up the very thing humanity believes the world promises to offer. We can never secure our deepest longing from that which we are trained to turn to satisfy this longing. The fundamental desolation, isolation, separation, forlornness, threading beads without a knot, is the human predicament. I think it is a great leap towards solace and comfort to accept that the world cannot provide the provision we most hungrily seek from it. Call it a relief to stop knocking at a door where nobody is ever home. Ontology is the driving thrust of corruption. It destroys relationships and betrays satisfaction of our deepest longing by presenting so-called solutions in the form of image, status, things, social solutions. Ontology only distracts us temporarily from the gnawing anxiety of nothingness at the helm of existence. But it is everywhere – ontology is language.

    This argument now leads full stop to the dilemma of the existent. As you criticised my argument earlier with the question – so, do we do nothing? Do we do nothing about imbalance? Do we do nothing about knife crime or any other social injustice? At the ‘do nothing’ gateway, some philosophers of existence return to ontology or essence. Heidegger says Being becomes available through existence. He embraces both a realism and an idealism; a tendency towards individuality (exist) and another towards totality (essence). Sartre says Being has two forms “in-itself” (existence, unique individualism) and “for-itself” (essence, a reality independent of thought). In the philosophy of existence duality and ambiguity deepen; there is no resolution.

    So, to return to knife crime – when a solution manifests for correction it is embracing the idea of Good, ontology, to re-balance an awkward, malevolent situation. An existent scoffs at the idea of correction. Correction is ontology and essence trying to find solace in a world which cannot provide it. On the other hand, the philosophy of existence as a solution to the temporal world is unresolved because it returns to ontology – the very riddle it tries to disable (except in Kierkegaard who does not believe in ontology). In either court the human predicament remains firmly and healthily intact and thriving. It is virtually impossible to perform in the world without ontology because even simple courtesy is ontology of a sort; where would we be without “please” and “thank you”?

    So, yes! Move the vicars into the neighbourhood. Maybe it will provide solace for awhile. But I remain anxiously hesitant.