Gaffer trainers
August 12th, 2011


So I feel like it is appropriate to pen a response or opinion to the current situation and the last week’s activities in London. It seems that the media, the government and potentially the wider community want answers to the ‘deeper’ reasons for this happening, as David Cameron stated today (Thursday 11th Aug).

I was firstly reminded of a quote from Socrates:

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Sound familiar?! This is not a new problem. It was interesting to hear Camila Batmanghelidjh (here) talking about the effect on young people and their lack of hope and aspiration, something that we have been talking about and tackling at the Canaan Project for a number of years. She felt this could have lead to some young people rioting and looting; this lack of aspiration linked to the fact that some of the main role models in their communities are involved in criminal activities. Only yesterday I was listening to a group of young people talking about the life and situation of a known local drug dealer. Their tone and persuasion was that of praise and admiration. This is very common. I am sure some the questions the young people are asking are, ‘If criminality is paying for him, why can’t it pay for me?’ Equally true of that group, only 1 of the 10 young people were involved in any rioting or looting, the rest were completely disgusted by the events of the past few days.

Swinging my argument wildly round what I firmly believe is that this is a complicated issue. I read this blog written by Penny Read and as part of her reflection on the riots she said:

‘They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables.’

It is a multi layered situation highlighted by the the BBC and I wish I could say give the Canaan Project and other youth services around the country more money and we will ‘sort this out’. It is not as simple as that. I believe that we (at the Canaan Project) hold part of the solution, through our role as youth workers, helping young people develop aspirations, or training young people to develop skills in confronting conflict, or helping young people reflect on their roles in society as they transition to become interdependent adults, but we have to recognise the limits of that work and acknowledge we play  a small (but significant) role, working together with society to see young people become all they can be, living out fulfilled adult lives.

I took the picture attached to this blog on Thursday 11th August 2011. You may have thought this was strange. This young person has wrapped white gaffer tape around his broken £5 trainers, he can’t afford to replace them. He didn’t loot or riot. Like most of the young people I talked to he was disgusted at the behaviour of those looting. He is part the 99%