Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paranoid Anti-Terrorism Advert Banned

Who comes up with these ideas? Oh right, people who have their own community somewhere else.
In the advert, a man says: "The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself.

"He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route."

It then says: "If you suspect it, report it."

The whole disruptive and insidious nature of Acpo is pretty revealing:
"sometimes what appeared to be an insignificant behaviour could potentially be linked to terrorist activities".

...or, in other words, any non-agreed behaviour is suspicious. Anything that we've decided might be suspicious today should be reported. You can't have a community if you're all dead.

Good on those who reported this advert. If this kind of claptrap paranoid propaganda doesn't count as "anti-social", I don't know what does.

ASBOs: The Next Generation

Been on holiday, so just catching up with Theresa May's speech on anti-social behaviour and where the coalition Tories are driving ASBOs next. It's worth a read - there's a lot of good rhetoric in there. Which, on the flipside, throws the proposed measures into a rather lacklustre light in comparison.

On the one hand, it's hard not to agree with the sentiment that localism is key to addressing the anti-social culture. Indeed, this blog would argue that centralism and unquestionable power inevitably leads to a notion of discontent and delinquency. "If I can't control it, no-one can." Perhaps this imbalance of control and expectation over young people extends to far more corners than we would care to own up to.

So moving power and responsibility (the two can't be separated in this case if we're to take the subject seriously) to citizens must be a part of the solution. But here we must be careful. One set of citizens having "power" over another set of citizens is the status quo - don't be confused by the shiny cars or black uniforms. Delinquency comes about through prejudiced exclusion in the first place. Cause and effect are the same thing.

So saying that young people "want to make something of their lives, and we have to help them do so" is a good start. The problem is defining what that something is for them. Money is not always a good motivator.

Saying that it's about "encouraging young people to take responsibility for their communities" is a good start. That "the National Citizen Service will help" achieve this makes me wary. Young people in particular are wary of any central banner - because with banners come stipulations. Young people should not be "sponsored" in order to feel like citizens.

Then there's the usual gumpf about alcohol, and it's depressing to see no change in attitude here. Yes, alcohol is a catalyst - an excuse - for much unruly behaviour. But it's also far too easy a target. Blaming alcohol is like blaming video games for violent behaviour. With greater punishment for those providing alcohol, expect even more paranoia against this "ASBO Fuel" and even less understanding of how to enjoy it, rather than abuse it.

Finally, May wants to citizens "hold the police to account by publishing detailed local crime data and mandating regular beat meetings". Besides being bemused at the idea of "beat meetings", I wonder about the general move towards splitting the accountability of the police to "citizens", but mandating yet more initiatives on how this accountability is to be carried out. If citizens are to really work better with the police, shouldn't the extent and methodology of this feedback be up to them?

There are some interesting opportunities here - for young people. I've seen young people generally put together a more cogent and coherent argument than their elders, and demonstrate some very real grips on the world around them. That they have few enough outlets for this astuteness is, IMHO, part of the problem, of course. But a move towards "localism", combined with some shrewdness, could provide a route for this cunning in a way not thought of.

Are young people in a better position, for instance, to take up gripes with the increasing "anti-socialness" of ubiquitous urban advertising, say? Or the rise of chain stores? Or the removal of green spaces? Or how about loud, drunken businessmen on trains? Or people who are old enough to drink but apparently not to know better than throwing up in a children's playground?

There are a lot more instances of "anti-social" behaviour than those under 25 can take credit for. May doesn't seem to realise that delinquency is not part of the detachment of young people - it is part of the detachment of all of us, just as we like to judge each other for doing the exact same thing. It is a general unease and disatisfaction, one which young people merely have the energy to express with so much more gusto.

I have faith in the next generation. They can show us how to behave better, how to care about the world around them, and for themselves. But even with the grand rhetoric of May's speech, they're going to have to fight to do it.