Listening earlier to "Any Questions?" I heard a discussion about gang culture and young people in modern Britain.
One of the points brought up caught my attention - gangs act as a family of sorts for the young people who form them.

Whilst some families are certainly strong units, it seems increasingly that family is either not sympathetic to the pressures faced by young people today, or simply not there at all. Families may be physically together, but how often is time actually spent together?

It is interesting to hear some of the points raised by the older members of panels. Some of the points raised seem valid others seem silly at best and utterly preposterous at worst. Things such as increasing the power of people who are traditionally authority figures seem to have some sensible basis (how much effective power do teachers, police officers and adults have to combat "anti-social behaviour"?) others, such as "ban all violent films and videos" seem rather, well, totalitarian and oppressive.

Looking at how our society has changed over time it is clear to see that we've moved very much away from a community culture and into the culture of the individual. The 1960s heralded an embrace of individualism; the legacy of this seems to be the extremely consumption-orientated culture we're seeing in Britain today. Sure, individualism has lots of merits, but we seem to have let the pendulum swing a little too far.

Whilst our affluence and material wealth has increased incredibly over the last century, I can't help but feel that in some ways we're trying to replace something most humans need with escapism. A bit of escapism can be nice and is nothing new. People have been reading for millennia, storytelling, that sort of thing, entertainment and escapism often go hand in hand.

I'm straying from my point somewhat though, I'm afraid. What I'm attempting to head towards is the lack of things we do together as groups. When you're in school you might be in a class together, but outside of that, what do you do together as a group when you're too old to play together?
Sports are good for this sort of thing, but they aren't always available and of course, they don't appeal to everyone, or the particular ones that appeal aren't available.

Young people are often seeking an identity. Perhaps not consciously, but it's clear to anyone who pays attention that many young people find them trying to find somewhere they fit in, a peer group.
Gangs are a manifestation of this. The problem being of course that young people are not known for their rational thinking and good judgement. Couple this with peer pressure and a small quarrel can get blown out of all reasonable proportion. Pressure to not look weak, to not let the group down, to retaliate the only way they know how - with violence, of course. The old an "eye for an eye" principal.

I don't imagine that the way our culture glamorises violence in film, music and video games does much to help this. I doubt very much that they [i]cause[/i] violence, but I imagine their influence certainly helps grease the axels of this kind of behaviour.

One thing I can't personally empathise with is this kind of anger. I get angry at times, but I don't get to the level of the anger of most people it seems, getting angry about pointless little things, like they matter. Let it go, people..

I wonder though, nature or nurture argument - am I naturally like this?

Another interesting point raised was the arrogance of young people. I can certainly empathise with this one, hehe.
It is true; we are a lot more confident, often over-confident. Hell, half the people I speak to who come across as arrogant are probably bluffing. It's all part of this peer pressure to not appear weak, it would seem. It ends up as a self-perpetuating problem.

I don't have a direct solution, hell, why should I?
However, I do think we need more activities together, not just sports.
We need someone to take a cynical, pragmatic look at what interests young people today.

It's all very well saying what they SHOULD be interested in, but one might as well be sitting around stoking a fire consisting of bundles of crisp fifties when it comes to some of the projects I've heard of.
These sorts of things are region specific and should be treated like that. What works for Manchester might not be as good a solution for Brixton.

While we're piling funds into upgraded WMD programmes we're cutting expenditure on the community front.
To draw on a culture I've studied somewhat, the hip-hop culture in NYC through the 70s and 80s, there's a lot to be learnt.
For those who don't know, although it is somewhat open to debate, hip-hop consists of many facets. There's the "spoken" side, being rap, the "written" side, graffiti and aerosol art and then there's breaking (break dancing) there's numerous other bits that fit in various places as well, but these are the most prominent pieces.

Why is that relevant? Well they were things that would be done together by the young people. There would be contests with teams of b-boys, rap battles and so on and so forth. Friendly (for the most part, hehe) competition. There's always going to be some fighting amongst young people, but at least by implementing these sorts of things there existed ways rivalries would go before descending into violence. Furthermore, the most talented individuals became role models for the younger ones, giving responsibility, something sadly lacking in many aspects of our culture. We're very much into a blame culture.

This hip-hop example is just one, of course, but I hope it gets the idea across.
More skate parks, youth clubs, teams of all sorts. My school provided a lot of this sort of thing, although less than it used to by the time I left, which was a damn shame, to be honest.

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