I’m writing about the tragic death of a young 20yr-old boy ( he was a tall rugby player) who lived behind us here in a northern suburb of Glasgow. He was violently and indiscriminately attacked in the centre of Glasgow by two youths. A recent study from California cited Scotland as having the highest rates of Youth violence in the world. When it reaches so close to home, it shocks and horrifies us all.
As I pick up the Evening Times I read of further attacks. Apparently the two Youths involved in the random attack, injured several others the same night. My son works as a junior doctor in Glasgow and those on call in the Infirmary talked of the numbers brought in injured that same night. It was a Friday night after an Old Firm clash.
We live in a Culture of Violence, that starts in the home and spread out into the community at large. Add to this a cocktail of alcohol over-indulgence and ease of access to drugs, and you have a lethal combination, a powder keg just waiting to explode.
Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, recently suggested in the press that it was time for an Open Debate on this pressing subject. Perhaps we need to look at other cosmopolitan areas such as New York, which used to have a high level of violence, and adopted a zero tolerance approach several years ago – which meant targeting young criminals and the smallest crimes, before it leads to the more serious ones. My daughter was there this summer and found New York a safer city to walk around in than Glasgow. We also need to tackle the alcohol and drug abuse problems, through education and through stricter laws on selling alcohol to the very young.
The introduction of laws banning physical violence in the home may help to raise awareness that violence towards others is not acceptable behaviour in our society. This also raises questions about our society’s attitude to violence generally, as a way of controlling others. There are other more successful ways of coping with problems and with young children. Another problem is the severe lack of male role models for many young boys growing up here, and the fact that Scotland has such a high rate of single parent families.
The second issue is attitudes to binge drinking. We glorify ‘being drunk’ and ‘binge drinking’ in Scotland – as if it is something to be proud of. A whole generation is being caught up in a cheap triple alcoholic haze. Do we care? Well we should. We set the example by what we do and say. My view is it is the entire ‘Culture’ and attitudes here in Scotland that have to change, and not about a few experts telling the less fortunate to behave better.
It is time we looked seriously at these and other alternative ways of behaving, before youth violence escalates even further on our streets.
The Mail Saturday Essay Irvine Walsh October 22nd2005-10-26
‘The way forward to break the cycle of Youth Violence in Scotland’ - I f we treat young people with respect then hopefully they will view us with respect too.
In Reply to - The Mail ‘Saturday Essay’ - Irvine Walsh October 22nd2005-10-26
Mr Walsh voiced lucid and clear thoughts on Scotland’s difficult problems around youth violence, which are clearly complex, often ignored and deep rooted. So I thought I’d reply to some of the issues he raised on the problems around sectarianism, politics and alcohol.. He feels this subject is so very important that more open debate is needed here to open up the issues and look at possible solutions.
A new Californian study stated recently that Scotland has the highest rate of youth violence in the developed world.
There are many problems for young people.
Attitudes to Alcohol. - There needs to be laws like not drinking on the streets, and restrictions on age, but attitudes towards alcohol start in the home. In France and in other countries, children often take a glass of wine at home or are allowed friends over for a few beers. It’s about talking with your children too – keeping the lines open. Also I believe there should be more discussion in school about the illness of being an alcoholic.
Sex Education and the family - Mr Walsh didn’t touch on the issue of poor sex education and the fact that Scotland has the highest proportion of single mother families, with a serious lack of good male role models. Big brother /sister and mentor schemes are one way forward. Also encouraging people to take charge themselves of community schemes. The best way to improve things, in my view, is by strengthening the institution of the family, as the most successful social structure that we have. This has not been done in recent years, in fact a strong sense of family seems to be actively discouraged.
Solutions start at the community level. The problems are many, such as a lack of opportunities, jobs, and education. College Bursaries are one way to offer young people the chance of better futures.
Sometimes we need to recognise that the old ways of viewing things are no longer relevant to today’s world. There are many ways forward for young people, such as the Sure Start programs to assist most disadvantaged families, courses on good parenting, better housing and encouraging local business enterprises.
It’s very important to keep the lines of communication open with young people and view them as the young adults of tomorrow. If we treat young people with respect then hopefully they will view us with respect too.