01 March 2007

England's Green And Violent Land.

England & America: two nations separated by a common language, but increasingly united by social pathologies:

The startled reaction to a string of youth homicides in south London suggests that Great Britain may be edging into a national debate about the deepest causes of social breakdown. That's the good news. The debate, after all, is long overdue. The bad news is that, based on the BBC's coverage of this story, it's anybody's guess which voices will shape the outcome of this national soul-searching.

The facts are gruesome enough. Three teenagers were shot dead in separate spasms of violence over a two-week period: Michael Dosunmu, 15, in his bedroom in Peckham; James Andre Smartt-Ford, 16, at an ice rink in Streatham; and Billy Cox, 15, in his home in Clapham. The last victim, shot in the chest, was found bleeding to death by his 12-year-old sister. At a church service for Billy over the weekend, Rev. Sue Peake lamented "the hideous pressure on youngsters growing up in our inner cities."This is the kind of desperate brutality Britons expect to hear about in south Boston, south-central Los Angeles, or southeast Washington, D.C. Not in London. What are they to make of it?

. . .

There's another response, however, one that seems closer to the heart of this particular darkness: Take the family seriously, especially the indispensable role of fathers to family well-being. This is the message embedded in the "Breakdown Britain" report, released by the Conservative Party's Social Justice Policy Group two months before this latest outbreak of youth violence. "A harsh street culture acts as a magnet to disaffected boys from broken and dysfunctional homes," writes MP Iain Duncan Smith, the report's chief author. "In this culture, life becomes cheap and violence engenders respect. In the absence of a structured and balanced family, the street gang becomes an alternative 'family.'"

Here's the whole thing.


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