5. What is anthropography? You have also recently referred to a citizen sociology, and so in what respect does that apply?
Anthropography is the designation I gave to my project in citizen philosophy as formulated in my early work Meaning in Anthropos, written in 1984 but published seven years later. The sub-title was Anthropography as an interdisciplinary science of culture. I fully accept the provisional and preliminary nature of that thesis. The word anthropography is generally used in reference to the geographical distribution of mankind. I applied extended meanings and reference points.
Anthropography conventionally amounts to ethnography, linking to anthropology. My citizen usage of the term anthropography should not be confused with anthropology, which is one branch of social science. Citizen anthropography made inclusive gestures towards all the three main branches of social science, meaning psychology, anthropology, and sociology. It represents an endeavour to see things in the round, along with other disciplines such as the history of religion. I have also described this commitment in terms of philosophical anthropography, meaning a philosophy of culture.
In 1984, I established at Cambridge the project known as IRCA (Intercultural Research Centre of Anthropography). This continued for several years as a focus for liaisons and publications. That project did evoke some liberal academic attention, even being approached by persons wishing for publication of their doctoral theses. I did not have any official funding, so I was unable to branch out as some people suggested. My basic purpose was study and formulation, not promotion or organisation.
Furthermore, I left Cambridge for Scotland, where I became a resident during the 1990s. One reason for this move was that I disliked city life, then becoming increasingly oppressive in Britain. Crime was on the increase, and Cambridge became an overspill for London. Cambridge was rapidly changing character in certain respects. A basic decision of mine was to reorient in philosophy outside a library milieu, which although helpful to me, had also become static in certain ways.
I spent many happy days at CUL (Cambridge University Library), and made a point of combing through many of the learned journals stocked there in such abundance, a project which included the “dead” journals also. However, the antiquarian dimensions of such an activity have to be complemented by more immediate “fieldwork” and real life experiences.
5.1 The British Yob
It was often fascinating to ascertain what, for instance, contemporary scholarship and social science made of ancient religion or remote tribal communities. Yet everyday realities outside the library were very stark by comparison. In 1980s Cambridge, the proliferating yob phenomenon was becoming evident. The word yob generally denoted a bad-mannered or aggressive male teenager (with the early 20s age group also being implied). This category frequently became thieves.
Areas of the city which had formerly been safe and tranquil were now subject to burglaries and violence. It was said that in some streets, nearly every house had been burgled. The yobs watched sick American videos and frequently took drugs. The older generation regarded them as a mindless blight. Violent gangs and marked antisocial behaviour now made their appearance in a more intensive way than ever before.
At one Cambridge street where I lived during the early 1980s, a group of punks moved in, creating havoc amongst neighbours with their antisocial attitudes. The police had to be summoned to monitor the situation. The leader of the refractory pack was a middle class 18 year old. He was in no financial want, having a well paid job and living in the comfortable house of his absent father. He had acquired the sense of aggression fashionable in the pop music world, where Sid Vicious had become an unmerited hero. Decadent pop stars and video nasties were too often the role model for yob shortcomings.
5.2 Citizen Sociology as Sociography
Reflection upon such matters led me to conclude that the educational system in many schools was breaking down. I was dissatisfied with sociology; this science was too remote from everyday concerns. The politicians were permanently on holiday, while many academics were insulated from the social dysfunction that was accelerating. The obscured ecological factor was almost peripheral at this stage; the most obvious problem was a major inventory of social maladies whose causes were too often ignored.
Eventually I described such reflection and analysis as “citizen sociology,” a phrase I first used in Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals (2004), p. ix. “Citizen sociology is of amateur status and does not claim to be expertly scientific, but merely to address in a critical spirit pressing matters requiring attention.” I have also use the associated word sociography in this respect; again no ultimate definition is claimed. Much of the contents of the Citizen Initiative website can be related to sociography. Many of the chapters in my Pointed Observations (2005) also have a bearing upon this approach. Social criticism is an alternative designation. See also Aspects of Citizen Philosophy.
5.3 The Skinhead Trends
The predecessors of punks were the skinheads, who became visible in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are sometimes perceived as an offshoot or rival of the mod contingent, noted for a fastidious attention to fashion clothing. Early photographs of the 1960s skinheads assist to differentiate them from the later waves. A well known photo of a skinhead group in Piccadilly reveals young men who resemble typical working class Londoners. They are wearing sleeve and collar shirts, braces, jeans, and working boots. Their hair is short, but not close-cropped; they also exhibit sideburns. They could easily seem a more attractive option than the contemporary hippies, whom they derided.
So what went wrong? Later the boots got higher, the hair became closely shaven, and the profile became more aggressive. Some say that early skinheads were asserting the working class lifestyle of their fathers. This factor seems relevant, but if so, the "ideal" broke down, because the fathers never did what some of the offspring deviated into.
Early skinheads in Piccadilly
The famed skinhead boots became a symbol of the pack. Laced boots of the Doctor Marten type gained ascendancy as standard regalia, the steel-capped variety being frowned upon by policemen and noted for causing damage at football matches. The steel-toed boots were called bovver boots in the 1960s, the word bovver deriving from the Cockney pronunciation of bother (meaning aggravation or violent behaviour). Such footwear was dangerous in fights. Football hooliganism became an extension of the skinhead presence. In London, some pugnacious skinheads commenced the infamous practice of “Paki bashing.” Pakistanis and other South Asian immigrants dreaded the sight of skinheads. Political manipulation of skinheads by far right lobbying gained momentum during the 1970s. Racism was a very ugly feature of London life at this period. The National Front were pulling strings.
Skinheads liked reggae music and beer. In theory they were averse to drugs, associated with the long haired hippy lifestyle. Skinheads detested hippies. Yet some of the former resorted to amphetamines and cannabis. Statistics are not available to ascertain the numbers involved. Many early skinheads were young manual workers. During the early 1970s, I was told that in some areas of London, skinheads had a habit of walking in a big pack across the width of a street, blocking anybody coming in the opposite direction. This was apparently the proof of “hard case” maturity. In Cambridge there were much smaller packs who kept to the pavement and who were wary of the police. Coppers (police constables) were still feared in those days.
The provincial skinheads did not like university undergraduates, who were mocked as being uselessly intellectual. Skinheads could be very pugilistic (especially after drinking beer or lager). Undergraduates were in danger on the streets at night. Cambridge skinheads were caricatured by the university population as mindless menaces. Intellectuals would say caustically that instead of the three R’s (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), the skinheads had opted for the three B’s, meaning Beer, Birds (girls), and Bovver.
There was a skinhead revival in the late 1970s. The permutations of this continued into the 80s and later. A new wave of teenagers gave fresh life to “skin” packs, who became notorious for football hooliganism and racist attitudes. The violent phenomenon of “Paki bashing” continued as a skinhead pursuit. The movement gained an extension in “neo-nazi skinheads,” who were widely criticised. Swastika symbols and tattoos became popular. The skinhead vogue developed into an international phenomenon, achieving a presence in America that puzzled and alarmed many onlookers. Some skinheads affirmed their resistance to the negative manifestations of this conglomerate movement. The category of anti-racist skinheads are sometimes known as SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice).
5.4 The Punk Vogue and Sid Vicious
Meanwhile, the punks had appeared in the mid-1970s. The punk trend was strong in America, and also appeared in London, from there moving out to the provinces as with other phenomena. In Britain, the punk dress code and general outlook is said to have been strongly influenced by the Sex Pistols, a rock band led by Johnny Rotten. In terms of stimulants and drugs, punks seemed to ingest (and smoke) whatever came along. They innovated short spiky hair, often dyed in streaks to look more outlandish. They identified with themes of alienation and anarchy.
Some punks tended to think of themselves as victims of the social system in all circumstances. Affluent pop stars encouraged the lack of due analysis. Pete Townshend of The Who made supporter comments concerning the punk vogue at a confused stage of his career, shortly before his alcoholism suffered the complication of addiction to cocaine and heroin. Critics said that punks were socially retrogressive, similar to the mods and rockers who had earlier caused trouble at seaside resorts.
Punk trends diversified in the late 1970s. Punks became noted for numerous bizarre hairstyles, including the Mohawk variety. The nazi swastika was sometimes provocatively displayed on clothing, as if this made the owner more important or daring. Sid Vicious was an instance of this bravado, which did him no good to judge from his case record.
Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols
Sid Vicious (1957-1979) was a guitarist in the Sex Pistols, a British punk rock band who lasted for three years from 1975. His real name was John Simon Ritchie. The Vicious tag was part of the commercial hype aimed at the undiscerning audience who lionised him as a punk hero. He is said to have gained the extremist name due to an incident reported by the New Musical Express (NME) journalist Nick Kent. That incident occurred during a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club, where Sid hit Kent on the scalp with a rusty bike chain and drew blood. A friend of the victim also got hit by the chain-chipper. Kent suggests that this attack was due to an amphetamine intake on the part of the aggressor. On that occasion also, an accomplice of Sid pulled a knife. The NME report of Kent is dated Dec. 1977 and was formerly visible online.
In 1977 Sid met up with the American groupie Nancy Spungen, from whom he caught the heroin habit. He became subject to suicidal tendencies. When Nancy saved him from jumping out of a third storey window, he repaid that mercy by bashing her head against the wall until the blood from her scalp was a tangible wall decoration. He then broke into hysterical tears. This incident was reported by Nick Kent in Dec. 1977.
During a tour of America by the Sex Pistols in 1978, the psychological problems of Sid Vicious continued, both on stage and off. He cut on his chest with a razor the words “Gimme a Fix.” Similarly dramatic was the eventual fate of Nancy, who died in October 1978 from a stab wound. Sid was arrested and charged with her murder; he denied any memory of the event, having taken heroin at this time. His mother bailed him out of trouble. There have been attempts to show that Sid was not guilty.
The unstable Sid subsequently attempted suicide once more. He was also charged with assault for smashing a beer mug in the face of a man who understandably objected. Sid was arrested and again bailed out of trouble. In February 1979 he overdosed on strong heroin, and then fell asleep for the last time. He was dead the next morning, aged only 21. He had become a punk icon. Nobody should wish to emulate him. Sid was not even a competent guitarist, a fact well known in the music world.
The punk gang I was obliged to observe at Cambridge, in 1980-1, had some fairly pronounced traits. They were identified as punks because of their aggregate hairstyle. I will here call their 18-year old leader Sturm, which may be taken as a pun on the German word for storm or assault. Sturm and his circle would revel in the nocturnal habit of constantly pulling a toilet chain in order to annoy the elderly couple next door. The victims complained that they could not sleep properly. To punk aggro, this meant that the social oppressors should invent a law against going to bed early. Punk rebels went to bed very late, a habit not to be questioned. Social workers attempted to reason with the Sturm gang, but could make very little headway with obdurate attitudes of the self-proclaimed victims of the social system.
Sturm was host to an outrageous party one Saturday night. The noise level was high in that terraced street. Some guests were weirdo types who looked like drug freaks. The guests congregated in the street. A few of them were observed to enter the gardens of neighbours in the early hours of the morning. Next day I found a hammerhead deposited in my garden, possibly a semi-psychedelic symbol of threat to ward off complaint.
When outnumbered, get reinforcements. The police were called in, and investigations were made. Sturm’s father was contacted, and he expressed horror at what was happening in his (second) house. Sturm was forbidden by pater to hold any more parties which could invite police attention. The paternal jurisdiction ended there. Pater could not fathom the punk attitude, and tended to avoid confrontation; all he had known in his younger days were 1950s teddy boys getting drunk on a Saturday night inside pub hours (and in those days all British public houses closed at 10.30 pm).
I had the opportunity to observe Sturm from an upstairs window when he was confronted by a neighbour. Michael was about thirty, and complained that the noise in Sturm’s house was keeping his young daughter awake at the wrong hour. Michael had a mild temperament and was slow to anger. Sturm came out into the street with an air of defiance. He said something like: “Don’t you crowd me, mate; I got my rights.” The worst punk mood amounted to “if you don’t like what we do, that’s your damn fault; we hate the social system, so you just buzz off.” Like Sid Vicious the chain-chipper and headbasher, Sturm was tall. However, he had a more substantial physique. Michael was even bigger, with more muscle, and he would not back down. Sturm must have realised suddenly that he was alone at the time; his friends were out elsewhere. He blustered, and then went back inside scowling. He turned the noise down. Michael had won that round, but the gang would be back.
5.5 Paradise of the Far North Becomes Drug Problem Zone
By the end of the 1980s, many people in England felt that nowhere was safe from yobs. Some said that the Scottish Highlands represented the last outpost for peace of mind. When I first moved to the north of Scotland, local inhabitants testified to a social situation in which there was very little crime. The police felt quite confident and in control. I met people who insisted that nobody needed to lock their doors. This utopia was in contrast to the grim situation evident in the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The northerly region from Inverness to Aberdeen was a paradise by comparison with the south. However, during the 1990s, crime infiltrated the Scottish towns and villages where formerly nobody had needed to lock doors or fit burglar alarms. The basic problem was the younger generation who resorted to drugs. A fatal support for this nationwide development occurred in 2004, when the British government relaxed the cannabis law.
In addition to the new social predicament was another local hazard, namely the Findhorn Foundation (located in Moray). This organisation sponsored Grof alternative therapy in their precincts until 1993, when an official recommendation, inspired by Edinburgh University, curtailed the problem in evidence. The very commercial enterprise called Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. was strongly associated with LSD “psychotherapy,” an illegal recourse promoted by some Stanislav Grof partisans. That activity acquired a controversial non-drug extension in Holotropic Breathwork; this temptation was legal and promoted in lucrative “workshops” by the Findhorn Foundation. The doctrines of Stanislav Grof are influential in "new spirituality" lore. The new age impresarios resented criticism of their activities, and stifled objections to their policies.
5.6 Manifestations of the Yob Psychology
In Great Britain, the descriptive national identity effectively devolved to Lax Britain in realistic terms. The absence of sufficient governmental regulations, against major forms of crime, endangered public safety. The deficit here includes the drug problem, aggravated by the official leniency towards cannabis during 2004-2008. The escalating crisis caused havoc in some schools where young cannabis users demonstrated the backward moods occurring in this form of “recreation.” The rescheduling of cannabis to Class B status in 2009 could not prevent adverse consequences of the Class C indulgence inaugurated in January 2004 by the Labour government.
The yob society in Britain developed a street drinking indulgence contributing to violence and harassment. The police reported a substantial increase in alcohol-related attacks by yobs. This phenomenon is also known as “under-age drinking.” Boys as young as seven participated in the vogue for cheap alcohol. The lack of parental care became glaringly obvious. The overstretched resources of an understaffed police force are a consequence of bureaucratic lunacy. The permissive society has been a failure in too many respects.
The ineffective nature of the criminal justice system in Britain was emphasised by such vocal groups as the Victims of Crime Trust, founded by a police officer (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, p. 114). Some magistrates have since taken a firm line with criminal behaviour, but the general leniency towards burglary and other “minor” crimes has remained very perturbing.
Yob defiance has been described as a contagious epidemic contributing to criminal behaviour. In the north of Scotland during the 1990s, I was able to observe teenage “hard cases” who swaggered about looking like the skinheads I had seen over twenty years before in Cambridge. Some Scottish fifteen year olds had very solid physiques. A very muscular manual labourer told me how he found one of these youths trespassing in his garden; he had to forcibly eject the intruder. I watched a yob trio in Forres try to light fires in bushes with matches. They would hoot at any passer-by with obvious defiance. I informed the police, who said they could do nothing without more concrete evidence of damage. At that period, three schoolboy yobs (aged 14-15,) in the far north, tied their female schoolteacher to a ceiling rafter. This was a gesture of contempt. They left her hanging precariously in a state of shock and terror.
Some commentators say that female schoolteachers cannot control thugs; the appropriate recourse is an ex-army supervisor with a birch rod who will exact appropriate punishments for every insolence. Learning is disdained by thugs; they repudiate the prospect with rejoinders like “shut yer face.”
Over the years I often visited Bournemouth, a holiday resort on the south coast of Britain. During the 1970s, the police were noted for their control in that city; incoming troublemakers like “rockers” would be sent on their way before they could commit any crime or disturbance. All this changed during the 1980s. By the 1990s, it was not advisable to leave a spare bike in an unlocked shed. Theft was rife, or so I was told by local inhabitants. In 2004, three yobs in the older age group entered the house of an elderly man and beat him brutally with baseball bats. This was clearly a premeditated act of the most violent and horrific type. The tragic victim was hospitalised with severe injuries, and a public outcry ensued. Thugs like to victimise people much weaker than themselves.
The Clockwork Orange syndrome of violence has become pervasive. Nearly forty years ago a very controversial movie was created by American capitalism. In Britain, that movie soon provoked strong complaints, underlined by the factor of “copycat” violence occurring in real life. This refers to the phenomenon of aggressors acting out an incentive derived from explicit visuals. Clockwork Orange (1971) contained a scene showing extreme violence and rape, a needless visual indulgence far removed from the priorities of any civilised taste. A real life incident was reported of criminals who wore, in imitation, the same costumes as the film characters. The offending movie was removed from circulation in Britain, remaining unavailable for nearly thirty years until the re-issue in 2000. That was the year after the producer Stanley Kubrick died. Clockwork Orange made many millions of dollars for Warner Brothers. Critics accused Hollywood of elevating profits above international wellbeing.
Another place I visited regularly, at one period, was the town of Langport in Somerset. Here in 2005 I was dismayed to find that a gang of yobs were in the habit of abusing a fine nineteenth century house on a main road passing through the town. That house was empty, and the absent owner (who had several properties) was strangely indifferent to events. The yobs regarded the property as a recreation ground. They had damaged the interior, and had even tried to burn the place down (arson being a tendency of yobs). They had been known to hurl things from the windows at passing cars on the street below. Motorists were in considerable danger on such occasions. The nearest policeman was in another town some distance away; he could never arrive on time because of his many pressing engagements. Nobody stopped the yobs; nobody knew exactly what to do, although local feelings ran high against them.
I am glad to say that the police can be very effective in Somerset. A few years later, at another town in this county, a local publican was alarmed to find that a gun threat was in evidence during a quarrel arising on his premises. A gun was actually visible, and apparently one round was fired. The police were informed of the problem; a helicopter quickly arrived, complete with several armed policemen who lost no time in restoring order. I heard about this episode at the local post office the next day, the worried publican himself being a testifier on that occasion. The problem parties were in the adult age group; some younger people were apparently also involved.
There are many locales where police assistance arrives too late. One graphic instance of this delay emerged in a media report concerning a village near Grimsby. A gang of six yobs entered the garden of Gary Hall, a champion bodybuilder aged 42, and weighing 15 stone. One teenage yob made for the front door of the house and turned the handle. Gary Hall then wrestled him with ease and pinned him to the floor. Hall’s wife telephoned the police and was assured of a quick intervention to arrest the burglar. No policeman arrived. Instead the other five yobs threw stones at the house and yelled abuse. The alarmed wife prevailed upon her husband to let the trapped burglar go free, and the six yobs then ran away. Three hours later, the police telephoned to say that officers had been diverted. A police constable did not call at the Hall abode until the next morning. The police officers had meanwhile been obliged to deal with “ten high priority incidents” that included an arson and a burglary (Paul Sims,“I caught a burglar but police were too busy to pick him up,” Daily Mail, 26/03/2008, p. 25).
On an earlier occasion at Worthing (on the south coast) in 2003, the police did arrive on the scene of complaint with due alacrity. They found that the criminal was a three year old boy who had smashed a car windscreen, causing shock to the driver. The police duly contacted the mother of the miscreant. The parent excused her offspring on the basis that he was too young to know what he was doing (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, pp. 116-117). This was clearly a situation of parental laxity; no other explanation can realistically suffice.
5.7 The Internet Spurs Rave Party Drawback
Worthing was the scene of another social problem, namely the "rave" party craze fanned by the internet. This fashion is primarily associated with loud music, and also with drugs; the rave events have varied. In the rave context, social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook received strong criticism in 2008. Teenage girls now advertised themselves on the web with fashionable license; this activity could backfire upon them and their relatives. Seductive poses and semi-literate verbalisms testify to drawbacks in contemporary lifestyle. Web ads for birthday parties attracted violent gatecrashers, including people in a different age group to the teenies. Such rave events resulted in wrecked homes, like the one on Tyneside that was ravaged by “seven hours of drink and drug-fuelled mayhem,” to employ one media description. That home was invaded by a mob of over 200 ravers from as far afield as London and Liverpool. The 17-year old host hid in the bathroom, experiencing a panic attack as the indulgent strangers filled her house.
The birthday party of a 16 year old boy in Chippenham (Wiltshire) was gatecrashed by more than 250 young ravers who hospitalised two objectors, namely the brother and father of the host. The mob desecrated the house, and the host’s mother said: “I honestly thought they were going to kill us; there was blood all over the front of the house, the garden, and the street” (Daily Mail, 18/03/2008, p. 18 col. 4). Blood was dripping from the head of her worsted husband.
Another damaged venue was a Georgian mansion near Bovey Tracey in Devon. More than 2,000 people arrived here for a teenage birthday celebration similarly advertised on the web. Carpets were ripped up, windows smashed, doors torn off hinges, family heirlooms vandalised. The police arrived after an emergency telephone call; the jeering ravers pelted them with glass.
Further havoc occurred in Worthing, where a fifteen year old girl using Bebo attracted over fifty extremists who caused damage to parental property. The family dog was dosed with ecstasy (MDMA) tablets, a fact conveying an idea of the mentality involved in a romp that trashed the house and left four inches of beer on the dining room floor. Sexual intercourse was a major attraction at such venues of drug abuse. “Some of the gatecrashers had brought drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis” (Paul Bracchi, “Party Animals,” Daily Mail, 08/03/2008, p. 39 col. 2). Such events became known as “Skins parties,” a description deriving from the Channel 4 television programme Skins. This controversial tv (and web) feature celebrated badly behaved teenagers, and was strongly implicated as an influence upon extremist conduct achieving bodily harm and property damage.
Another problem of “rave” occurred in March 2008 at a damaged village hall in Wray (Lancashire), where some two hundred teenagers are reported to have indulged in an orgy of binge-drinking, drug-taking, and underage sex. The 14-16 year old age group were here the exemplars of mayhem. There was no adult supervision; forged signatures were circulated in a successful attempt to give the impression that such supervision was present. Most of the girls who had unprotected sex were described by a local schoolmistress as having been “too drunk to be in control of themselves.” The same source warned parents of the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease incurred by this event (James Tozer, “Lesson in debauchery,” Daily Mail, 22/03/2008).
5.8 Sexual Diseases and AIDS
A general increase has occurred in the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), a subject so frequently ignored. Young people aged 16-24 are said to be most at risk.
The AIDS epidemic is the most serious instance of STD. Medical experts have repeatedly complained that public knowledge of this problem is deficient. See AIDS in the UK. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. In 2012, the global situation featured some 34 million people with HIV, about half of these being women. In 2017, the global figure was 37 million. HIV infection is very high in Africa and some other countries. The full extent is impossible to confirm. About a million people die from AIDS every year.
America invested multi-millions in annual research to find a vaccine against HIV. Expensive drug trials were halted in 2008, after the discovery that two supposed “miracle” vaccines were not workable and could instead increase the risk of infection.
In relation to American clinical problems, the combination of substance abuse and HIV/AIDS "can increase risks of many dangerous infections and cancers."
In Britain, an estimated 96,000 people had contracted HIV by the end of 2011. This number had dramatically increased since the 1990s. About a quarter of this total were unaware of their infection. In 2011, about 500 people in Britain died from the HIV infection, as compared to 1,700 in 1995, when antiretroviral treatment was not widely available. That treatment involves a strong intake of expensive drugs to counter HIV.
In 2017, about 110,000 people were living with AIDS in Britain. About a third of these were women. There were more than 400 AIDS-related deaths. Over 4,000 new HIV infections were reported. Many victims were unaware of their dire situation. See Net Doctor. See also HIV and AIDS in the UK.
5.9 Rape and Anonymity Problems
In March 2013, the Home Office informed that, over the past year, 60,000 women were raped in Britain. Two months earlier, a joint official bulletin on sexual violence was released by the Home Office and other authorities. This revealed that an average of about 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year. Nearly five times as many sexual assaults occur annually. This rape crisis obviously raises many doubts about the status of current civilisation. There is so much scope for improvement that "afflicted society" might be the most accurate description.
Rape crimes profiled on the British media, in recent years, leave no doubt that contemporary society harbours a sick sub-set. A malignant sector of the human population require stern justice, not the petty ordinances which have been the subject of complaint. Some years ago, a well known incident occurred in the toilets of a busy supermarket where an unidentified attacker assaulted a very young girl. The victim was traumatised, and also terrified of any repetition. Rapists are often masked; the worst ones will murder the victim to ensure no possible revelations as to identity. Variations of murder include dismemberment of the corpse; in 2008, a severed female head was found in a plastic bag.
Anonymity on the web is now a big issue. The internet transgressions of trolls feature defamation and misrepresentation of real name persons. Pseudonymous trolls are active on blogs, social networking sites, and Wikipedia.
5.10 Yob, Gang, and Knife Crime
Urban teenage-plus gangs in Britain resorted to gun crime during the "Class C" period. At Peckham (South London) in 2007, four young men between the ages of 15 and 21 were murdered in less than two weeks. Three were shot and one was stabbed. These murders are closely associated with the traffic in skunk cannabis. A similar link to skunk was discussed for the situation in Liverpool localities, where a murderous feud between rival teenage gangs also led to gun casualty. The ready availability of skunk cannabis was accompanied by the phenomenon of violent young drug dealers who flourished in the face of lax governmental regulations during the 2004-2008 period.
Knife crime is a far more pervasive problem than firearms. At the end of 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised a crackdown on knife crime in a dozen “hotspots” around Britain. That precaution was soon seen to require a radical extension. Knife crime was not confined to inner city areas, but spread much more widely. In May 2008, voices of public complaint urged that the police should be equipped with thousands of knife detectors, and that prosecution should result for anyone caught in possession of a knife. Mere cautions are useless.
In May 2008, the increasing toll of lethal knife crimes ended the life of 18-year old actor Robert Knox. He was stabbed to death while trying to protect his brother from a man wielding two knives. This event occurred outside a bar in Sidcup, South London. The incident became well known on the media due to the complaint of his distressed grandmother, who accused parents of irresponsibility in rearing children. The Sidcup incident was additionally serious in that five other young men were also stabbed, though not fatally. They were in the 17-21 age group.
The 21-year old culprit was arrested and charged with murder and grievous bodily harm. The murderer lived in a quiet road, having the reputation of offending neighbours by holding all-night parties. The neighbours described him as a “total yob” (the pejorative term logically applies to a slightly older age group than the teens). The offender was associated with an earlier incident involving two samurai swords (Tom Wells, “Broken Britain,” The Sun, 27/05/2008, p.4). Some analysts affirm that violent videos are a major cause of aggressive behaviour with swords.
Explanations for the current British social malaise have varied. Some say that deficient media is primarily responsible for yob hazard. Others say that the educational system has deteriorated, and that schoolteachers are not sufficiently effective. Some believe that inadequate policing and the lenient legal system are the basic causes. Others single out the frequently lax attitude of parents to their yob offspring as the major drawback. Yet a more comprehensive form of analysis blames a combination of these factors, and mentions additional angles also. Matters are made worse by drugs and alcohol, with the spread of skunk cannabis being the most serious problem detectable.
A related factor of adverse influence is the “bad manners” syndrome afflicting British society. In April 2008, ITV television established that this syndrome is extensive, especially in relation to swearing, playing loud music, and not saying please or thank you. The age limit here spreads from the teens to the forties. The television programme Bad Manners Britain conducted a survey which discovered the general public view that parents are largely to blame for the declining standards of conduct. More than half of those questioned were of the opinion that bad manners are the biggest problem in society. Over two thirds of them believed that bad manners are the cause of antisocial behaviour. Ninety per cent blamed the problem on lax parental standards of conduct that were copied by the offspring. Adults can be more rude than schoolchildren according to this report, which liaised with the British Transport Police in London. Significantly also, many of those questioned were of the belief that good manners should be taught as part of school curriculum. Lapses in education are all too obvious.
Of course, for every tv programme that says something useful, there are too many which opt for distraction, including the desultory variety which incorporate swear words. Over eighty per cent of the people questioned in Bad Manners Britain felt that the national tendency to bad language had intensified during the last ten years.
Swearing was eclipsed by other issues. The BBC programme which attracted the most complaints during 2007-08 was EastEnders. This gained over 5,000 complaints, more than double the quota of any other BBC programme. In particular, the drugging and live burial of a husband by his wife evoked a widespread revulsion. Two episodes which showed this disturbing theme were shown to be in breach of broadcasting standards. The watchdog regulator Ofcom also ruled in 2008 that EastEnders abused regulations in an episode showing a gang attack on the Queen Vic pub. Such displays raised serious questions about the irresponsible mentality of some scriptwriters and programme officials.
A sense of desperation is widely felt at the worst forms of behaviour. At least one popular opinion poll has revealed that many of the British public are in favour of capital punishment for the worst criminals. Yobs are not convicted criminals, but they can so very easily join that category. The juvenile problem requires firm regulatory supervision, not encouragement via “soap operas” and other deficient media.
By 2008, charity workers in inner city zones were reporting that violent gang leaders are frequently the product of broken homes. However, another component of the problem is represented by advantaged youngsters well cared for at home. These teenagers lived in localities adjacent to violent adolescents, and became susceptible to the imitation of violence, which has been described as a virus.
In July 2008, the “soft justice” system in Britain became even more extreme with new proposals by advisers to the Lord Chief Justice. Reckless plans of the Sentencing Advisory Panel involved the abolition of prison sentences for burglars. Community penalties were instead recommended; such trifling penalties are considered a laugh by criminals (and by some policemen). Perhaps the truth is that the British public need to be protected from bureaucracy even more than from criminals and yobs.
The same week that irresponsible advisers made their suggestions for further public affliction, a pensioner in Swindon was charged with possessing an offensive weapon while chasing off yobs who were pelting his home with stones. Sydney Davis, aged 65, took hold of a piece of wood in desperation while protecting his wife and two young children from a gang of yobs who attacked his house for over two hours. He was galvanised into chasing the yobs down the street after they threw a brick through his kitchen window. The police had (as too often happens nowadays) failed to appear after being telephoned at the outset of trouble. Police officers did eventually arrive on the scene over two hours later, but arrested the pensioner, while allowing the yobs to run off laughing. Sydney Davis was stunned by this development; he was handcuffed and led away to the cells, where he was charged. If convicted, he stood to face six months in jail (Mark Reynolds, “Man faces jail for chasing off yobs,” Daily Express, July 9th 2008, p. 7).
The lunacy of British law can exceed citizen tolerance. The afflicted pensioner in this episode had five times suffered smashed windows over a period of eight months. He was supported by neighbours who were also sick of yob behaviour. A local councillor reported that home owners on that estate in Swindon (Wiltshire) were living in fear. One of the pensioner’s neighbours found a brick thrown through a kitchen window that showered glass across the face of a seven-month old baby. In response to questioning, Wiltshire Police said patrols had been increased after two houses had been attacked by arsonists.
In July 2008, the British Crime Survey indicated that knife attacks occurred once every four minutes in a country that was once strongly law-abiding. The media stated that "blade yobs" committed 130,000 blade crimes during the previous year, which means an average of 356 offences per day. The Home Office Crime Survey is generally considered to give a more accurate picture of the national situation than police figures. The Crime Survey is based upon interviews with many thousands, especially victims who would not otherwise report crimes. Official police figures for the same 2007/08 year were just over 22,000 knife offences, a total substantially less than the Crime Survey indications, but still very alarming.
This situation was highlighted by an official complaint about policemen being so hindered by red tape that they could only spend 14 per cent of their time in patrolling streets. Drug crime was assessed as being up by 18 percent. In addition, police reports informed that juvenile gang thuggery was on the increase, and that a third of violent crime episodes involved three or more yobs. Schoolchildren were behind one in eight attacks. The police figures declared that most crimes occurred in London. Yet provincial figures were alarming enough. Hampshire suffered 388 knife offences in 12 months. This compares with 140 blade crimes reported by the police in Wiltshire, and 288 in Devon and Cornwall. Avon and Somerset suffered 360 knife incidents. Sussex was here listed with 274 knife crimes, and Kent with 327.
Moving northwards, Nottinghamshire suffered 548 of those crimes, while West Yorkshire was afflicted with 915. Merseyside was subject to 757 blade crimes, while Greater Manchester was a high danger area with a total of 2,294 offences in this category. The West Midlands saw 2,303 of the same drawbacks to declining civilisation. South Wales did not escape the debacle with 585 knife crimes. However, the major instance of disaster was the Metropolitan Police total for the London area, listed at 7,409 knife offences.
I have met people in Somerset villages (or small towns) who say that the stocks should be brought back into use in town squares as a deterrent to yob behaviour. Some objectors also say that bureaucrats who entertain a soft policy on criminals should be dismissed from office and deprived of their inflated salaries. Countless elderly people live in terror of yobs. Many middle-aged people are also feeling the blight created by this category. Numerous young people are understandably apprehensive of the knife crime menace. Survival of antisocial hazards is a matter currently necessitating stronger citizen initiatives to assist law and order, to oppose junk web, and to resist political excuses for evasionism.
The British Crime Survey became known as the Crime Survey for England and Wales. The Survey records responses from thousands of interviewees, and since 2009, has included juniors in the 10-15 age bracket. The 2011/12 Crime Survey showed 2.1 million violent crime instances; the government informs that the number of violent incidents has halved from the peak in 1995. Young men are stated to be the most likely victims. There has been an annual decrease in firearm offences. There are additional statistics for burglaries. The main Survey does not include drug offences. Some academic experts have criticised the Survey, emphasising that the figures are misleading and comprise substantial under-reporting.
Reservations about official statistics have been strong. In 2008, one journalist observed that the Crime Survey only interviews people who are prepared to discuss matters, and does not count repeat violent crimes against any victim. Further, several categories of crime are not covered by the Survey, including illegal drug use, sexual offences, and commercial victims (e.g., van thefts). One academic criminologist estimated that the total number of violent crimes against adults was likely to be 80% higher than the Crime Survey figures. The think-tank Civitas concluded that about 11 million crimes did not appear in the Crime Survey (meaning about 24 million crimes in the boom year of 2003, a figure not including drug-related or sexual offences). Moreover, a former probation officer (David Fraser) had calculated that over 60 million offences were committed every year. See further Knife attacks: Damned lies and crime figures.
Despite these more realistic assesssments, the British government and the BBC preferred to contract the crime problem, as if the public fear of crime was irrational. It is relevant to remind that crime increased dramatically in Britain during the late 1960s and 1970s, concurrent with the new stimuli of increased affluence and commercialism, decadent cinema, atrophied literature, and drug addiction.
During the year ending June 2012, there were officially about 29,600 recorded offences involving knives or other sharp implements. This number of knife offences is reported to have been 9 percent lower than the previous year. Juveniles (aged 10-17) were the offenders in 17 percent of the charges made for possession of a knife or offensive weapon. According to the Crime Survey for 2011/12, a knife was used in 6 percent of all violent incidents experienced by adults, similar to the previous year's statistic.
Despite the official indications of decrease, the gravity of underlying problems became increasingly severe. This factor was indicated, for instance, in the Ending Gang and Youth Violence Report, presented to Parliament in November 2012. This document informs that in 2010/11, there were approximately 13,000 emergency hospital admissions for assault among 13-24 year olds. One in seven of these admissions involved a knife or sharp object. The report states that personality disorders are highly prevalent among violent offenders. "At least 80 gang injunctions have been taken out across the country, imposing conditions on gang members to prevent violence." One complication in this sector is that women and girls associated with gangs are at risk of violence (especially sexual), but this problem "remains under-reported and largely hidden."
The official information was provided that "gang members carry out half of all shootings in the capital and 22 percent of all serious violence" (Reducing knife, gun and gang crime).
Official data for the the year ending March 2018 means that about 40,000 offences were committed with a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales. See Knife Crime Statistics. This is not the most comforting reminder of public safety deficit.
Events in recent years underline the betrayal of public protection by means of a reduced police force. That disaster has exerted consequences frequently reported. Many people are trying to get out of London, a casualty area of major proportions.
August 2008 (modified 2013, January 2019)
The inability of the Conservative Party to deal effectively with crime became evident in October 2010. Their programme declared a cut in police spending and a reduction in prison places. The new Justice Secretary has not won universal plaudits for the unconvincing theme that prison sentences do not reduce crime. Short prison sentences, of six months or less, have been given to about 50,000 offenders annually. These sentences are evidently too short, as the prisoners too frequently repeat offences within six months of being released. Reliance upon community penalties is not a remedy, but a proof of failure, according to the counter argument. A substantial number of criminals are drug addicts.
The option for community sentences is viewed by critics as evasive. In 2010, the media disclosed that almost 2,700 criminals were awarded a community sentence after being guilty of over fifty offences. Moreover, 315 criminals received a community sentence after 100 or more convictions. Indeed, more than 13,000 criminals gained a community penalty after thirty or more offences. Such figures reveal a disastrous situation for public victims.
Critical commentaries include those of a retired JP who served for 26 years as a Huddersfield magistrate. Eddie Jefferson urges that the Magistrates Court is the backbone of the British judicial system. This Court has been weakened "by over-liberal reforms, misguided do-gooders and now the pressing need to save money." An accompanying comment was that "only this week, we heard that judges and magistrates are being told to send fewer violent thugs to prison; now those found guilty of actual, or even grievous, bodily harm will not be going to prison at all" (E. Jefferson, "Who will we let off next... rapists and murderers?" Daily Mail, 15/10/2010, p. 6).
The phenomenon of repeat offences has been getting worse, the figures soaring between 2002 and 2008. The scarcity of custodial sentences is now viewed as a threat to public wellbeing. Criminals have been spared jail after 100 convictions. Some public observers feel that the inflated salaries of reckless politicians should be reallocated to build more jails and put more police on the streets.
War veteran Geoffrey Bacon
Once upon a time, Britain was a place of law and order. Problems arose circa 1970, though marginal by comparison with the falling standards and political excuses of today. The tragic fate of ninety year old Geoffrey Bacon was one of the recent instances illustrating the decline. During the Second World War, Bacon served as a chauffeur in France. At the age of 90, he was still independent, living alone in a second floor flat in Camberwell, a suburb of south London. He had a reputation for social benevolence. In April 2010, he was attacked on his own doorstep by a mugger who threw him to the floor and punched him in the face. The victim was also kicked. The savage intruder ransacked the flat, stealing the old man's wallet containing £40 and a bus pass. The victim was left in agony with a shattered hip. He never recovered, dying a few months later; the molestation was classified by police as murder.
Detectives expressed their belief that the killer of Geoffrey Bacon was also responsible for another mugging "half an hour later in a neighbouring block of flats, where he hit a disabled woman of 66 about the head with her handbag before running off with it" (N. Sears and P. Bentley, "Killed for £40 and a bus pass," Daily Mail, 19/08/2010, pp. 1, 4). See Eisenhower's driver and Murder hunt after war veteran dies.
A decadent society too often laughs at complaints about television violence and bad language. Many people aged 40 and upwards justifiably reason that such lax standards are an incitement to social delinquency. The popular BBC programme EastEnders has been observed to depict a boy of 13 being knifed by a gang. A Channel 4 distraction in 2009 exhibited 312 swear words in 103 minutes. The newspaper employing this information artlessly included an irrelevant cartoon showing an old lady indignant at nudity on the tv screen, while the main feature on the same page displayed a component of the "fashion bible" Vogue, the admired young yuppy subject being pictured in his £5 million home (Daily Mail, 19/08/2010, p. 3). These features were found on the preceding page to the details about the murdered Geoffrey Bacon. A carelessly affluent society is not the best guide to living priorities.
British citizens have to survive the undeclared hazards and nonsense provided by the media and politicians, plus the increasing menace from criminals who are given easy treatment in high places. The farcical phrase Great Britain decodes to the Afflicted Little Island, reduced to a severely crippled plight by dubious commercial interests, myopic political policies, and failed education.