Category Archives: Youth Culture

#Oneaday 51: To be someone is just a wonderful thing

I have been silent on the #oneaday  project for too
long and yet we are living in the most extraordinary times. Since I last wrote
we have seen the unravelling of the Murdoch empire and for most of us that must
be a good thing for our democracy. More on that another day though, right now
that is a long way away from my thoughts.


Ever since Friday last week I have been increasingly worried
that our democracy would be seriously threatened. The shooting of Mark Duggan
in Tottenham by the Police went largely unnoticed by our media and certainly
unanswered or commented on by the Metropolitan Police. That was until Saturday
night which saw an unleashing of protestation, anger and destruction in
Tottenham manifested by a conflagration of epic proportions. Watching the news
on Sunday morning told me that this was really serious stuff and people were
not only disaffected but incandescent with rage and anger. More protesting
morphed into rioting on Sunday night, spreading north to Enfield, political
leaders were still absent and those that muttered, muttered unconvincingly.


Then all hell broke loose last night all over London and the
white heat of technology did its own bit to keep the rioters, thugs, looters
and hooligans connected and focused. Protest was no more, this was rebellion
against the Police and the other people who lived in the same geographical
location as the protagonists. An army of so called ‘kids’ ran amok. Once the
Police strength had been assessed, their ‘guns counted’ if you will, the hoards
knew that the streets had no name and they could do exactly what they liked,
when they liked, to who they liked. And then, predictably, the chaos spread to
Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.


Let’s get a few things straight before I get accused of
being preachy. Whilst I was born and lived in London, and still do part of the
time, I had the fortune to be sent to a good school (proves the Catholic Church
can get one thing right), get a decent education and make some great, lifelong
friends. But I did fall into the wrong company let’s , when I was 15 years old.
It resulted in 2 expulsions, from the same school which was unique in our
school’s history and many a ‘brush’ with the law. When I finally got my
marching orders from school, the peer group I hooked up with were not my loyal
school friends, who had all started to find me ‘difficult’ company to say the
least, but my mates from the terraces at Upton Park. Football became my life. I
didn’t work for a couple of years, got up to all sorts of capers around Europe
and actually become a societal outcast. I will add I did cast myself out of
society.  My peer group were the older lads in the ‘firm’, and our
notoriety was our badge of honour. At last, in my 19 year old eyes, I was
someone. Everywhere we went, we knew we were feared, we knew we were respected
by our opposite numbers and above all we thought we were special.


Everyone wants to be someone. Everyone wants to belong.
Everyone wants. In 1984, aged 21, I finally woke up having missed prison by a
hair’s breadth. I decided to try and get myself to art college and luckily I
had the wit, the will and the intelligence to get in. Once I was there, I was
impressed by how creative people really were, and how refreshing it was not to
live my life on a knife edge of adrenalin, violence and peer pressure. When
fists turn to knives which then turn to guns and crossbows, you either wake up
and get out or you literally will not wake up. My school friends helped me see
who I really was and art college opened my eyes. I left college, got a job, any
job, and started to pay my way in the world namely I started to give back
rather than take. Soon after I used my ridiculous levels of self confidence and
arrogance to start my own business and channelled all my energy into creating
not destroying. It has been a path of steady redemption ever since, using that
‘never lay down’ attitude to prove that our business could not only ‘stand and
fight’ but win now and again.


I still like to think I have a sense of social justice. I
hate excess, and yet I live in a fantastic house, have the most wonderful wife,
an amazing mother, father and brother, amazing friends and work with fantastic
people in a wonderful industry. Life really could not be better. A bit of me
still says this is wrong, wrong given there are young people in Britain who
have little or no hope. People who are so pissed off with their lot, that they
decide to take a risk or two, pursue their version of the ‘free market’ and
reject anything or anyone purporting to be part of their community or indeed in
authority. It is the rule of the street, the survival of the fittest and to the
winner the spoils. No prisoners, no points for second place, no surrender. The
top boys get the top cars, the best drugs, the good looking girls, the most
money and maximum respect. They get all the glory.


When these people, indeed anyone, sees the excessive
financial rewards handed to those who work in a broken financial market, the
very same market that has sent our country and other countries to the edge of
financial ruin, and get away with daylight robbery, it is not surprising that
they just think ‘fuck it, what we can’t afford we will take’. But theft is
always wrong, no matter who takes away from others.


Where are their parents people ask? What parents? The
propensity of double barrelled names tells a different story, literally the hedging
of your identity. Without proper role models, what chance do these people have?
If your eyes get starry and your head  is turned by rappers, footballers
and other gangstas, the rest is written.  What they need is different role
models, to be involved in building something, making a contribution and taking
decisions, learning how to win and learning how to lose. They need time
invested into them, they need to want to belong and want to conform, they need
to see the benefits of mainstream society, rather than being simply sold the ‘features’
so to speak. In short they need to be someone.  Many of these kids do not
have father figures, for everyone’s sake, we now need the mothers to take to
the streets and appeal to their children to stop. Simultaneously, our society
needs to show these people a way in.


A Paul Weller wrote,
‘to be someone is such a wonderful thing’, if ever a phrase cut both ways, this
is it.

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#oneaday 47: Internet killed the video star

I must admit I do like to see nature weaving it’s influence in our every day lives. Spring is an amazing time, after months of dullness, we all get a lift when the days get longer, the temperature rises, the sun shines more, the plants start to grow and the dickie birds start to
tweet. You just know that things are changing and the world is literally  growing.

I also like that phenomenon called entropy.  I have always been fascinated by the constant battle between man, and the animal kingdom in general, to create structures only for the elements assisted by the plants to fight back to prove who or what really has the power. We build, but if we do not keep our wits about us, those structures start to unpick and return to dust.

Man has constantly learned about the forces of nature, both constructive and destructive, through adversity. The in built need to
survive drives us not only to seek shelter but to maintain it. We have learned though that design and maintenance without savvy thinking leads to failure and that is what drives us forward and keeps us vital as a race. The survival gene also means we are both fearful and greedy in equal measure, but nevertheless it does mean we are forced to learn. Learning is merely adapting to the power of nature
and using it in a way which allows a better standard of survival. Who really wants to struggle each and every day in their lives merely to survive? Some people in this world, through accident of birth or oppression face that hell daily. Most people in the West don’t face a life and death struggle unless they are badly ill. Our struggles are relative, our pain controllable.

So when the established order, namely that order imposed by man on man, becomes subjected to man’s nature, some call it progress and
others chaos. It is therefore rather amusing that the old order can expend loads of energy trying to push back against ‘progress’, when it should embrace change and use the natural energy to enjoy our very existence more. Teachers of the Martial Arts talk utilise their opponents’ energy to defend themselves. In short they think smart and actually aim to avoid conflict.  But I digress, getting back to building a house, if you build it in a place that just gets flooded all the time, you don’t build flood defences or even pass a law to stop the floods, you move and find somewhere else to live. Or take the risk that one day nature will take it’s course.

So when I read, hear and see that the law makers are getting in a tizzy about so called ‘superinjunctions’ being broken on Twitter
and the old, established media often known as the Fourth Estate, are equally riled because their right to ‘freedom of the press’ is compromised, I do laugh. After all these ‘superinjunctions’ are seemingly  the  vestiges of the rich, allegedly costing £50,000 to implement (son if you want to make a fortune work in money or in the law) and seem to be exclusively
used to keep so called celebrities out of the press, gutter or otherwise,

If our society has learned anything then our politicians and law makers will  learn to embrace these things rather than fight them. The genie came out of the internet bottle years ago. Social networks have allowed us all to chit chat and gossip and exchange information, a bit like we have always done down the pub, but on a globally connected basis. No longer is the dissemination of ‘news’ the divine right of the media. You could argue that newspapers such as The Sun, The News of the World, The Star, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail have blurred the lines between truth and rumour so much in recent years that citizens cannot be blamed for amplifying these stories or indeed making them up for themselves.

As fascinating however, is that the members of the traditional press and media are all calling for these ‘superinjunctions’ to go away, after all some corners of the media relish the power to ‘report freely’. The constant wrangle between what is in the public interest and what is interesting to the public, have blurred the lines. They really don’t want to be held back the poor loves. Equally, their knight in shining armour is not the law makers or law enforcers, but those very same citizen journalists who are held in contempt by some members of the traditional (and regulated) press.

Through the power of Twitter and those who Tweet for fun not money, parts of the Establishment’s legal system has been made to look out of date and completely out of step. Plenty of lawyers are arguing for the right to privacy and plenty are arguing for the right to freedom of information. You just know that if you leave lawyers in charge, you end up with big bills. Meanwhile, it’s Spring time and the birds are tweeting, nature is using entropy to return our man made laws to dust.

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#oneaday 16: NEDS – To be someone is a wonderful thing?

I watched N.E.D.S last night and it was absolutely brilliant and I say that having seen some amazing films so far this year and the back end of last year including The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Another Year, Get Low,  Made in Dagenham, Barney’s Version, Four Lions, The Wildest Dream and of course Inception. But if you are British, went to school in Britain, were ever in a gang, firm or crew, or wanted to be in one, and above all wanted to ‘be someone’, whilst wanting to be yourself, this film is a must.

Set in Glasgow in the 1970’s , it centres around a young, bright lad, John McGill who is faced with the choices of gang membership, class prejudice and a total wanker of a pissed up, wife beating father (who is played by the film’s director, Peter Mullan). The sets, scenes, costume, make up, haor and props are all spot on. One thing you notice is the complete lack of clothing brands, there is a style and identity, but no badge to make the point.  Only in the eighties, did branding become important to youth gangs, a way of identifying and separating them from mainstream society.  So John is a clever kid, and wants to win by coming top of his class each and every time he is tested. His determination is his drive and if there is no outlet for that drive, not end result, it produces frustration and anger.  His brother is the leader of one of the gangs on his estate and his dad is a twat. The rest of the characters are rich and wild, the story is brilliantly told and the acting,  largely by the non actors, is compelling and above all realistic.

I can relate to John’s story in many ways, mind you my father is the best man on the earth and never drinks any alcohol before one assumes too much.  However, the sense of wanting to ‘be someone’, as Paul Weller wrote and The Jam performed ‘is a wonderful thing’. To  belong to a peer group, to prove you can handle yourself, to show your mates you will never back down, always front the opposition. Indeed not only do you not take a step back, you actively seek out and attack the enemy – preferably on their own patch, on their manor, in their face. Anyway,  I was very lucky and although had my fair share of ‘japery’ including a couple of nasty wounds, I had opportunities and the chance of a very good education, even though I managed to drop out of school (or expelled as the letter from school said), went off the rails a tad, but had enough confidence to make my way in the world.

I won’t spoil NEDS. It is too good a story and too well told to need an amateur like me to pimp it. This is a really essential British film and one I would urge anyone who ever wanted to be someone to watch.

Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of corking, relevant tracks from The Jam. Not of the time of NEDS (that is more T-Rex and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band), but the lyrics and attitude sum up the spirit of the age.

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