I recently finished reading HOOD RAT: Britain’s Lost Generation by Gavin Knight, which allowed me to get into the minds and actions of some young individuals mixed up in drugs and gang culture.
Just like John Heale’s One Blood, this book was a learning curve that gave me an even deeper perspective of young people caught up in a dangerous lifestyle in Britain. Reading Hood Rat also reiterated a previous point I made about there being more to young people than what is on the surface – in many cases, there is more to their actions than we realise.
In reference to the 2011 riots, Gavin Knight wrote: “Over two years I’d spoken to so many articulate, even charming young men, lost to a life on the streets. They felt abandoned. When no one cares about you, you are less likely to care about smashing a shop window.”
I continued to see how the system has let so many young individuals down, as they find themselves falling through the cracks. In too many cases, not enough is done to try to help, guide and support them in a bid to turn their life around.
This is made worse when a young person is suffering at home, whether it is because of an absent father, domestic abuse, near poverty, a lack of love, a struggling mother who is working 24/7 or perhaps a number of other factors.
When referring to deprived areas that have seen a surge in youth violence and teenage gangs, Gavin writes: “The absentee father, the brutal stepfather or the depressed, harried mother crop up again and again when I talk to kids who live there. From a very early age, they are told that their lives will amount to nothing.
“They start to believe it, fall behind at school, truant, drift into delinquency and end up in a young offenders’ institution at the cost of £60,000 a year. And the cycle continues. A quarter of young offenders are already fathers.”
Again, I saw that there is a desperate need for us to break the cycle. Once these young people fall into the trap of drugs and gangs, it is hard for them to get out – even if they want to – and they find themselves being pulled in deeper and deeper.
Hood Rat allowed me to empathise with these young men and I sat in sadness, as I read about how just one bad decision or bump in their life could send them on a downward spiral. I even found myself rooting for a violent criminal, in a way, as I did not want him to go to prison for committing a botched-up robbery, because of his back story and the possibility of the person that he could have been.
However, I was also inspired while reading about one woman in particular within the police department, who took a stand in her community and made a real difference. She pummeled forward, interacted effectively with young people and stepped up to make a change in Scotland.
I learned a lot from her and I think that all of us could learn something from her actions. However, we cannot just look to the older generation to make changes for us. As Gavin writes: “This problem is no longer the sole responsibility of the police.”
As young people, we need to step up and make changes within our own generation, which will help us to move forward and create a brighter future for each other. We cannot continue to get swept up in the negative cycle that is bringing so many young people down.
How do you think that you can make a change within your community and stop the cycle?