Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cut to the End...

I've just seen the news. A rant follows. Forgive me.

Should you idly flick your gogglebox across to a news show right now – and I’m talking specifically to UK readers here – you’re likely to be confronted by a series of grotesque images just like the one below. They’re taken from a brand new advertising campaign being rolled out across the country, designed to apply the brakes to the latest Scourge Of The Nation: urban teenagers carrying knives.

(Context Control: the knife thing – specifically a rash of recent teenage deaths – is the substance of a news story which is neither particularly new or particularly scourge-y. The advertising campaign is just a tasty new angle.)

The campaign works – so say those responsible – by graphically revealing what knife wounds really look like. This, we are told, is Shock Tactics! This is punching through the desensitized preconceptions of urban youth! Slapping them out of their thoughtless routines with a dose of cold hard reality!


Am I the only one who thinks this is really fucking stupid?

No one, kid or otherwise, is going to stop carrying a dangerous weapon just because a government spokesman has popped up to point out – guess what? – it’s dangerous.

“Dangerous?” declares our hypothetical Lambeth lad, staring in dewy-eyed horror at one of the posters. “Really? Sweet jesus! Here I was, thoughtlessly carrying around this magnificent titanium-alloy machete, imagining in my na├»ve little way that it’s a harmless accessory… when all along I’ve been capable of murder. I’ve learned something today. That’s it for me. I’m through with carrying knives.”

Yes. Yes, this is how the campaign works. Yes.

No. Don’t be stupid.

Ignore, for a moment, the fact that "shock tactics" have never been proven to work in campaigns like this, and in fact whiff suspiciously like the leftovers of an 80’s HIV crusade. Ignore that the campaign is achieving precisely the opposite of its desired effect by reassuring knife-carriers that, yep, these steely little buggers really are an effective and efficient way of meting out injury. Ignore, even, the rather silly tagline across the poster (“if you carry a knife, you’re more likely to get stabbed yourself…”) which completely misses the point that you’re even more likely to get stabbed if your peers are expecting you to be carrying a knife and you’re not. Ignore all that. What’s really depressing about this campaign is that it utterly fails to take into account the real reason that kids carry knives. Drum-roll:

Posturing. It’s that simple. Sorry.
Your mates carry knives: so do you. The kid you hate carries a kitchen knife; you carry a cleaver. Your big brother trades-in his 6” doubled-edged rubber-sheathed hunting knife for a pitchblacked Burmese machete, you ask him to get one for you too.

Not “for protection” – which is the Stock Answer your average Berkshire-accented BBC pinstriped scumfuck reporter will get when he dares to venture into (boo, hiss) “gang territory”. Not “out of fear”, as the more histrionic social welfare Experts will decry, when wheeled out for the 6.07pm “comment” slot of the evening news. Not even because of “ghetto culture”, whatever the Daily Mail may think that is.

Showing kids that the knives they carry can inflict Real And Lasting damage on people – damage which might even be returned upon themselves – is not telling them anything new. We’ve got to stop assuming these kids have had some kind of malfunction in their common sense or moral decency, and that by merely appealing to their Good Nature they’ll drop their knives and reform. No, no, no. Urban culture has absorbed weapons-as-accessories very comfortably indeed, whilst conspicuously failing to simultaneously spawn a generation of idiots or Evil Scumbags. This is not a question of sense or moral bankruptcy.

No, it’s posturing. Really. I know that’s boring, but there you go. And posturing, naturally enough, can sometimes overspill into action. Thus the deaths.

So what’s the solution?
Why, it's obvious:

Teach ‘em the bloody Queensberry Rules.
Yeah, and do it from an early age too. Diagrams in kindergarten. Mock-fights in infant school. Stiff upper lips and God Save the bloody Queen!

No, okay, I’m being silly. I haven’t gone all Daily Telegraph just yet ("string 'em up!" "national service for everyone!").
But I am sort of fond of the spirit of all that Jolly Hockeysticks stuff... The sense of honour; of settling a dispute like a Bloody Good Chap rather than a Rotter. And most importantly, the notion that weapons are – frankly – a bit fucking cowardly.

That’s how you change knife culture. Not with posters confirming that “knives kill”. Not with TV campaigns endlessly reminding kids how the punishments are getting harsher and harsher. Not with metal detectors at schools and Knife Amnesties and blah blah blah.
No. You drum it into kids from an early age – school, TV, cartoons, posters, and parents parents parents – that a guy who carries a knife is a spineless pusillanimous gutless fuckup with no skills of his own, no honour, and a very very small penis.
Watch him try and posture then.

1 comment:

Darcey Spemcer said...

fucking brilliant I think kids that carry knives aren't confident in their boxing or flat out don't know how to fight period. and probably some of the knife thing is to scare away possible fist fights when all they need to do is learn hand to hand combat.