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Gangs, the good old days and contemporary naivety

Innocent times. How often have we heard those two words, anexercise in retrospection, uttered by a speaker from behind rose-tinted specs?

Innocent times: when hospital consultants were doctors whowore bow ties rather than accountants wielding red pens; when the radio newswas read by men in dinner jackets and the (dreaded) commercial radio”weathergirl” was as distant a prospect as a neutrino breaking Einstein’s speed limit; when you could “leave your front door open”. Enough, before Iruminate about old maids cycling to church and drum majors (pictured) strutting their stuff at the Festival of Britain. 

drum majors.jpg

Whether those innocent times went through the mind of Londonmayor Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference as he set out hisvision to reduce gang activity only he knows. Certainly his insistence thatmiscreants desist from swearing at the police sounded like a paean to thoseapparently golden days.

I was reminded of the aforementioned innocent times at the weekend whilereading these comments about public disorder attributed to a senior policeofficer.

“A strange lack of parental control in these modern days,caused by mistaken kindness and the fallacies of modern psychiatric education.The hysterical clamouring of youth for any sort of adventure…” And so it goeson.

Another comment came from a senior worker – probably avoluntary worker – with young people: “There is a dangerously soft attitudepresent which whittles away all personal responsibility for wrong doing, andthe child comes to regard himself not as sinful, but just as ‘a psychologicalcase’.”

Stirring stuff. Only the comments were made in, um, innocenttimes: in the mid-1950s as the “cosh boys” and razor gangs were taking theirbrand of violence to the streets of Britain.

I cribbed the quotes from Family Britain, part of historianDavid Kynaston’s Tales of New Jersusalem series on post-war Britain.

But they do make us question whether our yearning for “moreinnocent times” is merely a reflection of our contemporary naïvety.

Picture: Rex Features

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