So here we are then. If not quite Clockwork Orange, then a kind of Kubrick-Lite, Thatcher-inspired, societyless society. And the parents are to blame. Obviously. Except this time, the chief constable of Cheshire has made it clear that it is not only a small hard core of parents who are to blame for their specific children, but all parents. And the schools. They all have a responsibility to inculcate morally upright thinking and behaviour in the next generation, proper attitudes to alcohol included. The police are doing the best they can.
The problem is, this time I find myself agreeing, in a sort-of abstract way. Oh, it is so easy to blame parents. There they are, busy not bringing up their children not talking with them, not eating with them, not helping with homework. And letting them stay up late drinking and making noise. So much easier to point the finger than to ask questions of ourselves. And of course safer. It is, after all, not recommended that we get involved in dealing with unruly children lest we be hurt ourselves. But each time we ask about the state we’re in or about what has happened to society we implicate ourselves. We are, after all, a part of society and our own behaviour and attitudes contribute to its development.
So what is to be done? More and more laws are not enough. We need to ask questions. How does our attitude to work affect family life? What is the impact of the long working week and short holidays we tolerate in Britain, the long hours at the office for parents and long hours in child care? Are we happy about the degree of violence, including sexual violence, portrayed on film and television? How do we want to see better youth provision funded? Would we be prepared to see changes to the sale of alcohol which might inconvenience us personally? Why do we find it so hard to believe parents when they do ask for help with their wayward or aggressive teenagers – it’s so much easier to criticise them for their poor parenting.
It would be naïve to assume that there is a quick fix solution to this tragic situation in which we find ourselves. Nothing can compare with the terrible loss felt by the families of those killed by gangs of youths on a spree of violence and destruction. But each death has an impact on society as a whole, and each of us must take responsibility for working towards ensuring that the current untenable situation doesn’t just carry on.
Helen Bonnick is a supervisor of school-home support workers and a social worker