Na wa for the youth ‘dem of Britain.
Speaking as one who was very nearly caught up in the craziness that broke out in leafy, suburban Ealing, West London a few Monday’s ago, my first reaction to the situation was one of anger. I wished I had some sort of super power to fly into the midst of the rioters and super slap them back under whatever rock they crawled out from.
As I returned to the safety of my home, I couldn’t help but hum the lyrics of Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey’s 70’s classic – I forget the name but it went like this, “War against indiscipline, let us be orderly, orderliness is everything, let us be orderly” over and over in my head. The lyrics of the song seemed appropriate to the current UK riot crisis. In the UK and elsewhere, it seems unruliness and a lack of shame are the order of the day and discipline has become an out of vogue virtue.
The happenings of the past week caused me to juxtapose the stance of the British Police with our Nigerian Police Force. It is quite likely that the destruction carried out by the looters may not have reached such a scale in Nigeria. Some Sergeants would have dispersed the rioters by shooting into the open air and would have probably proceeded into the vandalised shops to help themselves. I jest, but even destruction happy teenagers would have a fear for their lives when confronted by an armed officer. Whereas in Britain they take a soft touch approach, so soft touch, that ordinary passive civilians are now calling for a return to corporal punishment after the things they witnessed! Some even called for the army to step in but once you get the army in anything, it becomes difficult to get them out (please see Afghanistan, Iraq and even Nigeria’s recent history!).
Police Officers in the UK are armed with only a baton and face various degrees of consequences for using it against alleged felons (they better get themselves ready for a lawsuit). Criminals who behave worse than animals, destroying the lives of others and showing no regard for the law, have rights too you know!
Clearly, there is little shame in stealing or even going to prison among many youth and in some neighbourhoods a prison record is a badge of honour. You don’t get any respect until you’ve done time! For such there are no limits as to how far they will submerge themselves in degradation. Young men and women without a cause, stealing and destroying just for fun, kicks and greed – and of course it begs the question; how has this occurred? Why have such disgusting pastimes become a pursuit of the impressionable youth?
I suppose some will blame the government, others will blame teachers or society in general, while some will point fingers at television and violent video games; in other words the entertainment industry. It is easy and obvious to find cause at these doors but when I was a teenager I did not look to the government or television to direct me in life, I looked to my parents. I feared disappointing those that provided for me and that kept me in check. My parents were also God-fearing and they passed this virtue on to me. At the back of my mind, I knew if they didn’t get me, my Maker was watching!
Perhaps encouragement towards strengthening the family unit, however untraditional a family it might be, is part of the answer as well as reaching an efficient medium in law enforcement. Wrong-doers need to be afraid of getting caught because of the penalties they will face and the penalties need to match the crimes committed. I tell you something for free, one can only appreciate the value of shame when you have to deal with people that have none. I am no law-maker but I figure moderation in all things will never lead one astray.
Recently, I had dinner with a friend and she was telling me how she had done some charity work in Mwala, Kenya. She told me how the women she met in the village were all AIDs widows but had such a strong community spirit and were incredibly welcoming. I couldn’t help thinking how funny human nature is and how sometimes it takes hardship, loss and tough times to bring out the best or in some cases the worst in us. Some of the people who came together to perform the after riots clean-up operation in the UK may well have been neighbours for years but had never spoken and suddenly through this joint adversity were brought shoulder to shoulder.
If nothing else, then surely these incidents have helped us appreciate peace and normality. But even more so, it shows that we need to think deeply about tomorrow’s youth and the instruments by which they are raised.
Photo Credit: www.bbc.co.uk