"Parents are fearful about how they chastise their children," Clasford Stirling, a veteran youth worker, who runs the football club at Broadwater Farm community centre in Tottenham, said. "There's been an erosion of authority for a long time. Parents move very gingerly not to upset their own kids – that's the reality."Ooh, that’s an unfortunate reality. And it's not something everyone who has a brain hasn't seen coming for a long time, as MacHeath points out.
Broadwater Farm estate is again at the centre of the unrest in London. Mark Duggan, whose death last week sparked London's riots, was brought up here, and sent one of his sons to Stirling's football classes. On Wednesday, Stirling was making arrangements for his wake.A youth worker? Is that part of his duties?
Or is he tied to the family somehow?
Strangely, Amelia doesn’t seem to want to find out…
Struggling to make sense of the violence that has turned buildings on Tottenham High Road into smouldering piles of rubble, Stirling wondered whether weakened parental authority might have something to do with it.I’m pretty sure it didn’t help, Stirling.
"Bad behaviour and criminality has been glamorised on the streets. Teachers are scared to punish children. The modern child isn't frightened of their parents. They don't care if the police lock them up," he said.And is that a bad thing, Stirling?
Well, not entirely:
Hovering between sympathy for the youths' sense of alienation and anger at their stupidity, he said the continued police stop-and-search tactics damaged children early on. "There is a big problem with stop and search. These searches leave a scar, a mark on that child. I condemn the violence, but we have to look at the frustration that everyone is going through. They don't have a platform, so they let off their frustration on the streets," he said.It’s good for parents to discipline their child, to lay down rules and boundaries, but not for the police to enforce society’s rules and boundaries?
How’d you work that one out, Stirling?
Highly respected for his work with young people on one of London's most troubled estates, Stirling, who was given an MBE in 2007, has a sharp sense of the unease which has been simmering. This hostility towards the police, combined with an absence of parental discipline made for an explosive combination, he said.The police you in the next breath declare to be the 'enemy' for having the temerity to stop and search them?
"I've been doing this for 32 years, and I am worried. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," he said. "Parents are losing their jobs; that overspills into the family – they can't buy them this or that." For their children "there is a reality to poverty. There are no jobs, they have nothing. What have they got to lose? Some didn't even bother covering their faces. They're not trying to rob the banks, they're going to Currys, they're stealing trainers, they're that poor that they're risking going to jail for a flatscreen television.
"Why aren't the parents calling up their children and saying, 'Come back here at once'? They can't. Those days are gone, that authority has gone. A lot of parents are not able to stop their child from going out. Young people have had enough. Look at how brazen they have become, going right up to police."
Gosh, it’s really hard to see where they pick up those attitudes, isn’t it?
And what about the area’s MP, David ‘Mastermind’ Lammy? Is he going to ‘pass’ on this?
Lammy knows the subject of weak parenting is so politically explosive that he was momentarily reluctant to discuss it at such a tense juncture.
If those people are all spouting the muddled ‘thinking’ of ol’ Stirling, it’s probably just as well. They aren't part of the solution, Lammy. They're part of the problem…
"The right have a lot to say about parenting, but no one on the left wants to talk about this. A void has emerged around it. It's a profound problem."
He laments the closure of a number of local youth clubs as a result of funding cuts.
"These were some of the people who could talk to these young people, and they've lost their jobs."
Across London in Kilburn, Jane (who asked for her own name and her son's to be changed) said being a mother to teenage sons in central London had been a "horrendous" experience. Her 18-year-old son, Luke, was arrested on Sunday night, with a group of seven other boys aged between 14 and 19, on an estate in Kilburn, erecting a barricade to stop police cars entering the estate. Some of the other boys in the group threw stones at a police car, scratching the paintwork. They spent 22 hours in police cells, and Jane heard nothing about where he was, until he was released without charge on Monday night.It’s telling that no mention is made of Mr Anonymous, the children’s father, isn’t it? And are we supposed to assume that this is the first time ever little Luke has been incommunicado for a night?
Neither Luke, who has trained as an electrician, nor his elder brother, 20, can find work. "It makes me depressed and angry," Jane said. "I've always made sure they go to college to get decent qualifications, and it's just pointless. The longer they have no work, the longer they get used to lying about and not doing anything, then the less they want to work.But as we’ve just seen from the list of those charged so far, it’s not lack of a job that causes riots or looting!
If he was going to work, he'd be coming home at 6 or 7 and he'd be too tired to be hanging around on the street at night."
Sitting with his mother on the sofa, under instructions not to go back to the estate that evening, Luke agreed. "You can't find work, so you stay on the streets. If I'd had a job I wouldn't have been out late on Sunday night."
Luke has his own clear, if idiosyncratic, moral code. While he supports protesting against the police, he disapproves of the stealing./facepalm
His hatred of the police comes from having been stopped and searched on an almost daily basis since he was 14, he says.Even allowing for hyperbole, and it being just every other day, that’d be 730 stops! He would need his own hard drive on the PNC!
Surely there are some adults in this hellhole, some people in a position of authority, that don’t blame everything on some mythical ‘other’?
That’ll be a ‘No’ then.
Yanna McIntosh, a volunteer youth worker with children and young people aged between 11 and 24, said as a parent she also worried most about effect of stop and searches on young boys. "You've got people here who have been turned into criminals by the stop-and-search policies. They are rude and intimidating and bullying. I have first-hand experience of that. That's what begins the violence," she said. She recoiled at any government criticism of parenting, pointing out that new policies forcing single mothers to start looking for work when their child turned five, were making life very difficult.*sigh*
That’ll be a ‘No’ then.