It is even more shameful that it has distracted from the fact that Britain is a chronically Paedophobic state, which only sees young people as a menace to be defeated as ruthlessly as possible.
The inevitable tactic of the right, when cornered as they are today, is to demand "Well, what would YOU do?"After all, they don't know. The hope being that there is no hope. The implication being that, in this case, the only way to teach children respect is to make them afraid, as embodied in the teachings of The Lewis Cult. The confusion between Respect and Fear is common among petty dictators and tories of every stripe. And naturally, the only remedy within their scope is fear. Teach other people to be afraid of you and they will do what you want them to - whatever that might be.
Nowhere, in the squalid lexicon of right wing so-called 'thought' is the notion that the main beneficiary of sociable behaviour is the person behaving sociably. That Virtue is It's Own Reward. Everywhere, the message is that 'Values must be instilled' in some forceful, no-nonsense manner, by repetitive physical violence if necessary. Tough Love. Lots of shouting and bullying - as in The Lewis Cult. Teach kids that the way to succeed is to be fearsome, and that will stop them carrying knives. It is perhaps Johnson's greatest betrayal of London that he fails to see the absurdity of that infantile proposition.
I realise the reactionary right haven’t got a clue about all this. It is unfair to expect them to. By definition, their primitive anti-social ideology is incapable of understanding how society works, and so cannot be expected to come up with any ideas for making it better – not that they want to, of course. Their objective has never been a better society but a more profitable one for the few greedy, ruthless, selfish, unscrupulous people willing to exploit the disadvantages of others. As this week’s shameful revelations have shown – and co-incedentally, as was also revealed by the story recounted this week of the struggle to establish proper health care in Britain against the concerted and rabid opposition of the tories and their cronies.
So to create a better society, sympathetic to the needs of children and their parents, the forces which are destroying the communities which used to mitigate anti-social behaviour have to be faced down.
- Control the property market.
- Bring the car industry to heel.
- Make the owners of the hate-mongering gutter press pay some tax.
- Provide proper places where young people can meet and learn how to engage with one another and people of different ages.
- Restore community centres to communities, and communities to the people who live in them.
In the last 60 years, most of Victorian Britain has been finally buried. By 1970 most houses in the country had plumbing, electricity and access to a free painless dentist. The NHS was thought to be one of the last nails in the coffin, as it was. But there is still one task left for any politician seeking to fully provide for Britain that which a ramshackle Victorian Free Market system cannot. Namely, a National Youth Service, to replace the current ragbag of charities, voluntary organisations, local government initiatives, Coca Cola marketing opportunities, religious madrassars of all faiths, and straightforward loony sect leaders and charlatans like Ray Lewis - all failing miserably to deliver any significant results in the battle against the sickness inflicting the young generation - the rulers of the future.
A casual glance will show that the current youth provision landscape as chaotic and devastated as the post-Somme post-Great Depression medical provision which confronted Bevan and Beveridge. It is the job which the Attlee government might have got around to in a second term had it realised that when the bombsites and other free play spaces had been redeveloped, and Britain grown prosperous and frantic once more, that the needs of children would tend to be forgotten, as they have been, with the result that they are now killing each other in London at the rate of about one a week.
Tackling this will provoke just as much opposition and hatred as did Nye's Bevan's Act of Parliament to save the health of the nation from the profiteering quacks and self-appointed quartermasters of national pain and relief, the tory BMA. Any act of parliament will face blatant anti-democratic sabotage, as committed by the medical profession in 1948. So it will take a very large politician to lead such an initiative. And that is the problem.
"Where oh where is he? Where can that man be?"He or she will have to face even more vitriol and lies than did Bevan, if that is possible, given the expansion of the mass media since that time. But whoever it is, they can take hope from events in the most unexpected of places, the deep south of the USA, from the chilliest corners of which Ray Lewis sought inspiration for his doctrine of Marching to Strength, but also where Barack O'bama is now using the power of personal publishing to win in states where jews are traditionally too black.
Kids now have a voice of their own. Some of them, a representative section, are able to voice their concerns and articulate their needs. When confronted with the "harsh voices " raised against improving public health, Nye Bevan only had the "silent voices of the poor" to comfort him. This time, the voices would not be quite so silent - if there are any politicians with Nye Bevan's guts.
Ray Lewis's passport to the unquestioning adulation of the tory party was, as far as anyone can discover, that he was:
a) not afraid to deliver the good old 'Clip Round The Ear' to any child who displeased him, and anyone who does that is fine by your average tory.
b) That he had something called 'charisma'. The ability to influence others.
Much nearer the truth is the theory that he was merely a weirdo cult leader who seemed to have had a pathological need to shout and scream at children. Whatever he was really, David Cameron loved him for it. Both seem to be nothing but sad reactionaries who can't tell Respect from Intimidation.
Nye Bevan had charisma and could make things happen. He was a dreamer and a builder. Ray Lewis is just a drab little glory-seeking power-worshipper of the most orthodox kind, as are his tory admirers. If only they were to realise that the NHS started life, not in the learned mind of Beveridge, or the political ambitions of Nye Bevan, but anonymously, on some cold wet Wednesday night in Tredegar in the 1890's, when a resolution would have been passed to establish the Tredegar Worker's Medical Aid Society. There will be minutes somewhere detailing who originally realised that a co-operative effort would provide far more peace, health, relief and happiness than the survival of the economically fittest, as was the delusion at that time. But there is no statue to him or her outside Bart's or King's or across the Thames from Parliament at St Thomas hospital. As is often the case, the nameless and silent are often responsible for far more good than the noisy and famous.
There are a smattering of organisations now which understand the genuine needs of young minds and bodies, and which are fighting a losing battle against the rod-wielding gutter press, determined as ever that pain should always be available as a means of controlling youth. But they can never hope to succeed while they rely on random patronage, and for as long as their methods and ideas remain unmonitored and largely untested.
But in general, the field of 'play provision' is a branch of the construction industry. A cash-cow for a grant-chasing cabal of second rate landscape gardeners with a portfolio of second year BA designs to palm off on gullible councillors and residents' associations over-stuffed with leaseholders - whose only concern is that it doesn't cost them any money, and it takes the sound of children away from their windows. For some reason, children's voices do not add to the value of an ex-Right To Buy property. Shabby little spiv outfits with names like 'Spacewurx' and 'GroundSpace' are all too ready to cover land with great play potential with their bland, dead flatpack solutions. They should be the first to be taken out and shot.
Bernard Crick, the prominent biographer of George Orwell claimed in one of the centenary TV documentaries that Orwell said he would have given up all his literary achievements to have been Prime Minister Nye Bevan's speechwriter in a socialist government. I would dearly love to know the source of that claim. It says everything about two of the greatest Britons ever, both of whom would readily accept that the real work of civilisation is done by the little nameless people of history. Like the people who created the Tredegar Workers Medical Aid Society, even though it was only a matter of self-defence, rather than any great money-making scheme. Perhaps somewhere there is an organisation now at work with young people, and a humanitarian strong enough to champion its vision, which could together do for Britain's neglected and alienated young people what T.W.M.A.S. and Nye Bevan did for the nation's health.
See Also: 'Kiddispoons'