Desensitized Youth – So how did that happen?

Well it is not really rocket science is it. The media, entertainment, fashion, sport and fast food industries of course!

Back in the day I remember being coaxed into buying a milky bar by a little bespectacled boy wearing a cowby outfit. He used to shout “the milky bars are on us” – This was misleading advertising of course as my gran used to have to pay for them!

Fast forward a few years to when I used to creep into the Crown Tavern on the Albert Embankment SE11 to play the space invader machine when I was still only 14. ten pence in the slot and away I would go off into a world of my own. Saving the galaxy from a load of little green men who were marching down the screen in single file trying to shoot me before I shot them – Ducking in and out behind the rock shape thing that gave me sanctuary – I can still remember the adrenalin rush when I reached a new level and the feeling of frustration when I narrowly failed to beat my best score before lost my final life.

when you look back at our youth we always allow ourself a little leeway for nostalgia of course – Things always seem to have been rosier in the garden when we were kids… Well the thing is.. They were!

The Milky bar kid got elbowed aside by Ronald Macdonald a long time ago and the little green men have been replaced by real life human looking avitars that kids are encouraged to stab, shoot and run over in some cases (AKA Grand Theft Auto) – All in the name of entertainment of course. The marketing industry has been eating away at the “generation NOW” consumer market for a long time – Kids are made to feel second class citizens in the school playground these days if their trainers do not have 3 stripes or a giant tick (swoosh!) on them.

We live in a different age. An age where greed is seen to be good and materialism is driven by the media. Four page pull out supplements telling young people all about the latest overnight celebrities uncovered by the producers of BIG BROTHER and rain forests wiped out by the X Factor phenomenon with the amount of tabloid coverage. Ever seen the statistics for what generation is most widely phoning in their votes to help pay for Simon Cowells next private jet or Florida mansion? Why its the youth market of course.

Mobile phones.. Wow can you imagine what the Milky Bar kid would have made of mobile phones – Anyone know a young person who has not got one? Oh and the people they put on Big Brother and the X Factor – Can you believe how many of them end up having skeletons in the closet? ironic acts of fate or cynical exploitation to keep the ratings up and the tabloid coverage thick and lurid ? You choose.

Get rich quick – oh and yes of course the Apprentice with Sir Alan Sugar. Stab everyone in the back and have the scruples of an alley cat – Come out on top and you can be the next big success story – What message does this kind of programme give out?

Then there is Premier League football – The kids must have the shirt, the coloured boots and Sky TV subscription – Their idols.. The top players.. Role models?

In summary I think that times have changed very dramatically and young people have been targetted at younger and younger ages by the media and marketing companies… the innocence has been stripped away from youth and it is the adult world that are responsible.

Look at the fashion industry and the way it targets young girls. The fast food industry with its special offers and ever bigger burgers. The music industry with its download must have new releases and ring tones and now of course the new phenomenon of social media. Get the kids all into one place and then attack them with marketing messages and graphic images from every direction – Have you seen the branding on facebook or BEBO recently? – Look at youth culture programming now like SKINS and HOLLYOAKES – If a kid is not having sex reguarly by 16, doing drugs and drinking alcopops then it seems they are not normal according to the tone of these kinds of programme. Then there are all the new lifestyle mags that target girls but position boys with “attitude” as being cool – Has anyone been noticing that teenage girls reguarly put people like Colleen Rooney down as their perfect role model. I am not knocking Colleen she seems a really nice girl with some very good attributes. Lets be clear though the career choice she took after leaving school with no qualifications and no job is not one we should be suggesting ANY young girl takes let along be allowing her to become an iconic role model. Ironic in the extreme (and if you are wearing your brand colleen perfume right at the moment I am sure it is very nice so please dont think I am being critical of the way you smell! lol)

Anyway before I go off into a complete rant – Simply blaming bad parenting for the difference in attitude we see in young people today is not going to solve anything…… materialism driven through the media is at the heart of so much that has gone wrong… The must have and must have quick culture that sees yesterdays latest mobile phone redundant by tomorrow…. We need to think about how this can be adressed.. If indeed it can be.. The horse has bolted and the barn door is wide open!

Let us never forget that the vast majority of young people turn out well no matter what bad influences might lay in wait for them….. If we are going to find solutions for the feral minority that wreak havoc in some communities then we need first to recognise that things have changed and part of that change may well be that the feral youth are a product of our own making…… be the change you want to be… How poignant!

Now.. where did I leave that Milky Bar?

G x



It will be  a year since the murder of 16-year-old Agnes Sina-Inakoju who was shot in the neck as she queued to buy food in a chicken shop in Hoxton North London on April 14th 2010. An innocent bystander caught in the middle of a savage turf war between rival gangs of cowardly young thugs. Guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Agnes was a brilliant student and had a long and prosperous life ahead of her. To her family of course she was still just a baby stolen from the heart of their very existence. Her life-force ripped away by an act of callous violence when a stupid feral little boy, decided to shoot indiscriminately through a shop window. A stupid feral little boy with a gun. His shooting skills probably honed on his Sony play station in his bedroom.

At the time of her death the media made some mentions about it maybe being a tipping point – The local community was up in arms. Politicians talked of a radical clamp down on gang activity. Other victim families spoke out and the news cameras followed the families distress right to the funeral while the tabloids made hay with their condemnation.

On the 30th March 2011 a little 5-year-old little girl by the name of Thusha Kamaleswaran was in a small family run convenience store in Stockwell, South London visiting friends with her mum. Wrong place, wrong time again as the feral evil on push bikes came calling. Once again a wannabe mobster teenage monster fired indiscriminately through a shop window, this time hitting a 5-year-old baby. Let us give thanks to God that she has survived, Physically if not mentally. Will the scars and nightmares ever heal entirely? I would doubt it the poor little mite will probably live her entire life in fear that the monsters will come back.

Once again the media has been up in arms and prominent politicians are promising clamp downs and tough action. Noise… Lots of noise. On the 30th March 2011 @ 2pm I had attended a Home Office round table meeting on youth gang and gun culture chaired by the current Home Secretary. A Lady who had called me almost a Year ago shortly after taking office saying she was looking forward to meeting with me and discussing the work of the Damilola Taylor Trust. The meeting was arranged and then cancelled at a few hours notice due to her being busy elsewhere. This round table was subsequently the first time I had seen her in the flesh. Almost a Year on and it has never been rescheduled. I did send a couple of email asking whether it could be put back in the diary but when they never got any response I gave up. So there I was sat at the round table listening to her orchestrating a questions and answers session about youth crime. The most interesting thing of note I can tell you about the meeting is that the table is not round. There are so many small organisations and youth agencies sat around it that if it were round it would probably circumnavigate the M25 – Suffice to say I don’t think these meetings achieve much. There is so little cohesion in the way things are done anyway that when they sit there and talk about issues prevalent to London….the Mayors office are not even represented when they hold all the budgets for London youth crime. Crimestoppers are not part of the round table either. What the hell are the Damilola Taylor Trust with our limited resource and ability to actually effect change doing sat round the table when Crimestoppers are not there you might ask? Good question is all I can respond with. I have no idea! I have asked many times but nobody has ever given an answer.

Clearly though the system that runs the way youth crime is tackled in London is not working and given the same people who are running the system are the same people who were running the system under the previous Government I don’t see it is the Government that can take the blame. They can take the blame for not changing the system of course but then the economy has been the absolute number one priority of the coalition by a long way with law and order seemingly off their priority list. Strange for a Tory led Government given Law and order has always been high on their parties manifesto’s. It is particularly galling for me given the shadow Home Secretary under the Tories during the general election had spoken at length with us directly about the flaws he saw in the system and his great passion for tackling the issues at root – He even attended work shops we organised with some of the hardest to reach youngsters involved in gang activity in one particular area of London which we also arranged for members of Families utd to attend.

Anyway, things have obviously changed in more ways than one and the evidence that this Government is not focused enough on tackling youth crime is summarised here in one particularly stomach churning example of the World gone mad. It is the case of the magistrate who fined a youth £300 for stabbing 3 others leaving one on a life support machine.

Mr Cameron should have fired this magistrate. Pure and simple this is not like a football referee who is at liberty to make mistakes and keep his job. This is somebody charged with making judgements that can directly affect the welfare and safety of our young people. This one malfunctioned with this judgement and should have been sacked. Once again though I fear it is an indication that the “system” that runs the country is flawed and the Government is currently looking incapable of fixing it. They are putting their noses into conflicts all around the world and speaking of “protecting innocent civilians” – What about the innocent civilians who cannot buy chicken or gum in local community stores in London without fear of being shot dead, Mr Cameron?

Let us worry about the problems in our own back yards before we worry about the problems in Libya or Bahrain – Talking of back yards though brings my focus onto the “what if” factor – Given that Stockwell and Hoxton are not necessarily the most prominent places visited by the well to heeled – What if the next time a gang of hooded feral’s wealding guns chases down their intended victims into a packed Waitrose in Hampstead where the white middle class take their 5 year olds to shop – WHAT IF????

Let me be clear – I do not believe that the Government alone can resolve the problem of gang culture. In fact they have no chance. Nor do the police. When you get young boys of 14 years old running around with guns shooting indiscriminately into shop windows you need to treat it as a huge alarm call. The community itself needs to wake itself up and realise that the problem needs resolving by adopting a zero tolerance to gang culture that is breeding in its midst and has been for far too long. When two young boys from Peckham were described as “Peckham Boys” at their trial into the murder of Damilola because of their affiliation to a local gang perhaps not enough attention was paid to the problem. Now it is an epidemic.

In the 4 years I have been involved with the Damilola Taylor Trust I have met some remarkable people. The most impressive of which have been young people who come out of the toughest areas of London but who have such a great passion to succeed in life. They more than anyone are the victims of the small feral minority who blight the black community with their feral activity. Yes – The black community. Most of the best and most upstanding young people I work with come from the black community. Like me they share a colour blind approach to life but if it needs to be broken down then yes it is the black community whose box they would tick on an application form that asks for ethnicity. It makes my blood boil that they should need to read yet again after this latest atrocity the same descriptive narrative that was attached to the headlines in Hoxton last year “BLACK YOUTHS WERE SEEN RUNNING FROM THE CRIME SCENE” – It almost makes the term “black youth” seem derogatory – We cannot escape the fact that it is what it is but at the same time when are the community going to rise as one and say “enough is enough” on behalf of the huge majority of black youths who don’t deserve this shit!

Do we really want to sit back and wait until the incident in Hampstead or Richmond waitrose occurs for real? Of course we don’t.

It is time for action and it is time for action NOW. A stand needs to be made and the deafening sound of silence from leading black musicians towards the evil of gang culture needs to be challenged for one thing. So does the fact that Gang culture was imported from America and music and fashion are at it the core of its adopted style. The big American youth brand such as Nike – Why cannot they come out and call for a stand to be taken? Scared of losing sales perhaps? It might be cool to have attitude but it is not cool to be evil and gang culture is evil pure and simple.

The police cannot move into built up residential areas and arrest every large group of young people gathered together who just might be in a gang. The local communities know very well who these gangs are however and they can move against them. ostracize them and drive them out if you have any inkling that they are acting violently. Form local community safety committees and do not fear bringing the police in or working with crimestoppers. Speak to their parents and if the parents do not want to help then report them to the local council – Let the shooting of a 5-year-old innocent child be the tipping point that the slaying of an innocent 16 year old should have been 12 months ago. Make a stand for decency and for the good of the entire community – Black and white.

We are all in this together!

Gary – Damilola Taylor Trust

PS: Why crimestoppers should not be ignored by the Home Office