Listening to the usual diatribe on the Today programme, this morning being one extremely wet (and bent) ex-policeman named Brian Paddick nodding along mostly in agreement with some young black actor Femi Oyeniran who had risen above the norm by having a job and using words with more than one syllable. The subject of the discussion was knife crime, stop-and-search and the usefulness of that particular tactic in limiting the numbers of young men who carried and used knives.
The young actor was impressive, and more than a bit surprising in his statement that he not only applauded stop-and-search tactics, he believed that there should be more searches, but better targeted. He also stated that to the average young black man, the police were taken as just another annoyance, because of the belief that most young blacks were into drugs and/or knives; which belief, incidentally, he believed was widely correct.
But the kicker in the commentary came when the subject of role-models came up, with Mr. Oyeniran stating that there were very few black role models to whom the majority of black men could aspire or emulate, naming David Lammy M.P. as but one. Brian Paddick however stated that, in his view, the role models on most inner-city estates were the drug dealers; those who had the gold jewellery and big car ‘bling’.
Now apart from the use of that truly dreadful term ‘bling’ which I assume covers the tasteless displays of necklaces, rings on the wearers’ necks and wrists, and, in the case of cars; contra-rotating spinning wheel trims, I would query the ethos and thinking behind the search for a role-model. This is the type of glitz which these youngsters aspire to, partly because this is what they see as a direct result of criminal behaviour, but partly because of a total lack of family life for the vast majority of this large sub-culture which we have imported from the West Indies and sub-Saharan Africa.
My role model was my father. He might not have been the best father ever born, but he had certain things going for him. He was born and brought up on a Northern Irish farm, came to England to meet and marry my mother; volunteered for service in the British Army the day after the Second World War commenced. The only knife my Dad carried for six-odd years was a bayonet slotted on the end of a rifle! On demob, he came back to Newcastle, and helped bring his children up according to his rules, which were possibly harsh, but never varied; if you stepped out of line, you got clobbered! He had one woman in his life, namely my mother, and never varied in his support for her. He was given a health ultimatum, changed his job and way of life, and commenced upon a new career in middle age. In many things I disagreed with my Dad, from politics to sport, but one thing you could rely on, he never changed, never varied. He was a rock in what was a hard place, and I miss him greatly, even some nearly thirty years after his death. He didn’t need gold jewellery, he didn’t need a flash car; people knew that with him you got exactly what saw on the label, a man who was strong enough to flatten an unruly drunk as well as being a father who brought his family into adulthood to become responsible British subjects.
That is the single difference between people of my generation and that following, and the majority of the generation of young black men under discussion. I had a father and a mother who brought us up to a certain code; the vast majority of young blacks seem at least to this observer have possibly a mother in their lives, but hardly ever a father-figure, because most disappear shortly after either conception or birth of their offspring; and this is their greatest loss!