Year of the Knife.

Just after 11pm on Thursday, Alex Mulumba Kamondo and two friends got off a bus in Lambeth, south London. Witnesses say they had been arguing with a group of eight youths. A few minutes later Alex and his friends were surrounded by a heavily armed gang which had been re-enforced by young men from a local council estate. Alex received a single stab wound to the heart from a sharp object up to two feet in length. He died in hospital a few hours later.

I know Lambeth well and I quite understand the reasons why kids get into gangs and gangfights and even why they bully those such as Damilola Taylor who don’t seem to”fit in.” As Shaun Bailey ; author of a pamphlet called No Man’s Land: How Britain’s Inner City Young Are Being Failed puts it:

You defend your ‘ends’, your locale, because you don’t want to be seen to come from where the ‘pussies’ live. You club together loosely to make sure you stand up for each other

Generations of inner-city children know that to be true; however well they manage to hide it all from their parents. I still have scars on the left side of my face from being hit by a nail-studded club during a massively one-sided territorial gang-fight which occurred in Brixton when I was 17. My assailants could easily finished me off whilst I was lying on the ground with blood streaming from my face – something, however held them back from doing so. That “something” is no longer part of the make-up of British youth. Attitudes towards violence have fundamentally changed in the last couple of decades. An unwritten “rule” which was only previously broken by those wishing to be spoken of in awed tones as “psychopaths” has vanished into the ether; taking part of our humanity with it.

Bailey again: Imagine you are a nine-year-old boy living here. You see these groups of older boys. They seem to be tough. They seem to be having a good time. Nobody interferes with them. You want to be a man and these appear to be men to you.

Nobody interferes with them

Just how true is that statement?

All their talk is about f***ing people up. There is no notion of conflict resolution other than battering people. Violence is deeply ingrained in their culture of ‘respect’. They have to take people on just because what is said might be disrespectful to them. They have to batter them. They have to be in charge. To be in charge, they have to be physically violent.

Thirty years ago I almost chose to go to the same comprehensive where Alex Mulumba Kamondo was learning to be a man. Such schools have always been rough places where teachers have little (if any) control over the alternative power-structures which are already firmly in place on the day that the smiling primary-school kids first come through the school gates. In such an “educational establishment” merely to be different from the prevailing norm is to ask for trouble, and to be categorized as “gay” (even on the basis of perhaps only a recurring mannerism) is to be condemned to five years of misery which would bear comparison to the stories of survival told by a victim of any 20th century atrocity.

I actually ended up going to an even worse comprehensive a couple of miles away from Kingsdale school. A few weeks after I first arrived I got into a silly fight with an older kid and after we had traded a few blows he laughed and told me I had “spirit.” His name was Tony Thomas and you can read the story of what has been happening to him recently here

A real Socialist government would be dealing with the cycle of violence and alternative power-structures in state institutions as a matter of the greatest urgency. This is not “moral panic” but a fundamental condition of modernity which urgently needs to be dealt with.

There is no bigger scandal in Tony Blair’s Britain than that such systematic child abuse, which is condoned by adults in positions of supposed “responsibilty” is being allowed to blight the futures of even one more generation of inner-city kids.