Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Interrupt the Hip Hop to Bring You Something Serious....

John Denham (MP for one of the Southampton contituencies, and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) has a new blog.

There's only one post so far (but peep it anyway and give support), and it about the contentious proposal of his that was reported on BBC News recently, about having offenders doing community service wearing uniforms, among other things. I sress the "among other things" since his other proposals are actually quite interesting, but I'll leave my comment on that to a later post.

Regarding the uniform issue, there are good and bad points to it. It wold send out a clear message that such people were giving back to their community and that they were not necessarily having an "Easy ride" (e.g. if they are seen collecting refuse in the middle of winter). But there is the problem of the uniform being subverted an becoming a "badge of honour" that wonderful title so ostentatiously applied to thr ASBO phenomenon. This is already prevalent, with rap stars (see photograph of Akon) wearing prison fatigues in their videos, and such clothing (usually American institutions) being sold at rock concerts, rock clothing shops (check Quiggans in Liverpool), and other subculture shopping arenas. And there is some truth to the argument that ASBO's have not been effective, they have rather had the opposite effect. Whether commnity service unfiorms would be effective is also debatable.

I'm a pretty decent, law-abiding, non-trouble causing individual. I always was (pretty much). But when I was at school, the main after-school game to play was "getting a legger" which basically meant doing something (usually petty vandalism, or causing too much noise) which attracted the attention of the police, then running away. Growing up in a deprived area at the end of the Conservative regime with the further complication that those wonderful Militant Tendencies neanderthals had bankrupted our council, there was barely anything else to do. And at least we weren't stealing cars, joyriding them then setting them alight, or igniting random skips, as was commonplace in the are in which I grew up. There was also that perennial illicit adolescent pleasure; doing anything or being anywhere that you weren't supposed to do/be. Which is one the problems of ASBOs involving exclusion zones. It just takes those childhood games up to a higher level. Oh, and don't think I was that wayward when I was young - I still offered my seat to old people and pregnant women on the bus, held doors open for people, and was generally a positive member of my community. Its just that there was nothing to do, and sometimes we needed to wile out.

It seems pretty obvious that the design of the uniform John Denham is suggesting will make it one of the must-have items of the season in which it is introduced. The are only two ways in which this could be prevented; either have the uniform so disgusting that it could not be adopted by various subcultures (I'm thinking a nice pink floral pattern would work wonders), or change the cultures. The latter is not so difficult, but it would take some honest politicians for it to be done with the involvement of elected officials*. As one of my friends pointed out about the hip hop thing of talkiing about dropping out of schools, getting into trouble with thelaw and going to jail, "That means you're really dumb; not only couldn't you hold down any proper job, you were so bad at being a criminal you got caught!"**

* I'm leaving that sentence deliberately hanging
** Paraphrase


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