I was having a conversation with someone the other day about how awkward it feels to accept praise these days, not that there was much praise before this part of my life. The reason I find accepting praise awkward is that when I look back to access my lived experience or when I reflect, I cannot forget about the people I hurt, the victims I created. That isn’t a plea for forgiveness or sympathy. Nor is it a complaint, merely fact, and why should I have received praise once the proverbial horse had bolted, rapidly sliding down the school to prison pipeline and into the vortex of the revolving doors of our criminal justice system. I was not a pleasant child, youth or adult for several years. I had my reasons, or at least I do now. I didn’t have a clue then.
If only I knew how to ask for help or explain what had happened. With that said, just like I can look back and understand, as can we all, back then was different. We know so much more these days about trauma, PTSD. We know about Adverse Childhood Experiences. The school to prison pipeline is so much more obvious to us. As is knife crime.
My knowledge of knife crime stretches far back. Because of my hobby – researching and writing about the history of organised crime around the world but mainly the Mafia’s of Italy, North America and Canada, along with our own organised crime gangs here in the UK through the early years – I don’t see knife crime as some recent phenomenon.
I cannot change the fact that not only had I been a victim of knife crime on a couple of occasions, I have also been the perpetrator of knife crimes on a couple of occasions. Not something I am proud of, however, it is also something I cannot change.
I was not involved in a street gang, as such, growing up, although I was part of a group of friends. We were not involved in the drug game, nor did we have post-code wars. However, several of us had and used knives. This was the early 1980s. With that said, my last crime I committed in 2015 involved the use of a knife, or the threat of use.
I didn’t see carrying or using a knife as a moral decision, but I accept full responsibility. The decision was more based on my character rather than my personality, not so much a case of learned behaviour but more to do with the environment in which I previously lived and the character I was in that in environment.
I would not dream of carrying or using a knife these days.
Two things have changed in my life which has allowed me to make the above statement. One is my character, my personality hasn’t changed, but my character has most definitely been transformed. The other is the environment in which I now live. I don’t mean environment in the material sense, but in its physical sense. I was once a prisoner, and that was one particular environment in which I also played a certain character.
It is about time we consider knife crime from a platform of social justice, empathy, for those trapped in the knot of poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantages. Let’s be honest here, it isn’t the Kings Road in Chelsea or the grounds of Eaton or our universities where knife crime is prevalent.
If we are serious about tackling knife crime, we have to do so whilst transforming the environments in which knife crime is the effect and the knot of poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantages are the causes.
Hope and opportunity are powerful weapons.
It takes a village to raise a child.
Let us work together to stop the nightmares.