Too often young people’s behaviour is rubber-stamped by the media and local authorities as ‘anti-social’. Redmonk talks to a bunch of teenagers in Blanchardstown and finds that they are struggling with the internalisation of their own demonisation. By being force-fed the phrase ‘anti-social behaviour’ they now believe this phrase exclusively applies to youth.
Dublin City Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Strategy 2010-2015 associates anti-social behaviour with drug use and drug dealing as well as ‘any behaviour which causes or is likely to cause any significant persistent danger, injury, damage, alarm, loss or fear to any person’.
Which is fair enough, right? Yet when I asked a group of young people in the Coolmine area of Blanch what they thought of when they heard the phrase ‘anti-social behaviour’, there was consensus among the replies: ‘young people hanging around the streets’, ‘troubled youths’, ‘youths vandalising and getting up to no good’. The emphasis was on young people and the association was between them and anti-social behaviour. Now, when I asked them who uses this phrase they answered with ‘older people’, ‘the council’, the Gardaí’.
We had some further discussion about whether or not it’s fair for young people to be labelled this way, and in turn influence how young people think of themselves. The gas thing about this is that despite conjuring up images of hooded young fellas causing strife in the estate, none of the people interviewed really think this is the case. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that they were reluctantly putting up with having the phrase hurled at them repeatedly, as well as putting up with harassment on a regular basis from the Gardaí. Seventeen-year-old Dean pointed out that the phrase ‘is stereotypically used in Ireland, cos if people see a group of youths they think the worst of us.’
By concentrating on the economy, GDP and investor portfolios for so many years, Ireland has neglected the society we live in. Instead of actually addressing the reasons why young people do the things they do, and god forbid, looking at the world from their point of view, we all collectively tut-tut and blame it on anti-social behaviour. So it’s not our fault, or our society’s fault, let’s just keep blaming it on the kids. I mean, they’re not disagreeing with us are they? Or maybe it’s just cos they don’t vote and ‘are targeted as [they] are the easiest to use it on’?
Seventeen-year-old Claire pointed out that ‘it’s mainly aimed at young people because there’s nothing for the youths to be doing, there’s not enough work around to keep them busy’. This colluded with the views of sixteen-year-old TJ, who, having left school early, had hoped to follow in his older brother’s steps and get an apprenticeship. The chances of this happening dissolved with the decline of the construction industry, and apprenticeship making way for internship.
Faced with becoming cannon fodder for budget barrages, little in the way of job prospects and harassment from authorities, any chance to socialise with friends is taken, albeit viewed with suspicion by older generations. For example, hanging out in the streets is one of the few options for young people under 18 who might not necessarily want to stay at home, nor be able to avail of youth centres or clubs in their area. There’s a frustration at the injustice at work in this country amongst these kids: ‘older people give out to us for chilling out and they don’t do anything about the bankers that screw us over’.
Young people standing around outside with their hoods up is seen as anti-social. The wearing of a hoody can be a method of hiding away from constant looks of suspicion, to feel like you belong with your buddies when you’re all gathered together and to feel safe in a city where nothing seems secure. Yet you might as well have the number of the beast carved into your forehead as more and more establishments opt for the ‘no hoodies’ and more recently, ‘no tracksuits’ signage to protect themselves from such evil.
Those between early teenage years and 18 face a difficult enough time in life compounded by a lack of social facilities. Too old for the playground, too young for the pub. And that’s no disrespect to the many after-schools projects out there that do their best to cater for people of this age, especially in South Dublin. However, for those who leave school early and can’t benefit from after-schools projects, it’s a different story. Strangely accepting of his situation, TJ admitted ‘sure all week all we do is plan the weekend, we live for it… I’m into scrambler bikes but the only place you can do that around here is illegal. I get into places the odd time, can’t wait till I’m 18 and I can start going to the pub’.
If the thing you’re looking forward to most is being able to get drunk in a pub legally, there’s something wrong.
What needs to be done is to help young people develop and sustain interests aside from boozing it up ‘cos that’s all [they] can do’. Whether that’s a scrambler bike track (which doesn’t exactly need to be built – allotting a patch of dirt ground would suffice) or a wall for kids to paint on (as opposed to building fences around walls to protect them), these things are easily achieved and just require local authorities to consider a more sustainable approach to nurturing young people instead of just dealing with them. Reaching for the rubber stamp is not a solution to anti-social behaviour. We must accept the inherent flaw within our society if we brand young people socialising as anti-social.
Note: Names have been changed