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Fear and loathing in Glasgow

Taken from here

In Glasgow a stabbing occurs every six hours - and many more go unreported. Survey after survey, from the World Health Organisation to the United Nations, identifies Glasgow as one of the most violent cities in western Europe. Among young males aged between 10 and 29, the rate of homicide is similar to Argentina, Costa Rica and Lithuania. Alcohol-related death rates are three times the British average while Scots have one of the lowest life expectancies in Europe. Three-quarters of all weapons crimes in Scotland occur in the Strathclyde policing district in and around Glasgow. Between 5000 and 6000 are recorded each year and more than 2200 hospital beds are taken up with the victims.

The nightmare is constant, a cycle of violence that each weekend sees the alcoholic and drug addicted, chronically unemployed and angry, the young and the old, take to the streets armed with knives, machetes and even samurai swords to battle the demons of disillusionment - and each other.

"I know it sounds like I'm talking about savages but we can be called to a gang fight and there'll be fathers n' grandfathers shouting 'C'mon, get him'. This is what we are dealing with in West Scotland." - Inspector Dougie Stevenson, head of the Strathclyde Gangs unit.

Plain-clothes police officer, Barry Inglis - "...you can see it everywhere; generations have been doing it, grandfathers, fathers, sons, grandsons. We hear it all the time when we bring kids in: 'I did it when I was a boy, what's the problem?'''

Dr Marjorie Black, a forensic pathologist with the Scottish Crown office "Most of it is known to be gang related: there is this culture of defending turf … in Glasgow, if you stray into the wrong area, you are seen as fair game."

The Strathclyde police mapped 167 gangs, all guarding territory and turf rather than drugs - some covering just a few streets and laneways. The very existence of gangs for the kids of dysfunctional and distressed families offer a sense of belonging and security.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan of Strathclyde's Violence Reduction Unit "The violence we see here is of such intensity that it's almost unique in western Europe … accepted as legitimate, a community norm, something that cannot be changed...

Says Dr Christine Goodall from Medics Against Violence: "Research shows us that that if you live in a deprived area in Glasgow, you were three times more likely to have a facial injury or trauma. If alcohol is involved, the likelihood rises and is seven times higher than if you lived in a more well off neighbourhood. We were seeing people in their 20s with cirrhosis of the liver, kids of 14 who would take hours to be stitched up and when you tell them the scar would be there for life, they'd say it was OK … for them it was a badge of honour..."

Carnochan also explains "The young men's faces are scarred from the conflict but these scars label them not as the victims they are, but as fighters, violent men. This means they can't get jobs, find a relationship. Functioning in a society that is fearful of violence is difficult, too…we shouldn't forget that either."

Socialist Courier says that the youth of the housing schemes are right to think there is no hope within the present system but wrong to sit back and wallow in its excesses. Socialists say that society can be better than it is. Under capitalism tackling the “causes of crime” means nothing other than more empty words and broken promises, fuelling another, destructive, cycle of cynicism. Only socialism, where a real community of interests can be established and will resolve the destabilising and dehumanising days of capitalism. When community relationships break down, when drink and drugs to numb the pain of the daily rat-race becomes the norm, then society is in serious trouble.

See also the Socialist Standard article on knife and gun crime.

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