Beyond the neon runes

1608

Rebels without a cause

These long summer nights get me all wistful for my childhood. I think back to simpler times, to marathon games of football, of rounders, to staying out past eleven, to first kisses and crushes, to the feeling that this would never end, that life was only going to get better from here on in.

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And for a while it probably did. But, with each passing summer, some of that innocence was lost. The football survived, it always would, but in time it became accompanied by alcohol and fags, devilment and mischief, the first stirrings of adolescence bringing a destructive streak to the fun and games.

It was no longer enough to stay out past eleven, make a few girls laugh, score a great goal, now we wanted some action. However, living in a small village in south Kilkenny – one pub, one chipper, lots of well-to-do folk – action was hard to come by. So we got creative. I won’t go into details, but, like all teenage boys, we took pleasure in undoing the good work of others, in rebelling against authority. It made us feel good, gave us a thrill. We were a gang of renegades, sticking two fingers up to the man, showing the world that we just didn’t give a damn.

In truth we were a bunch of eejits, the kind of lads who’d run a mile at the sign of any real trouble, small-time delinquents with a healthy respect for the law. This respect ensured none of us were ever collared for our ‘crimes’. We knew our limits, knew where the boundaries lay. We also knew we’d be feckin’ kilt if we came home in a squad car. Because if there was one thing we feared more than the guards, it was our mammies – lock me up and throw away the key, officer, but don’t bring me home to that women, I beg of you.

And so, infused with the memories of my own formative years, I take a laissez-faire attitude to today’s youth: “Sure they’re only having a laugh,” I say whenever I hear someone complain about anti-social behaviour, “what harm is in them?” Well, quite a lot of harm actually. Maybe it’s city-life, maybe kids today are more reckless than we were, but, whatever the reasons, the young people of Limerick are taking teenage angst to an entirely new level. They are becoming more than a nuisance, more than a minor irritant, they are becoming a problem, a blight, something that needs to be dealt with, and harshly.

There are many downsides to living in the city centre; the cramped living conditions, the street noise, neighbour noise, not having a garden. But one thing I rarely have to worry about is concerted anti-social behaviour; flocks of ne’er do wells loitering outside my window till all hours of the night. Those foolish enough to roam the city centre in the wee hours, to disturb the peace after the midnight hour, are quickly moved on by the guards, ushered to the suburbs and housing estates, to a place where their antics can be contained and, more importantly, hidden from plain sight.

The message is clear: act the gobshite all ye like but don’t do it in the city where everyone can see ye.

And so the problem is shoved onto the unsuspecting residents of Carew Park, of Garryowen, Rathbane, and beyond, onto ordinary working-class citizens who ask for nothing more than a quiet life, to be able to sleep at night and get up for work in the morning without incident. But whereas previous generations were satisfied with the occasional game of ‘knock and run’, with a few childish pranks, there is an edge to the current-day lot, a malevolence which is threatening not just the sanity, but also the safety, of those most affected.

A few weeks ago in this paper, a resident of Carew Park spoke of the intimidation and bullying he had endured at the hands of local youths, how his house had been broken into, his windows smashed in, and how he had essentially become trapped in his own home. With the council unwilling to buy his house, he has no option but to remain where he is. The guards have been out there, there are CCTV cameras all over the avenue, but still the issue remains. Then you have the stories coming out of Rathbane, where, in scenes described as being “like something from the wild west,” kids patrol the streets on horses and sulkies, on quad bikes, terrorising locals, and, in one instance, running over a 70-year-old woman as she played a round of golf.

Fianna Fáil TD, Willie O'Dea with Fianna Fáil Cllr, Kieran O'HanlonIn Garryowen measures have been taken to alleviate public disturbances, access to an alleyway regularly frequented by youths closed off completely, this drastic measure the only way of providing a bit of peace to tormented locals. And while the efforts of the politicians who helped to make this happen should be applauded, once more this just moves the problem somewhere else. For sure, those on South Claughaun Road and Greenhills Road will be sleeping better right now, but those juveniles haven’t vanished into thin air, they haven’t been sent into mourning by the closure of one of their favourite haunts.

They’ve just taken the party elsewhere, made it someone else’s problem.

Those searching for a solution to this scourge invariably look to the guards, ask why they can’t deal with a bunch of unruly yobs, bring them before the courts, stick them in detention centres if needs be. And the response is always the same: limited resources, not enough manpower, a lack of jurisdiction when it comes to dealing with underage crime.

So then the focus turns to the communities themselves, to forming neighbourhood watches, tackling the problem head-on, doing the guards’ job for them. And while it would be great to see extra guards allocated to this issue, to have enough of them to make the offending individuals see the error of their ways, this problem needs to be tackled at its source.

Rather than wait for the problem to make itself known, for another generation of disaffected youths to start playing up, efforts should be made to ensure that these kids, most of whom are from deprived areas, don’t feel the need to harangue innocent homeowners. Rather than write them off as deplorable thugs we should be looking at the paths which have led them to hanging round alleyways late at night, the life-events which have made led them to believe this is acceptable behaviour.

This is no namby-pamby liberal approach, merely the stating of facts. These children are, in relative terms, no worse than any who came before, they are merely a product of their upbringing, of a system which excludes large parts of this city almost from birth.

If you are born into a household where unemployment is the norm, where education is of little concern, and where you carry the name of your estate round like a badge of dishonour, it’s all too easy to lose hope, to stop trying and fulfil the role you’re expected to play.

Only by changing that mindset, by giving these youngsters hope, will we ever properly eradicate this epidemic of unsociable behaviour.

 

There are none so blind as those who will not see

This whole ‘influencer’ thing is, by some distance, the most bizarre phenomenon of the digital age. Granted, my knowledge of it is limited, but, from what I can gather, it goes like this: An attractive person – usually a woman, but sometimes a man – opens a social media account. They post pictures of things; inanimate objects, food, make-up, clothes, their own lovely faces.

Other less attractive people see these pictures and feel kinda envious, they harbour thoughts of stalking this attractive person, maybe even murdering them, but settle for simply liking the picture and following the babe/hunk.

What then follows is a mutually beneficial relationship, wherein the influencer posts pictures of sponsored products and the influenced is subliminally tricked into believing these products will improve their lives, making them as attractive, and as influential, as the influencer.

The product sells like hotcakes, the influencer makes money, and their loyal followers spend their nights eating crisps in bed, cry-laughing their way through another episode of Queer Eye.

I think that’s how it works anyway. But, following a landmark case, the whole thing may be about to change.

Influencer extraordinaire, Rosie Connolly, came under fire after she filtered and photoshopped an image of her face which extolled the virtues of Rimmel’s latest foundation. Complaints about the nature of Ms Connolly’s post were lodged to The Advertising Standards Authority, with disgruntled make-up aficionados claiming it was misleading and amounted to false advertising.

As a result, Rimmel were forced to remove the Instagram post, the first time a complaint against an online blogger has been upheld. It’s almost as if the whole thing is built upon lies, falsehoods, and cynicism.