Friday, 25 June 2010

The case for banning mosquitoes, and how demonising children is part of the class war

Today, the Council of Europe is debating Mosquitoes. That is, the electronic devices which emit painful, high pitched sounds audible only to children and young adults. With any luck, the things will finally be recognised as a violation of human rights and banned.

According to the Guardian, "25% of local councils use or have used the £500 machines." But "their use is not formally regulated and in most cases no warning or information is given about their installation."

The machines are part of a culture that has developed that automatically assumes children - particularly teenagers - to be a threat or a pest. It fits in well with "only two children at a time" signs in shops, and the emergence of the term "hoodie" in outraged, Daily Mail parlance, determining criminality by what clothes you wear.

There are, undoubtedly, teenagers who are a menace. Drinking on street corners, snarling at passers by, commiting acts of random vandalism or hooliganism. But this is no justification to write-off an entire generation, fear their clothing, and wage sonic warfare against them.

If you want to address the problem of teenagers joining criminal gangs, or so-called "feral youth," that's fine. But, like everything, it is best done using reason over hysteria.

"Broken Britain" is a product of class and capitalism, not of sex, divorce, violent video games, or any of the other moralistic bullshit the conservative right tries to boil it down to.

Kids are having sex because that's what they've always done. Couples are splitting up because they're no longer in love, because the relationship is abusive, or because it simply doesn't work anymore. In more privileged families and areas, this doesn't have as much of an effect.

It is on the sink estates and in the areas of grinding poverty where everything from low household income to lacking infrastructure and a failing local economy take their toll.

Of course, there are a great many people who rise to the challenge stoically, and manage to survive and care for their families without turning to crime. But not everyone is equipped to deal with deprivation and desperation. But for the economic model we live under, we shouldn't have to be.

Philip Johnston argued, in the Telegraph two years ago, that "increasing prosperity has brought rising crime across the board." In evidence, he cites the fact that "In the 1930s, in the depth of the worst depression of the century, crime was low." But he proves my point when he admits that "this was because everyone was in the same boat; there was an equality of misery."

Who do you steal from when everyone is lacking? But, when we have "greater disparities of wealth," crime rises.

Johnston tried to write this off by adding "a marked decline in the likelihood of imprisonment for a crime since the 1950s; and changing moral standards" to the list of causes, but this is a red herring.

The fact is that "jail is now so commonplace that 7% of all children during their school years will experience their dad’s imprisonment." And the United States shoots down the apparent correlation by having both the highest per capita prison population in the free world and one of the highest per capita crime rates in the world.

This is not to mention the Victorian era. The state was tough on crime, the police force was in its brutal prime, morality was at standards that make today's conservatives look like bed-wetting liberals. And unbridled capitalism created such an enormous disparity between poverty and wealth that crime - not least juvenile crime and street-gangs - was rife.

None of this can be resolved by causing auditory pain for everyone under 25. One could even go so far as to say that such devices are meant to attack the symptoms and ignore the underlying problems.

As Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty puts it;
What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children? Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids.

The Mosquito has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect.
Demonising and attacking children in this way is just another facet of the class war. I sincerely hope that the Mosquito is banned, so that those waging it have one less weapon to attack us with.