Via the glorious Devil’s Kitchen blog – it’s not for the squeamish or easily offended – I cam across this collection of comments made in the weekend press by various supposedly eminent people on how they would improve Britain. Some are quite good. But our Devil reserves his sulphur for Rory Bremner, an impressionist whom I used to rather like (his impersonation of Tony Blair is brilliant), but who has become boring. Bremner’s pet idea is to force teenagers to serve in “community projects”, a sort of civilian version of an army. Whenever the issue of youth delinquency comes up, as it has recently due to the problems of youth crime in our major cities, you can always count on parts of the right and left to join ideological hands over the idea of making youth “serve” their nation in some way. The objections to this are, however, considerable:
Young people are not the property of the state. This may come as a shocking revelation to anyone straying on to this blog for the first time in their lives, but there it is. You own your own life, and no-one else. The idea that after having been forced, on pain of legal penalty, to endure education until the age of 18, that one should continue to be forced to devote X hours of your time to “serving” the nation in some ill-defined way is monstrous. The issue is about inculcating the virtue of self-responsibility; state-run schemes are not exactly famed for doing that.
It is unlikely to provide a solution to things like crime. It might encourage some kids to become mildly less unruly than before, but the substance of the problem is that far too many youngsters are borne to single-parent families with no male role models. (Yes I am aware of the many children in these circumstances that turn out fine, but the general trend cannot be denied). I am not sure that coercing people into some form of state-run scheme is really going to reverse any problems, although I suppose some people might enjoy it, like the bureaucrats who will be employed to run whatever schemes get thought up.
It says something about the quality of TV “satire” that an advocate of collectively forcing the “nation’s youth” into some form of national service scheme can be voiced by a man who no doubt thinks he is a radical lefty. But then it is not really so strange at all, when you think about it.