Are we any closer to breaking the cycle of violence?
Acts, threats, depictions and celebrations of violence are still chronically part of the lives of many families. The overt and covert exposure of children to it guarantees the behaviour of future generations. Here we are in the supermarket again. The scene is fairly familiar-a loaded trolley, two children under five and a particularly stressed mother. Obviously older child has been teasing younger child. Mother then stopped what she was doing and grabbed the older child.
“How many times have I told you-smack-not to hit your little sister-smack-hitting is wrong-smack-and the next time you do it-smack-you’re going to be sorry!”
Now they’ve got home again and the mother is making herself a cup of tea, having put the children in front of the television. They are either watching the afternoon film about the battle between the planets, where one species inflicts death and destruction on another or the usual menu of murder mysteries with plenty of shooting and stabbing.
Then older brother, aged 14, comes back from school with a cut lip and a black eye, throws his bag in a corner, puffs himself up like Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’ and describes to the family all the things he’s done to that f******b****** Billy. At this point Dad comes into the house, hears the tail end of his son’s story and praises him for the way he dealt with it. In fact, he goes further by saying he never liked that f****** family in the first place and a good smacking was what they probably deserved. He also said he would take his son to the football on Saturday as a reward.
The two younger children have, by this time, finished watching the film and are watching a cartoon where the hero is dispatching villains by throwing them off a cliff, dropping them from a plane or generally pummelling them into the ground. Dad then announces that he’s going down to the pub and he’ll expect his meal to be waiting for him when he comes back later. Mum feeds the children and they all settle down in front of the television to watch another slice of real life as depicted by the soap operas. This usually consists of lots of conflict, much arguing, not a little fighting, the occasional murder, plenty domestic violence, perhaps a rape and a whole range of other criminal activity.
The younger children get put to bed, no doubt to dream about what they are going to do when they grow up. Dad then comes home, drunk as usual, and the 14-year-old goes to his room as he can guess what comes next. The house then fills up with lots of screaming and yelling. There is the sound of blows. The mother runs upstairs to comfort the youngest who’s started crying and the 14-year-old shouts at her on the way past to keep the noise down as he is trying to listen to music.
Saturday comes and father and son start out early for the match as they are going to meet a group of dad’s friends in the pub beforehand. Acting a bit pompous and playing the well-meaning Dad, he sneaks his son a pint of beer, as he is “nearly a man”, has three more himself and then they head off to the football ground. The boy has been before and so he knows the script. As one, father and son synchronise their swearing, their abuse and sing violent songs.
“Kick his head in! Use your elbow! The referee is a f ******* t***”
On the way home several of them come across opposition fans, and soon there is an exchange of bricks and stones. No one thinks the 14-year-old boy any different from the rest. That night, as usual, he goes to hang out with his friends. Drink is easy to come by. They go hunting and victims are easy to find. Perhaps tonight it is some homeless man or another lad who has wandered one street too far.
Some parents are blind to what goes on. Some could not give a damn. Many wring their hands in anguish and blame the government, the council, the neighbours, the school and the internet. It’s strange how few realise that their life is often the model that their children copy.
Of course there is no magic and answers can be very complex but there is no excuse for not trying, and there is certainly no excuse for not thinking before you start hitting your child in the supermarket, beating his mother or teaching him that violence is cool.by