The "respect" placebo
After yesterday's nonsense about "community calls to action" (formerly known as "dialling 999"), New Labour appear to be turning into the Daily Mail. From their latest email propaganda missive:
"In my local shop, at the bus stop, I would rage about the graffiti I saw.Please note, once again, that everyone should FEEL safe - not necessarily actually BE safe. This whole thing is mere window-dressing, a placebo designed to shift public perception with the minimum of resources. Which is why they are asking for the public to volunteer to help - literally, it would seem - to clean up our streets.
"You might disagree with me, I know some say it's art but for me, I ask, why don't they scrawl over their own homes? It used to make me feel useless, that there was nothing I could do to protect my community.
"Graffiti has always driven me mad but lack of respect shows itself in other ways. Maybe you have friends disturbed by rowdy neighbours or you have relatives who can't help but feel intimidated by young people hanging around outside even though they know most of them aren't doing anything wrong.
"We all have different tolerance levels but everyone should feel safe, secure and happy in their own area, in their own home and that is why Tony Blair has launched the 'Give respect Get respect' campaign today."
I don't deny for a second that encouraging voluntary work in the community is a good thing, nor do I deny that trying to organise it at a national level, with all the propaganda resources of the state thrown behind drumming up recruits, is a potentially valid new approach.
What I don't see, however, is how this is really that different to the "Neighbourhood Watch" drives of the 1980s. And I certainly object to the prospect of Blair/Labour being able to claim the credit for any and every example of positive community action from now until the next general election.
Plus, to sound like the Daily Mail myself for a moment, considering that most of the problems highlighted by Labour as examples of "lack of respect" seem to stem from bored teenagers loitering on street corners, I object to the lack of any kind of attempt to tackle the root cause of the problem. This is merely encouraging the public to do their local council's job of cleaning up the mess after the fact and worst case scenario, in a typically tabloid-friendly approach, encourage more "have-a-go heroes" to turn vigilante.
While "respect" for and engagement with one's local community are both aims to be lauded, without increased police resources, funding for youth activities to keep the little buggers off the streets and - perhaps most importantly - a genuine attempt to tackle the problem of what to do with young offenders who feel themselves to be above the law thanks to the courts' difficulty in dishing out suitable punishments, all of this is little more than a smokescreen designed to make us all feel better without actually doing anything about the problem itself. A perfect New Labour policy, in other words.
Update: Is this the kind of thing they're planning? Charging people £3.50 a week for the joy of helping the police monitor CCTV? Christ...