The stabbing epidemic in London is puzzling. Not the grief and suffering of victims and families: that’s not puzzling (I get that part). It’s the behaviour of the perpetrators. It’s as if they’re all stupid. In fact it’s a stupidity epidemic. Correct me here if I’ve got this wrong, but as far as I know every single stabbing this year has been quickly followed by an arrest or arrests. There have already been convictions and there will surely be more—and there was no need to call in CSI here. In fact, typically, the arrest seems to involve no detective work at—just a cursory look round the corner for the wide-eyed teen with the blood-stained blade.
I really don’t want to be flippant about this. It’s hardly funny. But these kids seem to be displaying the most basic self-destructive behaviour. In the moment he draws his kitchen knife or his switchblade, the killer is throwing away the life of his victim and, along with it, his own. And don’t argue with me on this, I’ll allow no contradiction here: no murderer, no matter how lenient his sentence, is returning to normal life any time soon: that’s a life ruined, a life flushed away, whatever the actual penalty.
So we’re dealing with an outbreak of ghastly, aimless nihilism. Kids stabbing kids, kids trashing lives, kids robbing families of loved-ones. And, while they’re at it, consigning themselves to punishment, marginalisation, poverty and self-hate—to the animal existence of the outcast—for decades hence. It’s a small social disaster and we seem to have no tools to deal with it. We’re lost. The only guidance on offer is coming from talk radio and the tabloids and it has nothing to commend it: it’s just more of the same.
If kids are ready to slash and stab and destroy lives on a whim, in return for precisely nothing (no pecuniary gain, no honour, no respect—at least nothing that lasts longer than the terror of the moment) how is a stiffer sentence going to influence them? Does anyone seriously think that even a life-means-life sentence in a labour camp could alter behaviour in those fevered seconds? Does anyone have the faintest clue what motivates a child (or a near child) to the hormonal frenzy of a street corner stabbing? No. I thought not.