Last week we posted our Manifesto on the blog. We want to follow this up with a series of stories which are the background of the aims and commitments in the Manifesto.
This week the story is from Scott, a 17 year old from Cranhill.
"We understand that violence is a public health issue which cannot be adequately dealt with through policing alone. We want communities and the public sector to come together to support initiatives which will help to ensure a long term reduction of all forms of violence." (from The Poverty Truth Commission Manifesto, April 2010)
I could imagine why a person may not understand fully the text above. I can see people asking, "how is it a public health issue?" and "how can’t the police alone resolve this matter?". Reason being that if it weren’t for the experiences in life that I have had then, I suppose I may have trouble understanding the sheer truth to it also. However I have, and that’s why I am writing this.
I joined the Poverty Truth Commission in the latter part of 2009. Before joining, I asked myself what difference I could make. Surly one person cant make a big enough difference to change things, and I was right. However by being right it taught me that people joining and working as a team can be much more effective than a single person. Since joining in 2009 I have realised that yes, the police have their duty to protect the community and the government has the responsibility to change things for the better, but that also we as individuals of communities have more responsibility to look after our society as it is us that are effected by it.
So, how is violence a public health issue? People more than often look at the physical side of violence as being the only outcome. People don’t see that its far more complex than a broken nose or a black eye. We only have to look at some cases when violence is the biggest factor in the direction that a persons life progresses. I have seen for real in many cases, that violence has an effect on every aspect of ones life. It has emotional consequences of people feeling hurt, families feeling hurt, friends feeling hurt. It perhaps limits your doors in life for making friends, learning, working and in general living.
I believe that in particular, gang violence is a trap. I believe that people who fall into the mistake of gang fighting for the first time, see the immediate effects of things like feeling an adrenaline rush, showing loyalty to mates by "backing them up", feeling like part of a group (which for many people is enough to persuade them alone) and also having a sense of power. However, when a person is gang fighting they are sucked into a persona of someone tough, hard, brave even popular. By experiencing immediately good things this persona becomes a way life. This may not be who the person really is but they see this change as exciting. After being trapped by this, I have seen that it is very hard to escape this way of life. All your friends do the same
as you and any friends that you had before, in most cases, wont see you in the same light, your education will perhaps lack due to the "persona" that you live by, many people lose respect for you and also don’t forget all the people who now hate you and want to fight with you again because of previous happenings.
What can be done? For education, I believe that people should be far more informed about support that is available to people who need it. There is a massive pool of support available for people wishing to work and learn, however, many people just don’t know enough about it. As for friends, well the people that continue to fight whilst see the route of freedom, perhaps they are not the right friends for you. As for the friends who don’t see you in the same way, it is your job to win back respect. I understand if all this is doubted by many people as it seems exaggerated. However I know it does happen as not only have I seen it myself, a member of my family has found their self in this trap and have described it this way.
There are many reasons why we need the communities to take a bigger role in the fight against violence. Not only does it give an area a bad name, if you are continuously hearing bad stories about violence, but it takes away peoples hope. It makes people give up trying. I say why not express more good, positive stories in the news paper? Why not have even just a small section in the paper for perhaps personal achievements by individuals in areas? Why not tell more of what is happening in schools? Why not start giving communities positive feedback for good things rather than telling of only all the negative incidents? Not only would it give the community hope as a whole, it would perhaps inspire many individuals to change there way of life to match those gaining positive publicity. Also I believe that if communities come closer and act more as a community then many problems can be resolved.
My dad always told me that years ago communities were closer and that they could trust each other to help out with everyday things in life that really made a difference. From what I have seen growing up, I have not experienced this type of living with any of my neighbours. I wish I had a community like that. I believe that it would help with many things like poverty and perhaps even health. I would hope that in time to come, I could have the privilege of living in a community like that.
As the Poverty Truth Commission says, "Nothing without us about us is for us" is very much true. How can people be helped if you do not listen to them and act accordingly to their primary needs. How do you know what to do if you don’t have help understanding what it is you are helping. I myself would not feel this so strongly if it were not for the Poverty Truth Commission. I has made me realise how important it is to tackle problems and not just stand about doing nothing. This is why more people should be given hope that things can be done. To encourage people to not just stand about but to get involved and have their say. Everyone has their opinion and if everyone comes together with ideas then, I believe, many problems in society today can be reduced.