Thursday, 11 August 2011

You always have a choice

Let me preface this with: The world doesn't owe you anything. And if you think it does, you are in for a crushing disappointment.

You think you can rely on people? Your closest family perhaps - at a stretch. But outside of that, you are on your own. That has always been the way of the world, and it will always be that way. Get used to it.

Sure, there was a blissful period when the unmotivated, the lazy, or the simply criminal could milk social services for monthly cheques that would have your average middle manager in a small company gagging with envy and asking "Why the hell am I putting myself through this?"

But the days of the Politically Correct Liberal Taliban that allowed what should have been a social safety net to become a cast iron cradle are numbered. And they are not coming back.

I won't go into the economics of it here, but it really is over.

So what of your hopeful expectations that you'd be indulged?

That the government would pay you enough to live comfortably while you watch football and soft-porn on your wide-screen and let others contribute to the tax revenues that pay for your utilities and food stamps while you occasionally put in a few weeks work just to look "willing"?

Or perhaps you are one of those who did put in the hard work studying, racking up a crippling student loan, only to find that 100,000 others graduated the same year and are all hunting for the few dozen jobs that someone with your knowledge and talent should have?

Boy, what a disappointment. So what do you do. Get the wide-screen and watch tennis or Discovery Channel until that miracle job comes along?

Protest that there are not enough jobs? Yeah, see how that works out for you.

But it is not your fault is it? You were lied to. You were misled. Factories closed down, shops closed their doors. Blame the banks, blame the government, blame immigration - the subject that no one dares to talk about.

Oh, and don't forget those old fashioned Human Resources managers that don't understand that a hoodie, jeans with the ass hanging down almost to your ankles, and a surly attitude is the New British Young Worker look.

If it was good enough for school, after all, the teachers didn't say nuffink did they?

But of course they couldn't, the Liberal Taliban saw to that.

"Can't even get a F****ing interview, the posh tart wouldn't even let me in the office."

Oh pity.

And now you think you've been left behind. No hope, no future. Just cheap fags and discount booze from Tesco. And the wide-screen. What a life. No life.

Budget cuts closed the local community centre, and the ones that were still open you torched. Didn't really think that one through, eh?

Frustration. Lack of jobs, cuts in social services (can't afford so many channels now on BSkyB).

It is all so bloody awful and unfair.

Well here's a news flash for you. Do you think it is just your generation who've faced these problems?

Skip back just one, to the days when your parents were your age. When I was your age. And we didn't have wide-screens.

We brewed most of own booze because Tesco was a bit more "conservative" in those days. Couldn't afford it anyway.

So what is all this to you? What is the point?

Cut a long story short.

I was you.

One day one of my uncles took me on one side. "Oh, oh, not another f***king lecture."

He was a straight-backed former Royal Marine, joined as a boy - and by all intents had any vestige of a sense of humour kicked the shit out of him. A real straight-backed prat.

For once, he didn't lay into me. Look at the way you are dressed, the foul way you speak, your lack of respect for elders. Oh man, could he go on!

All he did was point out some older boys shoveling shit on a nearby building site.

"Is that the life you want?" he asked?

"Wot's wrong wiv it, they got a job ain't they?"

"Today yes, tomorrow probably not."

"Then they'll get the dole then."

"Not if they're in the nick (prison) which half of them have already been in, and the others are likely to experience before too long?"

Then he hit me. Not physically. Strangely for a big tough f***cker I never did hear of him laying a hand on anyone. Though his words did feel as though he'd whacked me with a piece of 2 X 4 over the head.

"Do you want to end up like your step-father?" Whoa, getting close to home!

I really couldn't answer. No really. Any words were stuck in my throat.

The image filled me with abject horror. What kid wants to grow up like his dad? Well, admittedly, mine was a bit of an extreme example.

"Then sort yourself out."

So to cut this tale short, I did. And I did it by myself. And yes it was hard. And yes there were setbacks. But rather than complaining about my lack of opportunities, I went out and created them.

And no, I did not become my step-father.

And to every one of the more than 800 youngsters who are now enjoying the hospitality of Her Majesty's Prison Service, and the thousands more sitting at home shitting themselves waiting for that knock on the door.

You can to.

Don't bother rehearsing the "excuses" or "reasons" you are going to make in your defense. Because you know it, and they know it, there isn't one. Say sorry, do your time. Go home. And ask yourself: Do you want to go through the same dehumanising experience of being labeled a thug, a loser and a prisoner again?

At some point in your life don't you want a child to look up to you and say, "I love you dad" - rather than, well, what did you last say to your old man?

The system, or however you perceive the system, doesn't own you. It has an impact on you, it influences you, it can throw hurdles in your path. But it is you - and you alone, who make the choices of how that system will shape your life.

For good or bad, it is your choices that count. And trust me, from someone from your street in Birmingham, good is better.

(PS, my uncle is still alive, way into his 80s now, and has a killer sense of humour. He must have learned it over the past 30 years or so.)

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