I have a box of Lego in the corner of my consulting room. Kids from age three to eight can’t resist tipping it all out all over the floor and engaging in some serious construction whenever they can. The little girls build great long walls of neatly aligned bricks or soaring towers one brick wide. The boys, almost without exception, build great big guns and stomp about the room going “dakka dakka dakka” or making similar martial noises.
(When the last Star Wars movie was on they did, briefly, nick the towers off the girls and use them as Light Sabres instead, but only briefly, then we were back to the guns.)
So why mention this now.
Well this week sees the third shooting of a teenager in London in 10 days. Two of the victims were just 15 and both were shot in their own homes (one whilst still apparently asleep in bed). The implication in all the current news coverage is that the shootings have been carried out by a person or persons of a similar age, and that this has something to do with gang culture. I’m not sure what evidence they have for this, but for Blighty three seemingly gang style assassinations in so short a time is unusual, and with such young victims, is, so far as I am aware, unprecedented.
Boys have an enduring fascination with guns. This has been the case, I suspect, ever since the first evolutions of black powder ballistics. That fascination carries forward into so much of our popular entertainment from Kelly’s Heroes to Private Ryan, The Magnificent Seven to James Bond, pretty much anything by Jerry Bruckheimer… the list goes on and on.
Furthermore it appears Britons are the worst parents in the developed world and their teens are the drunkest, most doped up, most promiscuous teens anywhere. (Or so say the OECD and the WHO). With such apparent lack of parental control why wouldn't they also gan up to commit mayhem?
When we witnessed the collapse of the Cold War and the wholesale demolition of the Iron Curtain we lost a shared “enemy” and gained an unrestricted market for firearms, and now those same firearms are so available and so cheap they are finding their way into the hands of kids little older that the miscreants making WMDs from the Lego in the corner of my room.
No teenager of my experience, not even the most heavily eye-linered Goth-boy, has any true concept of mortality. At that age we all feel immortal, as indeed we ought. PCs, Playstations, and the plethora of other consoles and platforms teach them that if you hit the right sequence of squares, triangles and circles your on screen persona becomes impervious to all harm.
As a lad of fourteen I spent many a cheery afternoon at the range firing my twenty rounds from a trusty old Lee-Enfield as a cadet at school. I got to see first hand and up close what a bullet could do to a half inch thick sheet of plywood, and it didn’t take much imagination to work out what it might do to squishy stuff instead. You can’t get that from a console. Without that experience it’s easy to see how gun “play” turns in to “Gun-play”.
Right now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to lock the Lego away.