At half past midday on Monday, 19th April our two dogs began ferocious barking at someone over the garden wall. The telephone box at the bottom of our expensive suburban street had already been smashed four or five times in recent months and I was suspicious that the same thing was happening again. I reached the garden wall to see a youth dressed in a white hooded sweatshirt, dark trousers and a black baseball cap throwing a large lump of wood to smash a window of the box.
He and his two companions, the three of them being 14-15 year olds, then set off down the main road, when they realized I was following them they ran across the road towards a local church. I went back for the car and saw them at the church but they went through the neighbouring school grounds and I lost sight of them.
I suspect Eircom will come and repair the telephone box, as they have in the past on numerous occasions, and I suspect the whole pointless exercise will be repeated until the day when the telephone box is removed and the youths go off to smash something else.
Isn’t it time that someone said, ‘It’s time to grow up, lads’. I used to read articles on vandalism where the writers stressed how the people responsible were just products of the system and that it was all due to poverty and deprivation. I didn’t see much sign of poverty or deprivation amongst the three youths. Anyway, I have visited people living in real poverty, in the Philippines and in Tanzania, and they didn’t smash things up.
The three youths made a conscious decision to wreck the ‘phone box, no-one forced them to do so. It’s a nonsense to suggest that people are simply products of their environment. Wrecking the ‘phone box was a choice they made, probably not for the first time.
Why wreck telephone boxes? There seems not the slightest logical reason for such behaviour. What goes on in the heads of people who do such things? What ‘kick’ is there in doing it?
The response to behaviour like this on the part of an increasing number of people is to have higher walls and more sophisticated alarm systems and to retreat behind their defences. (We have a camera and intercom at our front door.) The thugs on the outside then go elsewhere.
Why should people have to put up defences? Why should we have our public amenities continual prey to petty and mindless violence?
The catechism many Anglican church members would have learned in times past included the following lines amongst our duty towards our neighbour, ‘To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evilspeaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.’. We have moved from that Protestant work ethic view of the world, where the individual was held entirely responsible for all of his or her actions, to a view in some quarters that individuals cannot be held to account for almost any action.
We need to recover some sense of individual responsibility, that there is behaviour that is anti-social and unacceptable, and that if you insist in choosing to do such things, then you can expect sanctions to be taken against you.
It’s time someone said to the three youths, and the many others like them, ‘It’s time to grow up’