Change comes from the inside out not outside in. Politicians must step into the world of young people argues local community leader and Pro-Rory Stewart activist, Daniel Ogoloma. 

Another young Londoner stabbed to death in Croydon, South London last night took our death tally to knife crime in 2020 up to 10, with such a record it’s set to beat last year’s record high of 147 young deaths in the capital and 74 to knife crime. With the London mayoral election some weeks away our top 3 candidates are all riding on this wave. You almost get the feeling that this election will be won and lost on who has the most time and energy to find the cure to this disease called knife crime. 

Sadiq Khan has failed to understand the rhythm and language of young knife carriers, in-fact young people as a whole, understanding them goes beyond saying “I have a 15-year old at home”. The city is made up of hundreds of different cultures. That means thousands of different experiences and ways of thinking.

Our city may need to adopt anthropological approaches and dig deep into the minds of our youngsters to provide real solutions to this epidemic – let me explain. Anthropology is very transformative: it is a way of being and fostering curiosity about the world and its people. Why is human culture so diverse? How do different societies make sense of their world? Anthropology demands that you question your own values and assumptions in order to see the world through the eyes of others. 

The Cultural Anthropologist and President of the World Bank Dr Jim Yong Kim stated: “Understanding otherness is the world’s biggest challenge.” Perhaps anthropological modes of thought could help the planet deal with political extremism. If our mayor and number 10 adopted and promoted this approach to understanding others we may be able to get beyond the fear and hatred rooted in xenophobia amongst young Londoners. 

Is London’s Mayoral Election a Two-Horse Race? 

Although the current polls indicate it might just be that; I think there’s a man with a plan. Here it goes, Ex-Tory MP Rory Stewart who’s currently number 3 at 13% on the polls to become London’s mayor, he emphasises that his main goal in office will be combatting the capitals disease – knife crime and likens the task to his previous roles that include fieldwork style research to assist fighting wars overseas in Afghanistan. Rory proves to be sticking to this anthropological approach as he walks the streets during his London Speaks tours asking questions and understanding others. Here’s the interesting part. 

Rory recently to my surprise and many others spent a few nights living in a one-bedroom dilapidated flat with some ex-criminals on one of south London’s most socially deprived crime infested areas – Peabody estate, Lambeth which is home to the notorious 67 criminal drill gang. Our Eton college, Oxford-educated candidate was suddenly back in the slums but this time in London, you could hear the gang members rapping in the hallway late at night, the TV blasting through the thin council standard walls from next door and you could see tens of them through the windows that had no curtains on them play fight into the morning. 

Few days in and Stewart meant business when he pulled up the trousers of his baggy suit on a cold Tuesday evening and joined dozens of ex-offenders on the football pitch to play five a side then straight after went with 4 of them back to their flat to meet the family. Everything seemed so surreal he took off his jacket and shoes got himself comfy and said “come on guys aren’t we going to watch Arsenal vs Leeds? put it on, I’ll go and buy some fish & chips.” At half time one man said he used to sell drugs but still actively carries a knife for safety due to gang turf wars – Rory smiles and said: “look, I will make London safer for you but you’ve got to leave the knife at home and be a man, call the police when trouble arises.” At that moment a new London flashed before my eyes – A city where our youths will trust leadership and work towards creating a new culture that will bridge the gap from young people to the Met Police and government. This will ultimately eradicate weekly deaths to knife crime. 

This mini-project reminded me of famous anthropologist Borislav Malinowski who pioneered ‘participant observation’ a method that includes living, eating, interacting and participating in the activities of those you wish to understand better. Malinowski once said “The final goal of which an ethnographer should never lose sight…is, briefly, to grasp the group’s point of view, their relation to life, to realize their vision of his world” But it doesn’t stop there. 

How Can Politicians Gain The Trust Of Youngsters? 

Our mayor has to be very intentional in what he/she believes politics is, they would have to be someone that has receded from the set paradigm of what helping people looks like or the ideological cage that limits feels and actions due to party membership. It is crucial and imperative that London’s leader come May 2020 understands the power in developing and improving lives that lack the ability to hope and dream beyond their current circumstances. It’s a fact that at the centre of all political shifts, young people remain the pillar of what the world will become tomorrow, but what will they become an activist of if they see nobody campaigning for the things that they believe in? 

I think every young person has the ability to create an economy from an idea no matter how small or big, young people are creatives. Young people contribute to the millions made yearly through drug trades and county lines – you must admit some of these kids are talented and creative! Creatives who want to be involved in a conversation that seems to be going on without them. So, most criminal gangs in London are as a result of a specific demographic feeling ignored and thus creating a counter government seeking to achieve the power to push their agendas. Despite young people being labelled as silent majorities, they should be given the hope to dare to dream, to dream beyond circumstances. A leader that can make a young person see beyond what they have known their whole life, is who will have the vote of the young people.

 

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