On the buses

Rebecca Monique Williams is back with another guest blog spot.

Here, the 19-year-old student tells how she’s come to feel about the most mundane of everyday activities – taking the bus.

Whilst out in London last week, I was quite taken aback at my reaction to two incidents I encountered on the bus.

The first incident was when a boy, listening to his MP3 player, came onto the top deck and sat on the seat behind me and began to kick my chair to the beat of his music. I turned around and glared at him as if to communicate the words: “Stop that. It’s really irritating!”. Realising my frustration, he stopped for about a minute, but then almost deliberately as if to make a bold, yet silent, statement proceeded to knee the back of my chair with even more oomph than before. To my relief, he got off two stops later.

The second incident, on another bus that day, is one I’m sure many people who use public transport can relate to- youth playing music as loud as their the speakers on their mobiles can manage. Two things in particular irritated me here. Firstly, the music she was playing was quite offensive (and she looked no more than 15 years of age), and secondly, she continually switched from random track to random track for the 15 minutes she was on the bus. Ironically she had a pair of earphones on her.

I’m sure you’re wondering what point I’m trying to make? Well, if I had opened my mouth in both instances either to tell the boy to stop kicking my chair or to ask the girl to at least turn her music down, both could have possibly led to a regrettable incident that could have involved a weapon of some sort. Looking back at it now I ask myself why I nor the six other irritated people on the bus didn’t say a thing.

Are youth simply taking advantage of fact they know that a culture of fear has emerged surrounding gun and knife crime and that members of the public dare not to challenge them or their actions?
Have the youth of today lost consideration for others or is that consideration no longer there because of a lack of discipline? In both instances I couldn’t help but think: “Were you dragged up or brought up?”. What happened to the days that kids were seen and not heard? Unfortunately some parents are scared to discipline their kids due to all the human rights laws protecting them.

Personally, I believe that the vast majority of kids that carry knives don’t carry it for protection but to intimidate others and as a symbol of power. Some have clear intent to use it even if their life isn’t in danger.

These incidents got me thinking. Was my cautiousness to speak up a result the media’s ambulance chasing surrounding gun and knife crime, which admittedly has instilled slight fear in me?

So many questions but so little answers.

More Rebecca Monique Williams? Click here for an interview with Lethal Bizzle.

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13 Responses

  1. I think it’s because they have no reason to fear any repercussions, and so they act like it. Young thugs who are illegally armed can feel fairly certain that the vast majority of people they encounter, who are NOT criminal, will be completely unarmed and not only unwilling, but unable to stand up to them. So they do whatever they want, because they know people are scared of them.

    And of course, kids who are not armed can still capitalize on this uncertainty that the average citizen has about armed and dangerous kids—even if the individual is not personally dangerous, they can act like it and most citizens will never call their bluff (much in the way that the non-poisonous Viceroy butterfly benefits by appearing almost identical to the poisonous Monarch butterfly).

    I know you said in another entry that you’re more interested in solving the underlying problem than preventing people from defending themselves, but then I would still wonder why it’s called “Disarming Britain”—and if everyone is disarmed, what are they to defend themselves WITH? Flinty stares and a stern word?

    As I see it, the solution is not to “disarm” Britain—an impossible task—the problem is that there is simply no balance. You have an armed criminal class vs. a completely unarmed and defenseless victim class. In my opinion, not until the victim class stops being defenseless and (you’re not going to like what I’m about to say) kills a few of these yobs in self defense and is NOT sent to prison for it are these people going to realize that there are repercussions for their actions. Some of the uncertainty over who is armed and who is not needs to be sown in the opposite direction.

    Just my opinion.

  2. “I turned around and *glared* at him as if to communicate the words: “Stop that. It’s really irritating!”.”

    ” . . . if I had opened my mouth in both instances either to *tell* the boy to stop . . .”

    Just curious but, what ever happened to politely asking people to stop their annoying behaviour? Would not an, “Excuse me, would you please stop kneeing my chair, it’s bothering me? Thank you,” have been far less likely to arouse the kids ire than *glaring* at him? Especially when the person doing the glaring is not much older than him. Glaring at people is rude.

    This, “. . . then almost deliberately as if to make a bold, yet silent, statement proceeded to knee the back of my chair with even more oomph than before.” is pure speculation. It’s plausible, but not a given. Moving a leg in rythm to music is often an automatic and unnoticed reaction.

    The worst thing about the girl is that her music is offensive. Even that is in Miss Williams estimation. These things are minor things that, as far as we know, only irritate her. Hardly the grounds for such hand-wringing.

    Miss Williams is actually being a cause of the problem in that she is demonizing these kids based on possibilities and minor irritations. She then engages in hand-wringing over how bad youth are, and nothing bad actually happened. In societies dealing with violence caution is necessary, but Miss Williams is not acting out of caution, she is acting out of self centered annoyance that she later rationalizes as fear. Yes the kids are showing a lack of respect, but Miss Willams reinforces that lack by being stuck in the individualistic mind set where there is no connection with those around you. When people can’t connect there is no reason to respect others. This is a direct result of post-modern thought and this is the underlying root of the societal breakdown that is bringing out the violence.

    And taking away weapons won’t change that. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not.

  3. Hi Matthew. Thanks for your comment. I would love to have been a fly on the wall to see how you would have reacted in that situation. Your comment focusses purely on me being as you put it “self centred” or the “cause of the problem”. Please would you kindly tell me the correct way to deal with the situation as you are so informed in these matters. In case you havn’t noticed, on every bus there are posters informing passengers of decent behaviour when travelling on public transport. This includes rules about playing music loudly. I am therefore in my right to be peeved off at her lack of consideration for others. Other passengers on the bus reacted exactly the same way as I did. So please tell me how I was beeing so damn selfish. I was not bothered so much, for you information, about the content of her music as much as the fact that I simply wanted a peaceful journey home- which everyone has the right to. It’s not HER bus, hence why they call it public transport, my dear. I myself am a sociology student (of four years) so don’t go telling me about post-modern thought- it’s about common courtesy so don’t try and be Lyotard by throwing theories and terms at me without yourself putting forward an effective solution.
    I am not the one in an “individualistic mind”- the youths I spoke about are. You yourself aggreed that the kids were showing lack of respect. Tell me how that isn’t selfish and individualistic. THEY isolate themselves from society and form their own norms and values that differ from that of the main society’s.
    Tell me how “minor things that irritate” in society don’t build up to form bigger issues if not addressed. I can just envisage YOUR perfect Weberian and rational society Matthew.

  4. Guav, you’re right….just your opinion.

  5. “Just curious but, what ever happened to politely asking people to stop their annoying behaviour? Would not an, “Excuse me, would you please stop kneeing my chair, it’s bothering me? Thank you,” have been far less likely to arouse the kids ire than *glaring* at him?”

    That’s the most effective you in your situation can be. It’s the first thing I said in my post.

    I wasn’t trying to attack you, but perhaps I spoke too zealously. I apologize for that. I simply thought that certain things weren’t taken into account, and your follow up post conitnues with that.

    “. . . there are posters informing passengers of decent behaviour . . .”
    You aren’t the authority to enforce these codes so you shouldn’t try to assume that authority.

    “I was not bothered so much, for you information, about the content of her music . . .”
    Interesting. I would have considered that to be the more worrying thing. What you take in is what comes out.

    “. . . wanted a peaceful journey home- which everyone has the right to.”
    Show me where that is guaranteed as a right.

    “Tell me how ‘minor things that irritate’ in society don’t build up to form bigger issues if not addressed.”
    Of course they build up. I never suggest they don’t. But you must address the issue at hand, not unrelated issues.

    Yes, the kids were showing the individulistic mind, I don’t argue that. But yes, so were you. Your response reveals this even more. You declare yourself to be “peeved,” talk about what you wanted, and mention your supposed rights. That the other passengers also felt the same is only included because it supports what you think, and was not included in your first telling.

    And nowhere do you mention fear. This is what bothers me most. If you were actually afraid you wouldn’t have been glowering at the kid. You’re taking a problem, layering it over with hand-wringing, and ultimately politicizing it in service to a solution that doesn’t address the original issue at all. At best that’s confused, at worst that’s duplicitous.
    Your original situations have nothing to do with guns or knives. In fact your only problem involving guns and knives has to do with “. . . the media’s ambulance chasing surrounding gun and knife crime, which admittedly has instilled slight fear in me.” Are kids carrying guns and knives a problem? Yes. Are discourteous and disrespectful kids a problem? Yes. But you didn’t talk about the former, and disarming people doesn’t solve the latter.

    I understand your concerns for society and I share them. But for the individual, change has to come from within and we, you and I, have to treat others with respect first. We have to reach out to others in love and charity. I am not trying to attack you or insult you, but I would like you to look deeper into the situation and see beyond easy quick-fix solutions that don’t address the actual issues

  6. Guav and eye for an eye mentality will put us all in danger. This is not a war zone nor are we at war. These so called yobs are kids of your friends, your neighbors and somethings sadly enough those of you own that have been led down the wrong path in life due to a social break down. My solution will be to tackle the core problems that triggers some of these social break downs. problems like poorer housing, inadequate facilities
    and a monopoly education system thats favors the rich and shadows the poor.
    The truth is most of these kids feels ostracize by a society that is quick to discredit them and on its heels to label them. On a presonnal level i suspose it similar to that of a child been told that they are no good and will sum up to nothing. As time goes on I’m afraid these negative affirmations do come true as they would manifest themselves in one way or the other.

  7. Matthew, what form of transport do you regularly use, how old are you, do you have kids? or am I avoiding the real issue? mmmm….
    If you read my article properly I did mention the slight fear I felt. Yes ‘slight’ or are you going to read into that also?

    You say I should have asked the boy to stop kneeing my chair but do you rememeber the death of a man who was travelling on a bus and asked someone to stop throwing chips at him and his girlfriend? This polite action led to his death- he was stabbed. And this is not an isolated incident. So are you blaming me for reacting the way I did?

    I think you spend way too much time over analysing things.

  8. It is a sympton of our country that when people do something irritating, we are either branded killjoys if we take a stand, or are labelled reservists when we just sit back and let people do what they want. This is the same for crime and violence. If we don’t take a stand in our own communities, then the thugs will win.

    On the other hand, you never know what someone is going to be carrying do you?

  9. Especially when the person doing the glaring is not much older than him. Glaring at people is rude.

    So is kneeing the back of the chair when clearly someone is sitting in it?

  10. what’s age got to do with it? if i was much older than him would my glaring be acceptable, as you’re suggeting?
    I don’t see how i was being rude by glaring at the boy. I was simply expressing my anger at him constantly kicking of my chair. For every action there is a reaction.
    East Londoner, i don’t know what point you were trying to make. Your comment is neither here or there.

  11. […] police, a black police officer who engages with the kids in a way the white cop can’t, and even a loud-music-on-the-bus scene. The dialogue throughout feels real as it captures the street patois and lingo to the […]

  12. I had a similar experience on a train the other day when two boys (aged about 16/17) were playing music from a mobile, at 7.50am no-one needs that, especially when its bad dance music. There was a horrible feeling of discomfort as no-one would dare to speak up but were clearly irritated. Thankfully one of the boys was obviously embarrassed by the other boy’s behaviour and told him to “Turn it off mate” at which point I echoed him saying “Yeah, turn it off mate”. A woman sitting next to me then talked loudly to me for their benefit commenting that it was far too early for that kind of thing as everyone was just trying to sleep. They turned off the music.
    What surprised me in all this was firstly the looks I got from the other passengers, which were mainly of shock, almost shaking their heads as if I had started a potential conflict. Secondly it bothered me that it took two women to speak up when there were plenty of men around (sorry if that sounds old fashioned), but worst of all, what bothered me most was the voice in my head which echoed all the way to work “stupid woman, now you might get stabbed.”
    I am trying hard to resist the urge to become intimidated by this supposed wave of criminal behaviour. We should not forget that if you are in the right, there should be no argument. Also, it is very hard to get mad at someone who is not mad at you. If we are adult enough to control our voice, actions and manners, not only will we set an example, but will hopefully receive a controlled response. We shouldn’t be afraid. Also, if as the research suggests most of the people who carry weapons do it for protection, sanity suggests they have no need to be scared of an unarmed person talking politely to them.

  13. I find it quite funny how i have heared mentioned to ask nicely rather than glare to tell someone something, don’t you understand that neather will work against a youngster , they couldn’t care less, they will still bad you up for the sake of it, trust me i know from both sides. sadly the only things that gets through to a toe rag is a slap and a very hard one at that, it’s not the awnser but you all talk about armed and un-armed and you need to turn the tables and but steady while doing it, thugs are like aminals and get a sense and a kick out of fear, if you can lie most of your life’s through pointless stuff then why is it so hard when it matters, they cause trouble because it is the cheapest, easyiest and most free thing to do, i have seen kids stand infront of 10 cops and shout pure abuse at them and the cops do nothing so why do they care about you? Slap them very very very hard and they put you in the to hard basket same way the cops put them into it, this is not about DISARMING BRITAIN THIS IS ABOUT DEFENDING YOURSELF. you can’t always look to the police and society to defend you thats why it’s called self-defence, get a grip people and grow some balls, grab life and the next little kid who kicks your chair by the throat and finish both when you feel like it, punishment comes in many different forms from many different people. stand your ground and don’t flintch , they don’t and it works so whats the difference in everyone doing it.

    take up boxing or something of the sort and sleep better tonight

    Cheers

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