Question Time – Niddrie Stylee!

Question Time – Niddrie Stylee!

Host: ‘Welcome to this night special edition of QT where we are operating from one of Scotland’s most deprived housing schemes. We will be discussing, amongst other things, the recent riots and what we, as a society, can learn from them. On the panel tonight we have a local drugs support worker, a community support worker, a mental health support worker, a social worker, a housing association community liaison worker, an eco-friendly living counsellor, a local shop owner, a local mother and a young person from the estate. Ok. Let’s begin with the recent riots. What went wrong?

Young Person (YP) (customary trackie bottoms halfway down his backside, hoody and snarl which he had been practising in the mirror all day!): ‘Well it was madness for a few days and then the busies (police) got organised and then, bosh, party over. I was gutted like. They were well out of order.’

Host (eyebrows arched): ‘What? Who was out or order? Surely you’re not saying that it was the fault of the police for stopping the looting?’

YP (staring straight into the camera with his best gangsta look wondering if his woman is watching this): ‘Yeh man. People was just shopping init, yeh. Then the busies comes along and people start running for their lives in fear. They was all going back to pay for their stuff but they just needed to get to a safe space first.’

Host: ‘Are you joking?’

Local Mother (highlights freshly done by Trish her next door neighbour for the show): ‘No. Are you joking? You can’t talk to him like that. Where’s your respect? That’s why these kids do stuff like this, cos they’re misunderstood and the government is screwing them wiv the benefits an that.’

Social Worker (swiftly interjecting & secretly proud that the young person remembered the term ‘safe space – she’d taught him that): ‘Well. Let’s not be hasty. Everybody has a point of view and I think we should let the young man have his say even if we disagree. After all in our society we must be tolerant and open to all sides of the conversation.’

Host: ‘What conversation? This is ridiculous. You surely can’t be agreeing with him?’

Drugs Support Worker (a skinny white man with Dredds who smokes Cannabis “cos it int a proper drug like crack” – his clients call him ‘Big Tone’ cos he likes to keep it real): ‘I agree. The police acted brutally and in haste. Let’s face it. It’s the government’s fault for cutting services and bringing in totally unnecessary measures, which, as we have seen, have alienated large swathes of our country’s young people who, incidentally, have a right to be seen in decent footwear. How are these young lads supposed to be able to afford a pair of Nike Air max on what they get from the dole? It’s just unreasonable.’

Host (changing tack): ‘What about the parents? Surely they are partly to blame? Surely they must take some responsibility for this amoral behaviour?’

YP (has lost concentration momentarily because he’s downloading a YouTube clip onto his iphone of some young lad getting “happy slapped” on the estate): ‘What you saying about my muvver?’

Local Mother (distracted because she’s just caught sight of her new tattoo in the camera which reads as “colon” instead of ‘Colin”): ‘We always get the blame we do. But that’s just crap. I teach my kids right from wrong. They can’t help it if they’re bored and that. It’s not my fault is it if people go out to work all day, leave their kitchen windows open and drive these fancy cars. What about the rest of us who are too sick to work? They just rub it in our faces and the kids just get hacked off with it.

Community Support Worker: ‘I think we need to be a bit more  understanding here. It is easy to judge people as ‘amoral’ but that phrase is very loaded. By whose standards are we judging what they did amoral?’

Shop Owner (quietly boiling at the end): ‘Are you all serious? All these young people need taking in hand and given a good hiding. They need to learn the difference between right and wrong.’

Psychiatric Support Worker (mid 50’s, wearing his “Freud is my homeboy” T-Shirt because he thinks it makes him look cool. It doesn’t.): ‘Now these labels are offensive and just contribute to the increasing mental health issues among the young. We should not be forcing them into boxes about what is right and wrong. We should be teaching them to make decisions that have positive effects on them and then the wider community.’

Eco Friendly Counsellor (yes, I kid you not, they exist): ‘What people need are a firmer grasp on the wider ecological issues. After all, it is interesting that most of the shops hit were big name companies with huge carbon imprints.

Host (head in hands): ‘What? Now you can’t be serious, surely? Are you expecting us to believe that there were green concerns behind some of what has happened?’

Eco Friendly Counsellor (knowing smile): ‘Well, it can’t be discounted can it. We all know that living in an unhealthy environment can affect our wellbeing and even lead to violent mood swings. (turning to YP for support) Don’t they?’

YP (clueless, playing Angry Birds on his phone and still trying to look hard) ‘Yeh. ‘Nike’ makes me mad and ‘Head’ is well minging.’

Social Worker (seriously proud now of his YP’s “engaging” contribution to the “issues”): ‘Look, what we need is more understanding from society not less. We shouldn’t be demonising these people. We should be seeking ways to bolster their self-esteem. We need to teach them to love themselves more and to transfer this love to society. We need to respect them if they are to respect us.’

YP (grinning): ‘Yeh. What she says innit.’

Housing Association Community Liaison Worker (desperate to get rid of this year’s budget otherwise he will have to change his job title again for the fifth consecutive year): ‘Yes. We need to listen to the community and also we need to maybe think of establishing more things for young people to do. I’m also seriously concerned at the lack of support these people get from the government. We need to be doing more.’

YP (late for a party at his mates house ): ‘Yeh. We need more support and fings to do. But I’ve got to be careful cos I’ve got a bad back and I feel depressed and that. We just need respect, innit. Peace out, bruv.’

Now, when I was a young man and heavily involved in drugs, crime and serious violent offences I came across people like these all the time. Whatever motivates them, their view of the world and society in general, is so far off Paul’s position of Romans 1 that when I was first confronted with the need to take responsibility for my own actions, it was a huge smack in the face.

I was brought up believing that I was merely a product of my environment. So, when I did something wrong I didn’t need chastisement or punishment, but understanding and compassion. The problem was, that I had a God given conscience and a sly, sinful nature, and I soon worked out how to play the game when it came to social workers, probation officers and the courts. It was very easy to twist a scenario in which I came across as the victim. So, I become an expert at not only suppressing the truth but also twisting it to suit my purposes. So much so that I even convinced myself at times!

Yet these so-called support workers ( and my own sin) were actually responsible for keeping me trapped in a prison of crime, violence and depression. It was only when the Bible confronted me with the serious state of my soul, my need to take responsibility for my own sin and the requirement to turn to God in repentance and faith, did I begin to find true spiritual freedom and peace.

I have been watching the news and listening to the commentaries on what has happened in our country over the last few days with a sense of bemusement and frustration. Like this is some sort of modern phenomenon. I grew up in appalling conditions in Yorkshire 30 years ago. It was brutal and on a recent visit I see that very little has changed apart from knocking down the odd street and the proliferation of even more ‘support workers’ who quite frankly often do more harm than good (not all of them I hasten to say).

I have been doing a survey of the top 50 most deprived housing schemes in Scotland over the last few months, motivated by a desire to find out how many of them have an active, evangelical church and/or witness on them. The answer, depressingly, is not many. I suspect the figures for the UK are frightening when it comes to inner city housing schemes. They are a spiritual wasteland and I have been feeling for some time now that the time is ripe to do something about it. One of the reasons we left Brazil and returned to the UK was because of our conviction that inner city housing schemes need Christ centred churches now more than ever.

We need to raise a generation of fulltime pastors and workers who will reach out and plant gospel centred churches in these areas. That is what needs to happen at ground level as we take a long-term view to reaching these people for Jesus. At Niddrie we will be hoping to roll our out training programme to include how to plant a church in an inner city housing scheme. Watch this space for more information and discussion on this important issue.