County Lines

This post was recovered, thought lost.

I was in a seminar today about county lines crime. This is a phenomena in the UK where criminal organizations recruit young people to deal and run drugs in different counties to evade the police. The lack of police centralization in the past allowed this process to flourish similarly to state line crossing crime in the US. The Met Police identified this and created a unified County Lines protocol to connect the various forces and constabularies across the country to identify criminal activity.

The speak from the St Giles charity, spoke about the reality of the hype behind the glamour of a gang. In media, rappers sing in their gilded mansions about living in the trap house and dealing cocaine with girls in bikinis. The reality of course, being dilapidated flats, bare mattresses, drug using squatters and a life of abject suffering. It amazed me to think about the heroes of our time – the icons we hold up. There is no shame in enjoying the art of artists but we take their fantasies as realities. For example, celebrities like 6ix9ine who young people idolize for reasons purely due to the glitz of it all. With lyrics like those sang about drug dealing, as the speaker said today, when you’re making 200k per performance would anyone still deal drugs with the sole purpose of making money? It just wouldn’t compare.

The County Lines strategy is a exploitation of young people thanks to the greed of others and a culture of fame and the age of celebrity. Everyone wants to be a gangster. Who doesn’t? Gangster’s or gang members have money, respect, power, sex. What do the people they exploit have in the material? They are too young or too impressionable to understand the greater truths of the Way.

“In comparative ranking of sins, applying philosophy to the common man’s distinctions, Theophrastus says that offences of lust are gravers than those of anger: because it is clearly some sort of pain and involuntary spasm which drives the angry man to abandon reason, whereas the lust-led offender has given in to pleasure ad seems somehow more abandoned and less manly in his wrongdoing.” – Meditations 2.10

Of course, by manly, we are talking about here in line with what is morally fitting within our nature as human beings.

By all accounts those targeted are victims of the pleasures of another. Rather predictably, the pleasures of wealth, power and fame feeding on the raw desperate emotions of those less financially able. It’s a story as old as time just with a new branding and a new label. Like the workhouses of the Industrial Revolution putting children to work as cheap disposable labour, so has history repeated itself at the hands of equally contemptable individuals.

What do we learn from this? The cult of celebrity and fame is a fallacy? That glamour sells tickets not realities? That pleasures feed on others to be able to be truly satiated? We can live in golden houses from our ill gotten gains for what? For the houses to be torn down and our names forgotten in three short generations with only a legacy of pain.

“In years to come if you chose this life thinking it’s all going to be alright and you’re sat in your prison cell on the phone to your mum, don’t tell her nobody told you. When people are outside your door kicking it in to steal your trainers, canteen, beat you up for a laugh. Don’t tell her nobody told you it’d be like that because this is it now. And nobody cares. You’re in prison, you’re replaceable to these people. That’s how they work.” – X

On reflection of this, reflect on the following:

“On death. Either dispersal, if we are atoms: or, if we are a unity, extinction or a change of home.

On pain. Unbearable pain carries us off: chronic pain can be borne. The mind preserves its own serenity by withdrawal, and the directing reason is not impaired by pain. It is for the parts injured by the pain to protest if they can.

On fame. Look at their minds, the nature of their thought and what they seek to avoid. And see how, just as drifting sands constantly overlay the previous sand, so in our lives what we once did is very quickly covered over by subsequent layers.” – Meditations 7.32,33,34

Under the layers of sand, in the perceptions of our pain and the dispersal of atoms, what makes the life of a gilded cage a thing to idolize more than the humble sage? What kind of icons do we produce? What kind of society do we cultivate and attitudes in the young to make them susceptible to the vices of the immoral?

Think about that with every breath and step you take, each with the common good in mind.


St Giles Trust


Vices and Virtues and the Patriarchy

Only mere days after I post about not biting my nails: I mangle my right index finger, exposing the nail bed beneath it.I know why of course, I allowed discussion and reflection of the current socio-political climate of the UK and world entire get to me.

In short: fuck the patriarchy.

As someone who has benefited from its institutions all of my life and seen the raw truth of it laid bare in my degree studying the media, I say: fuck that shit. As an institution, it perpetuates and demands expectations and reactions from people to indulge in their vices. As a man, you must do as men do which is: do battle on every level of existence. Even Marcus Aurelius was of the same line of thinking in the patriarchal Roman Empire where the very names of women were simple off-shoots of the male counterparts. Octavius becomes Octavia; Cassius becomes Cassia; Julius becomes Julia, and so on.

“The art of is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unseen.”Meditations 7.61

Does it need to be so unnecessarily machismo to be an effective soundbite? In the stoic world, where all things happen according to Nature, why would anyone view it as a wrestling ring? This violence is hardwired in us as part of this damaging institution, and even I am guilty of it, as expected. I am a rather skinny, 169cm unimposing figure yet I’ve always admired the cold and imposing brutality of DC‘s Batman, Star Wars‘ Darth Vader, and Britain’s finest dinosaur: James Bond – despite in truth being nothing like them in nature or stature. It’s taken me years of reflection to shake this weird love of pseudo-fascist and outright fascist icons that perpetuate this image of dominance equals cool, cold-heartedness equals cool, ruthlessness equals cool, sexism equals cool, and to an extent a rather clear cut Napoleon complex that comes with it. Yet, are any of these characters happy and healthy? These patriarchal figures that little boys aspire to be – with the broad chests, chiselled jaws and nihilistic worldview – are they happy in mind and healthy in spirit? Are the people around them? You could make an argument for Batman being a positive figure but in reading the excellent Batman: White Knight series, Sean Murphy does a brilliant job at dissecting this (no spoilers, here).

Wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation are the four core virtues of stoicism. You could argue, in a perfect world, the police service (and I used the word service intentionally here), should reflect these tenets. But what about the events of Clapham Common and subsequent police overreaction to peaceful vigil attendees says: wisdom, courage and moderation. I would say, in my view, that the women who attended that vigil and are now protesting are practising an expression of wisdom, courage, justice and moderation. They are wise in the choice of cause and precaution, remaining distanced from each other and wearing face coverings to mitigate spreading of a virus. They are courageous for facing down an overwhelming force of both police and negative media coverage. They are fighting for justice – justice for Sarah Everard and all the women who have experienced violence of any kind. Finally, they are doing so with considered moderation, protesting peacefully and in a measured way. Of course, if this descends into a riot I’ll not be surprised; being tackled to the floor for laying flowers funnily enough, tends to piss people off.

Foolishness, cowardice and intemperance – who does that sound like? Was it courageous of four officers to tackle Patsy Stevenson to the ground? Was it wise to surround statues and shout to protect them, statues of dead men, while women cry out to be treated as equals? Was it a tempered at all?

I can say fuck the patriarchy while not being absolved of my own sins for indulging in it. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had to take responsibility for the things I’ve done. I’ve hurt women in the past through gaslighting and using and objectifying. The dark place defence doesn’t exist and I have no defence for a very shameful part of my life where I felt entitled to treat people as I pleased. Would I change this? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t think that I’d be able to look back now and reflect on how each action made each person feel and hold true to a new conviction of virtue rather than vice without it. Preferably, I would have come to these conclusions before being entirely toxic in my actions but it still doesn’t change anything. Does this bring much comfort to the dozen or so exes and tens more friends who I have lost or hurt along the way? No, of course it doesn’t. I will take responsibility for what I have done, but also what I haven’t done – whether objectively good or bad or subjectively good or bad.

Yet all I can do now is reflect and be better. Like every other self-identifying man on the planet should, and now is the time if there ever was one. I want to be the change I see in the world as Gandhi said (I’m paraphrasing, here). Why wouldn’t anyone? Is it not in accordance with Nature to evolve? To be changeable and flexible and learned? To see the suffering of others and stand for them, with integrity and conviction, surely is a tenet of what being a good person is – irrespective of ideaology.

Perhaps one could argue that it’s entirely typical of a man to think about himself during a time where he should be thinking of others but my defence of that would be that if I (or he) can’t endeavour to reflect and make changes at home, I (or he) can hardly make them abroad. All I have is my perspective, all I can give is my virtue.

“To be rigid and arrogant; to be above this generation and distant from its ways; to talk of great principles; to be critical and disparaging: these are approved by scholars who dwell in the mountains, by men who are not of this age, who are worn and weary or who cast themselves into the deep.

To preach benevolence, righteousness, loyalty and faithfulness; to be humble, moderate, selfless and civil: these are the marks of self-development and are the signs of the scholars who wish to reform this generation.”The Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter 15: “The Rigid and Arrogant”