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


Getting on With It

In my workspace, I am one of a number of people on temporary contracts that are coming to an end. We were told that we would have to reapply for these jobs formally with a month of a grace period before the roles would be advertised elsewhere. The reaction to this was poor. Questions popped up such as: “why do I have to reapply, can’t my I just have renewed or changed contract?” and “so I have to fight for my job?” and “if there’s no chance of me losing my job, why do I have to reapply?” and what not.

The meeting which took place two weeks ago didn’t have the same affect on me as it did everyone else. I’m not taking a high horse stance but I think that stoicism has a large part to play. My reaction to it was: this job is a stable job; the work is manageable; it’s close to home; I can do this for another year at least. So what’s a bit of paperwork and an interview with someone I’ve worked with for two years who I know well? An hour or two of my life to secure employment in a turbulent time that has a good income and pension scheme doesn’t seem to be a pain at all. The HR jargon given to us about why we needed to reapply and that the contracts wouldn’t be automatically extended washed over me. It was a whole lot of words to say very little and what was said was: this is how it is, get on with it, sorry not sorry.

Fire! Rabble!

“Are you not upset by this?” – X

“No, why? Are you?” – Z

“We have to fight for our jobs, I don’t get it.” – X

“Meh, I’ve seen Lord of the Flies, I’ve got this.” – Z

Okay, so maybe the sarcasm wasn’t entirely helpful but it was laughable. What do people think a fight is these days? A bit of paperwork and an interview? I understand that people have their own anxieties, I’m not knocking that, but really? A HR formality is a disprefferred incident not some grand injustice where someone is being dragged from their home in the dead of night to a gulag for an undetermined crime. In the stoic sense, sure, even that is a disprefferred in different.

This is the same odd hyperbolic logic that has caused thousands to flock to the local Primark today as they reopen across the UK. They must have a new pair of cuddly socks and some flip-flops so queued for hours for the privilege. Are we that privileged? Have we all become so accustomed to a life style of such ease and comfort that we go mad for leggings and panic at the thought of some minor administrative hoops.

“Nothing happens to any creature beyond its own natural endurance. Another has the same experience as you: either through failure to recognize what has happened to him, or in a display of courage, he remains calm and untroubled. Strange, then, that ignorance and pretension should be stronger than wisdom.” – Meditations 5.18

Getting on with it because we can, is something we should do. Is that British stiff upper lipped Blitz spirit or common stoic sense? For it to be truly British I think we need to be doing this with a cup of tea, at least. Yet I suppose that doesn’t really apply since the incidents I’m talking about all took place in the UK and include British people.

I’m not above complaining about things that have little to no affect on me in reality. Every night I seem to find myself grumbling at the amount of washing up to be done but with cooking comes washing up as a given. So in that reality, what’s the problem? It’s a logical consequence that shouldn’t bother me. My own ignorance can’t be ignored yet I take the victories of my rational mind where I can. The truth is plain: I need to get on with it.

“All that happens is an event either within your natural ability to bear it, or not. So if it an event within that ability, do not complain, but bear it as you were born to. If outside that ability, do not complain either: it will take you away before you have the chance for complaint. Remember, though, that you are by nature born to bear all that your own judgement can decide bearable, or tolerate in action, if you represent it to yourself as a benefit or duty.” – Meditations 10.3

What’s some paperwork? What’s some washing up? What’s some hardship, meaningless or meaningful? Nothing but swirling mist that will dissipate by our own action or on it’s own. What’s human life but swirling mist? What is the solar system but swirling mist?

I’m digressing but the point being: get on with it, no need for complaint, it’ll be fine. I can bear this life, you can bear this life, we can bear this life and it’s dispreferred indifferent pieces. When the whole jigsaw comes together, we see it’s beauty if we can allow ourselves.