Neds, Bams, Dafties, Rockets, Weekend Warriors, Cardboard Gangsters, call them what you will, but there’s one thing these people have in common, they’re some mother’s son.

The West of Scotland has gained quite the reputation for raising tough young men, who think nothing of battling, sometimes to the death, for a piece of territory, that in a few years to come they will hope to move away from.

gangs

That’s not always the case though, there are places in Glasgow, where generations of the same family have grown up. Decades of history in the same area, in several cases you can be born and raised into a gang.

You’re officially known as “so and so’s wee boy” and before you know it you’re being raised with epic tales of bravery, humour and an unending loyalty to your mates. Why would you not want to join this romanticised group of heroes?

The difference between how soaps portray joining a youth gang or how its colloquially known in the West of Scotland a “young team” is night and day. Unlike in the soaps or television programmes, there are no initiation processes, no, last a minute in a fight, no swearing a blood allegiance, no proving your worth by stealing a CD from HMV. For the most part you simply fall into it.

It tends to be either through school, moving from Primary School to High School opening your eyes up to a bit more of the ways of the world. Watching a fight on the bus home between two older pupils, rival schools turning up at the gates yelling the name of someone in the school. (Generally as a repercussion for a misdemeanour the previous evening.)

tongland

You start to notice gang signs written in tunnels (or menshies), possibly start to recognise a few of the names written in the tunnel, and suddenly you put the names of the people on the tunnel wall, to the second name, overheard during the fight on the bus and like an explosion of awareness you can comprehend the young team in your area.

Most of the time members barely even see themselves as being involved in a “young team” the way its perceived is simply they’re hanging about with the same group of friends they always have, just in a more centralised area in comparison to where they would have hung about previously. (Most prominently at the local shops, or a swing park close to it.)

The sectarian problem in the West of Scotland seems overstated, as if the establishment needs one overwhelming reason for the anti social unrest that envelopes this small problematic section of the world.

There are far greater problems in the West of Scotland that it could be argued directly influence, “young team” membership.

Fear, poverty, anger, anti-authoritarianism, lack of opportunity, social upbringing and many other instances can directly effect whether a young person joins a youth gang. Their religious affiliation? For the most part, way down the list.

Take for instance, whether you believe a police car would be quicker to react to a call made from an affluent area, or whether they would react quicker to a call from an area with a higher percentage of deprivation.

Easterhouse, Glasgow: boarded up and burnt-out housing estate

 

If a young person, in a rougher area, has grown up to realise the police will be quick to question him in relation to committing a crime but pedestrian to take a statement when they are the victim of a crime, they will look for other ways to defend themselves and their area, police eventually become another enemy.

The explosion in youth warfare can be traced back as far as WW1/WW2, where war-groomed men return from some of the worst and most horrifying conditions experienced by any person in history. What do they return to? Squalor, unemployment, disease, and oblivion.

Suddenly these valiant young men, fighting for their country have no motivation, no jobs, nothing to build pride or support a family. Disappointment and despair turns to aggression and anger, which in turn leads to alcohol and violence.

Any good man would never raise a hand to their family and for the most part don’t fight their friends, so they look for territorial rivals, and they do what comes natural after years at war. Fight.

Glasgow neds

Generation after generation, this trend continues until the question of why they fight is no longer uttered. It’s as unimportant as what they fight for. They do, because they do, because they always have and always will.

Statistically 2013 witnessed the worst poverty levels in Scotland for more than 30 years. What are the main causes and repercussions of poverty? Unemployment, single parents working twice as hard but struggling to raise children. Teenagers are hard to raise at the best of times. Throw in, two jobs, trouble at school, cooking, cleaning, homework, getting the kids up, early mornings, working late at night, perfect recipes for a child to go off the rails.

The young person with a feeling of abandonment starts to hang about with like minded people from the same social background. Suddenly they belong. They belong to a young team, they’ll defend a young team, the young team becomes their family.

With an estimated 170 gangs in Glasgow, collectively containing more than 2000 members, its easy to see that the problem is at epidemic levels. However the problem is less about young people hanging about in groups and more about the stigma, the media projects onto them.

“Gangs” are everywhere, e.g middle class, neighbourhood watch members? Gang. Belonging to club where only members are permitted? Gang member. Even political parties, in which to join you have to pay a regular membership? Gang member.

The difference between a “young team” and other “gangs”? Defending your territory can literally become life and death.

knife culture

If young people in Glasgow constantly read about their low life expectancy, little to no opportunity and reminded of the “No Mean City” tag. How can they be expected to see any “light at the tunnel”, when the tunnel has no hope, is multiple generations of despair, long and nearly 60 years deep.

When it comes to the problem of “gang fighting”, why would the “young team” value a rivals life when they barely value their own.

The only prevention is education. Education costs money, more teachers, smaller class numbers, an increase in after school activities and closer ties between school, home and state.

With the constant media headlines reminding us of savage cuts, failing education levels, a decrease in uni or college places for less wealthy pupils and parents struggling to feed or warm their own children, plus increasing benefit sanctions for people unfortunate enough to rely on the state, it’s hard to see how the problem of disenchanted youth will be alleviated for several generations to come.

If you look closely, and answer honestly, it seems the problem can only get worse.

Glasgow, No Mean City? You can bet your arse it is.