These last weeks it would be easy to believe that we have descended into dystopia: mass shootings in the US, gang violence bringing unprecedented death to the streets of London. The tragic toll of stabbings and shootings continues to spiral at a terrifying rate. Hopelessness and fear could engulf us.
We can’t, shouldn’t, ignore these statistics. But on page eight of this week’s magazine you will hear from people who have chosen to approach the fearsome complexities behind these problems and put into action ideas about how they might be fixed. The common theme is prevention – also a core ethos of The Big Issue. Rather than mopping up after crime and violence, throwing more police officers at it, why not try to stop it happening in the first place?
The strength and resilience of people, communities, especially young people, stepping up with the bold ambition of changing the world, is genuinely striking. Rejecting fear for hope, choosing to believe they can make the world safer and better.
The kids in America now reaching out across the globe with their March for Our Lives message, empowering themselves and encouraging others, are nothing short of extraordinary. And doing it in the face of a baffling volley of spite and vilification almost exclusively from adults. Wanting to ‘take away’ Americans’ right to guns. What do they know, dumb kids?! Their smartness, wisdom, dignity and wit in the face of those attacks trumps the haters every time.
Judgment is easy to dish out against the young. ‘London is besieged by feral, greedy, careless kids, shedding blood on the streets’. Blame those who are supposed to guide, mentor or shape them: lazy, unfit parents, broken communities, out-of-control schools and cops who fail the public. There is no shortage of opinions on what is wrong, and largely these ignore the vast complexities behind these problems.
Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.
The people we need to listen to right now are not those dishing out blame, but those who have rolled up their sleeves and are working to fix things, the organisations, individuals and communities who – out of grief, desperation or determination – try to create change.
Those kids taking up the banner of March for Our Lives are too young to know or care about late comedian Bill Hicks, but they are channelling one of his enduring messages: we can change the world any time we want.
It’s a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.
Hicks suggested we take the money spent on weapons and defences and instead feed, clothe and educate the poor. Imagine what a world that would make.
There’s inspiration all around today if we choose to look for it. And the strength, compassion and resilience of the young seems a good place to start.