Adult authority is so knowing, so sanctimonious, so frequently full of it about youth violence. But it isn't an adult experience, most of the time, to be regularly chased, smacked in the head, kicked in the stomach, baited, spat on, challenged to a fight, ambushed, have a weapon waved in one's face. Adults aren't the ones that have to deal with this.
Adolescence, for boys, especially working-class boys, is a violent threshold. When you're a teenager, you live in the state of hyperbole: where every misery is singling you out, where each sleight and disappointment is unbearable, where all emotion is consuming, and where humiliation is ultimate. And if there's violence, you think it will never stop. You think there will always be bullies, big sticks, and boys wielding them. Ambushes, sadists, knuckledusters, and gangs. Knives, sucker-punches, broken noses, and boys put in hospital.
This is what it's like, and you don't need a special theory -- say, of 'gangs' -- to comprehend it. And you don't have to seek the violence; it will find you. I can't tell you how many times I had to block blows, improvise escape, contrive to hide, or just run and run and run, hurdling barbed wire fences, tearing skin and flesh, charging through back yards, bombing across busy roads. As a boy, I ran so blindly from a boy that I dashed straight in front of the school bus. It had just enough time to brake so that all I got out of the interaction was a small groove in the back of my skull.
And how badly I wanted to come back at them, with anything, anything at all. It doesn't surprise me at all that young people -- and they're getting younger -- want to carry weapons. I wanted to carry weapons. Weapons seemed intrinsically impressive, the unanswerable answer. They were magic wands that would transform any difficult situation. They were the techne of rage, glamorously lethal. [...]