11 MAY 2002, Page 31

Teenagers are dehumanised

From Mr John Papworth Sir: Perhaps Phil Craig (`Reign of terror', 4 May) is being a trifle glib in his assessment of male teenage hooliganism. The biggest difference that I can see from a childhood in the Twenties and Thirties of the last century and today in terms of adolescent behaviour is the dramatic increase in depersonalised relationships. Whether a person currently is shopping, schooling, having medical attention, in trouble with the law, relaxing or even worshipping, he is no longer doing so in a context of meaningful community relationships, but as a stranger among strangers.

People are not meant to slot in with a lifestyle, however affluent, which is bleakly impersonal and pointless; is it any wonder that they are angry at being expected to do so? It was Gandhi who declared, 'You cannot have morality without community', and when a society dominated by cash-book economics rejects the essential humanity of people by reducing their significance to accounting-system ciphers, those most ready to criticise the ensuing behavioural norms that surface might at least consider whether young people, when putting the boot in, metaphorically or otherwise, are doing any more than repaying those responsible in their own coin.

John Papworth

Editor, Fourth World Review, Purton, Wiltshire