So, I went to the cinema recently to watch a light hearted film named 'Attack the Block.' It's a fun film that feels very homely to a born and bred Londoner. Yutes with so much bottle they'll kill aliens.
Beneath this film was a deeper message though. It's heroes are 5 boys, the classic estate like characters, hoodies, Air Force 1s, BMXs, all the gear. The film kicks off with these five boys mugging a lady, Sam. This lady is unarmed, helpless and very vulnerable, yet these boys hold a knife to her and take her stuff. Hardly the stuff heroes are made of. Yet what is revealed as the film progresses is that these boys were just as scared as she was, they just acted up, pretended they weren't. They have to act macho. They mug because they feel they have to. They steal because they feel they have to. But behind this bravado they have personalities and ambitions just like you and me.
As the film progresses Sam grows closer to the boys, and begins to realise this. They never hated her or had anything against her, they were just doing what they thought they had to. By the end of the film the boys are her friends and saviours.
A mugging is usually associated with loss of possessions. Mobile phones, money, credit cards, jewelery etc. A mugging is all this and more. A mugging robs you and the perpetrator of their humanity, and that is the worse thing we can have stolen. When we are mugged, instantly they perpetrator becomes a criminal. We lose the ability to relate to them and build up a hatred for them and very often never have the chance to repair that broken bond. We never get to find out why they mugged us, who are they, what they like, we just see the bad of them, and when a person is a summation of there negative parts, then they lose the ability to really be a person anymore.
It is why the story of a Peckham mother who lost her son in a knife-crime is so touching to me. That mother went out of her way to spend time with the killer of her son, as to her humans aren't just killers. She knew there was more to this person that killed her son, a history, a family, interests, passions. She wanted to repair the broken bond between herself and another human. She lost none of her humanity in this instance, she actually understood better what it means to be human. In the process no doubt she restored some of the humanity that this person had lost in putting a knife into another human.
It is so easy to see people just as categories. Murderer, footballer, thief, politician, banker, teacher, homeless, check-out lady. People aren't categories. Behind every person is a story, a story better than any film you've ever watched. When we see people as machines we lose our own humanity. When we hurl abuse at a footballer, when we ignore a homeless person, when we watch naked women in pornography, when we fail to say hello to the check-out lady we lose a bit of humanity, as we look at another person but see an object. An object made to serve us, provide us a function. This is not why God made people, he made them all with specific purposes and functions.
Ignore no-one, recognise all, trust me life will be a lot more interesting.
Thanks for reading,