The Impacts of Knife Crime on Epistemic Inequality
(When will they ever learn?)
There is only one word in this headline that needs explanation.
Some readers may not be familiar with ‘epistemic’, and that’s entirely understandable. Those readers who are already concerned with access to learning and knowledge may wonder just exactly what the word is doing in this sentence.
And some of those learned readers (teachers, 21st century economists, Kate or Mariana perhaps, or welfare policy experts) may already understand how awareness of such inequalities may shine a light on the differences in wellbeing of people living within different economies and subject to a range of policy management.
Those readers who don’t yet understand any of this this, need only turn to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) for a brilliantly clear video explanation of how wages, health, community engagement, political awareness and trust are all linked by this most basic indicator of progressive societies.
But even if you’ve survived these last three paragraphs, you may well be asking why Knife Crime is, apparently, a cause. Should the headline not be round the other way?
Most of us will have read headlines lamenting a surge in knife crime.
We are almost daily reminded of some dreadful clash of blades, some eruption of gang warfare, some puzzling and seemingly pointless lashing out of anger. ‘Something’, we say in bewilderment, ‘must be done’ — often with a ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ sentiment. In other countries much the same is said about gun crime and mass shootings — if, that is, the perpetrators are caught alive.
There is, of course, a minority view that wonders why some discontents feel they must lash out and create havoc — but while those concerned may attempt to understand warped motivations, their views will be drowned and dismissed by the rabloids as snowflakey do-gooders. The problem here is that they have all been talking about the wrong sort of knife crime.
The headline is perfectly logical if the knife crime of which we speak is the knife that has been wielded so deftly by a government determined to reduce investment aimed at treating epistemic inequality — the Knife of Austerity.
In their dogmatic commitments to lower taxes, to smaller government, to reduced public expenditure, to enforcing ever greater inadequacies, the dividends of that policy are now laid bare — or rather, laid on stretchers in A&E, or on cold slabs of mortuaries, or banged up in prisons to vent their anger on cell walls.
Closing down ‘Sure Start’, or cutting Library budgets, or shifting people into Universal Beg It, or reducing Local Authorities to Local Agencies, or assuming most folk are workshy, or even avoiding investment by turning motorways into ‘smart’ death traps, the fervent imaginations of politicians deserves a memorial to their self-destruction of civilised society.
Epistemic Inequality helps explain why, at the extremes of the political spectrum, their mechanistic view of citizens as competitive units of productivity always ensures policy failure.
Epistemic Inequality is a very real thing when the local library is being closed or forced to reduce opening hours. It is a real thing when schools cannot afford the Schools Library Service and when a librarian is no longer allowed to visit and enthuse youngsters with a thirst for knowledge. Epistemic Inequality — the variability of access to learning and knowledge — is a very real thing if society wants to combat fake news and equip citizens with the tools to uncover the truth or encourage innovation.
Normalisation of epistemic inequality is just exactly what any government stuck with last-century’s misunderstanding of values — particularly the value of public investment — will invoke as they merrily slide down the spiral of deprivation, preaching as they go, that free market competition will ensure that anyone is free to gamble their life away whilst dreaming of climbing to the top of the tree and pushing everyone else away.
But another puzzle remains. On one hand we have this brilliant and incisive ability to analyse the metrics and engage in debate around comparative forms of government. On the other hand, we have a determined media-led rejection of ‘clever clogs’, a preference for non-awareness, and disinterest in anything but today’s most lurid blood-dripping headlines. Much the same could be said for the astonishing lack of awareness of the climate crisis. The gulf between insight and short-sight is a chasm into which falls the thing we have failed to grasp. Austerity policies exacerbate inequalities.
Societal Value Destruction should be seen as much of a crisis as the 2008/9 financial sector’s meltdown. It’s not just the debt pile of local communities but the massive value lost in a decade of belt tightening cuts. If the ‘Sterile Class’ can be rescued by Quantitative Easing (QE) why can our communities not be restored to health with Community Easing (CE)?
The Impacts of Knife Crime on Epistemic Inequality demand a response. Something should be undone. It will take decades to recover the one just lost — but, surely, we must start now.