In July and August I encountered a large amount of violence and crime in my day to day life. I had hesitated to write an article about this because at first I'd just assumed that nothing was different to "normal" and that it was more likely a statistical artifact my misfortune rather than an uptick in crime. It's not like this is the first time I've seen violent crime, I grew up in a not so amazing area in the peak of the Heroin craze in Australia. I remember seeing a very nasty gang brawl in Sydney at lockout hour back in 2018 but then after that I saw nothing for quite a long time, and I was out and about a lot at the time. September is still early but so far I haven't encountered anything yet but that said I've been a bit sick so I haven't left the house much lately.
What's felt different about now is that almost every single day I've been in the city I've witnessed some sort of crime or another. A few weeks ago I witnessed an altercation because someone was robbing a burger store and the staff were confronting him. While this was happening I was just down the street from another place where a member of staff was murdered during a robbery while closing up the store just a few weeks prior.
That weekend I was at a pool hall that I frequent and I saw someone doing something that was damaging the table so I made a comment about technique that could allow for the same shot but without damaging the equipment. I was pretty chilled out about this and wasn't rude about it. This however wasn't taken well and the other guy escalated the situation very quickly, I was fairly sure in the heat of the moment that I was going to have to fight this guy but he did cool off about it and actually apologized later for overreacting. That same day I went with some friends to see a movie, the new Top Gun movie, and after we stopped by this restaurant to get some food. After we had ordered we witnessed an especially nasty group brawl in which someone got stabbed. It seemed the two groups knew each other and that there was some animosity about something historical. But the amount of violent escalation was quite the sight to see.
In all these cases I just saw things escalate rather quickly. As I was thinking about this a few hours later some guy came into the store I was at asking if there was any security camera footage outside because someone had smashed his car windows in.
This is not the article I have particularly wanted to write as I've got other things I'd like to write about more than this but this has been a disturbingly recurring theme for me lately. Its also something some of my friends have seen too.
I was in the city today running some errands and I was watching some people board a tram, some asshole on a skateboard doesn't stop and plows into this old guy who's just trying to get on the tram. The old guy shoves him away and again it looked like there was highly likely a potential for a fight. I might have actually got myself in the way of this if the old guy were to be attacked there.
There's something about that incident that was so much more mundane than all the other stuff I'd seen lately. It was less violent but had many of the same aspects of the other things I'd seen, the lack of violent escalation meant that the violence was not the focal point and gave me some more thinking space to focus on other aspects. On the way home I figured I'd finally write something about it since not writing something was bothering me more than the effort involved in just writing something.
Oddly when you watch stuff like the mainstream media there's often a lot of news items about violent crime. For a while I've been well aware that overall violent crime has been on the decline across most of the world. The stats about these things just aren't what people think though, many people think they are unsafe while living in some of the safest times in human history. The other week I had someone tell me that "women are the victims of violent crime more than men", which just doesn't line up with the stats. It also doesn't line up with the anecdotal evidence either, while it was a small sample size literally all of the violent crime I saw this year has only involved men fighting other men. Throughout my life this has been the same. This is not to say that women aren't the victims of violent crime, that does happen too and is terrible when it does. But historically the facts are that most violent crime is perpetrated by men against other men.
What concerns me far more however are the trends. For my entire life violent crime has been trending downwards. For much of my life there has been a sense of progress, even despite living in the "silent economic depression" of the decade starting 2008. What increasingly was worrying in the last decade is the erosion of the societal values that have enabled this reduction in crime. This has led to a situation where an economic downturn might lead people to react far more negatively and violently towards their society than before. Back when I was in Chicago in 2019 I remember this same feeling, there just seemed to be this feeling of increased potential for crime. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it was, but some combination of a breakdown of values/morals combined with a reduced willingness to prosecute crime seems to really spur this sort of behavior on. When things got a bit worse a year later and there was widespread looting in Chicago I couldn't help but think a general long running malaise in society was a massive cause.
In the past I think my first place for looking would have been official stats. But unfortunately it seems that these days inconvenient stats just get buried rather than reported on. I remember the surprise I had at hearing the situation in Sweden was more violent than I had thought. It's easy to think the society there is particularly idyllic as an outsider, but part of that is because the violence that does occur there just about never gets reported to the outside world. But at least the news tells us more important international "news" like how to play international lottery scams. What worries me is if this trend in non-political violent crime reverses from the downwards trajectory and starts to rise. I make a distinction with political motivated violent crime because that's clearly been on the rise worldwide lately, but I think the drivers for that are very different. There's some articles starting to pop up about these trends lately, like the 5% increase in knife related crime in the UK.
Knowing that the recession has already begun and will get far far worse concerns me. I don't know how people are going to react to the economic hardships ahead, we have seen nothing yet. I don't know how the people who are currently heavily involved in hedonism and materialism are going to react to the upcoming austerity that's looking to be increasingly impossible to avoid. With a lack of a solid system of values and other guiding principles to life I think it will be very hard for people to feel contented as the economic situation deteriorates further. Its not as though those who have bought into materialism were particularly content even when times were good.