Should we blame one young man for a murder, or see it instead as an inevitable consequence of our collective inaction?
It’s obvious that the stabbing of Syden Pearson has devastated his family and friends. But it will have the same effect on the family and friends of young Kai Orgles, in prison accused of Syden’s murder.
Two families, countless young people and a whole community will be experiencing a heady mix of anger, sadness, and frustration.
Since Worthing started to spread north-west in the years after World War Two, the optimism of the new housing estates has been dulled by the lack of facilities for young people. Durrington-on-Sea is a town on the edge of the town, a long way from our cinemas, bowling alleys and icer1inks, especially for young people without money.
Eight years ago, I was lucky enough to work with young people in Durrington. I met teenagers like Kai who were sparky, tough and independent and whose main failing was a lack of aspiration. Elsewhere, their better attributes would see them become businessmen or community leaders. But in Durrington, they simply couldn’t see that they had opportunity and the possibility of achievement.
We knew then, and so too did Sussex Police, West Sussex County Council’s Youth Service and Worthing Borough Council, that to help the Sydens and Kais, we needed to raise aspiration and provide opportunity. But there has simply been no change in the area. And another generation of young people must feel ignored and abandoned, even if they don’t have the emotional vocabulary to tell us this.
This poverty of aspiration was identified by government minister Tessa Jowell in 2004 as the ‘sixth giant’ after economist William Beveridge’s five post-war ‘giants of physical poverty’ – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness – which Worthing’s new estates sought to address.
One thing we know is that Kai wasn’t born wanting to commit murder.
Today, the whole of Worthing must take responsibility for the damage done to Syden, Kai and their family and friends, and we must come together to be the brave ones who slay the giants. We must act, we must do it together, and we must do it now or, like Syden and Kai, we will run out of tomorrows.