After a remarkable feat in Scotland (whereby Glasgow went from being the murder capital of Western Europe, with 40 children and teenagers killed in homicides involving a knife between 2006 – 2011 to a grand total of zero knife killings between 2011-2016), the UK finds itself once again in what is being called a ‘knife-crime crisis’. Many believe this to be a result of a ‘sick society’ where austerity and the economy drive us all to aspire to a life of excessive material consumption, without the means to do so. Persistent poverty now affects 7% of the UK population, with the highest rate among lone parent families and single men without children. In 2018, a new study found that 4.5 UK children are living in poverty. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it these groups who are most susceptible to fall victim to knife-crime.
The Good Knife
The Good Knife
HOW ONE CUTLERY ESSENTIAL BECAME PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE
The knife is undoubtedly essential in the kitchen and dining room – from butter knives to steak knives, carving knives to bread knives, and everything in between. But it is a devastating fact to many that this instrument, used to create some of the finest dishes, is also public enemy number one and the tool used to attack, defend and take the lives of people in every country, every year.
WEAPON OF THE POOR?
The drastic drop in knife crime across Scotland is something worth paying attention to. Unlike most other countries across the world, the problem was pronounced a public health issue, meaning that doctors, lawyers, police and social workers all worked together to make a change. The prison sentence for carrying a knife went up, but the change didn’t stop there. Those believed most likely to offend were invited in, voluntarily, to a court hearing, where they were introduced to the mothers who have lost sons from stabbings, shown the intel the police had on their gangs and, perhaps most importantly, offered a way out. A lifeline was extended to those probable violent offenders after appealing to their human nature and appreciating their plight of poverty and diminished social structure, in the shape of a new home, a new name, a new job, and training in skills that could provide a better life. Most, given the chance, took it.
But of course, despite this new crisis status, using a knife as a weapon as well as in the kitchen is nothing new. The knife is, in fact, one of the oldest eating utensils ever made and it is believed that these first, sharpened stone tools forged over two and a half million years ago were created to be used for both food processing, hunting, fighting and more. The arrival of the Bronze age (3000 – 700BC) brought about the skills and materials needed to make knives out of metal for the first time, still to be used primarily for fighting.
In present-day dining environments, we all expect cutlery (knife included) to be provided for eating a meal, but this was not always the case. In medieval times, guests were expected to bring their own knife, to be used for both eating and fighting. It wasn’t until the 17th century, during the reign King Louis XIV of France, that these sharp-tipped knives were banned and replaced with downward-turned blades – the beginnings of the first fork! Today, a similar campaign is in action in England, where doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce the number of stabbing deaths.
There’s no denying the knives are essential cutlery items. We all cook and dine using them every day. But sadly, there is also no denying their place in the violent history of humankind all over the world. Of course, it is not the knife to blame though and as Scotland has demonstrated through their successful campaign to halt knife crime in its tracks, there is hope still for a safer world with knives still taking pride of place on tables and in kitchens.