Editor-At-Large: A little more love and 12 victims would have lived

Share
Related Topics

In just two minutes, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer killed nine former classmates and three teachers and injured seven people before fleeing the school he'd once attended.

He went on to murder three more bystanders before turning his gun on himself. Most of the victims were female. What an appalling waste of young people who hadn't even started on the great adventure of adult life. There has been much debate about whether remarks Tim allegedly posted on an internet chatroom the night before were a hoax, but it doesn't matter – their sentiments are horribly accurate. He complained "I'm sick of this life ... everyone laughs at me."

Lack of self-respect and poor self-esteem lie at the heart of this tragedy. Tim was failed on every level – by his middle-class parents, his unfriendly fellow pupils and by the psychiatrists he visited only last year. A lot of the deep-seated loneliness this boy so clearly felt is very common at his age. Young men are deeply adrift – and when there are knives and weapons available, there are bound to be innocent victims.

Teenage boys have an image problem – a survey by Women in Journalism (WiJ) showed that time and time again young men only get written about in the media in negative terms. Over half the stories WiJ found linked teenage boys to crime, and the terms consistently used to describe them were yobs, thugs, sick, scum and feral. The only time they got written up positively was generally when they'd died, and only one in 10 stories about young men included their point of view.

We know that some young men are under-achieving, and now it's got to the point where this negative reporting of a small number is affecting how they view themselves. The survey found that many now fear their peers, and avoid places where they hang out. It doesn't take much to see that one of the reasons many young people started carrying knives is rooted in anxieties like these.

Emphasis on image and appearance rules teenage life here, and it was no different for Tim growing up in a small town in Germany. Having the right clothes, the right music and the right friends is paramount, and when you fail to fit in then the internet and computer games can be used to try and fill the void. But online friends, as I've said so many times, are no substitute for the real thing.

Tim had a tough time at school – he looked nerdy, wore glasses, and found it hard to make friends. It's said he was taunted by other students and one teacher told him he was a failure who would end up as a dustbin man if he didn't work harder. He'd had feelings for one girl, but they weren't reciprocated. He'd left to study at a private college, and his periods of depression had become so marked he'd paid five visits to a psychiatric clinic in 2008. If Tim didn't fit in at school, then things don't seem to have been a whole lot cosier at home. Three weeks ago he wrote a letter to his parents about how unhappy he felt.

As a teenager, I wore thick National Health specs, had sticky-out teeth and horrible beige hair. The other girls had bigger tits, and my legs were like matchsticks. There were no chatrooms then, but I channelled all my differentness into a feeling of superiority – if they didn't want to be friends with me, it was their loss. I became a swot. But how many kids are that thick-skinned?

Tim's father has a lot to answer for – keeping 15 guns at home and allowing his unhappy son to practise target shooting with them for hours in the basement seems poor judgement to say the least. But guns aren't what drove Tim over the edge – he was lonely and had zero self-esteem. The lessons to be learned from these sad killings aren't about gun control. They are about helping young men to have pride and dignity and a sense of worth. Once they retreat into a fantasy world online, or the violent world of computer games, it is harder for them to function in the real world of work and relationships. Young men need urgent help at school to develop their emotional intelligence, otherwise there will be more killings.

Glamour politics I see you're still avoiding celebs, Gordon

Two years is a lifetime in politics. We know Gordon Brown might not be ready to say the "sorry" word, but he's man enough to realise that his philosophy about celebrity culture needs to be dumped if he wants to get on the front pages of the newspapers in stories that don't focus on the financial crisis. In April 2007 he said: "I think we're moving from this period when ... celebrity matters, when people have become famous for being famous." Can this be the same Gordon Brown that sent Jade Goody his best wishes and "applauded her determination" last month, and cosied up to Cheryl Cole and Kimberley Walsh outside Downing Street to "celebrate" their climb up Kilimanjaro accompanied by 120 porters, 32 production staff, a team of doctors and two film crews? Did our starstruck PM raise the embarrassing point that Gary Barlow chartered a private jet to fly the celebrity climbers home, blowing £50,000 which could have gone to charity without adding to global warming?

Baby Palin won't hurt grandma

Her mum thinks the best form of birth control is abstinence – but Bristol Palin, right, disagreed, claiming it "wasn't realistic". Republicans were astounded when their vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin paraded her large family on the convention platform last September – including a pregnant teenage daughter and the father of her child, (her high-school lover). Now, keeping with the Palin family tradition, Bristol's baby has been given a wacky name – Tripp. Sadly, the teenage lovebirds have split. Sarah Palin has been plagued by bad press – she spent thousands of party funds on swanky clothes for her family and it was proved she used state funds for their personal holidays. Nevertheless, pundits feel an unmarried daughter with a baby will do her political ambitions for the election in 2012 no harm – it just makes her fans relate to her even more. God help us.

We need a minister for Cool, too

Australia's minister for the environment, Peter Garrett, was a successful rock star before he entered politics – fronting the controversial band Midnight Oil. Now the band is reuniting and he's performing a series of fundraising concerts for the victims of last month's bush fires, starting this weekend. What an inspiring gesture.

Back in the UK we have the hapless Secretary of State for Children, Ed Balls, waffling on all fronts about learning lessons after Lord Laming's scathing report into the state of child protection in England, which ended with the chilling words JUST DO IT!

Ed Balls can't even run one career, let alone put on a night in my local pub to raise funds for our battered and beaten kids. Political office is proving a very difficult job for this lacklustre individual. Coco the Clown would probably achieve more.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game