Mark Steel: Are George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld hoodies?

The fear of hoods makes you think this is the helmet of invading aliens
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Historians of the future will see the complaints made about today's youth and conclude the country was under siege from marauding gangs of "hoodies", probably descended from the tribes of Genghis Khan. To prove the connection, someone will declare they've found evidence that the Mongol warriors terrorised Asia by sweeping into villages, then leaning on mountain bikes by the fountain in the Arndale Centre and mumbling "I'm bored bruv", at which point the entire population would flee.

What are people getting so worked up about? It's just a hood. But the fear makes you think this is the helmet of invading aliens. You imagine town halls packed with earnest citizens with a police chief informing everyone "Their 'hoods' are built from a cosmic substance known as - cotton, to which our simple nuclear weapons simply bounce off. Why, they even render every CCTV in the pedestrianised precinct useless. We're doomed."

The argument seems to be another version of the theory that young people today have no respect, not like back in the Fifties when there were canes and hanging and National Service and you weren't allowed out unless you'd polished your shoes with a proper old brush made from hedgehog spikes.

Granted, there was still crime, but when the Krays shot you they did it with shiny shoes because they had RESPECT, not like today when your Yardie will waste you in trainers, which is just a lack of basic manners. It's true that some young people in hoods are rude and intimidating, but it would be just as easy to generalise about old people in caps. Who hasn't been a victim of these cappies, blocking up Post Offices, driving in the exact middle of the road at 14 miles an hour, then pulling out without looking on their way to sit by the window in a Wetherspoons pub from half past 10 in the morning, haven't they got anything useful to do?

Their dogs mess in the park, and if you kick a ball in their garden they don't let you get it back, probably so they can sell it and buy bottled Guinness.

And then they start moaning - "Me elbow's gone again and I'm on a waiting list for an ear transplant and I've got to see a specialist about me lungs turning inside out and then this morning it turns out I'm a man trapped in a woman's body, I ask you."

In fact, you can make more of a case for banning that generation from public areas. Look at today's world and ask which generation causes the damage - is George Bush a hoodie? Or Saddam? Or Bin Laden or Robert Kilroy-Silk?

When Donald Rumsfeld delights in his wars, does he announce "Check out Fallujah bruv, I is gonna MASH it up you get me. Them insurgents, man, they cuss me bad, now they is gonna feel some sick collateral damage and ting, it's true bruv."

The most tragic side to this issue is the generation doing most of the complaining about hoodies seems to be the current crop of the middle-aged, the people who had exactly the same cobblers said about them during the punk years. Can't they remember? Have they forgotten the humiliation of shopkeepers snarling: "Oy - you've seen the sign - ONE schoolchild per year - now get out."

I never even dressed as a punk but I remember older people growling "Tut, disgraceful", loudly as they walked past, while staring in horror as if I was eating a live cat. It seemed that they were saying: "We fought in a war and they have the cheek to be 16. When we were that age we had to be 35, otherwise we'd have got a belt off our Dad."

But in a way you could understand this. There was such a gap between the generations, they were never "teenagers" in a modern sense, and were already 20 or more by the time Little Richard was around, so everything from Eddie Cochrane to Kanye West can appear to them as "that modern rubbish". So by the time we were 12 they seemed truly old, as if their slogan was "Oh well, once you get to 37 every day's a bonus."

But my generation can act old while still thinking it's young, because it's heard the latest Elvis Costello album and smokes dope after dinner parties in the garden. And at some point, a chunk of it has completed the circle and become grumpily contemptuous and fearful of the young. Most ridiculous of all, New Labour, which sold itself as new, new, modern, exciting and new, has become so old and cynical, so associated with war and grubby businessmen and greed, that it leaves a space for the Conservative Party, the party of The Daily Telegraph and colonels and Ann Widdecombe and people who live in castles, to pose as the party who understands the young.

Luckily the young won't hear this, because they'll be listening to some chicken-shit tuneless garage twaddle on their iPod.