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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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HomeCulture WarGoodbye Swiss Army Knife, hello machetes and Samurai swords

Goodbye Swiss Army Knife, hello machetes and Samurai swords

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YOU know the world has gone totally bonkers when Carl Eisner, CEO of Victorinox, the makers of the iconic Swiss Army Knife (SAK), announces that their next model will include a variety of devices – but no blade! This company, which produced its 500millionth knife in 2017, has reacted to mounting regulatory interference in Europe and Asia, where violent street crime has surged. ‘In some markets,’ Eisner said, ‘the blade creates the image of a weapon’, which has introduced a negative connotation to this most popular of products.

Yet the idea of the murderous SAK blade couldn’t be further from the truth. Pocket knives generally are very rarely misused, and the many varieties of Victorinox have become a shorthand for must-have multi-functionality. You can use them to cut, screw, de-scale, uncork, crimp, file, poke, download, and even manicure a cuticle. The ‘Giant’, launched in 2006, included every single implement the company had ever made, with 87 tools and 141 applications, and was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s most multifunctional penknife. Any purchaser would certainly need deep pockets for that one, retailing at just under $400.

Since the good old days of Scouting for Boys, the penknife has been valued as the archetypal survival tool, essential for cutting ropes and twine, whittling shelter materials, even opening cans. Every self-respecting boy carried one, and the tradition has survived – until now.

The Scout Handbook allows the carrying of a knife, but for use only when necessary. A Scout never carries one in public, stores it safely out of sight, and its use should always be supervised by an adult. Once he has demonstrated his efficiency, he can apply for his Knife, Saw and Axe (KAS) licence. Alas, since September 2009, Scouts (the renamed Scout Association) advises they should no longer be brought automatically to camp. Their reason is the growing ‘knife culture’ in England, in spite of the fact that no one has yet been stabbed to death on his way to a campfire. Just to be on the safe side, knives should now be carried by adults only, even though the carrying of a fold-up knife with a less-than-3inch blade is still perfectly legal.   

As ever, it’s the ‘tyranny by bureaucratic mindset’, constantly meddling in everyday matters and always missing the point, targeting the totally innocent, socially responsible and even well-trained carriers, making their lives grossly unfair and possibly even more dangerous. The reality is that a significant section of modern society takes no notice of these laws – quite the reverse. Home Secretary James Cleverly may announce new legislation to stop dangerous knives ending up on our streets, but ever more desperate bladed weapons – machetes, samurai swords, zombie knives – keep appearing in broad daylight, to the outrage of the general public. Previous banning attempts have failed to tackle the sale of knives online, and Labour supporters, such as Erin Sanders-McDonagh, go so far as to blame the crisis on (ironically) Tory cuts. 

In December last year, it was reported that gang violence in London has seen knife crime surge at its fastest rate in five years, with over 40 incidents logged with police every day. More than 200 gangs operate in the capital, with around 46,000 active participants, some as young as ten. An officer with the Met’s murder investigation unit said, with remarkable understatement, ‘It really does feel like things are getting out of control. The volume and ferocity of the violence is off the charts.’

Public alarm rose recently when a Spanish-Brazilian immigrant went on a sword-wielding rampage in north-east London, during which he murdered a 14-year-old boy, ‘largely decapitating’ his victim. 

The unsuccessful Tory candidate for London Mayor, Susan Hall, lays the blame squarely with re-elected Mayor Sadiq Khan. ‘How have we got to the situation where kids are running through the streets with machetes?’ she demanded. During Khan’s tenure, there has been a sharp increase in knife-related incidents. While 9,086 such offences were reported in London in the year up to March 2016, before he came to power, this has risen under his tenure by 40 per cent, with a total of 12,786 offences reported during 2023.

This is all a far cry from the marketing imperatives of the Victorinox company. A common Swiss saying for many years was ‘A real man carries a pocket knife in his trousers.’ It’s an enduring habit, even for women now, but owing to developments well beyond the Swiss borders marketing considerations have been turned topsy-turvy. It is now perceived that the risk lies in carrying any kind of small knife, even the innocent ‘Sackmesser’ specially designed for children’s hobbies

Routine examples of this risky behaviour are the SAK carriers who attempt to get through security at any major airport, which will lead to your favourite penknife being confiscated, never to be returned. All this, despite the fact that you will search in vain for any evidence of fatal stabbings perpetrated by SAK enthusiasts, far less decapitations. That remains the privilege of the savage gangs of sword and machete wielders, who remain oblivious to increasingly trivialised legislation – laws which are arguably unenforceable without regular and rigorous stop-and-search procedures.

So, Mr Eisner, please note: scrapping the blades on the most iconic bladed artefact in the world will have little impact on surging inner city stabbings and gang-related criminality. Nor will this deter all those jobsworth security personnel from depriving you of an extremely useful, and in the hands of a socially responsible owner, totally innocuous possession. It’s time politicians woke up to the fact that it’s the ruthless protocols of drug-running and turf wars that inflict the real ‘cuts’, often fatally, and that’s where the forces of law and order should be applying themselves. But like all bad workmen, both the Met and their political masters continue to blame the tools.

It’s a fitting metaphor for their concept of governance – a knife with no blade!

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Janice Davis
Janice Davis
Janice Davis is a grandmother and former girls’ grammar school teacher

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