The theme of the rioting youths I’ve seen interviewed this week flows around respect. “When we get it, we’ll give it back. ‘Till then we’re taking,” said one angry girl on the beeb news this morning.
Respect exists inherently in a social society. By minding my own business and not infringing on your day as I pass you on the street, I’m being respectful. You don’t need to be told that and visa versa. You need to be a deluded Neanderthal to believe smash-grab-burn is the way to gain any respect.
Many far smarter than me will be picking the bones of this mayhem for months to come but our modern pillars of society have proven they don’t stand tall in a culture that believes wholeheartedly to entitlement.
The politically correct brigade haven’t helped over the years. Teachers are sworn at, spat at, verbally and physically abused in our classrooms, but they daren’t do anything about it. Immigration has been out of control by any possible measure. We’ve got an overstretched, underfunded, shrinking police force that’s neutered by a judicial system that can’t afford to incarcerate offenders. And we’ve got politicians wishing to hug a hoodie rather than educate and create a job for then. A benefits culture that rewards teenage pregnancy. Gang culture, drug culture, yob culture… all make a simplistic list towards my pet theory of why.
I fear the elastic is snapping here. I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of youths who’ve never stepped outside the law prior to being caught on camera this week. They’ve never smashed property, never stolen and certainly never thrown rocks at police officers. But some parents aren’t just allowing their kids out, they’re taking them looting.
And what’s next, now that the lion has tasted warm blood? Doesn’t the fact that the lawlessness is spreading demonstrate how easy it is to step across the line of temptation from wanting to taking?
This isn’t an Arab Spring. There is no dictator to topple. This is pure entertainment for these youths/criminals. Yes, the economy is in the toilet. Yes, the job outlook is bleak. And yes, the police took the life of a man, but this is as far removed from legitimate protest as you can get.
David Cameron has opportunity here. An opportunity to put some of the P.C. bull***t back in the cupboard. He says, “You’ll meet the full force of the law.” Well, David, they’ve seen your laws and they’re laughing at them. If the government doesn’t grip this with a force that makes Hulk Hogan squirm, point-scoring Ed Miliband will land enough rabbit punches to really hurt this time.
I genuinely fear for our society today. If anarchy becomes entertainment for the masses then tonight and every other night threatens to become a scene from a Mad Max movie. It is an impossibly difficult task to put this genie back in the bottle and capitalism hasn’t exactly been on a charm offensive of late (bankers, politicians, journalists, austerity et al) and the gap of the haves and the have-nots is growing. Can we really push consumerism to the level we have without consequence (I’m talking American housing as much a teenager’s desire for iPhones)? And how can government reign that back, even if we wanted them to? Surely there’d be cries of nanny-state at the thought of it?
Europe doesn’t have the answer; neither does America. The principles and practices that have gotten us here are clearly flawed and should be questioned by all. Regardless of David, Ed and Cleggy, I think I’d vote for Scooby Doo at this point if his manifesto stated he’d bringing back capital punishment.
Restoring public order is the obvious immediate task, but proving public confidence and restoring peace of mind is hugely urgent too. Government can’t seriously do that alone, there’s a collective responsibility towards change needed here.
Our nation is in metamorphosis this week – what will we become?
This is a business blog with a digital angle, so here’s some relevancy: since the rioting Amazon has seen a massive spike in shovels and baseball bat sales.
I don’t know if that indicates more protectors or more perpetrators but it’s a spike all the same. Just saying.