Thursday, 11 August 2011

England - Quo Vadis?

It is with feelings of shame, regret and slight anguish that I'm writing my first muse about the current situation in England. It seems like riots are the order of the day. Youngsters gone mad, feverish frenzy, looting, arson, mayhem, madness. I turned on TV and watched our prime minister speaking about sick sections of our society. Why and when did it all go so wrong and what’s the cure?

What makes our youth go to such extremes? Some people mention the lack of possibilities, that youths see no clear future prospects, austerity cuts in the budget affecting students. But surely a graphic designer, a teaching assistant and a couple of university students are not people who can comfortably be stratified as being so poor and destitute that they need to loot? It’s not about money. The daughter of a millionaire who was charged with rioting and looting in court today is proof of that. None of them were famished, they only went for the alcohol. They are not shod in tatters, they looted designer clothes and footwear. They communicate using costly high-tech blackberries and iphones and stole the same. 

Why did you do it? “Because I can get away with it” was the simple, straightforward answer. These are just collective tantrums of a disaffected young population, whose idea of role-model is a rapper talking about his ho, or a drugged celebrity slurring incomprehensibly on a morning TV show. Good, honest, altruistic people are not considered cool. The youth of today hails with the cry of ‘It’s me, me, me and if there’s anything left it’s more for me’. This is an individual-oriented philosophy gone terribly wrong. It is ego-enhancement without the right props.  You are cool if you can get away with murder and you’re a jerk if you get caught.  And you’re wicked if you’re good. That says a lot.

Of course some of these youths just got caught up in the situation. The ring leaders mapped it out using today’s technology. If a Twitter message tells you to go to the town centre, it’s cool, the in-thing to do. So the youngster joins the group, maybe stays on the periphery at first and watches the cool ones at their best. Then a thought occurs, if they can do it, why can’t I? So there they are, dragged into the mayhem by the pull of the crowd.  Crowd psychology diminishes the sense of individual responsibility. Together we can be bad. There is safety in numbers, you know.

What of the media? A piece of breaking news shatters the doldrums of an otherwise boring and uneventful summer day, the newscaster brightens up.  Lets go for it, lets sensationalise it; and in the process inform whoever has no blackberry where their friends are and where it’s all happening. London’s burning. The cool youths of the capital are rebelling. We, in Birmingham and Manchester are just as cool. Lets show them.

The young man from Croydon knows that the prime minister and the mayor of London are on holiday. Why should they have a holiday when he can’t afford one? What about the austerity cuts? Now they’ll have to come back and face the music. If policing is not a priority for the prime minister, why should it be one for him? Actually he’s all for it. The police force in low spirits, having to reapply for a job they have held for years, the police also  know about safety in numbers and their numbers are dwindling.  Better for him who loots and sets fire to the carpet shop because there’s nothing in there he can steal, less chance of being caught.

So what will save us? Community spirit? Setting up vigilante type groups on every street? Surely that would be the short term solution until Boris convinces David not to touch the police budget. But what of the long term solution? How do we instil good values in the youth of today? How do we give them good role-models they can look up to and emulate? Me thinks there is a whole load of soul-searching to be done…..

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