Monday, 15 August 2011


Am I the only person over 25 viewing these riots in a slightly different way? To sound in control ministers are talking like Harold MacMillan in tones of horror and vote-for-me outrage.

I’m not saying the looting, violence and riots are to be treated lightly.  But nor can they be just brushed under that “criminality” carpet.

The Arab Spring must  have felt like this from the other side and Dave Cameron is probably feeling like Al-Gadaffi … outraged, confused, cheated (in Dave’s case of his Tuscan holiday) and very cross.

There are a few things to note.

This turned from a local protest to a series of “flash-mobs” to a wave of orchestrated gang and passer-by looting to chaos. Shopping-with-violence someone called it.

And it was a mix of very young, middle aged, of black and white but few Asians – except as vigilante protectors of property. It became infectious because the big broken society was ready for such a social explosion.

The real issue is not the criminality but the disadvantaged young whom we don’t understand. Judges (on their own planet) seemed appalled that parents weren’t accompanying their 14 year olds to court. But nearly half those over 14 are no longer under parental control. Parents-in-charge are a thing of the past; gangs as group to belong to aren’t. But the middle class doesn’t get this. I expected to hear a judge ask “were these young people on properly signed exeats?”

So we’ll send them to prison to join the other 11,000 young prisoners. We’ve had a 66% increase of young prisoners in the past 5 years. Nowhere else in the world can boast a prisoner growth of youth as high as that.
And we’ll slag off the police as soft and although they were slow and are out of touch with change, the way the senior politicians treated them was  a disgrace. Good to see a fight back from Deputy Commissioner Orde.

We’ll demand social networking is curtailed (how?)

And we’ll lament the passing of happier times.

But the opportunities this shock has created are exciting. We have a chance to sort out security; a chance to recognise parental and school authority breakdown – and do something about it; a chance to begin to dismantle those gangs; a chance to upgrade police intelligence; a chance to educate our Prime Minister and peers and a chance to invest in the future (education) as opposed to the past (the NHS).

It could be worse.  And taking those chances since the zeitgeist feels just right are worth more than an AAA rating and a focus on money. It sometimes takes a storm to blow away apathy and ignorance.

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