As a born and bred Londoner I’ve been watching these riots with fascination. Not only because, if I am honest, it is a little bit voyeuristic spotting all the places I know burning down etc. I know, but I can’t be the only one looking at it all with astonishment. Yes, I feel disgust and anger but, personally I also feel incredibly sad about it all. Not because places are burning etc etc but because young people feel that this is an appropriate way to behave.
You have to ask yourself why they behave in this way. I think a lot of it is to do with society, culture and opportunity. If you look at Britain since Thatcher first came into power there has been an increasing value placed on material things, money, celebrity and so forth and a diminishing value placed on education. Learning for the sake of learning. Opportunities for learning have slowly diminished. Anyone looked for any Voltaire, Foucault or Sartre in their local library? Well, I think you can fairly safely say you wont find any, more likely you’ll find a Die Hard DVD. Education is now out of reach for many young people, who can seriously afford to gamble forty thousand pounds? Oh, I forgot it’s not all young people, some unfortunately find themselves in positions where they are savaged by Polar bears or get lost whilst sailing around the world. Pity them.
There are entire generations of young people, many second generation who have not had any chances, they are not afforded much assistance from over stretched social workers, are subjected to appalling teachers (if you are a good one starting out what would you chose?inner city school or nice middle class school?). Their parents see barriers to access everywhere, I often hear that ‘museums are not for us’. This has created entire sub- cultures of people, living by their own rules with their own values and their own priorities. In some parts of the UK, ghettos, although the government would never admit it. These young men value technology, clothes etc (it’s celebrity endorsed after all) above looking at Monet, enjoying nature, the simple things in life. Their life is complicated, and yes, I think it can be hand to mouth and quite desperate. Not that this excuses anything.
So what has our new government done to tackle all of this? They have cut funding to local councils, youth and community groups, the disadvantaged, they have put up taxes, they have made cuts to the army and the police force. They champion the Big Society. Maybe the nice middle classes can offer to organise tea dances to the pensioners, but who is going to work with the young, disadvantaged male members of our society? He who dares eh? I don’t think this rioting and looting is surprising, I think its an inevitable consequence of the mis-placed values which are championed in our society, a loss of pride in our country and a loss of pride in learning and appreciating the simpler things in life.