"For me it is clear that the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I’ve spoken about for years. It is a complete lack of responsibility in our society. It is as much a moral problem as a political problem"Says David Cameron.
I understand the rhetoric, but rhetoric it is and somewhat overblown in my opinion. Whilst the behaviour of those looting and “rioting” was reprehensible, the absolute numbers were a tiny fraction of the youth of this country and most of what was seen on our T.V screens looked more like opportunism than anything else.
Incidentally I put “rioting” in scare quotes because, despite the government designating them as such, these weren’t really riots in the sense of organised violent demonstrations of civic malcontent, just bunches of feckless, poorly educated kids with an inflated sense of entitlement looking for an outlet and a new pair of trainers.
Interviews with some of the looters revealed the lack of purpose or rational behind the violence
This not to say there’s no underlying problem here, I just don’t believe it is symptomatic of a recent moral decline, more a lack of education and a poor understanding of civic responsibility.
For example it has been said frequently that the politician’s expenses scandal and the greed of bankers has sent messages to deprived neighbourhoods that taking what you want is acceptable at any cost. But of course bankers have been rich and politicians have screwed their expenses for time immemorial. The fact that we now see this as wrong is more indicative of a moral rise than a decline, a wider understanding that egalitarianism is a thing to strive for and privilege a thing to be avoided. That politicians have been jailed should suggest that the culpable will face the consequences whatever their status.
The fact that the message has not got through to some teenagers in Croydon says more about the lack of political and social awareness in this subset of British youth than it does about moral decline.
I suspect that given the opportunity to hide in a crowd and get free stuff some kids and young adults of all generations past would have taken it, the difference now is that such opportunities are easier to manufacture.
If I were to offer a solution, my short answer would be education. Focus on those areas in cities known to be deprived and problematic, invest in social projects that schools can be a part of, teach civics, discourage tribalism (abolish faith schools) and encourage integration (invest in secular schools and institutions). Some of this takes money, which we know is in short supply, but the potential rewards are great and available in the relatively short term. Morality is largely about mutual self-interest, and a kid that torches local businesses that are potential employers simply does not understand where her own interest lies. This is a failure of civic instruction and these are concepts that parents in these circumstances may not understand sufficiently themselves to pass on. This is therefore a responsibility of society as a whole and good inclusive secular schools are the key.