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Thursday, August 11, 2011

The London Riots From The British Perspective

"These socialist writers look upon people in the same manner that the gardener views his trees. Just as the gardener capriciously shapes the trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, vases, fans, and other forms, just so does the socialist writer whimsically shape human beings into groups, series, centers, sub-centers, honeycombs, labor-corps, and other variations. And just as the gardener needs axes, pruning hooks, saws, and shears to shape his trees, just so does the socialist writer need the force that he can find only in law to shape human beings. For this purpose, he devises tariff laws, relief laws, and school laws." — Frederic Bastiat

There has not been much coverage in the mainstream media about the criminal rioting, looting and vandalizing going on in the United Kingdom. Even when there is coverage the reporters or pundits usually add a caveat about austerity programs, budget cuts, needs of the poor, lack of access to free education, racism and the class system. They claim that the budget cuts recommended by the current conservative/liberal coalition government lies at the root of the riots. They do not tell you, however, that social program spending as risen 20% under the Cameron government.

The British press has a slightly different take on the situation. Max Hastingsarticle-2023874-0D5B233A00000578-576_964x976 has a great column in the London Mail where he delves into the causes of riots, the deterioration of civility, the cultural breakdown and the failures of the British welfare system. He points out that years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalized youngsters. The following are a few selected excerpts from Hastings column:

“A few weeks after the U.S. city of Detroit was ravaged by 1967 race riots in which 43 people died, I was shown around the wrecked areas by a black reporter named Joe Strickland.

He said: ‘Don’t you believe all that stuff people here are giving media folk about how sorry they are about what happened. When they talk to each other, they say: “It was a great fire, man!”

I am sure that is what many of the young rioters, black and white, who have burned and looted in England through the past few shocking nights think today.

It was fun. It made life interesting. It got people to notice them. As a girl looter told a BBC reporter, it showed ‘the rich’ and the police that ‘we can do what we like.”

If you live a normal life of absolute futility, which we can assume most of this week’s rioters do, excitement of any kind is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorized communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.

Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.

They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.

They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.

They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.’

Hastings goes on to say:

“When Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith recently urged employers to take on more British workers and fewer migrants, he was greeted with a hoarse laugh.

Every firm in the land knows that an East European — for instance — will, first, bother to turn up; second, work harder; and third, be better-educated than his or her British counterpart. Who do we blame for this state of affairs?

Ken Livingstone, contemptible as ever, declares the riots to be a result of the Government’s spending cuts. This recalls the remarks of the then leader of Lambeth Council, ‘Red Ted’ Knight, who said after the 1981 Brixton riots that the police in his borough ‘amounted to an army of occupation’.

But it will not do for a moment to claim the rioters’ behavior reflects deprived circumstances or police persecution.

Of course it is true that few have jobs, learn anything useful at school, live in decent homes, eat meals at regular hours or feel loyalty to anything beyond their local gang.

This is not, however, because they are victims of mistreatment or neglect.

It is because it is fantastically hard to help such people, young or old, without imposing a measure of compulsion which modern society finds unacceptable. These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better.”

Hastings points out the effects of lack of discipline and the family unit:

“A century ago, no child would have dared to use obscene language in class. Today, some use little else. It symbolises their contempt for manners and decency, and is often a foretaste of delinquency.

If a child lacks sufficient respect to address authority figures politely, and faces no penalty for failing to do so, then other forms of abuse — of property and person — come naturally.

So there we have it: a large, amoral, brutalized sub-culture of young British people who lack education because they have no will to learn, and skills which might make them employable. They are too idle to accept work waitressing or doing domestic labour, which is why almost all such jobs are filled by immigrants.

They have no code of values to dissuade them from behaving anti-socially or, indeed, criminally, and small chance of being punished if they do so.

They have no sense of responsibility for themselves, far less towards others, and look to no future beyond the next meal, sexual encounter or TV football game.”

Hastings concludes his column with this admonition to British society, a similar admonition given by the mayor of Philadelphia the other day:

Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.

They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values than the young rioters of Tottenham, Hackney, Clapham and Birmingham.

Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights, for whom their monstrous excesses were ‘a great fire, man’.

Philip Johnston writes in the Telegraph:

Yet the riots we are seeing now are fundamentally different from those that have gone before. They might, ostensibly, have beenarticle-2024284-0D5B6E0000000578-415_468x286 triggered by the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a notorious gangster, in north London; but they are fuelled by pure greed, by a belief that something can be had for nothing. The usual brakes on such behavior – either an appreciation that it is wrong, or by the prospect that the culprit will be caught and punished – are largely absent.

For this, we have to thank four decades of politically correct policing, and a gradual breakdown of the informal network of authority figures that once provided an additional element of control over the bad behaviour of young people. Adults are now reluctant, or too scared, to step in and stop things getting out of hand, or to impose a wider moral code – and in any case, they are no longer listened to. Deference to age and authority has been eroded by years of genuflection to the twin gods of multiculturalism and community cohesion.

The police, bludgeoned by criticism for the way they handled the Brixton riots 30 years ago and the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1994, have become more like social workers than upholders of law and order. And the places that have really suffered as a result are the most deprived: they have to bear the brunt of the criminality and the fear, squalor and alienation that accompanies it.

In recent years, a myth has been allowed to grow up – motivated in part by the approach of the Olympic Games – that London is one of the world’s safest big cities. In terms of its murder rate, that may be true. But no one living in the capital is unaware of the existence of a minority ready to descend into lawlessness at the drop of a hat. There has long been a disconnection between this reality and the self-congratulation of police and politicians inspired by dodgy crime statistics and phoney targets: the truth is the capital has far more crime than 40 years ago, and parts of the city are no-go areas for the police.”

Michael McCarthy writes in the Independent about the absence of civility and the lack of the rule of law:

“I think people were so frightened because something had been loosed and was on display, which was new to many people – and that was the sight of very large numbers of people, mainly young men, who were no longer constrained by our culture. The role of culture in making British society what it is, and in giving it its remarkable strengths, is not often remarked upon, but it is enormous. We are, or we have been, a culture-bound society: we have been governed largely by informal constraints on our behaviour.

This is in sharp contrast to a society like that of the United States, for example, which is largely a rule-bound society. To give just a single instance: drinking alcohol in the street used to be rare in Britain, because it was frowned upon – but in the US there are local laws specifically forbidding it. The rule-bound society, which is the reason for the vast proliferation of lawyers in the US, arose in America because the founding fathers created a new nation from scratch, starting with a written Constitution that set out the first principles and then writing down and proscribing everything else about people's behavior.

Britain, whose governing process evolved slowly and organically, does not even have a written constitution, merely a set of understandings about how things ought to be done.

But these understandings have, in the past, been widespread and very powerful. The bus queue and the idea of queuing generally is an example that persists; I remember my shock and spluttering resentment when I first went skiing, years ago, and stood patiently with the other Brits in the queue for the chairlift and watched as the little French and Italian kids skied to the front and forced their way in. (An example that has fallen by the wayside is giving up your seat to a woman on public transport. When I was a boy, no woman on a bus or a train would be standing if a man had a seat to offer her; now the man who gets up is the exception.”

It’s clear evidence that destructive social policy — from winking at crime to rewarding single motherhood to shunning legitimate discipline of children — has a lasting impact on a culture’s health, including its economic vibrancy.

The unnerving aspect is that the United States might be a decade or two removed from the United Kingdom’s youthful chaos. Much of the blame, Hastings argues, can be laid at the feet of liberals who fear calling bad behavior bad, and enacting punishment. Frequently, Western cultures no longer feel comfortable punishing negative behavior. Indeed, we often reward it with a welfare check.

Consider an able-bodied young man or woman. Don’t want to work? Government will step in and provide out of a misguided sense that the rest of society owes these people a free ride. It’s a classic example of a hand out rather than a hand up.

What's to blame? Hastings has an idea:

“The breakdown of families, the pernicious promotion of single motherhood as a desirable state, the decline of domestic life so that even shared meals are a rarity, have all contributed importantly to the condition of the young underclass.”

I believe, that while Hastings is hitting some strong points he has neglected to mention the media’s and the politician’s role in this issue. For years the progressive left, with the help from the left-wing media, has consistently bombarded us with how mean we are by not sharing the wealth with our underclass and that we needed bigger and bigger government programs costing more and more money to provide economic justice to this so called forgotten poverty class. This was the premise behind Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Since 1986, when the Great Society began pouring billions into so called poverty reducing programs poverty in this country has not been reduced by one percentage point, in fact it has gone from 14% to 14.3%.

These programs have been the backbone of the Democrat Party to retain their power in the urban cities of America. Like Great Britain, we have dumbed down our society through our public education system and diversity programs. Our youth expects more and more from government and the sense of entitlement has reached the highest level in our nation’s history. As Bastiat said; everyone wants to plunder everyone else.

The anarchy in British cities should surprise no one. Britain has been sleepwalking into this catastrophe for 40 years. The riots up and down the country this week are the logical conclusion to the decades-long disintegration of civilized behavior. While youths throughout the Arab world rise up to demand basic human rights and democracy, British kids smash shop windows for want of an iPad.

Any visitors to England in the last decade who have ventured beyond central London have seen it for themselves. In town centers on weekends drunkenness and anti-social behavior abound. There's no place to take your family for a quiet meal, unless you want to witness gangs of marauding youths and beer-swilling thugs urinating against people's door steps and throwing up on street corners. I know this through a close friend who live in England and is planning to move to Switzerland.

The British riots are another link between a society’s social and economic health. Stable, two-parent families would not have produced such a stampede of vengeful rioters. In the moral vacuum brought about by Europe's abandonment of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic, mixed with scant punishment for crime, young people have no reason to behave responsibly. “Love your neighbor” rings hallow when hedonism and moral relativism are the order of the day.

Family structure, faith, and moral teaching do matter. Liberals don’t acknowledge that truth, instead relying on government intervention, including through "education." The U.K. riots are the result.

Robert Taylor writes in American Spectator:

“Commentators, politicians, tweeters and pub conversationalists are asking the same question. Why did it happen? Right-wingers think it's a lack of discipline and personal responsibility. Left-wingers say it's the absence of opportunity and hope, made worse by cuts in public services.

These are interesting theories. But we're debating it all 40 years too late. As long ago as the 1970s, when I was a boy, I witnessed a riot at a soccer match in my home city of Birmingham. It made the regional news headlines, but no more. Soccer hooliganism was common currency by then, and had been for a decade.”

Psychology has a term called “Diffusion of Responsibility” This term refers to a social phenomenon which tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size when responsibility is not explicitly assigned. This phenomenon rarely occurs in small groups. In tests, when in groups of three or fewer, everyone in the group took action. This is as opposed to when in groups of over ten, where in almost every test no one took action. In essence when everyone is responsible no one is responsible.

Take as an example you driving along a deserted road and you see a traffic accident. The odd are 100 to 1 that you will dial 911 and stop to see if you can render some assistance. On the other hand you are on a crowded freeway and see the accident you will probably cruise on by thinking someone else is calling 911.

This is what is happening to our civilized society. We have a diffusion of responsibility towards our civilized society. It’s someone else’s problem. Let the police handle it. I don’t want to get involved. Let’s video it and post it on YouTube. These are all common phases used today.

In yet another piece written by Theodore Dalrymple, a British doctor, in the City Journal about the degeneracy of British society:

The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.

At the same time, his expensive education will have equipped him for nothing. His labor, even supposing that he were inclined to work, would not be worth its cost to any employer—partly because of the social charges necessary to keep others such as he in a state of permanent idleness, and partly because of his own characteristics. And so unskilled labor is performed in England by foreigners, while an indigenous class of permanently unemployed is subsidized.

The culture of the person in this situation is not such as to elevate his behavior. One in which the late Amy Winehouse—the vulgar, semi criminal drug addict and alcoholic singer of songs whose lyrics effectively celebrated the most degenerate kind of life imaginable—could be raised to the status of heroine is not one that is likely to protect against bad behavior.”

During the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles the Korean shop owners in Korea Town manned their shops armed with guns ready to repel and rioters and looters. They were family, they were a community. They would not put up with the actions of the criminal rioters. This did was not the case in Britain. Britain today is a society immersed in the diffusion of responsibility They have become so enslaved to government policies and handouts that they cannot protect their own. They have no Second Amendment and gun ownership is frowned upon and in many cases forbidden.

The British riots, however, had no cause. A suspected drug-dealer was apparently shot by police in London, and cities all over the country have gone up in smoke. It is as if the country has been living on a ticking bomb that no one was aware existed.

Hal G.P. Colebatch writes in the American Spectator:

“Picking one's way through the often self-censored, politically correct reportage, there appears to have been a racial element in the riots. But many of the rioters filmed were white, and some at least appear to be ordinary middle-class people. Although there is obviously a class element, with some extreme leftists calling for open class warfare, the main sufferers have been, as always, small shopkeepers, householders, and workers whose employment has been destroyed. These riots have caused deep, life-damaging suffering. Nothing like this occurred in the gray, straitened, austere Britain of the immediate post-war period, when there was even greater economic hardship than today.

There have been riots in Britain before, but they generally had at least some kind of identifiable cause. Similarly, the riots in Europe (against the cutting of plainly unsustainable government benefits) were in pursuit of something. In the British riots thousands of people seem to have been caught up in a frenzy of indiscriminate destruction for its own sake. Even looting was secondary to destroying. And yet it is only a few weeks since the Royal Wedding appeared to bring the country together in a great outburst of patriotic pride and rejoicing.

It is obvious that generations of policies of self-destructive liberalism and a deep-seated social nihilism are coming home to roost.

It may be dawning on some political leaders that the education, family, immigration and criminal justice policies of successive, but principally Labour, governments have created an under-class not only lacking in the most basic skills necessary for employment but also lacking in the most basic values of human conduct. Discipline in many schools (except against expressions of political incorrectness) has largely been abandoned, with predictable results. The so-called "softly, softly" approach to policing, which has enthralled many liberalistic police chiefs, may also be consigned to the scrap-heap of bad ideas.”

Fox News has reported that the British Government is now looking to the United States for assistance in combating gang and street violence. Specifically the are looking for help from Bill Bratton, former police chief of New York City and Los Angeles. The Fox report stated:

“Britain said Thursday that it would seek U.S. law enforcement advice on fighting gang violence as the U.K. deals with riots that have gripped several of the country's cities.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has summoned lawmakers back to Parliament because of the crisis, said he would act “decisively to restore order on our streets,” and he cited prominent U.S. police chief Bill Bratton as a potential source for advice.

Bratton, whose resume includes top cop jobs in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, said in a written statement that he would “be honored” to assist the British.

Since the riots first started, London's Metropolitan Police have been widely criticized for its slow and inadequate response. The situation has deteriorated to the point where citizens are forced to stand guard in front of their homes and businesses because of the lack of police presence.”

According to law enforcement experts in the U.S., the first few hours are pivotal.

Bill Gavin, the former head of the FBI in New York, told Fox News that there’s a philosophical difference between London police and its U.S. cousin departments. In particular, London failed to deploy an overwhelming force to halt the rioters.

“The time for reasoning is after you’ve controlled them,” Gavin said, adding that Bratton would serve as a suitable adviser.

While quick and forceful police response is necessary to quell riots it is not the total solution. There needs to be a change in the culture. Citizens must begin taking responsibility for their communities. Politicians must stop pandering to class warfare for their personal aggrandizement and power and the liberal media must stop promoting a society where the takers are more powerful than the makers.

Douglas Murray writes in the Wall Street Journal condemning the ongoing tactics of the progressive left as they try to gain political advantage from the riots:

“Within hours of the riots starting on Saturday, the left-wing former mayor of London Ken Livingstone claimed the unrest was "the fault of the government," citing a 9% cut in central government grants to Tottenham, where these crime sprees began. Labour's Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott made sure to garnish her condemnation of the violence with the reminder that in her constituency, "Haringey Council has lost £41 million from its budget and has cut youth services by 75%." Whether her constituents ever raised this issue as they looted luxury-goods shops, Ms. Abbott did not say.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman behaved worst of all. Claiming on Tuesday that Labour leader Ed Miliband had been "well-received in Peckham," she compared this reception to the hostility that has greeted Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and London's Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson this week. She claimed that the difference was due to the Labour Party's opposition to tuition-fee rises. Stuck in an even less functional radical-left tape-loop, Labour Parliamentarian John McDonnell blames bankers.

So the Labour Party has decided to draw political conclusions from the hooliganism. They have decided that these supposed breadline-rioters—who seem utterly uninterested in bread—are the product of political decisions the Tories have made in the last 15 months. Fine.

This Alinskyite class warfare and striving for the fantasy of social and economic justice will change from taking plunder from the state to just plain plunder.

1 comment:

  1. The Rioters are Blair's Babies

    Thatcher's children had no moral compass. Blair's babies have no moral compass, no sense of belonging and an infinite sense of entitlement. These kids are the victims of neglect. Neither Blair nor Thatcher believed they should be guardians of a national ethos, taught in schools and through good husbandry of the social environment. As Hastings put it "These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better". All Thatcher and Blair believed was that the media were God.