Thursday, August 11, 2011


Why Our Young People Riot

'There exists in Britain an underclass which does not exist anywhere in Europe. White, little educated, without any means of social evolution, they are a perfect example of the results of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and its dehumanizing programme. The English perversion is to make this population proud of their misery and their ignorance.' [ confession: didn't translate- was quoted in Guardian yesterday].

I reread it and realised I more or less agree with it. You can't say our economic system has a 'programme' per se, but it has a series of virtually predictable consequences. You can't say our underclass is proud of its 'misery' but my brief experiences in secondary school teaching suggest to me a fair proportion of kids at least affect to despise study; e.g sabotaging attempts by the rest of the class to study and comments like: 'I don't want to end up as a geek'.

But it's true that Germany, France, Italy and Spain, not to mention Scandinavian countries, appear not to have any comparable almost immovable mass of a working class seemingly indifferent to education and training containing a substantial sliver unafraid to transgress the law or wider rules of social behaviour.

Having watched the debate today I think Cameron did well, as he usually does on these set piece occasions. The worst of the rioting appears to be over now that London has been calmed and Dave is well placed to claim he has been the b ringer of peace, law and order. The real problems will soon be forgotten, mores the pity, until the next outbreak of rioting.

Cameron has done well but only in convincing the public that the riots are soley due to poor parents and the general low morales of the rioters. He has to extent succeeded for now in deflecting the debate away from WHY the riots occurred and the failed and greedy policies of this and previous governments.
I think the key to the point in your third paragraph is that Britain, uniquely in Europe, had a very advanced, labour-intensive heavy industrial economy around which large localities revolved and then altered it radically and rapidly, undergoing something of a period of de-industrialisation ,over a 20-year period from about 1972 to 1992.

This had two problems: 1) it was done without any thought for what would happen to those workers who would not now be able to find employment and 2) it was not accompanied by a reform of a benefits system which (in the last analysis) rested on the belief that work would be plentiful and that people would want to work without the need for incentives to find it built into the dole. This was true in the 1940s and 1950s - it was less true in the 1970s and 1980s, and by the 1990s it had become less than true.

Of course, I simplify - Nicholas Edwards, for example, did do his best to bring new employment to South Wales and Heseltine did have ideas on how to help the inner cities - but that seems to be the root of it. Having studied the 1930s, those who were unemployed felt it badly - they were humiliated and broken by the experience. They also really wanted to work, so when the economy recovered rapidly in the north and South Wales after about 1936 they took the jobs again. The same was true in pockets in the 1980s, except we've not had a recovery from it.

But now their children and childrens' children are growing up and do not see any point to education or finding jobs that don't demand it because the State will pay them enough to live on if they never do a stroke of work. And, as the old saying goes, Satan finds work for idle hands.

I'm afraid I don't have any simple solutions, but that would be my diagnosis. Is that how you see it or do you think there's more to it than that?
I agree with most of this as it chimes in with my way of understanding the recent events too. Thanks for your considered and informed thoughts.
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