Young Academic’s political correspondent Robert Gant has his say on the riots that have engulfed England over the last five days. As the UK’s national student news service, we encourage any of you out there that have an opinion to send in your articles.
David Cameron yesterday branded sections of our society as ‘sick’. Tellingly he didn’t seem to have a cure.
The reaction from the British public has been as natural as it was obvious. Condemning the rioters as anything from ‘morons’ to ‘scum’ is of course a natural and possibly justifiable response to seeing your country go up in flames and young people running amok, lawlessly looting and robbing as they go.
What is needed now is an attempt to understand why this happened and why a whole part of our society acted in this way. Telling them they are ‘sick’ and have a ‘general lack of morals, ethics and values’ will do absolutely nothing to help this situation long term. Indeed the beefed up police force is nothing more than a short term measure. There is a massive problem at the bottom of our society and unless attempts are made to understand and solve this problem the scenes we have witnessed this week will become a reoccurring feature of our news bulletins.
Simplistic, at times hypocritical middle class condemnation of the rioters has been the public’s general answer to the situation thus far.
It seems much more pressing now to ask who the rioters are.
They are the people who have faced up to 80% cuts to their youth and community project budgets. They are the people who had their Educational Maintenance Allowance taken away from them. They live in the areas which have suffered the most from cuts to welfare and housing benefits. They are the people who live in the areas with some the highest levels of unemployment in the country.
Does that make the violence and looting right? Of course it doesn’t and nobody is arguing to the contrary but it does give a very vivid insight into some of the grievances these young people might have. They are the same people who listened to politicians making promises before the election, only to witness those promises being systematically broken. They probably feel disenfranchised with politics. They may feel like they are no longer part of the society they started to physically destroy.
All these points need to be addressed.
The Prime Minister branding them as ‘sick’ will not encourage them to come back into mainstream society; it will simply alienate them more. Looting is wrong, violence is wrong but who is setting the example within our society?
They see our politicians, some of which are sat in David Cameron’s cabinet, fiddling expenses which regardless of social standing or the terminology you decide to use, is a form of stealing. They see bankers being bailed out with their money only to award themselves billions of pounds worth of bonuses as our economy crumbles. Is that a form of stealing?
The people who rioted and looted should not have done so. Some of things we have seen this week have been scary, distressing, sickening and sad all in equal measures. However, now that this situation has been highlighted in such a graphic way, now that the entire country is talking about this generation trapped in poor social conditions, surely it is time we set about solving the problems rather than ignoring the problems exist and mindlessly labelling the people involved in the disturbances.
Labelling and alienating this sub-section of society will achieve nothing and will only lead to more problems down the line. Materialism is a problem within our society; inequality is a problem within our society. Whether our politicians accept this, or simply export tough talking statements that they think the electorate want to hear remains to be seen.