A few disclaimers:
1. If you are a rigid right-wing ideologue, you may be offended by the content in this article.
2. If you hold unyielding left-wing views, you may be offended by the content in this article as well.
By now, you probably have heard the news, and most likely you have read or engaged in some level of discussion regarding the riots in London and other cities in the UK.
Similar to your own discussions, the question of who is to blame has inevitably entered into the discourse of mainstream media.
The police, the activists, the politicians, the community leaders, the political and social commentators, and even the rioters themselves have all offered their opinions on the matter. The culprit changes depending on who is speaking and what their agenda is.
I will not add to the already long list of explanations, but I do want to highlight what is being said at both ends of the political spectrum. More importantly my aim here is to state that the conversation desperately needs to change.
The right-wing: blame the amoral thugs, multiculturalism, and the “politically correct” Liberal elites
According to Conservative dogma, responsibility lies with the individual and the individual alone; forget any idea that government decisions have an impact on the lives of those citizens desperately hanging on at the margins of society.
Fiscal austerity, expenditure reductions, trimming the fat, or finding efficiencies are all phrases you will hear in order to rationalize “cuts” to social services, educational supports, and employment programs all deemed to be draining the coffers of the welfare state.
How curious then that the same Conservative governments (all over the world) who preach financial prudence, find it necessary to increase police and military spending, give tax cuts to large corporations, and feel the need to build more prisons when crime rates are actually on the decline.Photo Source
But no, let us not admit that the choices in government have any affect on the nation’s citizenry. Remember, it is the individual’s fault – the generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youth that should be held accountable for the orgy of violence and civil unrest sweeping London and other cities across the world.
Depending how far to the right one veers, the commentary can get pretty outrageous and flat out bigoted. Take for example this rant from a popular right-wing newspaper in the UK:
“The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drugs laws and many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hell-bent on a revolutionary transformation of society...for most of these children come from lone-mother households. And the single most crucial factor behind all this mayhem is the willed removal of the most important thing that socializes children and turns them from feral savages into civilized citizens: a father who is a fully committed member of the family unit.”
That is right folks, kids without fathers, that is who is to blame for the degradation of values in London and other cities who have fallen trap to the Liberal curse.
There is, of course, some merit to some of the suggestions made above, but to analyze the world using such a rigid point of view is complete nonsense.
The left-wing: blame the government, the police, and the “discriminatory” capitalist system
On the other end of the spectrum are left-wing thinkers, advocates, and politicians who believe the government is to blame for all the economic and social disparities in any given community. There is little, if any, attention paid to the parents of failing youth, or the choices made by individuals themselves, because, as they suggest, “the out of touch government officials are making decisions that profit big banks and corporations and leave the poor behind.”
When race-relations start to go sour in some of the world’s largest urban communities... it is the police department’s fault.
When a student is uninterested in his/her academics and turns to crime or drugs... the education system is seen as inadequate.
When unemployment numbers start to rise... it is capitalism’s fault.
There is hardly, if ever, an admission that parental responsibility is correlated to an individual’s success and failure.
The commentary in reaction to the London riots from left-wing newspapers and thinkers have also missed the mark. Of course, some of the rioters are indeed protesters and feel they need to make a political statement by disrupting the civil order. They want to be heard. In my opinion, that is understandable, albeit I say that with caution.
Clearly, there are some rioters who are breaking the law simply because they want to cause trouble, steal, and "stick it to the man". To romanticize the riots and defend the collective actions of individuals as if everyone on the street is there for the same “nobel” reason is erroneous and ignorant.
When a group of teenagers gather around a child and , it is not called an uprising or a revolution, it is utterly disgusting and (thankfully) punishable by law.
When looters throw bricks into electronic stores to steal iphones, dvd’s, and laptops, it is not capitalism that needs to be tamed, it is those individuals who need to be disciplined.
To highlight socio-economic challenges at a time like this is fair and required, but it cannot and should not be used as a mechanism to condone all the violence, civil disobedience, and the looting that is currently taking place.
Discussions of this quality, while warranted, will not provide comfort for the people who have lost their livelihoods and homes. Seeing and explaining the world and all its ills from an unbending class warfare perspective is ultimately false and unhelpful.
Towards a more pragmatic conversation
As Daniel Hind stated in a recent article, “Sometimes the thieves were revolutionaries. Sometimes the revolutionaries were thieves.” This is still the reality today.
To unreservedly condemn the violence in London is to knowingly distort the matter at hand. And, to unequivocally condone it, is a simplified and nonsensical reaction to the events currently taking place.
To blame the police is insufficient. To blame the single-parent households is insufficient. To blame the government is insufficient. To blame multiculturalism and immigration is insufficient. And, to blame all of this on “Tory scum” or “Liberal freeloaders” is reactionary, reductionist, and to be frank, quite amateur.
The discourse needs to change. The media, academics, community and political leaders need to halt the sanctimonious rubbish that is being circulated at the moment. Each side of this discussion has and will continue to pump out their rhetoric in order to frame the issue in a way that advances their respective agendas.
But, creating more equitable communities is more difficult than finding scapegoats and fanning fears.
Ultimately, excusing is a lot different than explaining. That is why complex answers to some serious questions are now required.
How do we improve access to education? How do we create more jobs? How do we find a responsible way out of yet another global financial crisis? How do we promote cultural, social, and religious cohesion in our communities?
And perhaps more urgently, how do we finally start listening to one another?