For the last week people in the United Kingdom have woken up each day to news of more damage, destruction and unprovoked vandalism. What started in London has now spread to Manchester, Salford and a few other cities. Decent working people are horror-stricken at the senselessness of these ruffians, and profoundly maddened that this lawlessness hasn’t been brought under control. However folks let’s go ahead and look a bit more closely at what is really going on in Britain. It will shortly be clear that this is a fundamental human condition and not a passing impulse.
Some TV news people have brushed off claims that this is something rooted in social deprivation. These recent events have proved them wrong. Poverty is a propelling factor in the actions of these young people. A few observers have dismissed claims that social networking has been involved. Text messages sent via Blackberries and activity on Twitter have proved them wrong about that as well.
Poverty, hopelessness, a lack of control over one’s life and mass hysteria are at the root of these problems. The thrill of gang violence, the excitation of looting and a basic human instinct to join in mass activity are strong factors. It’s paradoxically anti-social behavior executed socially.
The media has played a big part in the spread of this behavior. Numerous times interviews with the juveniles involved, speaking from the cover of their hoodies, have touched on to the copycat aspect stirring up action in other cities. The juveniles see it and they would like to do it too. Gang culture dictates that it’s copied and exceeded to prove the effectiveness of the gang. What began in London can take place anyplace. Here’s why.
In the first place we need to be cautious about the term ‘anti-social’. What we for the most part mean by this behaviour against ordered decent society, behavior which disturbs the peaceful daily round of most people’s existence. Only the culprits are acting in social groups, in their own kinda society. In their way they see authority, order, ‘normal’, everyday, establishment kind of things as anti-social, anti their view of society. This is reasonable only fundamentally dangerous.
Across the world there are societies with sharp divisions between people who have an decent standard of living and those who battle to sustain a life worthy of living at all. We slickly refer to this crude division as the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Really smug and very dangerous. What we’re witnessing right now in the Great Britain is what could happen when economically impoverished sub groups are afforded an opportunity to vent their anger, demolish the ordered decent world and exact revenge on their economically superior neighbors as payback for the hopelessness of their situation.
Under normal conditions they can’t do these things effectively, only under these conditions which are near to being mass hysteria they join in really quickly. Looting is found across the world even during natural disasters. Our civilization is for the most part one of attainment, every advertisement exalts this. How can we then fault people from wanting what they can’t possess and taking what they would not generally get? Only there’s a fine line here. Most folks do not cross that line, most people restrain themselves because they can anticipate consequences, they look at the big picture. That’s an evolved behavior indicative of the masses who do have control over their lives. It’s absent in those who rush in recklessly without reasonable care and attention.
The folks presently involved in most of this careless actions in the Great Britain are not much more than young children from the ages of 9 up to 19. An age group that’s got only a small stake in society, that’s for the most part adrenaline driven and economically poor. Large numbers of this rioting group will likewise have poor school attendance and a low level of achievement. That doesn’t mean they’re stupid. It does mean they have very little opportunity to acquire the longer-term view of a gratifying life. Education systems are very much to blame for this. Why? Because they oftentimes don’t meet the needs of these young people but try to impose foreign values on them. However that’s a different story entirely.
If you look closely at the evidence and listen carefully to the words of those involved it will be evident that this isn’t a unfortunate and isolated incident. It’s a symptom of a deep-rooted uneasiness in Western civilization particularly. It will happen in the United Kingdom again and probably elsewhere in the world. The trigger is entirely unpredictable.
It’s human nature to strike out at things that anger us, to demolish things that we have no stake in, to strickout against authority and faceless control.Haven’t you been in that position at some pint during your life? Railed against some municipal decision, some committee enactment, some unreasonable authoritarian behaviour against which you’re powerless? Haven’t you had to back down because you could not afford a attorney to beat your oppressor? Wouldn’t you just one time like to get back at someone who has wronged you, but is untouchable?
There’s not a big a difference between the ‘anti-social’ behaviour of these young folks and the things you occasionally feel. Adults also break out only not commonly in hysterical groups in Western civilization. They flip out and go on the rampage. It’s pretty much the same thing here.But there’s another basic human instinct at work as well, the overpowering desire to be part of a group, to join group activity especially if whipped up by any sort of frenzy. It’s really a safety mechanism. Outsiders could become targets, insiders are more secure. William Faulkner depicts this perfectly in “Lord of the Flies” when the group turns on Piggy.
Have you been in Las Vegas on Halloween night? It’s great fun, it’s a group thing, the place buzzes with energy and good humour, people let their hair down, they’re in disguise, they’re having FUN. It’s great, but it’s the other side of the same coin. One side is collective fun the other side is collective destruction.
Do I have any answers? I’ve got a lot of questions. Such as why does the enormous amount of resources poured into socially impoverished areas make little difference? Why hasn’t anybody come up with effective ways of incorporating and empowering deprived communities? How do we elevate educational achievement of people in lower economic strata? Perhaps these are unresolvable problems. In which case we need to be better prepared for the next time these things boil over.
The dispersion of wealth is left-wing nonsense. The world is too far advanced into the production of consumer goods to wind the clock back. Or is it? What I recognize for certain is that you cannot solve these troubles by giving out money. Most overseas assistance for instance winds up in the hands of a few people who profit by it tremendously. We might feel good about it, but it does very little good. Government social strategies tend to waste the money on thinking about what to do instead of doing it. Nor can you lock up all these ‘unwanted’ people, even though we try. It’s just not that simple.
My opinion is that you’ll be able to only change these things by giving people an actual stake in society. Who would lburn down a house they’ve built? Who would rob a store they’ve helped to stock, who cuts down a crop they planted? That’s not about education. Well actually it is. Education it’s not about reading, writing and mathematics alone. It’s about producing a worthwhile society and being part of it. But how are we to define worthwhile? And who’s the ‘we’? History is for the most part composed by the victors, society is mostly controlled by the ‘haves’. It all comes back to the same thing. Without work, without prospects and without hope self-esteem and respect for others is really low. That’s dangerous. But hey, these rioters and looters are teens. Such symptoms suggest that our social structure, the very fabric of society, is terribly flawed. For some reason we all know that, but we don’t know what to do about it.
If I must offer a solution it would be this. The government of whatever political color must provide work for it’s citizens. It ought to be among its prime functions along with defense and the regulating of markets, commodities and finance. Heaven knows our environment needs uplifting. Parks need attending, planting, care. Streets and sidewalks should be kept clean. Elderly people should be visited and entertained (not lock away out of view). Schools and colleges should be opened up to people of every age for study. Libraries should flourish, gyms should be opened and free. Poor housing inventory should be renovated. Where is the support for a better life? Where are the examples of social harmony, of building a society that respects and values others as well as ourselves? Too idealistic? Maybe but what social goals do we really have, does any government have? As resources become more scarce it’s human nature to become more selfish, more grasping. Groups of such people are dangerously unpredictable.