Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's all those bloody cuts/foreigners/gangs/Tories/kids ...

My lovely home help commented on the riots, "They're all bloody foreigners, aren't they?" Have you noticed how many people have blamed the riots on whichever group they're particularly prejudiced against, or the group that fits in with their pet theory about what's wrong with society? I know I've done it myself. The list so far: poverty, the cuts, the Tories, envy of the super-rich, gangs, "bloody foreigners", "bloody kids". Think it's time that we had some solid research into the reasons that people behave the way they do. Evicting council tenants won't solve the problem. Understanding why it's happened might. These are some of the commentators who've made the most sense to me so far:

No shame, no limits: Has the behaviour of the mob destroyed the idea of British civility for ever?

Camila Batmanghelidjh: Caring costs – but so do riots

The London Riots - On Consumerism coming Home to Roost

None of these offers a total explanation but they're all relevant.

If MPs try to turn this into a party political issue, they'll confirm a popular opinion that they're all idiots. After all, as someone on the news pointed out, the 11-year-old who was arrested the other day grew up under Labour.

I wrote a blog post about this a few days ago, then deleted it when it became out of date. However, I haven't changed my view that there's been a large group of young people, mainly boys, that's been out of control for years; it's just that there are more of them. They haven't had good parenting, mainly because their parents didn't have good parenting either. There are more of them because it's a cycle of chaos and neglect. As Batmanghelidjh says, putting that right will take time and money. With everyone clamouring for swift action, it doesn't seem likely that that will happen.

The Guardian reports that it's setting up a survey to get to the bottom of why people riot, and have referred to a survey done after the 1967 Detroit riots. The results were interesting:
"One theory was that the rioters were poor and uneducated. No, the survey found otherwise. There was no correlation between economic status and participation in the disturbance. College-educated residents were as likely as high school dropouts to have taken part."
As British rioters have been appearing in court, people have expressed surprise about who they are, as some don't fit the stereotypes; a primary school teaching assistant, students, a graphic designer, etc. If those who've already made up their minds would pay attention for a change, they might find more of their prejudices challenged.

As for my home help and her willingness to blame "foreigners"; it's a familiar theme in her family, where periods of joblessness have been attributed to "foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs". I resisted the urge to tell her about the tweet that said,
"Turkish and Asian groups have stood up to, chased off rioters. Coming over here, defending our boroughs & communities."


Roberta Norwich said...

Thanks for your considered response to all the madness. I've been feeling heartbroken - almost incapable of understanding, whilst also seeing how easily a "stable" society can be overturned. Words like shame, need and deserving have become outdated to so many. My daughter and her fiance live in Manchester so I worry.

Margaret said...

Thanks. I hope things have calmed down in Manchester, and elsewhere.