Are rioters wasting their time?
How can you expect the government — or anyone — to work to help get you a job, or raise your standard of living if the government has to spend more and more money preventing you from smashing things up? You might get a free PS3 or iPhone in the short term (you can’t eat that) but you’ll be unemployed for longer — and money that could have been spent on creating jobs is instead spent cleaning up the mess — so you lose in the long run.
How can any of the rioters — many of whom will now face criminal convictions that have to be disclosed to future employers — claim that they are improving their future employment prospects or making Britain a fairer society? What about the rioting parents who will be removed from their children’s lives and sent to prison? What about the rioting classroom assistant — another “role model” who has shamed himself, lost his job, and wrecked his future employment prospects?
If the rioters were so concerned about their future employment prospects, why didn’t they spend more time applying for the 1300 apprenticeships available to young people in the 3-mile radius around Tottenham, and many thousands more around the country?
If they were so concerned with the state of British politics why didn’t they form a peaceful and dignified campaign group, or even come out with a coherent political message? As the Egyptian social activist Mossaby al-Shamy put it:
Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said and [Mohammed] Bouazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players.
And why have many millions of pounds — certainly not as much as we spent bailing out lousy banks, but still a fair sum — spent on New Labour’s social inclusion programs failed to prevent these riots? As the BBC explains:
Within weeks of coming to power in 1997, Tony Blair set up a Social Exclusion Unit inside the Cabinet Office specifically to deal with what his party painted as Margaret Thatcher’s underclass – hundreds of thousands of people, workless, skill-less, often homeless and hopeless, a group cut off from mainstream society – dubbed the entrenched 5%.
Huge sums were pumped into schemes in the most deprived neighbourhoods, but tussles over budgets and the sheer challenge of engaging with people who are often hostile to officialdom meant ambition couldn’t translate into outcome.
The rioters are stupid, irrational and are shooting themselves and their society in the foot for free consumer electronics and power tools. But these riots — throwing billions and billions of pounds of welfare back into the face of society — re-emphasise that the hooligans, just like many of the international financiers — have to change their ways before they can ever be helped.
That is why I maintain my view that unless the thugs are confronted the trend of the criminal flash mob may grow and grow. And while it grows and grows none of the underlying problems — such as food and fuel inflation, and youth unemployment — will be properly addressed. Government will become increasingly authoritarian, and spend more and more on the police and security, and less and less on jobs. Businesses and investors will stop investing in deprived areas, stop giving young unemployed people opportunities, and will seek to protect their wealth and get out of harm’s way.
The rioters should take the first step by renouncing violence and disorder and going home and trying to live civilised, tolerant and dignified lives. They should stop glorifying violence and glorifying theft. Because in the long run, rioting and destroying their communities hurts themselves more than it hurts anyone else.