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Rioters? No, these are looters, thieves and vandals

August 9, 2011

It was inevitable that copycat idiots would hit the streets in Bristol and other cities, having followed shocking events in London.  In the age of 24 hour TV and social media it is all too easy for a situation to escalate and for delinquents to prosper.

The first duty of all politicians and leaders of society in this situation is to appeal for calm and perspective.  This is violent disorder by a criminal minority.  It’s not widespread social unrest.  It can and must be brought under control.

What we have seen in London and now in Bristol is not legitimate political protest spilling over into violence and disorder.  That would indeed be a riot.  We’ve had riots in Bristol, in 1980 against racism and what was seen as police and official disregard for peoples’ human rights and dignity.  We had them in 1831 when half of Queen Square, the Bishop’s Palace, the Mansion House and the local prison were torched as part of protest demanding the right to vote.  There are some excellent displays in our new M Shed museum on these events. Real social problems where people in despair turned to violence.

But what we are experiencing in 2011 is not rioting with a political or social problem as the direct cause.  Instead, we are seeing mindless criminal activity motivated by a selfish desire for personal enrichment.  Stealing jewellery, designer clothes or electrical goods is theft, not protest.  Setting fire to a shop is arson, not protest.  We are seeing looting, not rioting.

What’s different from 1980 or 1831 is that actions can be in real time, known around the city and flashed around the world in an instant.  Some just want to be part of what is “kicking off”, having been egged on by the twits on twitter, with the action being captured on your mates’ mobiles for posting on You Tube…while that police helicopter buzzes overhead filming you as well.

So if there is any social cause behind this looting I think it is selfishness.  Regard only for yourself and disregard for the community.  A generation has grown up over the last couple of decades in an age of rampant consumerism.  Everyone wants (or feels pressurised to want) the latest designer trainers, mobile phone upgrade or some other ephemeral bling that doesn’t actually make you a better person.  Tabloid newspapers and round the clock trash TV push this desire while also giving us an insight into the feckless behaviour of B-list celebs as they stumble around their chaotic lives with too much money and not enough sense.  Everyone wants to be rich and famous, without wanting to work hard to reach those otherwise acceptable ambitions.

So I think the prime motivators behind the looting are greed and jealousy, rather than sorrow and anger.  Basic human failings that have been around forever.  Not contemporary political gripes but certainly contemporary social malaise.

That’s my quick diagnosis of what is a complicated social problem.  But what’s to be done?  Well immediately the Government must ensure the police are able to bring the streets under control.  The police should be able to identify many of the ring leaders and take them off the streets.  But it’s also a duty for every citizen not to allow our freedom to be threatened by a tiny minority of people.  Every potential looter has a parent, partner or friend who could tell them to think again.  You really don’t have to mindlessly follow those who want to cause mayhem.

But once the fires are out and the windows are repaired there will be deeper issues to address.  We need to have a good hard look at the direction in which our society is heading.  What values are being taught to children by parents and schools?  Whether values of respecting others and taking responsibility for your own behaviour are being undermined by our media, broadcast, print and social alike?  This should not be a political football.  These are deep issues which everyone who cares about our country should be able to address in a calm and rational way.

125 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2011 12:12 pm

    Blaming “a generation”? No. This was a small pocket of mindless idiots. I’m 21 and a Twitter user and all I saw on there last night and this morning was compassion and concern. Twitter users are as varied as society in general, the small minority of idiots don’t speak for the vast majority of sane, normal peace-loving people.

  2. Billy Milligan permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:21 pm

    No ‘everyone’ wants to be famous Mr Williams.

  3. August 9, 2011 12:22 pm

    You’re absolutely spot on here Stephen…
    “Everyone wants to be rich and famous, without wanting to work hard to reach those otherwise acceptable ambitions. So I think the prime motivators behind the looting are greed and jealousy, rather than sorrow and anger. Basic human failings that have been around forever. Not contemporary political gripes but certainly contemporary social malaise.”

  4. August 9, 2011 12:22 pm

    The main thing to come out of this for me is how out of touch with today’s youth, and particularly the ‘lost’ youth, the government is. Its not only the greed that caused this. It has as much to do with fun. These people were visibly enjoying themselves, its like heaven for them. Violence, hate and destruction are an intrinsic part of their lives. They love it, and the inability of anyone in power to understand why is why the problem will never go away.

  5. August 9, 2011 12:23 pm

    Quickly, quickly, defend the system! I thought you were better than this Stephen?

    For these criminals and delinquents that youre so quick to identify, it’s not about having a determined, conscious cause for their actions- you would be mad to ask for one, or to even claim that they are selfish in the face of what you assume is not a real “social problem”. And this is the main reason people cannot understand the activities, and are struggling to discuss it with authority that can be taken seriously – yourself included. Perhaps the source of the greater problem!

    Of course this action is part of a larger schema, one that is a response to the introduction of money as a economic product, the fuel of the capitalist machine if you will – which, is in short supply to those who believe its their responsibility to maintain it.

    It hits the poorest first whom take these opportunities to satisfy their basic needs (food, rent, bills) – poverty in London alone is widespread and so, you are aware it is also prevalent across this country.

    We are in such privileged positions Stephen and others, with computers, homes, the internet and an education which allows us to give comment on the past few days action: so, it is our responsibility as the educated and fortunate population, to not condemn this action but recognise it IS a response to a system that is now failing everybody who has EVER struggled in their daily life. It is not a problem contained solely within the UK, you comment and you watch the news each day, and for months if not years we have been part of a global crisis which has only very recently begun to hit our streets.

    Philanthropy cannot solve this. So what we have witnessed is an immediate response from those disenfranchised groups of people, young and old, who take opportunities like this to protect themselves and their families from the intense threat of poverty, starvation and homelessness. What is the alternative? Do we allow this to continue, to dismiss this in our local areas and they suddenly recognise when it hits even the upper-middle classes harder than it already has, that there are millions and millions in one of the most secure countries in the world that are indeed suffering severely? No. That would mean our own daily struggles would have become so dire, that we would begin to reconsider our own futures in this failed social system. Become homeless, starving, defaulting on personal and national debts and so on.

    This ‘system’ has had enough chances now to protect individuals but has made it more difficult for all classes in this country. It has, and will continue to fail everybody. Now corporations and fictitious economic symbols are the only ones with (very little) security, and were not so stupid to not know the global capitalist economy has lost £100billion over the past 3 days. Awful.

    These global events that the media reports upon, in their robotic populist style are not individual events. This has been an interesting few years, and when people are walking through their own neighbourhoods wondering “what has happened”, will people hopefully start to realise that.. everything is connected!

    Be wary of your next moves in parliament: the public may believe they want social control, but ask yourself, is that really the solution here?

    • bergkampisgod permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:40 pm

      Education is free they chose not to be educated, they live in one of the largest cities in the world, yet there are no jobs, we welcome migrants as we “need the workforce” can you balance the last two statements. These are not lost and abandoned youth they are drop outs that think everything should be handed to them on a plate, and then there are those that think they above the law the gangs and drug dealers that blight the poor areas tackle these, get kids back in to school, teach right from wrong. There are plenty of us that have education that came from these neighbourhoods, This is their choice. My choice was to take the education and try to make something of myself. My wish now unleash the police crack skulls and arrest and imprison the looters. Stop this “its all our fault” rhetoric, stand up and show them right from wrong and that wrong has consequences.

      • August 9, 2011 1:11 pm

        Your ‘wishes’ are more criminal under judicial precedent in this country, and unfortunately you claim that you are one of the masses (or ‘select few’?) who chose to be educated as well!

        Well, it seems the system has failed you, and produced an educated individual who dreams of killing ‘opportunist criminals’.

        What a terribly sad indictment.

    • August 9, 2011 2:05 pm

      Hear hear. I am again very glad that I didn’t vote for Stephen Williams.

  6. August 9, 2011 12:24 pm

    I can’t believe you think this is down to “greed and jealousy” you must be mad to think so, I’m guessing you think that being an MP is hard work and that you deserve to be rich? Try working a normal 9-5 job like everyone else in this country and you’ll see why people are rioting, no matter how hard you work you never become rich nor famous because the government end up taking everything off you in the end anyway.

    If this is down to a certain “generation” then it really wouldn’t surprise me, young people have nothing to look forward to in this country and are giving no opportunities what so ever, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

    • boomba permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:38 pm

      grow up

    • J Guy permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:28 pm

      “because the government end up taking everything off you in the end anyway” Going by the media coverage the majority of the looters/thugs/thieves, whatever you want to call them, they are barely old enough to have a job let alone be paying their taxes. If people who had a 9-5 job were rioting you would know about it – slightly bigger situation would unfold. The devastation has been considerable but the amount of people has not. Although you have grievances with working 9-5 and getting your salary taxed, as i’m sure many of us do, lets not confuse this with whats going on and give them an sense that they are doing this for a ‘good cause’. As for opportunities over here, are you kidding? free schools, college schemes, apprenticships and thats just education wise. It is up to the individual to take those opportunities and make of them what they will, this is not an excuse to turn to crime. You only have to look around the world and back in history at the UK and see how easy we’ve got it now.

    • Nat permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:44 pm

      9-5?! He should be so lucky! Stephen (and I’d imagine other, dedicated MPs) frequently works obscenely long hours, seven days a week, throughout the year. 7am radio interviews, 2am votes in the house – there’s no way on earth I’d put up with these conditions in a ‘normal’ job.

  7. Simon Ravens... permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:24 pm

    It’s the way this round of civil unrest has a weird consumerist spirit that seems genuinely unusual. Reports of looters standing around deciding what shops to kick in based on what stuff they want; of kids trying on different pairs of trainers in a kicked-in JD Sports before picking which ones to take. Even while burning buildings, smashing cars and attacking police, the looters retain a well-disciplined sense of their need to make ‘wise’ consumer decisions, and remain obedient to market-based desires.

  8. Josh permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:25 pm

    Agreed that we have fostered a society with an absurd sense of entitlement over the past 15-20 years. Half the youth of today expect everything to be handed to them on a plate, backed by taxpayer debt…

    • August 9, 2011 12:28 pm

      I highly doubt that, not everyone expects everything to be handed to them on a plate. If we were actually given some opportunity in this country then we’d work hard but that’s the problem, the youth in this country aren’t given any opportunity what so ever and our futures are bleak because of this. If you want to blame anyone for these riots, blame the government and the way they run this messed up, useless country.

      • August 9, 2011 1:17 pm

        I’m confused – We are given a free education up to and including A levels. We are given the chance to go to University by way of loans that don’t drain our credit ratings. There are practical apprentiships available throughout the country for those people who don’t want to go to University; and yet you think there are no opportunities?

        The way this country is run is by no means perfect (and in some cases dreadful) but you get what you work for.

      • August 9, 2011 1:25 pm

        You doubt people expect things to be handed to them on a plate and then you talk of being “given” opportunities. It’s not the way the world works for most of us Matt. Some people get opportunities because of money or position, some choose to whine about how they don’t get the same benefits. For the rest of us, we make our own opportunities and get on with it. Pick a side.

      • Andrew permalink
        August 9, 2011 8:56 pm

        oh dear; blame them, never me

    • August 9, 2011 12:42 pm

      unlike previous generations, who had to put up with taxpayer-funded education, taxpayer-funded healthcare which was some of the best in the world, work that provided an income that one could support a family on without having to get second (or third) jobs, a reasonable an reliable social safety net.
      Yeah, kids these days have it so much better.

  9. C Narey permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:25 pm

    you talk a lot of sense Mr Williams!!

    here is a rant i placed on Facebook earlier, which in my narrow peer group has been widely “liked” I hope it adds to your debate in some way

    “Sorry! I just don’t believe it!! All people are doing is making excuses for the ferral youth in this country to act as they want! The cuts hurt EVERYBODY in this country. But they are needed to balance the books! We have lived outside our means for too long, increasing benefits along the way, removing aspiration from society, and now, when the gravy train has stopped, we get criminal behaviour on a massive scale!! There us NO defence for it! It’s thuggery!!”

  10. Ken Logan permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:25 pm

    As usual an MP with no regard for considering who might be at the root of this unrest ie the bankers, politicians and big businesses who dont pay their taxes and make us all look like fools while they live in their Surrey mansions. How about, just for once, coming up with some policies that help people to make a contribution to their comminities instead of slashing jobs and services to pay for the failing of the banks. These people are angry,frustrated and have had enough of being told what to do by people whose only interest is serving themselves.

    • August 9, 2011 12:29 pm

      Well said, completely agree.

    • P.E. permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:52 pm

      I’m sorry, but there is no just cause for what people are doing. This is not about unrest. And if it was, then why are local businesses and innocent people being targeted rather than places of significance? And guess who has to pay to clean all of this up? There are no demands being made and there is nobody shouting out about what they believe in. This is a despicable display of unruly citizens taking advantage of a situation. I don’t normally agree with politicians, but I agree wholeheartedly with this particular blog.

  11. August 9, 2011 12:26 pm

    Steven I think you are right about the motivation. Our society has evolved into a take take society inspired by overpaid footballers, celebrities bankers and politicians on the take.

  12. Paul permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:27 pm

    Wrong. Fortunately, I’m fairly well off. But I don’t want to be rich and famous. These riots are not caused by greed and jealousy. The riots were always going to happen, there just needed to be a valid reason. Now there are heavy handed police, rising unemployment figures, slow economic growth, politicians swanning away on holiday while the electorate is left living in poverty, these riots were always going to happen. It is not mindless violence, it is people showing they aren’t going to stand for the way we are governed any more.

    They are only out clashing with police and looting shops because they have nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go. The riots are caused by ruthless austerity measures that mean their voices are drowned out. It is hypocritical for you to blame them for starting these riots when it was really your coalition government. You say we “need to have a good hard look at the direction in which our society is heading.” Damn right we do. The way your government is going, this cry for help from the deprived may become a lot more common.

    “A riot is the language of the unheard.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • August 9, 2011 12:41 pm

      Precisely! It’s encouraging to hear comments like this, when our members of parliament are apparently now concerned with looking at where “society is headed”. What a waste of air.

      I’m pretty sure, Stephen, that there isn’t a reset button on your idolised robotic society.

      Thank you Paul.

  13. August 9, 2011 12:28 pm

    Well, you’re almost right. Let me preface this by saying that I do not condone the looting, violence, theft, mugging, whatever else that’s going on. However, I understand it.
    We live in a society that constantly tells you the way to be happy is through things: Your life will be better if you can get that big-screen TV, your family will be happier if you buy the latest mod cons, a new car is what it’ll take to impress your neighbours, etc etc ad nauseum.
    However, we also live in a society where much of this is out of the reach of a large proportion of our people; generally so even in good times, and exacerbated in these times of high unemployment, low wages and reduced social services. Does it really surprise anyone that when an opportunity to get a piece of what we’re told is the good life presents itself, people do what they can to get it?
    In modern first-world countries, there is a large, and growing, gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s been shown in many studies that it is this inequality that leads to unhappiness and resentment in the larger populace (interestingly, it doesn’t matter which camp they are in). Perhaps it’s this inequality that needs to be looked at as a long-term remedy to the current unrest that’s being displayed in London and elsewhere.

    • August 13, 2011 11:12 am

      Whilst I think it’s pie-in-the-sky to state that any practical social policy would have had any effects on the riots, it’s clear that looters sought out consumerist items rather than anything practical.

      Advertisements have a social cost that often isn’t covered by VAT.

  14. August 9, 2011 12:28 pm

    The ‘twits on Twitter’ are currently organising mass clean-ups of the streets of our cities, what are you and your fellow politicians doing? Yeah right, that’s what I thought.

  15. August 9, 2011 12:29 pm

    I agree with Sarah, this isn’t a generation rebelling but a group of opportunists. A group of people who believe stealing is an effective way of getting something they want.

    Your reasoning for the looting is spot on IMO but it fails to explain the rationale behind those who are burning cars, throwing bricks and setting fire to buildings. I appreciate that with the celebration of wealth and celebrity that greed can create a pressure or a stress.

    The anarchic actions of the past few nights are exactly that. Anarchy.

    Great Post!!!

  16. Robert permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:29 pm

    Stephen, not everyone does want to be rich and famous. Some people just want to lead decent, self-sufficient lives. Unfortunately, as a society we seem to have stopped encouraging people to aspire to solid, respectable but unremarkable careers and lifestyles – the kind of upper working class and lower middle class lives that any successful society is built on – and sold people the lie that they can all – without exception – achieve brilliant, fantastic things and become wealthy, famous and powerful. Statistically and intrinsically, most people simply cannot. All that said, I don’t think these riots find their roots in anything so profound – they’re simply the result of opportunistic thugs who want something for nothing, enjoy smashing and burning things, and give no thought – literally not one second of it – to future consequences, either for themselves or others.

    London is finally descending into the inferno that has been prepared for it for several decades now. The policymakers who have made this inevitable should examine their consciences, but this is unlikely to happen until the rioters begin to encroach on the safe, wealthy, insulated neighbourhoods where said lawmakers make their homes. Bristol and other cities will escape more lightly – probably. I hope so at least, but certainties appear to be disappearing rather rapidly at the moment.

    • August 9, 2011 12:45 pm

      “London is finally descending into the inferno that has been prepared for it for several decades now. The policymakers who have made this inevitable should examine their consciences, but this is unlikely to happen until the rioters begin to encroach on the safe, wealthy, insulated neighbourhoods where said lawmakers make their homes. ”

      Fantastic!

  17. geoffrey soma permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:30 pm

    so 30 years of boardroom pay rises of 60-80% per annum, funded by “efficiency savings” i.e. sacking much of the work force, along with no wage rises for those at the bottom of the corporate structure “lucky” enough to still have their jobs – would have absolutely nothing to do with all this at all? i guess the sight of wealthy bankers ruining the economy and causing people to lose their jobs and homes being repossessed while they retire at 50 (sir fred goodwin) with £1million+ per year pensions is setting the right example? if the system is seen to be corrupt, greedy & there is no hope even given to those at the bottom, while they are constantly taunted by glamorous billboards advertising the latest “must haves” in a consumerist society, things they can never afford, who can be surprised when the first opportunity is taken, and any excuse will do, to just say sod it, and take what you can. god helps those who help themselves – just ask any burglar. and burglars are pretty much what the boardroom giants and bankers are. does sir philip green and other wealthy people even pay tax? i think not.

    • Pete Harvey permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:42 pm

      Geoffry, they dont look at sir fred goodwin, they look at rappers and celebs who are as morally corrupt as the scum who are rioting on the streets.

      Time to clean up society, start with the crap thats the listening/viewing diet of so many small children in this awful country. Theyre all guilty soaps, magazines full of negativity.

      The majority in this country have had enough of politicians telling us whats good for us.

      We wanted action on the streets two nights ago not 3 days later, government and police leaders have failed us miserably and looking at international news websites I am embarrassed.

      Like many I wouldnt have shed a tear if they had shot those looters in the back instead of being told to hold a line while it all happened infront of them which must have been so frustrating for the officers on the front line.

    • A 25 year old Twitter fan permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:56 pm

      I’d think it would make an interesting survey if some of the anarchists were stopped in the street and asked if they knew who Sir Fred Goodwin is….

      It might also be worth asking them if they can name the chancellor and see how many get the answer right.

  18. caroline permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:30 pm

    no-one really can sense the undercurrent of what’s going on with youths these days. Especially not adults. I’m 21 now, and i grew up in london, and i have seen my peers slowly disintegrate. They come from broken backgrounds, and they don’t care about anything or anyone but themselves. This is certainly not most of youths these days, but it is more than people who are older realise. It’s terrifying that this is my generation, because i can’t hold a conversation with them, and i’m fully aware that they’d steal the shirt off my back before they’d say hello.

    It’s been building up for so long, it was only a matter of time.

  19. August 9, 2011 12:31 pm

    Paul it is not a cry for help. Did anyone on the streets of London look like they were crying for help. It is a vicious attack on a system which gives them nothing. The phrase ‘cry for help’ seems to suggest that these kids want helping. They don’t want help, they want to stick two fingers up at the government and say ‘this is what you get for telling me how to live’.

    • caroline permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:35 pm

      i don’t think they give 2 shits about the government, they want new trainers and a mobile phone for free.

      • August 9, 2011 12:37 pm

        fair point. But they also want to burn stuff, punch random people in the face, shoot guys in cars, and attack the police.

      • August 9, 2011 12:39 pm

        And one more thing: Who can blame kids for being overly materialistic in a society that is materialistic. Why do the kids want this stuff? Maybe its because they watch TV all day. TV that tells them at least 100 times per day that they want this stuff.

    • August 9, 2011 12:48 pm

      For those who don’t think of alternative systems, and see their everyday life as a constant, it is a cry for help. A cry for help in a system which they imagine they will have to live the rest of their lives. A system that is so quickly reproduced and protected by the slaves in Parliament.

    • Mark permalink
      August 9, 2011 12:51 pm

      “And one more thing: Who can blame kids for being overly materialistic in a society that is materialistic. Why do the kids want this stuff? Maybe its because they watch TV all day. TV that tells them at least 100 times per day that they want this stuff.”

      I’d agree with that – and it seems to be Stephen’s main point really: It’s a wider social malaise that is the motivation of this.

      While the solution will probably need political attention, it’s not a political statement that has been made but a symptom of a section of society that has grown up over the last few decades, under different governments.

  20. Anthony permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:33 pm

    Generalisations can always be problematic, but for me you sum things up nicely. And no, I’m not a Lib Dem troll before people ask, I actually happen to be a Labour supporter. The pressures you talk about are all around us, but thankfully the majority of people have the emoitonal intelligence to resist them, as highlighted by Sarah and Billy above. Completely agree that the political class need to talk the language of calmness. We can all do anger – I’m doing it very well at the moment. We always say that you cannot beat these pressures and that is part of societal change. Well, Thatcher brought about a change in attitudes and no ideal dominates forever, so why can’t we start to face up to some of the, frankly, crap that gets thrown at us each? Thankou Stephen for articulating what I had been thinking, but had not articulated so well.

  21. Pete Harvey permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:34 pm

    I agree with most of what you say, but lets not be afraid of poiting out that this mysterious “respect” that a lot of these people want from the police cannot exist while they are leading selfish lives.
    As was mentioned on the news, a lot of these areas have had millions spent on regeneration, community centres etc. all these people, if UK residents have had access to education and health care, they have chosen to lead the lives they do because they are lazy and wont start at the bottom like the rest of us hard working people.

    They say its a minority, but to me its a large minority who are like this, years of in effective sanctions because locking people up is seen as expensive, well lets change things and if you are anti social then the sanctions get tougher to the point of being taken out of society for a long time.

    I presume the next solution could be some form of national service for those who wont be educated or wont take jobs offered.

    Hats off to our police and emergency services, seen as pigs by some but hard working husbands, fathers, mothers, wives and children to the rest of us. Keep up the good work.

    Today is a good day for journalists and defence lawyers who must be wring their hands at the forthcoming cases!

  22. Taco Bell permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:39 pm

    Piers Brown, that is utter nonsense.

    Poverty has been far worse in the past and kids have had it far harder. The problem here stems from folks like you who are apologetic to these acts and are always making excuses for this type of delinquent behavior. Modern society make discipline of children a legal issue. Parents have to think twice before setting their kids straight. Young men don’t have to do civil or military services and never learn to respect authority. The end result is thugs who don’t respect anything and wouldn’t understand nor equate their circumstances to you gibberish.

    I saw clowns smashing up shop fronts wearing 200 pound runners and label clothing. God forbid these thugs ever having to experience life on rations under aerial bombing.

    • August 9, 2011 12:55 pm

      What has happened in the past, happened, and what is happening now will continue to happen. Don’t disassociate yourself today from your assumed experiences of the past. That is nonsensical, Taco Bell.

      You’re views are really not surprising, and actually quite depressing given that my own comments with others below really provide a very simple frame in which to begin to understand this public response. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, or to be able to make it certain where this is all headed, that would be genuinely too idealistic of me.

      When do the rations begin then? I’ll see you in the queue.

  23. Andy Temp permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:40 pm

    Having watched MPs and bankers helping themselves to millions of pounds of other people’s money, it seems the powerless have decided to emulate their betters.

  24. C Narey permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:40 pm

    sorry need to re-comment – With regard peoples incessant bleating about the “have’s and have nots” they really show up the issue this country has! Instead of the country passing comment on the “bankers and business elite” and their EARNED lifestyle, perhaps our society should aspire to be them! Do people actually believe that these rich people get it handed to them? They work, they risk to earn money and most importantly THEY EMPLOY PEOPLE!!!!! without them, there would be more unemployed in this country, and no doubt have more social issues. Sir Philip Green et al that are mentioned as “not paying any tax” – does anyone have these figures? Individually they won’t pay the same rate of tax as you, they will pay a much higher %, and as they earn more, pay MASSIVELY more into the coffers!!!! They also have business that pay MASSIVE levels of corporation tax, generate wealth, pay NI contributions on their employees, pay VAT on their sales and all the other tax’s that some people do not seem to take into account! Yes, it is not always possible to get there, but society must have that as their goal! Not to sit around all day and have money thrown at them, without giving anything to society, and when it is taken away believe that it is OK to go around and rob shops!!

    • August 9, 2011 12:57 pm

      So we should all aspire to be bankers and business elite? What? Who would we employ then!

      This is a moronic contribution to an otherwise healthy debate.

  25. P.E. permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:44 pm

    Well put! I don’t think enough people are acknowledging that this is not a protest; it’s opportunistic hooliganism.

  26. August 9, 2011 12:45 pm

    Piers I think you are right when you say, everything is connnected. Economy crashes, mass civil unrest, you would have to be extremely niave not to start making connections. And to parody the events, I can say you may well put out the fires but unless you look at the cause they are doomed to start again.

    However I also have to agree with what Stephen is saying here in as much as there is an element of greed going on, it’s not like people are stealing food cause they are desperate to eat, they are going for high value goods. Also the ages of these people are very young, it’s not adults or anybody who is looting for the basics of life, again these are young people. Possbily bored, disillusioned and with a sense of power that they have by getting one over on the Police, they are spurred on to push this new found ‘social power’ as far as they can. Others with inevitably try in other parts of the country, encouraged and seduced by the appeal of having the run of a city and screwing over the Police and local authorities, making a mokery of them.

    All I can say to is that whilst this power may be alluring right now, if you destroy the country around you then your are cutting off your own nose to spite your face.

    • August 9, 2011 12:58 pm

      Disillusioned and with new social power: brilliant. Sounds like the start of a small revolution to me!

  27. Andrew permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:46 pm

    I couldn’t have put it better myself Stephen! I am a 43 year old family man who grew up in Nottingham through the 70’s and 80’s and yes I saw violence in the media, rioting in the 80’s in Liverpool, Birmingham and London and a major national violent clash of the miners and police. This at the time affecting some of my very early work collegues’ families in Nottingham. I also lived through the possibility that the human race could be obliterated through neuclear war. Indeed this brought protests of it’s own at the time.

    As you say; this is not protest or indeed rioting; I’ve witnessed these things when I was a ‘youth’; this is looting borne through personal greed, lack of personal responsibility and total disregard for others around them.

    This issue of taking responsibility for our own actions is sadly lacking in certain people across all parts of society. A simple example of this would be littering; ask yourself; ‘do I drop litter?’ Whilst this may seem totally out of context with the current events; I use it to demonstrate my point. People who drop litter show a contempt for their environment and those around them; ‘Someone else will clear up my mess’ as opposed to those who bother to simply find a bin; taking responsibility for their own actions and demonstrating a respect for others.

    Sarah also makes a good point; this is not ‘Twitter’ or a generation to blame; but is indeed “a small pocket of mindless idiots”. I just add; who won’t take responsibility for themselves and always either want someone else to make life better for them or have an easy route to what they see as success!

  28. Mark permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:47 pm

    @Piers Brown

    “So what we have witnessed is an immediate response from those disenfranchised groups of people, young and old, who take opportunities like this to protect themselves and their families from the intense threat of poverty, starvation and homelessness.”

    That would seem fair if we were seeing food and drink being looted, or banks being looted. But it’s JB Sports and Curry’s that are being looted. Most of what is being stolen are luxuries for personal enjoyment or to be sold on for a profit, not necessities like food, drink and shelter.

    As far as I can see, that suggests people who are bored and probably poor. Neither of which are justifications for the riots. Justifying them as a protection against “starvation” and “homelessness” is completely over-the-top, and seems to have no basis in reality.

    It’s not hundreds of the rough-sleeping homeless who are rioting here, is it?

    “As usual an MP with no regard for considering who might be at the root of this unrest ie the bankers, politicians and big businesses who dont pay their taxes and make us all look like fools while they live in their Surrey mansions.”

    Where’s the evidence that the unrest comes out of anger towards bankers, politicians, or big business?

    There are lots of people who are unhappy about cuts, the state of politics, bankers. People don’t start looting to change the World, they loot because they’re opportunists looking to get more stuff.

    • August 9, 2011 1:03 pm

      Mark, you answered it yourself: “or to be sold on for a profit,”, but you seem to be able to rationalise spending very well. Who’s to say it will be sold on for ‘profit’ and “not necessities like food, drink and shelter.”

      Are you so sure of unemployment and poverty figures in this country to say my claim that individuals may well use opportunities like this in the future on a large scale, (it does already happen now, its called theft) to simply survive.

      I make no claim that all of these TVs and trainers will be sold on for soup down the local markets this weekend, I’m just trying to put it into perspective to people like yourself who want answers. What I have provided I’m sure is one of many possible explanations you’re looking for.

      • Mark permalink
        August 9, 2011 3:27 pm

        I don’t doubt that poverty is a factor, but I’m very dubious that we’re talking about poverty on the existential level that you’re implying; on a level that is justified by a need to survive.

        I’d be curious to know if you have a reason to think otherwise.

        I think it’s more complicated than that. As you suggest, there’s already a lot of theft outside of the context of “looting”. But that’s often motivated by a need to fund a drug habit (for example), rather than just not needing money to get food and drink.

        I think I’ve got a pretty good perspective on it already; I’m sure that the causes of this are more sophisticated than a simple “these people are scumbags”. I’d have sympathy for anyone who is “trying to do the right thing”, but is in circumstances that necessitate turning to criminality to survive. I don’t think the majority of these people are in that category.

        In any case – regardless of the causes there needs to be an effective solution to the problem. What’s your suggestion?

  29. A 25 year old Twitter fan permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:47 pm

    People are definitely enjoying being subversive, because they’ve got nothing else to do with their sorry lives. Sure, a lot of people are demanding that the youth services come back as if this is some kind of miracle cure but if there is genuinely NO MONEY in this country then cuts have to be made somewhere and I think a lot more people would be angry if they had to pay for schooling or for healthcare, it’s about perspective and what the main areas of priority are for a general cross-section of the public.

    So to solve the lack of youth services and the loss of patriotism I propose bringing back National Service so they feel some duty for their country instead of against it.

  30. Ben permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:48 pm

    I think an important distinction should be made between cause and motivation. The motivation is likely to be in part down to selfishness: these are people who don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions; are causing harm to others; and are looting shops for the latest ‘stuff’.

    However, what do you expect when there is social inequality. Some of these people (or their parents) have nothing. Life is a constant struggle and politicians are not making things easier for them: youth centres are being shut down; the job market is poor. This may or may not be in the heads of the criminals on the streets, but to dismiss it as not part of the cause is ridiculous.

    You ask about what values are being taught in schools and by parents. Well whatever values are taught, whilst there is deprivation and inequality, there will be a minority of people who reject these values and react in a selfish way. You should be concentrating on how to help the communities as a whole.

  31. Daniel permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:48 pm

    I find the trend of blaming “this generation” interesting: rioting and large scale violence/looting/etc have been prevalent in society long before this generation was born. Blaming the generation simply excuses those who act with disregard for the law rather than addressing why these people are rioting (having said this, I agree that there are always those who take advantage of vulnerable situations to break the law).

    My question to you is would this have occurred if the underlying angers and resentment were not present? I would posit that without the underlying anger at the government (and the previous government) for the situation that many feel they have been left in, the problems with the banks, the impending cuts to many public services and other areas, the rise in tuition fees, the general feeling of apathy towards our political system and other issues there is a lot of underlying anger within society and this recent tragedy was the spark that, I would suggest, threw many over the edge. If these factors had not been present, or rather if people were left with the feeling that these issues were being addressed and dealt with effectively by the government (and other bodies), then at the very least less people would be rising up to engage in criminal activity if not a massive reduction in numbers of criminal behaviour. political factors are ever present in human behaviour, it affects how people respond to given situations and especially if people feel that they cannot voice their issues vocally then they will act in less acceptable manners.

    I would rather suggest that the underlying social factor contributing to this terrible event is anger and resentment at a society and government that many feel have abandoned them. This doesn’t condone or justify what they do, but it certainly paints a different light on how we should look at these people who are “rising up” and how we should act after the fact of the event.

  32. julian sims permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:51 pm

    Stephen – I think you make a very valid point….but then fall into the abyss; how is being ‘rich’ and ‘famous’ an ‘acceptable’ ambition? don’t you see that aspiring to such predominantly unrealistic goals is precisely what causes the greed and jealousy you speak of? we need to educate people to have ambitions that are about improving the lives of society in general….not just the select few.

    Bad education, bad parenting, really bad consumerist capitalism….and an increasing sense of individualism at the expense of community and society. we’ve created a celebrity culture and everyone wants a piece of the action…..even MP’s….who create blogs….with their photographs posted (just so we know how ‘special’ they are).

  33. Jack Organ permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:54 pm

    I honestly cannot believe how many people think this was a protest against the system. Watch the people protesting. Was there even one banner? No. Did they attack political targets? Did they attack any banks? No and no. It was simply violence and thuggery. I believe it occurred as Stephen Williams has stated for material gain, and as another user commented, for the hell of it.

    Oh an I enjoy people who say MPs should do a 9 – 5 job. They usually work much longer hours then that. Oh and they shouldn’t have a holiday either. Terrible points made by people who lock in at 9, clock out at 5 and take all their holiday.

    • Daniel permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:02 pm

      I think that when people voice anger at MP’s its because all they see is the media’s presentation of their financial corruption and the prima facie view that government is doing nothing to help the poor in society y cutting government spending and creating an ‘elitist’ university system. Now, I don’t wholly agree with this view but you must recognise that the resentment against MP’s is placed on reasonable premisses.

      On your first point, as I stated otherwise, its not what they are doing that we should be addressing but the underlying socio-political and economic factors that CAUSE such behaviours. These behaviours are motivated by resentment, anger and a feeling of impotence within society and these can be drawn back to events that have transpired due to government failures over the last five or so years. If you notice, there were no riots when we were in economic boom with low jobless and high government spending… I might wonder why that was?

  34. Robert permalink
    August 9, 2011 12:54 pm

    The destruction of modest businesses that employ working-class people and pay them a living wage rather suggests to me that these rioters are not so much concerned with attacking “the system” or “the bankers” or some other nebulous target. They are just malevolent low-lifes.

    Stealing desirable consumer goods – I can kind of understand that. But burning down ordinary working peoples’ homes and workplaces? Ruining the lives of people probably only marginally better off than themselves, and through their own hard work? I find that a little harder to comprehend. Lifelong apologists for the kind of behaviour we are seeing – that’s you, Ken Livingstone and Darcus Howe – should feel a little bit ashamed of themselves. I wonder if in private they are?

    • Pete Harvey permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:03 pm

      All these people want Robert is “respect”…. I tire of hearing that one.

  35. Pete Harvey permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:02 pm

    You could give these people £30,000 per year for sitting around and they would still want £60,000 because the next car, watch, holiday is more expensive.
    Areas of the uk are filled with ferral scum that most people never experience from their hard working lives/

  36. August 9, 2011 1:05 pm

    Good blog Mr Williams. I agree with you – we’ve got to look at the values that these young people on the streets are picking up. Also I agree that there isn’t any ideology or deep thinking behind what they are doing – it’s just driven by selfish greed, jealousy and the desire to have everything now, without having to work hard for what you get in life. I can’t claim to have all the answers, but I have thought for a long time that our politicians should start talking about values again, as well as focusing on the economy etc.

  37. Rose permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:07 pm

    This type of view is beyond ridiculous. Although rioting may not be the best approach to show dissatisfaction, has the government listened to the protests, the marches, the petitions aimed to try and help those in need?

    This government, this system has neglected the youth in poverty and they have been backed in to a corner where the only way they know how to react, the only way they’ve been taught to react is through violence and destruction. Shouldn’t this country be realising their failings through allowing a generation to be raised in such a way?

    I am part of this generation, I have also grown up not knowing how my mum is going to pay the next bill. But aside from this, I have worked ridiculously hard but have unfortunately fallen into the first of the extremely unlucky generation. With my EMA being reduced, I’m going to be unable to afford both travel to my college and the books needed to pass my courses. And although you might think I should get a job, believe me I have tried. I have applied for 18 part-time positions in the past two months and each one I’ve not even been called for an interview due to my ‘lack of experience’. I would have very much liked to have experience, and been like my friends being able to get jobs at that age 14/15, however due to the education system where a school is judged by the number of GCSEs they achieve.. I was forced to take 16 GCSEs to make up for others in my year barely managing to aim for three. So instead of earning some money, I focussed on my studies. Instead of getting the 10 A*s I was predicted for the compulsory subjects, I did not achieve one.

    At the age of 13, I was aiming to get into Oxford University and at that time I had a fair chance. Now, I’m not sure if I can even get into my local University, which is around 70th in the league tables, purely because of the fees. I can’t even try to learn to drive, perhaps to help me get a delivery job.. because of the increase in insurance.

    All my hopes and goals, not ruined because of my idleness, or my greed.. but because I live in a system with the poor are rarely considered, with little to no opportunity of digging themselves out of the pit society has created. It is without a doubt, that there will be some thugs who are joining in with violence purely because of the thrill. But to suggest that all of those involved are ‘greedy and jealous’ is a ridiculous claim, because there are people who do work hard, and who do try their very best to improve their lives, but who get let down by their Government.. it’s no wonder they’re forced to this extreme behaviour.

    • P.E. permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:38 pm

      Rose, I agree that it is difficult to advance in this day and age, but it is not just here in the UK, and it’s difficult, not impossible. I don’t have a degree, and when I wanted to enter the NGO sector I had no office experience, but I worked 2 menial part-time jobs and volunteered with an organisation in my ‘spare’ time to get to where I wanted to be.

      I agree that the cuts being made are unfair and making it even tougher for the youth of today, but I DO NOT agree that what is happening has anything to do with these issues. I have also taken part in protests and petitions and so on, but I would never attack places or people that are completely innocent. Why are none of the places being targeted relevant to what everyone is saying is the cause? Why aren’t government buildings being attacked? Why is it shop owners (a lot of them independent and even some charity shops) and other places where people will have to pay out of their pockets to repair? It’s interesting how it’s only places that people can take things for themselves.

      I don’t agree that there is any political motivation behind what is going on right now. I completely agree that there is an issue to be addressed, but this kind of criminal behaviour overshadows the problem and undermines the cause, if there was any to begin with for the people terrorising our streets.

    • Pete Harvey permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:47 pm

      you have my sympathy Rose, various governments have sold our childrens future to the highest bidder and even my parents are partly to blame buying shares in all the sell offs and now there is no industry to sustain a future work force. We cant all work in cafés takeaways and service sectors, we need manufacturing but even that is held back by high costs of utilities and red tape.

      I fear for my own kids future amassing huge uni debts, doing courses that cant possible lead to a job… but I cant stop them.

      Just dont give in and hold on to your standrards that your mum can be proud of.

  38. C Narey permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:07 pm

    Could someone also please gag the FORMER Mayor of London Ken Livingstone! the time for politicking is later, not on the night of actual riots!! I felt like throwing something at the TV last night on News 24!!

  39. August 9, 2011 1:10 pm

    Excellent. Well said. I agree wholeheartedly.

  40. Gez Smith permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:13 pm

    A very interesting distinction to draw, and I’d agree with it broadly. Two points though;

    They’re not using social media for this, they’re using messaging between phones. I wouldn’t overlook the role of the traditional media, especially TV, in spreading the idea too. There’s been nothing on Twitter about this that I’ve seen, and I’ve been watching it a lot in case the police direct angry crowds towards my house again.

    Second. I’d say the riots in Cheltenham Road a couple of months ago were riots under your definition. The ones last night though, definitely not.

  41. joemccarthysghost permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:14 pm

    I think you’re spot on with the notion that this is greed and looting not protest or rioting.

    But statements like “Everyone wants to be rich and famous, without wanting to work hard to reach those otherwise acceptable ambitions” do little to further the debate.

    Fame and wealth are not acceptable ambitions they are shallow, selfish pursuits that have contributed to this “mindless criminal activity motivated by a selfish desire for personal enrichment.”

    Politics, media and consumerism all promote the idea of wealth as fulfilment.

    If those who lead us (politicians), who protect us (the police) and those who are supposedly responsible for holding those in power to account (the media) use corrupt methods to ascertain wealth then what else can be expected – the example has already been set.

    The events of the last few months (phone hacking to looting) have shown us examples of the darker side of human nature – from both the top to the bottom of society.

  42. Motion permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:19 pm

    I have to say, Stephen Williams has made an observation I entirely agree with.

    The media age in which we live, where kids dream about becoming rap stars or movie gods, sets a target lifestyle in a child’s sights which they cannot reach. Far from being a well-connected son or daughter of a record company director in Los Angeles, they are the children of a single mother struggling to make ends meet in Croydon.

    They are given an ideal by a foreign culture which is completely divorced from the reality of their lives. The dream and the application do not match, so they will never come to fruition – anger, disillusionment, insecurity and jealousy breed, as well as disrespect for the society in which they feel they cannot get their perception of an entitled stake.

    Because they have no stake it, there is no interest in their being a part of it and maintaining it.

    Meanwhile the child is deprived of a path of self-development which would have made them happy and productive.

    What’s the solution? I’m afraid for this generation of fallout, there is only a very distasteful one. They need some pretty intense, nuanced, insightful indoctrination at very long length – so long they forget who they were – to turn them back into productive members of society. What’s more it would probably have to happen in prison.

    Is that fair?

    No.

    Life isn’t fair.

    If you think that’s the wrong attitude; I hope you sold your possessions to help alleviate the famine going on in Somalia. Maybe you tacitly agree with me more than you realise.

    As for ensuring it doesn’t happen again – that requires taking people who are like these kids – the worst thugs amongst them, who have already been in prison, indoctrinating them, and sending them back into those communities and bringing the new generations of thugs and lost kids into the fold of constructive projects where they can get paid – paid in a way that is monitored so that it is used constructively for their self-betterment, while the projects themselves must be saturated in indoctrination to turn them into useful members of society.

    Once upon a time the point of pride and the thing to aim for in a person’s life was to be a decent member of society; a comrade, a Muslim, a Christian, a soldier, an Englishman, a gentleman. That was an absolute goal that worked only with what you have, and if you were that, you stood equally with all others.

    Now the aim is relative; I’m rich because you’re poor, strong because you’re weak, successful because you’re not.

    The media exposes us to everyone, and we are all relatively judged, hence the lower down you are, the more painfully frustrated you feel.

    We need to temper this US-invented-post-war-material-Freudian gimmick which has been long overdue for social breakdown with something that other cultures have had in the past:

    An absolute class which has nothing to do with wealth, but which all people stand equally as members of in terms of respect, provided they exemplify the qualities of decent peoples. That’s just a cultural thing. It’s probably got to be left in the hands of the people who set the culture – the creative people – to decide what form that will take. It’s an organic process, but an awareness must be instilled amongst the influential people who shape that process – that they must now work to that end, if the wealth gap and this consumer culture sickness is to be stopped from ruining more lives the way it already has with these kids.

    • Andrew permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:27 pm

      Maybe intead of sending them to prison or some other lame community service, they should be sent by boat to Somalia and other famine ridden places to try and help with the relief efforts there in some way. There is a cost attached but I’m sure this is no less than locking them up with some drug pusher……..

      • Motion permalink
        August 9, 2011 1:37 pm

        Call it a gap year.

      • Pete Harvey permalink
        August 9, 2011 1:48 pm

        Manchester has an increasing somali population…. go figure.

  43. cL0h permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:25 pm

    @Piers Brown
    So why was there relatively little looting and burning in the Arab Spring protests?
    Many people come from poor, underprivileged backgrounds. Much of whet I am seeing on the television is thuggery plain and simple.
    Is this an act of hopeless defiance against disenfranchisement?

    I think not.

  44. Giuliano Gavazzi permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:32 pm

    sorry but you contradict yourself. This is clearly a contemporary social problem brought to you by exactly those rich (and not necessarily famous), who thrive on those fake values, consumerism on top. Even some of the victims, large shop chain, thrive and are based on personal failings, selfishness and greed. You are right to ask for “a good hard look at the direction in which our society is heading”, because if these are thieves, looters or vandals, what are those who want a society and live on a society based on greed, consumerism, violence, exploitation?

  45. Gavin permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:34 pm

    Stephen, as a constituent I am very interested to hear your views on the riots, and I think you talk a lot of sense. However your reaction to it is purely a superficial one.

    I do not condone the behaviour at all; I am disgusted by it. But I also think it’s too easy to blame the media or the footballers who earn £100k a week.

    We live in a society that encourages greed. Greed is the backbone of capitalism, plain and simple. Capitalism prioritises wealth over human beings. Why are we in the present financial mess? Well, it’s largely because banks and building societies were too greedy, they chased the money and lost. Why do teenagers want the latest camera phones, trainers and TVs? Because they are told wherever they go, by grotesquely large and gharish billboards, that their happiness lies in material goods.

    Closer to home, what caused the Stokes Croft riots? A corporate monster bullying its way onto a high street where it wasn’t welcome.

    When we, not just as a nation but almost as an entire species, are completely overwhelmed every second of our daily lives by capitalism, materialism and brand marketing, it’s no surprise that the result is a greedy materialistic society.

    If young people are happy and content and feel that they have a future, they will not riot. Whether the people involved in these riots are good or bad people is almost irrelevant; the fact remains that those people are dissatisfied. The reason, in my eyes, for their dissatisfaction is that they have been hung out to dry by a world that is only interested in short-term financial gain. They are surrounded by a culture that is obsessed with wealth, yet they have none of their own. And when the banks, building societies, and the big companies such as Tesco are so utterly irresponsible, either from a ethical or financial standpoint, why should the average person in the street act any differently?

    It’s easy to criticise teenagers in hoodies for stealing a mobile phone, and easy to say we should bring back National Service as others have done, but that’s because it’s always been easier to blame the people beneath us in the social heirarchy. The problem is that the haves are running away from the have nots at ever increasing speed, and not even playing by the rules in doing so. And as the person in the street chokes on their dust, their basic services are being taken away by the government.

    Maybe you and I are correct to assume that, for most of the rioters, there was no justification other than boredom, greed and peer pressure. But if ever there was an excuse to riot, we are living in it.

    Until I hear you criticise the wealthy individuals and companies for their billions evaded in taxes every single year, I will consider your views on the matter to be nothing more than a media-friendly soundbite. And until the government goes after the truly serious crooks in our society, the ones who have all the money in the first place and run roughshod over everyday people to hold onto it, often illegally, we will continue to live in a society where the moral compass is warped.

    • C Narey permalink
      August 9, 2011 1:47 pm

      “It’s easy to criticise teenagers in hoodies for stealing a mobile phone”

      Obviously, it’s illegal! Are you saying that its ok to do this?

      • Pete Harvey permalink
        August 9, 2011 1:50 pm

        you no longer go to prison for shop lifting, we get the society we voted for.

    • Motion permalink
      August 9, 2011 2:05 pm

      Gavin’s not wrong. The problem is, while we can do something about the criminals down below, we can do f*ck all about the criminals at the top.

      These riots wouldn’t provide the political justification for remedying the distal social problem because it’s far more complicated than the link you’re making.

      Unless of course, you do want to support the mob. Etch-a-sketch restart a la France…

    • Tamarah permalink
      August 9, 2011 2:15 pm

      It’s amusing to watch the liberal intelligentsia blame these riots on the rich. The poverty that exists in other nations makes these thugs look like the rich and famous but I don’t see them rioting and destroying shops.

      I think if they broke into the homes of the people making excuses for them and destroyed everything that they had worked for, they’d be singing a different tune.

      That and I live in the States where unemployment is chronic, our young people are in debt for $50-100,000 or more for college educations and many people don’t even have health care.

      I do believe that the system is weighted toward the wealthy and this is abominable but using this as an excuse to loot someone’s shop just to grab high priced baubles is morally repugnant. How many of these shopkeepers worked long hours to make a living only to have it destroyed?

  46. Phil permalink
    August 9, 2011 1:59 pm

    No, I’m sorry but your solutions don’t address the problems that you identify. Tabloid newspapers touting trash tv and rampant consumerism, surely we need to regulate the media – but that wouldn’t be very liberal. What are parents teaching their children – surely we need to have some sort of input to that too – but that wouldn’t be very liberal either. I’m sorry but we lefties have been responsible for breaking down the social structures that ‘held back’ earlier generations but we put nothing in its place and left a dangerous void. We created this generation!

  47. Foxalfabravo permalink
    August 9, 2011 2:05 pm

    “Instead, we are seeing mindless criminal activity motivated by a selfish desire for personal enrichment” …. a sentence which reminds me of Madoff, of crowds of daily traders or filthy politicians. These rioters could have had a nice future ahead, but without the risk of beeing caught for a stolen HD TV.

    • Tamarah permalink
      August 9, 2011 2:17 pm

      Agreed but the media refuses to indict the financial industry for their criminal behavior, probably because it’s such a confusing mishmash of smoke and mirrors and because the media is controlled by the corporate elite.

      • foxalfabravo permalink
        August 9, 2011 10:36 pm

        For our host, it’s a natural unleashed greed that fueled those riots. I keep thinking that is the natural behavior for a Neanderthal mind, whether a dealer or a company leader (To be clear I’m french, and I associate liberal with the Chicago school of economists, not with our host)
        I think (theoretically) that if the state keep fueling Values, throughout education and public protections, that those riots cannot happen, that those values can live.
        We are now in a moment when those values were lost for some

        But those values were displayed by some of your countrymen : the mess cleanup by community, the vigilante : looking for the other, taking care of the other

        I hope we french people could react like this.

        And I hope we could get rid of those leaches, either street punks, either traders, which share the same values and have no sense for the community

        Sorry for my french.

  48. Pete Harvey permalink
    August 9, 2011 2:26 pm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424
    says it all really? rich = anyone with a job then/

  49. August 9, 2011 2:26 pm

    this beter?

  50. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 9, 2011 2:39 pm

    Gavin. Although I’m sure this is only a tiny representation of todays young people, I do have some sympathies with your views. I am one of the lucky generation. Born just after the war, albeit in a council house and with food rationing, I had the benefit of a stable community, decent education for all needs, jobs for all abilities, housing, both social and private, far less crowded city, pensions, cheap fuel, you know the rest, and I certainly didn’t think of climate change of the oil running out. That will never be repeated and don’t ask me the answer because I don’t know. I do think however, that people of my generation working beyond the age of 65, when the young are unemployed does not seem very fair to me.

  51. Dom permalink
    August 9, 2011 3:16 pm

    We also had riots by your definition quite recently over the opening of the Tesco in Stokes Croft….. any reason you left these out of your list Stephen?

  52. influous permalink
    August 9, 2011 3:18 pm

    Turn the question round. Instead of asking ‘why do people riot?’, ask ‘why don’t people riot?’. What were the constraints stopping what is happening now from happening beforehand?

    I am struggling to identify them, but my worry is that the constraints – whatever they were – are now off and it will be difficult to put them back. After all, each ‘uneducated’ youth (or whatever the root cause of the behaviour is eventually deemed to be) is likely to be ‘uneducated’ for another 50 or 60 years unless something drastic is done on a large scale to reverse that …

    • rosemary permalink
      August 9, 2011 3:42 pm

      http://melaniephillips.com/london-descends-into-anarchy

      This suggests a few answers, influous.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 9, 2011 3:50 pm

        And then ask yourself, why didn’t the Japanese people loot and burn and mug when they had a bit of bad luck?

      • influous permalink
        August 9, 2011 6:15 pm

        Well, that reads like a long chain of strident assertions … typical Melanie Phillips, unfortunately.

        As it turned out there was an excellent piece put up on BBC News Online a few minutes after I asked the question:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14463452

      • rosemary permalink
        August 9, 2011 6:48 pm

        Social psychologists demonstrated a long time ago that people’s behaviour in groups is more extreme, and less responsible. It was known as “Mob rule” or “Lynch law” before we had social psychologists.

        When the authorities came up with their weasel phrase “anti social behaviour” to avoid dealing properly with the phenomenon, this eventual collapse in law and order was bound to ensue. People on council estates have already been putting up with it for a long time, and were expected to go on doing so by those more fortunate. Now the tune has changed. Especially since the BBC’s film crews were attacked.

    • August 9, 2011 4:16 pm

      I don’t think there’s one single clear reason for this. There’s probably a multitude of different things that have come together in this timescale to make already marginalised young people feel even more disenfranchised. I feel for youngsters who are struggling or feel trapped by their circumstances. BUT what’s happening goes beyond the growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction with how things are. Destroying/looting for the pleasure of it is pure criminal behaviour that can never be condoned. If my small child was destroying something, I’d stop them and say it was wrong. Plainly some of these youngsters have grown up to be little more than thugs, who know exactly what they are doing, but just don’t care. And I’ll bet there were a number youngsters who were on the cusp of joining in – becaue of their own feelings of dissatisfaction – but didn’t … because they knew the behaviour they were witnessing was way beyond civic disobedience for a cause. I also have to say the greedy behaviour of people in high places – who already have a lot but want more – really doesn’t set a very good example.

  53. August 9, 2011 5:58 pm

    Thanks for all the comments so far, all of which I have read. Yes, there are certainly other factors I could have written about. My text does say it is my “quick diagnosis” – this is not the first posting I have made about society’s problems and it certainly won’t be the last. Yes, the lack of moral judgement by bankers and others in the City who award themselves super bonuses is a factor – and there are many postings elsewhere on my blog, comments in the media and speeches by me in Parliament about that. Ditto youth worklessness, educational under achievement, drug addiction and so on. Dealing with society’s ills is not a problem with a magic bullet. Some MPs are out of touch or come from elite backgrounds. But I come from a background that is far from privileged and have lived and worked in Bristol West all my adult life. I don’t have all the answers, which is why I invest a huge amount of time meeting local people from all parts of my seat and listening to everyone, whether they be in business or homeless, in authority or feeling marginalised. It’s easy to criticise MPs but at least we stick our heads above the parapet and try to make a difference.

  54. jrbearpad permalink
    August 9, 2011 11:24 pm

    If you want to see what created these mindless morons simply look at their parents.

    They provided zero discipline and howled in protest when the schools tried to provide it.
    They allowed their offspring total freedom to run amok in the streets so that they could sofa-potato their own way through life in front of the TV undisturbed.
    They never bought a book or provided their kids with anything in the way of intellectual stimulation. The Human Rights-do-gooders enshrined in law total lack of any tools of discipline for anyone to use, not even the parents.

    Result: a totally useless, amoral, unemployable, bunch of mindless morons into crime, booze, drugs and looking for any kind of mischief to stimulate their sheer stupefyingly boring pointless existence.

    What can be done about it? Well, nothing actually because British society at the higher controlling levels sat back and let it all happen over decades and now we have no way to control it except by draconian, Fascist, and highly politically suicidal methods.

    It is simply going to get worse and there is nothing in the medium term anyone can do to reverse the whole sick process.

    So get used to it: this is the future.

    John Rippon.

    • influous permalink
      August 10, 2011 9:59 am

      I can do no other but agree with this (much to my regret, as it is a truly depressing point of view) – if people are of no value to society at 15 or 20 they are going to be of no value for another 50, 60 or 70 years unless something spectacular is done. I recall a fuss a couple of years ago around research which suggested that that the rot sets in at a surprisingly early age – less than 5, as I remember – so the ‘something spectacular’ probably doesn’t exist.

      In the short term I predict a general hardening of attitudes and ‘policing by consent’ being seen as a quaint relic of Dixon of Dock Green. Today’s Metro front page amazed me (and, judging by the expressions on peoples’ faces on the Tube, others as well) … before the current extraordinary situation I would never have believed that a newspaper would call fellow citizens ‘cretins’ [‘The copycat cretins’] … !

  55. Marc permalink
    August 9, 2011 11:30 pm

    Your arguments are sounds but not logical, there is rampant consumerism in Japan, where I live, but this never happens. If it did, you would be arressted, your family made liable for all damages and costs you created, you would serve prison time and if Foreign, you would be deported, even if you were a resident and not allowed to retun for a minimum of 10 years.

    The UK needs laws with teeth to teach these opportunistic bastards a lesson and their families need to be accountable for their actions. These mindless acts have, in some cases casued deep and emotional scars that are not easily cured.

    In times like this i am ashmed to say i am british.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2011 9:47 am

      Just visiting Japan makes me ashamed to be British. It is poignant too, as much of their way of life reminds me of my British childhood.

  56. Kei permalink
    August 10, 2011 6:21 am

    There is a twitter page set up with the aim of collating all images of these looters in the hope they are recognised and caught. @wantedrioters

  57. Ben Appleby permalink
    August 10, 2011 9:51 am

    ‘So I think the prime motivators behind the looting are greed and jealousy, rather than sorrow and anger’

    I can hardly believe this., greed and jealousy, I thought that you were a far more intelligent person than this Stephen, Have these people suddenly become more greedy and more jealous than they have been in the past?

    Maybe this has something to do with people feeling that they have no stake in our society, that they are not valued for who they are.

    A further factor isreduced respect for the police because of their unreconstructed attitudes and ever more violent approach to the job that they have to do.

    Greed and jealousy are promoted by our consumer society as as positive motivators, urging us to consume more and more.

    If we are honest we all have some element of greed and jealousy with in us but to argue that this is the cause of these riots is preposterous

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2011 2:42 pm

      As with football hooliganism, it is interesting to see who the people are when they come to court. Quite a few turn out to be employed, and mature. The distinguishing feature in most cases is their maleness. This is what we should be focusing on. Are we channeling male energy correctly, or is our society too feminised? I would say we need more manual jobs and skills, and with more respect for them. Our environment would benefit too.

  58. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 10, 2011 9:58 am

    Hi Stephen
    Can you tell me why Shami Chakrabarti gets so much air time on the BBC. She is almost a permanent fixture on Question Time and I understand she is now advising the Gov. I don’t recall ever voting for her or anybody else at Liberty for that matter, so why are her views so more important than mine?

  59. David beckham permalink
    August 10, 2011 1:51 pm

    Steve we all know how wrong you are and it shows how out of touch and old you really are. Maybe it’s time for you to retire. Why would anybody listen to you lib deems anyway as we all know you are slimy liars driven by money power greed and jelousy. You will do anything to get to the top whether it’s pay a bribe or simply lie to your people. At least the rioters are not two faced spineless cretins like you lib dems. They stand up for what they believe in, rather than not believing in anything at all other than their bank balance.
    You just don’t like it as it is bad for your votes as we know it is you and your government that brought these riots on. The pigs deserve everything they get as they are as bad as the lib deems and probably work together to cover up the police violence. We all know the real thugs are you, the liberal waste men and the filthy pigs.

  60. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 10, 2011 5:07 pm

    Rosemary
    “more manual jobs and skills.” Exactly. It’s not rocket science, but seems to have been lost in the great rush to get 50% to uni. But don’t worry. If our young people haven’t got the skills for any manual jobs, we will just import workers who have. Isn’t that what we do anyway?

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2011 6:26 pm

      Yes, Paul, and not just the manual skills which are lacking here. The foreigners have better maths and manners, and often better English too, as well as that vital characteristic, a willingness to work and to please. How did that come to be the case, I wonder?

  61. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 10, 2011 7:35 pm

    I know why, and I guess you do too, but hey, I’m not an intellectual with a political agenda to fulfill so what do I really know! Just saw Frank Field on the telly. How could a man who speaks so much common sense have been “blackballed” by his own party for so long? Basically sums up New Labour for me.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 11, 2011 12:06 am

      Anyone who was better than Blair and Brown was blackballed, or sent to the Lords – like Lady Taylor, who as Leader of the House of Commons soon established herself as so much more competent than Blair that she had to be got rid of within months. Then, when they messed up, as when they got the whole military top brass attacking them in the Lords, she was sent for to rescue them.

  62. Mike permalink
    August 10, 2011 9:49 pm

    Stephen. Why now? What will prevent it happening again next summer?

    • August 10, 2011 10:18 pm

      Mike – I don’t know why it’s now that we have violent disorder on such a huge scale, as opposed to protests being hijacked by a minority which we’ve seen many times over the years. It may be that there has been simmering resentment for some time but now it can be tapped into and co-ordinated by social media in a way that simply wasn’t possible until the last year or so.

      As to what can be done – lots of things, some of them long term. Getting the right “early intervention” measures in place in education and family support that I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog – would be an example of long term change. Many people want more firm policing right now. I certainly think we need more assertion in schools and other places of social boundaries, good manners don’t cost anything as used to be said. There are no quick and easy answers to deep seated disaffection and lack of community cohesion.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 11, 2011 12:08 am

        Are you sure this isn’t a dress rehearsal?

  63. Alan permalink
    August 11, 2011 7:09 pm

    I don’t believe that the recent riots and looting were a “protest”. Just thuggery> But if this country is so bad, why don’t they all **** off to somewhere like Somalia – Famine, pirates, no benefits!

  64. adsc permalink
    August 11, 2011 7:57 pm

    heavy-handed police? Are you joking? Look at Syria the moment. That’s heavy-handed. If it were so, then where were the water canons or rubber bullets?

    I live in Germany and saw a news article about whether the same could happen here. They doubt it can happen here because it doesn’t have the same rich-poor division as in the UK. I don’t agree wtih this. Every May there is a (traditional) riot in Berlin and thje police believe that Hamburg has criminal elements there. I saw an interview with one guy in Berlin which resembled an interview with a guy in the UK. Both said that a riot is necessary and the system needs to be brought down. There’s no talking to these people. I knew somebody who was irrationaly leftist in this opinions. He was as indoctrined as much as a Taliban. No rational argument possible – the system is corrupt, need for a people’s revolution etc. Absolute rubbish. Didn’t we learn anything from the Soviets?

    Saw an interview with a woman in London during the riots – she supported the riots and asked what future her son, who was no more than, say, 13-14, has. That tells the story. Her son has a future which she sees. What can the government do here? It’s all about greed in less-off people who want what so-called richer people have. Not all of us are rich, but people would still want a piece of my cake without lifting a finger for it. I’ve been unemployed and I’ve had to job around to make ends meet. It’s insulting to hear people justifying this in the way that they do. Give them more money and they’ll buy themselves luxury goods within the bat of an eyelid. Ho often do we hear of football players coming from poor backgrounds who then go on to get themselves a sportscar? I’ve personally got no problem with that but some people are hell-bent on reversing things because it’s unfair. Nature wasn’t designed to be fair. It’s about survival – and on an individual level.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 12, 2011 10:37 am

      We saw it here first, in 1980: firemen’s oxygen supplies disconnected by a riotous mob, because policemen had earlier challenged mugging and illegal drug and drink dealing. The response? To ban the word “mob” and deny the origin of the rioters. And yes, of course, throw money at the problem, but not root it out.

      Should we wonder that those habits have now taken root in part of the native population, and that other parts have fled the city centres? The depressing thing is that so many of those who fled cannot bring themselves to take sides.

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