In a recent speech reacting to the riots, David Cameron said that, “”We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong.” Politicians have, indeed, been rather quiet on this topic for a good while now. I believe their silence began somewhere between the second-homes scandal and the expenses scandal.
Indeed, it is not inconceivable that the current visible level of dishonesty and corruption in our society may have had some influence upon the minds of the rioters – not to say that that can in any way excuse their acts of thievery, violence and destruction. Everything has a cumulative effect on people and living in an age of perceived unfairness and inequality is bound to affect the mood of the population. It is now becoming evident that the very heart of our public system may have been rotten for many years – it seems likely that politicians and the media have been engaged in bribery, blackmail and cover-ups of a gargantuan scale and that the police have quite probably been complicit to some extent in concealing all of this.
Meanwhile, big businesses and banks continue to evade tax to the tune of billions while, for the rest of us, jobs and services are cut while taxes and prices are hiked incrementally. Of course, there can be no true comparison between the rioters and the white-collar criminals with whom we entrust our money and our governance: for a start, the rioters were quite upfront and open about their criminal activity and, moreover, they are actually being punished for their actions.
Never a body for knee-jerk reactions, it seems now that the government is proposing to tackle the country’s “moral collapse” by introducing non-military ‘national service’ for all sixteen-year-olds. Presumably this will be used to plug the gaps left by the recent cuts to public services which financial foolhardiness has apparently necessitated. Given the announcement of imminent and substantial reductions to police budgets, perhaps we may even see rioters policing themselves in future.
The consequences of the dubious and fraudulent behaviour of the incumbent adults have already robbed school-leavers of their dreams and aspirations; now, thanks to the recent civil unrest by an indignant but tragically mindless minority, the government suddenly feels that it is able to demonise a whole generation. Is this really what we want for our children: that they should be punished to pay the price for the greed and corruption of their forebears?