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THINKING - August 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks since the London riots and it almost feels like they didn’t happen. Of course, if you suffered damage you may, in the words of a friend, still ‘want to string them up, strip them bare, laugh at their genitals and beat them to within an inch of their lives’ but for most of us the fear and adrenaline have dissipated.

Everyone else, media and politicians anyway, seem united in the belief that the madness was due to a sudden flurry of exceptional criminality but, even if it was, doesn’t it beg the question, why now? We’ve always had criminality but riots? Not so much, and definitely not in Ealing where I live.

I refute the view that the civil unrest was due to ‘the cuts’ – which mostly haven’t kicked in yet - but I do think the prevailing atmosphere of economic pessimism, the attacks on the welfare state and the overt rampant bias in our society towards the wealthier members of it, do contribute to a destructive division that was manifest in the violence that we saw on the streets.

Increasingly, there seems to be one law for the rich – a law that allows the wealthy and privileged to leech monies from society and behave pretty much as they wish without a qualm – and one law for the poor – that condemns too many to the unseen fringes of our society, looking on but never invited in to share in its bounty and punished in every way, disproportionately, for ‘anti-social’ behaviour.

Whilst I don’t think this inequitable division makes violent uprisings an acceptable outlet for rage – as the poorest and the hard-working seem to suffer the most - I do think the privileged should not simply be able to absolve themselves entirely from responsibility when law and order breaks down.

And yet, this is what Cameron and his cronies have done, insisting the riots were caused by pure criminality. I just don’t buy that and ask again, why now?

I think the privileged few who have so badly abused the power they have been given by our society - their blatant selfishness laid bare to us all from the financial, media and political scandals that we’ve seen - need to look at how their actions affect those who have so much less than them in education, power, money and position.

Is it a coincidence that riots happen when a lot of people are fearful for the future, feel under threat, and have no voice in society whilst our leaders swan about cushioned by money and power? Or do criminals just get a bit antsy at such times?

Isn’t there a bit more to think about than just ‘crush the criminals’ and does it ever cross a Tory mind that the precept of ‘reaping what you sow in life’ applies to those who make the decisions as much as it does to everyone else?

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