Recommended reading – Generation F*cked by Maria Hampton at Adbusters.org
As the generational divide deepens, it makes sense for the older generations to stake their claim now, while they have the power of the state on their side. Aside from handing out more than 10,000 Asbos (Antisocial Behaviour Orders, a cross between a human parking ticket and the sort of condemned notice you sometimes see on the walls of derelict buildings), the petty misanthropy that bans hoodie-wearing teenagers from shopping malls, forces parenting classes on failing single mums, and allows 79 percent of police forces to impose curfews on children, comes easily to a nation that thought up the idea that its young should be seen and not heard. But never before have we put them under this degree of surveillance while simultaneously turning a blind eye to our adult responsibilities. Satellites track their phones, marketeers groom them on cyberspace, police add the DNA from 600 innocent children a week to a 50,000-sample database, while libraries fingerprint them to borrow books – all linked by rafts of new childhood databases joining the dots. In an age of hyper-individualism we are recoiling from the very children we have created. Monitoring is not enough, we must be protected from them.
Wil Wheaton adds:
Unless we (in America and the UK) take an honest and critical look at the root causes of unrest, and stop dismissing it as nothing more than opportunists engaging in mayhem (though that is, obviously, part of it), our entire society is fucked.
I don’t condone what’s happening in England, but I sure as hell understand it. If you don’t give an entire generation a reason to care about their country — some ownership in it, and a voice in determining its (and their) future — it shouldn’t surprise you when that generation doesn’t give a fuck and burns it all down.
Those interviewed last week about their involvement in the riots have spoken of being caught up in a collective feeling that they were trying to prove something. That doesn’t excuse the opportunistic ransacking and looting that accompanied confrontations with police, nor does it justify the loss of life and injuries inflicted.
How the dust settles will determine when the next outburst takes place. How do we fix a damaged generation?
What can the future possibly look like when there are so many people who feel so disconnected to anything that nothing matters but their own moment-to-moment needs?
The differing characteristics of the rioters are explored in Brendan O’Neill’s piece on The Drum Opinion, where he outlines the cult of victimhood upheld by both the “nihilistic urban youth” and the “middle-class radicals”:
…neither side contributes a great deal to everyday society, the rioters being largely unemployed or even unemployable youth, and their middle-class cheerleaders being either permanent students or professional campaigners… both sides live off other people: many of the rioters are dependent on the welfare state while their head-tilting, doe-eyed sympathisers either also live off the welfare state (student loans etc) or off their parents’ estate (access to family cash etc).
…both of these sections of society have been well and truly schooled in the modern-day cult of victimhood, in the grating trend for embracing self-pity over pursuing political goals or self-improvement, leading them to view every hardship that they face as an insurmountable affliction enforced on them by The Man.
What unites these two groups is not, of course, shared life experiences or similar living conditions, but rather a victim mentality, a view of themselves as rather sad and pathetic individuals who will scream and scream and scream if they don’t get what they want. They share an infantilised view of themselves and of the world around them, believing that others, primarily the state, should take care of them. So where the student rioters were effectively pleading with the state to support them financially into their early adult lives, the urban rioters are likewise largely dependent on welfarism. What both sides seem to lack is self-respect, moral resourcefulness, social wherewithal.
From the Guardian, Paul Lewis’s coverage of those chaotic five days highlights a need for shared values to find their place amongst communities.
He speaks of treating a boy, only 12 years old, with a bleeding hand, and of a stab victim being cared for by a group of teenagers, until his ambulance arrived, who then hurled abuse at the police escort. What stopped these young people fighting was eventual restraint:
So why did the English riots of 2011 stop? Police chiefs will argue their strategy, which took three days to formulate, of flooding the streets with riot officers, proved a significant deterrence. The fact police numbers were bolstered by people determined to protect their own streets must also have had an impact, as did the rain.
But there was also a social pressure at work, and it came from the very same “culture” that David Cameron has blamed for the riots.
I spoke to parents who said they had persuaded their children to stay indoors, and young people who had held back their friends from taking part.
Even in the midst of the seeming immorality of rioting without a cause, there were signs of a moral compass, with young men trying to reign back others they felt were going too far.
Randhawa was talking hurriedly about shared religious values and the need for unity when a teenager in a mask barged in. “Fuck that man, I’m gonna get a gun and shoot somebody,” he said.
Disorder could still break out, but whatever happens in England over the coming days, the debate on that petrol forecourt should serve as a hopeful reminder; of grieving young men who would show restraint in a time of crisis that some would say has eluded politicians, police chiefs and judges.
Our paradigm is flawed, we react to situations by taking the most radical directions. We examine what problems were faced in the past and use the solution from a loosely similar event. Society needs an extreme makeover.