I've done a lot of shouting at the television recently. I'm probably not the only one. Shouting at the mindless yobs who have burned and looted parts of the country. Shouting at the idiot parents who try to excuse it by saying their kids have nothing to do or, faced with compelling evidence that their offspring have, in fact, gone on a looting spree in JD Sports, still refuse to accept it. Shouting at the Birmingham Chav do told us 'if they respe't us, we'll respe't them' - in your dreams, love. Shouting at the liberals who are trying to excuse it with claims of social inequality - some of those already convicted included a teaching assistant, a graphic designer, a web developer, a social worker, a postman and the daughter of a Kent millionaire. If that were the case then countries with real social inequality would be a state of almost constant unrest.
In the UK people who are unemployed are given cheap or free housing, money to live on, free healthcare, free dental care, free prescriptions, free school meals, free or heavily subsidised further education. What more should we give them? And in return for what? For nothing. For turning up once a fortnight at the Job Centre. If you teach people that they can take without any sort of social responsibility then it's no surprise that they grow up with a sense of entitlement that they don't deserve.
I think the blame lies in many areas. I blame the media (of course). Even the most ordinary girl's magazines show clothes and accessories that are often way out of reach of many people. The myriad slebrity magazines that clog up the newsagents' shelves have pages and pages of supposedly aspirational characters blinged up in expensive designerwear, role models are WAGs and popstars often of low/no talent. TV talent shows catapult people to instant fame without the need for the years of hard slog that many really talented people have to put in. But ask yourself this. If they were really, genuinely talented, would they need a talent show? The over-riding message is that you don't need to have any great gift to get rich. You don't need to work hard and if it doesn't just fall in your lap well then it's someone else's fault.
I also blame the government for being complicit in giving people a sense of entitlement that they often don't deserve. They dole out money to people with no requirement for something in return. Benefit claimants talk about being 'paid' as if unemployment is actually a job. Pay is something you receive for goods or services, unemployed people provide neither. Benefits should come with some sort of social responsibility attached, be it cleaning graffitti or visiting the elderly. Something to give them a reason to get up in the morning and possibly a sense of belonging to a community.
I blame Job Centres. They aren't Job Centres, they are Benefit Processing Offices. They have no interest in helping their clients find work. For the most part they seem to be manned by people with only a little bit more enthusiasm for work than the people on the other side of the desk. Their job is to process paperwork, usually with as little grace and politeness as possible. They should be taken out of Government control and handed over to organisations that might actually want to do something to make a change. When I walk past our local Job Centre, I'm hard pushed to imagine what sort of job half the young men, unwashed, tattooed, pierced sitting on the wall chain-smoking, could possibly do. There should be a holistic approach to finding them work, starting with the need for a good bath and clean clothes. They should be out doing community work so that they don't spend their days lazing in bed or playing video games. Is it any surprise that often when they get a job but can't be arsed to get out of bed to go to it. If you've spent the last six months in your pit until midday, it's hardly surprising.
And video games. As Steve at Bloggertropolis noted, a generation bought up on violent video games might just lose the ability to distinguish between reality and virtual reality. There is no need for Grand Theft Auto in civilised society.
Poor parenting and the breakdown of the traditional family undoubtedly plays some part as does political correctness and the liberal intelligentsia, all of which have undermined our society in different ways. Parents who claim that their children, up in court on looting and disorder charges, are 'good kids' are doing them a huge disservice. They aren't good kids. They are criminals.
I don't blame education although the school which employed Alexis Bailey as a teaching mentor, despite convictions for criminal damage, should be asking itself some questions today. In our country we have a great education system, trust me, I've experienced another one so I can draw comparisons. It's free and it offers the kind of support to disadvantaged students that you just don't find in many other countries. But after that, it is down to the individual. They can choose to learn, to better themselves, to prepare themselves for working life. Or they can chose not to. Perhaps we need to make it more difficult to follow the second path.
I also don't blame the police. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. After the kettling of the student riots, liberal journalists took pen to paper to roundly criticise their heavy handed policing. As the police were hopelessly outnumbered by rioters, they had little choice but to stand back. The right wing press were immediately on their case. In Manchester last night, the police went in a little bit more decisively. By the morning, the BBC were showing clips from YouTube suggesting that the police were being a little bit too decisive. As a country we need to decide where we stand on this. In France, the CRS, their version of the riot police, go in hard. They get results. Do we want effective policing or do we want lawlessness and disorder?
But I've also been cheering at the TV a lot. At the quiet dignity of the Reeves family who saw their 100 year old business, which survived the Great Depression and two World Wars, razed to the ground by their own countrymen. At the restraint of the father of Haroon Jehan who called for restraint, despite having lost his son to a hit and run driver. At the Kurdish community in North London who outnumbered the rioters 3 to 1 and drove them off the streets and away from their businesses. At the armies of people who turned up in London to help with the clean up, at Homebase for giving away free brooms and dustpans and brushes to anyone who joined the clean up crews. At the revulsion shown by so many young people at the actions of their generation.
What happens next is up to us all. We can get lost in a mire of infighting, blame and counter-blame and political grandstanding. We can throw more money at the jobless and less money at the police. We can say it's down to social inequality.
Or alternatively we can take a long, hard look at ourselves. Ask some hard questions and take some tough decisions about certain parts of our society. Is it down to government cuts, immigration and jobs or is it about greed and consumerism? Should our society be more about human rights and less about personal responsibility? Should people get something for nothing or should everything come with some sort of personal and moral price tag? Who do we help next? The poor disadvantaged looter who fights social injustice by stealing a plasma TV from Curry's or the people who lost their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods and even the children at the hands of their neighbours.
Good things can come out of this. It could be a defining moment in our recent history. But it's up to us to use it to create the sort of society we want and not allow those with their own agendas to take the lead.