Rioting down the Road to Hell?

The Screwtape Letters

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So Tottenham has erupted (again) almost 26 years after the Broadwater Farm riots in the mid 1980’s and the troubles appear to be spreading… Many suggest the writing has been on the wall for some time now… But why?

I have to say that like many, I am having difficulty digesting the scenes of carnage and destruction in Tottenham’s High Road. It’s no wonder that so many on Sunday morning looked genuinely baffled (see bbc.co.uk) and, two days on from the original incident, the looting and violence continues.

Also like most (thankfully), I’m as disgusted as the next person about the levels of wanton violence, thuggery and opportunist petty theft that has been taking place in London. All supposedly justified by the fact; a small element of the community hasn’t (as yet) received answers to their questions. Irrespective of those answers being fact or fiction, just so long as they are actually the ones they want to hear.

Reading through the mainstream media, social networks and associated blogs today, it appears that almost everyone has an opinion about the events. Many of them are also, far too quickly, nailing their colours to the mast of causation. Much is speculation and/or sensationalism, a great deal of comment has political undertone and purpose whilst a large proportion is simply tosh.

Put simply, some people are offering reasoning when they have neither the knowledge or educational ability to make any informed observation. More worrying and annoying are all those who see some self-interested opportunity in comment, generally for political reasons. Their self-interest is only marginally more acceptable than that of the thugs on the streets of our Capital!

I don’t always get the answer I want, sometimes I even get ignored and hell knows there is plenty in today’s society that I’m less than happy about but hey; I didn’t suddenly start hurling petrol bombs, torch a police car or two. I also didn’t put the windows through at the local Argos store to get a free TV and then rob the supermarket for my supper after a hard nights work setting fire to things… Suppose I must be out of touch with the modern-day methodology to display ones angst? Maybe I should get a Blackberry after all, it appears to be the tool of choice for the modern anarchist?

One of the subsequent and numerous BBC reports asked; “Was Saturday night an orgy of mindless violence or a cry of rage from a marginalised, disaffected part of society?” The same article goes on to point out that although “riots polarise opinion” any “instant analysis is a dangerous game.” A very salient and important fact.

Words such as disenfranchised and disconnected are being trotted out willy nilly. And yes, there may be more than 50 people for each unfilled job in the area, 10% more people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowancethis year than last. But does Tottenham have the highest unemployment in the capital (see here)? I’m also not sure that the BBC comment, ‘unemployment hits the youth hardest’ is actually a well founded or correct assumption?

…if poverty alone were the driving factor, one would expect communities in the cities of the north of Britain, not the south, to have been in flames on Saturday night…(bbc.co.uk)

Two of the most prolific (and experienced) bloggers in the area of policing and community issues, Inspector Gadget (IG)and Allcoppedout (ACO), have offered up their observations on the matter.

Although IG suggests that the events in Tottenham may well be a warning for the future, the essence of his post highlights how, no mater which way the police deal with something, subsequent media led public comment generally falls into the damned if they do and damned if they don’t category. He has also seized on the opportunity to capitalise on the moment and provide a (political) warning…

There is, however, one major difference between the set of riots and disorder we are about to experience over the next few years and the previous incidents. This time, the one set of people who we all rely upon to deal with this violence and hatred are facing seemingly random, vengeful and unnecessary pay reductions, a raid on their pensions and huge cuts to their budgets…(Insp Gadget)

I have to wonder if Tony McNulty MP, the former Labour Party Home Office Minister wasn’t also offering hollow noises of support for the police on Twitter this morning? An opportune moment to curry favour with an electorate currently kicking against the present incumbents of Parliament? ACO on the other hand seeks to identify the wider and less simplistic views on the riots and their probable cause.

ACO has pushed forward some of the arguments and observations (that we mostly share) in two separate posts… Whilst the riots are obviously deplorable, there are in fact many wider issues involved here. One of them highlights how there is probably little or no trust in the Independent Police Complaints commission and secondly, using the events as supporting ‘evidence’ for arguments surrounding the police pay debacle is also simplistic and says there is no special attack on police pay. The financial situations now facing many in our society, not just the police and public sector, are far more deep-rooted than recent politics would actually have us believe. I have to say, I would mostly agree.

As the riots spread out across the capital (and now even further afield) all manner of ‘experts’ and politicians are (belatedly in some cases) leaping to the fore with their brand of solutions to the problem. The media have been trotting out the expected demands for water cannon, troops on the streets and Martial Law amongst their emotive headlines.

These solutions are probably not required (as yet)… However, if there had been a little more support for and understanding of the work of our police service over recent years, instead of the constant castigation from every quarter, things may have been different? If there had been less political interference with the policing process and less self-interested leadership maybe policing would have greater support?

If there had been greater acceptance of the laws (and punishments) of our land and a more robust and effective Criminal Justice System (CJS) then just perhaps, we might have actually had a generation who grew up understanding and being compliant with the boundaries of acceptable behaviour? They may have also had a little fear of the consequences if they stepped outside of those bounds, instead of laughing at the system?

That said, robust application of the law and an effective deterrent is also still only part of the problem, despite the promises from our Prime minister…

I am determined, the Government is determined that justice will be done and these people will see the consequences of their actions. And I have this very clear message to those people who are responsible for this wrongdoing and criminality. You will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishments…(Rt.Hon David Cameron MP)

I think you’ll find that the Country will hold you to that David however; whatever the ‘perceived’ cause of this recent violence and subsequent action to combat it, we have to be realistic and finally understand, the scenes we are now witnessing are very likely to continue as we reap that which we have sown as a society. It has all come about as a direct result of the inherent and predominant self-interest in our society, non more so than in leadership at the top! 

The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint … but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.–C. S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters).

We CAN actually do something about these problems in our society however, we can only succeed when we understand we ALL need to work towards that aim TOGETHER and not as individuals. We would also all do well to mindful of the fact… Evil flourishes where good men do nothing but… the road to hell is (often) paved with good intentions!

The Screwtape Letters: A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to ‘Our Father Below’. At once wildly comic, deadly serious and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. Dedicated to Lewis’s friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation — and triumph over it — ever written.(amazon.co.uk)
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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 09-08-2011, in Police, Society Babble and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. And to add to C.S.Lewis, I offer Gilbert and Sullivan:

    “Away to the cheating world go you,
    where pirates, all, are well to do…”

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  2. Lets stop fannying around here: Years of inept leadership, the rise in liberal/left wing wannabe’s that choke the criminal justice system and will not allow schools to teach the values and morals that would make some of these idiots think twice about rioting, mummy and daddy out competing with each other as to who can earn the most, POOR PARENTING all factors. But that we have bred a bunch of emotionally stunted couch potatoes whose favourite x box game has come to life right outside their doors is probably as much to do with it. Bring back the birch, or is that just cause I have now reached the big 50.
    Slainte

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  3. There will no doubt be some trying to place the riots as “political”. I’m depressed that the real politics are more or less nowhere. That decent people (including cops) are ‘targeted’ is pathetic. There was a serious ‘Gold’ failing in not cracking down in numbers last night. Some very ordinary, unequipped Bobbies were out.
    I think the standard wealth distribution from ONS tells the story – the rich 10% have more in pension rights than the rest of us own (not quite – but that’s the drift). The rioters wouldn’t know what ONS is – but their condition is appalling. The money to fund change is there but we are told economics makes this impossible. This isn’t true of the subject I teach – only the skewed version in the political class and media. In one word I believe we have lost compassion – and thinking on, we have been so dumb about this that a bunch of street kids are having to tell us. Screwtape says it all.

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