Over the last week there have been many debates about the rioting across the country. Commentators in the media have voiced their opinions, bloggers have given their accounts and various television and radio broadcasts have debated the issues. There are so many viewpoints and theories that it has become quite difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.
As the post analysis continues increasing information, causation factors and opinion are flowing into the melting pot and the line between what is fact and what is fiction is becoming increasingly blurred.
I was totally appalled by the behaviour of those who chose to engage in wanton destruction of property, burglary and attacking the police. From media reports we know some were involved for a laugh or the buzz, some for the opportunity to simply be malicious and others who believe they had a cause. I cannot and will not condone or excuse their behaviour. No matter your upbringing or your social status, everybody knows that violence, arson and theft are wrong. Some youngsters through poor parenting, family breakdown, social environment and peer pressure may be led down a path where such behaviour is normal but even in such cases I find it impossible to believe that deep down they don’t know it is wrong. There are many “frequent flyers” who come through my doors and their PNC record when printed out needs a trolley. Yet when you talk to them they know their actions are fundamentally wrong. It seems their life follows a vicious circle to support drug/alcohol abuse or limited income and too many children that they simply cannot break.
That said we live in a society that is gorging itself on greed. We take out credit we cannot afford, want expensive mobile phones and bling labels. Every high street is a testimony to this culture. I earn a reasonable income. I’m not flush but we’re OK. I wear jeans that cost me £20 a pair. Yet some of the youngsters who come into custody have jeans that knock out at £200 a pair. I have an iPhone. I pay a lot of money for it. These youngsters have the same or Blackberry’s. Yet many of these youngsters have parents with little to no income, they are still at school (ostensibly) or out of work. To pinch a line from Top Gun, their “ego is writing cheques their butt cannot cash.” The expectations of these kids is too high. They want the trappings of a wealthy life or of a celebrity that they are bombarded with through TV and magazines. What I can understand is how low income, no education and poor prospects can disenfranchise a youngster and leave them with low self esteem that is only buoyed up by two things; goods far in excess of their income that falsely indicate their financial status and membership of a gang of similar folk.
The former speaks for itself. To examine the latter I will draw on one of my favourite films, The Shawshank Redemption. Brooks is the old guy that feeds the bird. In Shawshank he has status and respect. He has a place within the prison community. When he is paroled he cannot cope with life outside. He is institutionalised and has lost all that made him feel safe and who he had become. He hangs himself.
If some of these youngsters feel so disaffected and excluded from society they may find the the self esteem and status they desire in the hierarchy of a gang structure. It just all goes wrong when most of these gangs are involved in firearms, drugs and criminality.
I reiterate that deep down we all know about right and wrong and I cannot excuse the behaviour but some of these kids have parents who lost their way. Parents who were or still are drug/alcohol abusers. Parents who had children but found them a bloody inconvenience and threw them out of the door in the morning and didn’t care what happened so long as they had some peace. A child brought up in such an environment is more likely than not to replicate it.
I went to a house many years ago to speak to an offender I was dealing with. He was very anti police. Whilst trying to engage in conversation his little boy of around 5 years came into the garden. I said hello and the child seemed smiley and curious about this policeman like most children are. The male told me not to speak to his son. He then rebuked his son for even showing any regard for me and told him that all police were scum before shoving him back indoors. With this sort of example what sort of chance has this child got? The circle self perpetuates and the problem continues.
The riots have been sparked by a number of factors relating to incidents in London. The follow on disturbances were simply copycat efforts maliciously carried out in a goose/gander mindset. We are now in a position where politicians, think tanks, community leaders, police and the media are offering solutions to the problem. I believe this is counterproductive. We have to understand the problem fully before we discuss solutions and the problem is so ingrained into society that it will not be resolved by painting over the cracks.