Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UK Riots

Like everyone else I've spent much of the last few days appalled at what has been happening in the UK. I wish I could say it surprises me but I can't. I've been following the way the UK government has been instituting extensive cuts in spending and it seems to me that, while they have serious problems that must be addressed, they are making a mistake in cutting social services to those who have most need of them instead of shoring them up. I'm not an economist and I realise that libraries, youth clubs, the arts and so on don't produce a monetary profit but they have something much more valuable. Instead of a monetary value they have a social value. They are the glue that gives the disadvantaged hope and can provide a possible way out of their situation. Take that away, especially at a time when people are losing their jobs due to other factors, and you create resentment.

I certainly don't condone the rioting and looting but there's a sense that many of those initially involved felt disadvantaged and, in their view, they were taking from people they perceive as better off. That's nonsense, of course, and it has moved far beyond that. Setting fire to buildings and looting shops in your own community is pointless destruction that is only going to further disadvantage that community but those involved have become caught up in what is happening and are not thinking rationally. That in turn has left the way open for criminal gangs to take advantage of the unrest and everything has escalated even more. Racist comments are appearing on the internet and are seriously worrying.

I don't know how the UK is going to recover from this and I doubt anyone else does either, but I think any solution that doesn't look into the causes of the violence is bound to fail. Certainly the looters and the arsonists should be punished but something other than the shooting which triggered the initial protest, pushed it further. There is obviously deep unrest in the community and draconian measures won't eliminate it. They may, in fact, exacerbate it.


Satima Flavell said...

Scary stuff, Helen. It seems the people involved must feel very angry, and it's possible a lot of the anger stema from a feeling of powerlessness. It seems to me that both government and people have taken some wrong turns somewhere.

Helen V. said...

It is very frightening and my heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods but a knee jerk 'lock 'em all up' reaction won't solve the underlying causes.

The best balanced comment I've read on the situation is the piece by Mary Riddell I've linked to in the edit above.