A Further Perspective

The British Riots

A generation has been brought up not knowing right from wrong.

By 8.11.11

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Without in any way seeking to minimize the horror and tragedy of the Norwegian gun massacre, the British riots in a way seem more serious. The Norwegian killings were the work of a lone madman, who at most was possibly encouraged by a very small group of associates. The madman seems to have thought he was furthering some kind of cause, even if it is impossible to say exactly what.

The British riots, however, had no cause. A suspected drug-dealer was apparently shot by police in London, and cities all over the country have gone up in smoke. It is as if the country has been living on a ticking bomb that no one was aware existed.

Picking one's way through the often self-censored, politically correct reportage, there appears to have been a racial element in the riots. But many of the rioters filmed were white, and some at least appear to be ordinary middle-class people. Although there is obviously a class element, with some extreme leftists calling for open class warfare, the main sufferers have been, as always, small shopkeepers, householders, and workers whose employment has been destroyed. These riots have caused deep, life-damaging suffering. Nothing like this occurred in the gray, straitened, austere Britain of the immediate post-war period, when there was even greater economic hardship than today.

There have been riots in Britain before, but they generally had at least some kind of identifiable cause. Similarly, the riots in Europe (against the cutting of plainly unsustainable government benefits) were in pursuit of something. In the British riots thousands of people seem to have been caught up in a frenzy of indiscriminate destruction for its own sake. Even looting was secondary to destroying. And yet it is only a few weeks since the Royal Wedding appeared to bring the country together in a great outburst of patriotic pride and rejoicing.

It is obvious that generations of policies of self-destructive liberalism and a deep-seated social nihilism are coming home to roost.

It may be dawning on some political leaders that the education, family, immigration and criminal justice policies of successive, but principally Labour, governments have created an under-class not only lacking in the most basic skills necessary for employment but also lacking in the most basic values of human conduct. Discipline in many schools (except against expressions of political incorrectness) has largely been abandoned, with predictable results. The so-called "softly, softly" approach to policing, which has enthralled many liberalistic police chiefs, may also be consigned to the scrap-heap of bad ideas.

The rioters are not exclusively feral youths. Middle-aged and apparently middle-class people have been seen looting and wrecking shops where they have been customers for years and where the shopkeepers whose lives they have destroyed looked on them as friends. Not only the "capitalistic" icons of business premises have been burnt but also family homes. It does not begin to make even bad sense.

There may well be a connection between the massive breakdown of morality and the recent revelations of widespread and largely unpunished corruption in the political class, with blatant theft from the public purse on both sides of Parliament. True, many of the rioters are probably people who never read a newspaper, but some idea of the appalling example British law-makers have set may have filtered down to them.

It has been the Church of England's function and duty to provide the population with a moral education and compass, and over several centuries its establishment was vaguely justified in these terms. Lately, it has let the nation down. The Church of England, though it may be to some extent the victim of sensationalist journalism, and although it still contains some good people, appears pre-occupied with homosexuality, the "sinfulness" of carbon emissions, anti-Semitic boycotts of Israel, and, in the pronouncements of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the possible acceptability of Sharia law. A large part of a whole generation literally does not know right from wrong, good from evil.

Another element of toxicity in the social cocktail is a culture that glorifies "badness" and ugliness, from the posthumous near-canonization of Amy Winehouse and the honoring (even the official honoring) of other icons of the drug culture to the celebration of ugliness in the paintings of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

The British National Party is the most probable beneficiary from the rioting. Already the BNP is putting out leaflets demanding the presence of the Army on the streets. Many people, traumatized by the last few days, are likely to agree.

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About the Author

Hal G.P. Colebatch, a lawyer and author, has lectured in International Law and International Relations at Notre Dame University and Edith Cowan University in Western Australia and worked on the staff of two Australian Federal Ministers.