Saturday, August 20, 2011

More on the UK Riots

Here are two posts from people in the UK about the riots.

J. John, (writing in Christian Today) believes that the core issue is rejection of Christian faith, with a resulting erosion in moral values, among both the rich and the poor:
"My own diagnosis is that the nation has lost the Christian faith that, in a quiet and unnoticed way, acted as the glue that has held the British social fabric together. For two generations it has been fashionable to sneer at Christianity and to consider it unnecessary for a modern civilised society. The result has been a moral vacuum and amongst the noise of sirens and breaking glass many people heard the sound of chickens coming home to roost."
On the other hand, Harriet Sergeant (writing in The Spectator) calls the rioters 'Blair's children', and attributes their destructive rampage to three factors, traced back to a failed social policies of the Blair government:
  1. The failure of schools. A leading symptom of failure is illiteracy:  "A full 63 per cent of white working class boys, and just over half of black Caribbean boys at the age of 14 have a reading age of seven or below."  Sergeant argues that educational ideology and 'wishful thinking' has taken precedence over teaching methods which actually work.  Instead of structure and discipline, children have been subjected to ideologically-driven 'student-directed learning'.  As one young person put it:  "School shatters your dreams before you get anywhere."
  2. Changes in the job market.  The decline in the availability of unskilled jobs has been matched by an influx of immigrants who are eager to take up what unskilled jobs do remain.  The result is crippling unemployment for poorly schooled British youth.
  3. Degradation of family life.  The British family shows signs of mortal illness:  "In a recent survey 49 per cent of British parents did not know where their children were in the evenings or with whom."  Britain has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe, while government support for single mothers has been climbing at a staggering rate:  "The government have put young girls in a position where the only career open to them is to have children, whether they want to or not and regardless of whether or not they are good mothers. The state has taken over the role of both husband and father and, as it is all too clear, have failed at both." 
Failure of school, work and home:   this British tripple-whammy disaster  has surely been generations in the making.  The educational policies of the 80's and 90's were hatched by the baby boomers, who, like Tony Blair, were teenagers in the 1960's.

How long could it take for a nation to turn these failures around, even if they have the will and the understanding to do so? 

And what if J. John is right, and the policy failures Sergeant identifies stem from a deeper spiritual malaise, which is ultimately the rejection of faith in God, and the embracing of worldviews built on a mistaken understanding of humanity?  What then does the future hold for Britain? 

Are there signs that the  people of the UK are ready to adopt the medicine of repentance which J. John is offering?  And if not, how then will British society's leaders find their bearings in these confusing and troubled times?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More on England - unhappy children to disturbed young adults?

In relation to the English riots, I was interested to discover that in 2007, UNICEF published a report entitled ‘Child poverty in perspective; an overview of child well-being in rich countries’ (UNICEF, 2007). This provided an overview of child well-being in industrialised nations.  It used six main headings: material well-being; health and safety; education; peer and family relationships; behaviours and risks; and young people’s own sense of subjective well-being.

The report placed UK at the bottom of the league table.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The British policing 'with consent: speaking softly, while saying "No Big Stick"

Hugh Orde, police chief in Britain has responded to the London riots:
"What we have seen so far is not soft policing, and although I understand the enthusiasm of politicians and communities for robust measures, excessive force will destroy our model of policing in the long term. What we must hang on to in all of this is the British model of policing, premised on human rights and the minimum use of force. We police with consent and must be professional, proportionate, fair and justifiable to the public at all times."
Likewise British Home Secretary, Theresa May, has stated: ‘The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon,’ she told Sky News. ‘The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.’

Pride in the 'British' way shines through here.  But what happens when consent breaks down?

Below is Bill Muehlenberg's post on the riots:

On the British Riots

With five days of anarchy on the streets, buildings burning, streets unsafe, looters running amok, and already a billion pounds in damages, it is not too soon to start asking a few hard questions concerning the riots in Britain. Why are the streets of London aflame? How do we account for all this in a modern, prosperous Western nation?
There are a number of features which have contributed to this madness. They include: the abject failure of multiculturalism; the rise of the welfare state and the incessant demand for entitlements; the meltdown of family and community; the secularisation of society; the relativisation of morality; and the stranglehold of political correctness.
But it might be wisest to allow some English and international voices to share their concerns here. Already a number of incisive commentaries have been penned, and I offer here some of the best of their thinking on this worrying situation. One of the earliest and best pieces was by Jewish commentator Melanie Phillips. Her short but penetrating piece is worth citing in total:
“As London descends into anarchy this evening, with disturbances, arson, looting and other criminality breaking out in one borough after another for the third night running, it is clear that this is organised disorder, with thugs being dispatched to provoke and escalate hooliganism and rioting from area to area through use of social media and apparently now, the more secure BlackBerries.
“It also seems clear that this follows in a direct line from the disorders in recent years, such as we have seen at the G20 demonstrations or the storming of Conservative party headquarters over student fees, which again seemed to owe their violence to organised anarchist (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) and revolutionary leftist groups. This is almost certainly because of the near-delirious belief among such groups that, with the western economy in meltdown and the political class and the police discredited and disdained, Britain is on the cusp of a revolutionary moment. So they hijack specific protests or demonstrations in order to smash up property, police officers and anything or anyone deemed to represent the established order in order to bring about the End of Capitalism As We Know It.
“What we are seeing, in the sluggish and unprepared reaction of the police and political class to these events, compounded by their serial failure to grasp from previous such disturbances just what is going on here, is a catastrophic combination of professional inertia and incompetence, serial eyes off the ball, paralysing political correctness, an apparent reluctance to identify, name and deal with subversive activity, a capital’s police force in systemic disarray,  a criminal justice system that has become an insulting joke, a refusal from the top to draw clear lines in the sand and to exercise moral and political leadership, a pandering instead to mob rule, tyro politicians who have never had a grown-up job and couldn’t run the proverbial whelk-stall let alone get a grip on a culture teetering on the edge of the cliff, a third-rate civil service machine that no longer can be relied on to keep the show on the road, a culture of narcissistic selfishness on an epic scale and a general breakdown in education, morality and elementary codes of civilised behaviour, much of it deliberately willed on for the past three decades by a grossly irresponsible and politically motivated intelligentsia that set out to smash the west. And now London is being smashed as a result.”
Arnold Ahlert speaks to family breakdown and the debilitating effects of the welfare state: “Perhaps just as important is the destruction of the nuclear family. Fully 40 percent of all American children are now born out of wedlock, a figure which rises to approximately 70 percent among black Americans. In the UK, out-of-wedlock births now account for nearly 50% of all births, on track to becoming the majority of births (and in some areas, 75% by 2014). The societal wreckage this produces has been well-documented and will not be reiterated here, save for the fact that a wholesale breakdown in morality, like the technology that facilitates it, enables greater criminal activity….
“But there is a bigger consequence that arises from the expectations for, and the inevitable failure of, welfare-statism. Whether they realize it or not, many Americans, as well as their British counterparts, are undermining the social integrity of their own societies. Little incentive remains for providing for oneself — or for that matter, one’s offspring — when the grotesqueness of the ‘social safety net’ renders this virtue irrelevant. When society has removed all negative consequences to poor life choices, which keep people and their progeny nestled in the underclass (child abandonment, disdain for education, glorification of thug culture, etc.), it effectively rewards them. It is thus absurd to expect these behavioral trends to disappear rather than the reverse.
“The situation is all the more exacerbated by a culture that shields the very segments of society that perpetuate these trends from any scrutiny and responsibility — primarily due to cowardice over racial matters. Hence the sweeping media silence on the disturbing trend of minority-perpetrated mob violence, evident in most of the reportage on these incidents. Here again, on even this most rudimentary level, negative consequences for self-destructive behavior are lifted. We cannot even identify the source of such criminality, nor demand change on the part of the offenders.”
Leftist commentator Brendan O’Neill says it is “less political rebellion, more mollycoddled mob”. He explains: “The political context is not the [education] cuts or racist policing, it is the welfare state, which has nurtured a generation that has no sense of community spirit or social solidarity.
“What we have on the streets of London and elsewhere are welfare-state mobs. The youth who are shattering their own communities represent a generation that has been suckled by the state more than any generation before it. They live in urban territories where the sharp-elbowed intrusion of the welfare state during the past 30 years has pushed aside older ideals of self-reliance and community spirit. The march of the welfare state into every aspect of urban, less well-off people’s existences, from their financial wellbeing to their child-rearing habits and even into their emotional lives, with the rise of therapeutic welfarism designed to ensure that the poor remain ‘mentally fit’, has undermined individual resourcefulness and social bonding. The antisocial youthful rioters are the end-product of this antisocial system of state intervention.
“The most striking thing about the rioters is how little they care for their own communities. You don’t have to be a right-winger with helmet hair and a niggling discomfort with black or chavvy yoof (I am the opposite of that) to recognise that this violence is not political, just criminal. It is entertaining to watch the political contortions of commentators who claim the riots are an uprising against the evils of capitalism, as they struggle to explain why the targets have been Foot Locker sports shops and why the only ‘gains’ made by the rioters have been to get a new pair of trainers or an Apple laptop. In the Brixton race riots of 1981, looting and the destruction of local infrastructure were largely incidental to the broader expression of political anger, by-products of the main show, which was a clash between a community and the forces of the state. But in these riots, looting and smashing stuff up is all there is. It is childish nihilism.”
He also speaks to the seeming inability for the English authorities to even offer effective crowd control and workable policing: “There is one more important part to this rioting story: the reaction of the cops. Their inability to handle the riots effectively reveals the extent to which the British police are adapted to consensual rather than conflictual policing. It also demonstrates how far they have been paralysed by the politics of victimhood, where virtually every police activity gets followed up by a complaint or a legal case. Their kid-glove approach to the rioters only fuels the riots because, as one observer put it, when the rioters ‘see that the police cannot control the situation, [that] leads to sort of adrenalin-fuelled euphoria’. So this street violence was largely ignited by the excesses of the welfare state and intensified by the discombobulation of the police state. The riots tell a very interesting story about modern Britain.”
Michael Ausli also comments on this disturbing feature of the riots: “As England is wracked by spreading mobs of anarchist youth, Britain’s Home Secretary reveals the rot at the core of the modern entitlement state. Responding to calls for a firmer response to yobs attacking private property and innocent citizens, Theresa May intoned, ‘The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon,’ she told Sky News. ‘The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.’
“She may not have noticed that major communities in Britain are under attack, and not just undergoing an Anglo version of Spring Break in Dayton Beach. May’s statement is nonsensical, for either she is talking about the very rioters themselves or assuming that private citizens too afraid to come out of their homes expect some type of dialogue with the Metropolitan Police. Worse, it sends the very strongest signal to Britons that their leaders no longer have the will to maintain public order, which is the very fundament of civil society.”
Short term issues can be addressed here, such as getting the police force to start acting like a police force. But the bigger, more entrenched problems which I spoke to earlier – the welfare state, the failure of multiculturalism, the de-Christianisation of England – will of course require much longer and deeper solutions.