In no Arab country today is there democracy, freedom of expression or security guaranteed by law impartially applied. Despite the immense wealth conferred by oil, poverty is endemic and violence systematic and customary. So says David Pryce-Jones in The Closed Circle. In Britain, by contrast, there is democracy, freedom of expression and security guaranteed by law impartially applied. Poverty is relative, violence is rare and extraordinary. This is why the riots of the past few days seem so peculiar, and so wrong.
In Syria, the repression of protesters asking for things we take for granted, such as democracy and free expression, is brutal enough to have attracted the opprobrium of other Arab countries (which takes some doing.) In Britain, where people have historically fought hard for such things, unarmed police stand and watch while looters raid shops for sportswear and TVs, and arsonists riot unchecked.
There are two kinds of people – those who make things happen, and those to whom things happen.
I have heard excuses put forward on behalf of the youthful rioters; that they are bored, that they have no money, that there is nothing for them to do – the unstated assumption being that someone should be there to give them money, to give them worthwhile activity, to give them work, to give them recreation, as if such things were manna from heaven: there is no sense that they should find the resources within themselves to do such things. If left to make their own entertainment, they cannot create, they can only destroy.
Compared with the situation in Syria, for example – or in places such as Somalia, where there is no government, no rights, no privileges, no law, and where people are starving to death – these orcs have jam on it. And if, like infants, they can’t conceive of jam tomorrow, they must have jam today. One of the most memorable soundbites of the last election campaign was David Cameron’s expression of outrage that in today’s Britain, children are treated like adults, and adults are treated like children. The consequence being, as he said only yesterday, that if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to be punished for them.
Middle-class commentators sitting in safe places such as Cromer will be free to analyze the causes, if any, for such behaviour. In my view it stems from two things – a dependency on the welfare state, such that the infantilized underclass can suck at the tit of the state forever without ever having to grow up and take responsibility for its own fate; and the moral relativism that has for the past half century run through British society like mould through crumbling woodwork. It’s no surprise that the fruiting bodies – ugly, putrid, dripping – have now emerged.
I’d like to ask several questions, each one a
girrafe elephant in the room, none of which seems to have been answered.
Where are the parents of these young rioters? Do any of these rioters have fathers? Are the parents, if any, so infantile and low in moral courage that they are actually joining in the riots? When did any of these rioters last read a book? (I notice that the targets for looting are sports shops and electronics stores – bookstores and public libraries remain untouched, except perhaps to be torched.) When did any of these rioters last sit down at a table for a meal with their families? When (now, this will make me really unpopular) did they last go to church?
Before moral relativism sank its hyphae into society, people took a long time to grow up, and enjoyed being children. Adults got married, and stayed that way for life. Bastardy and adultery were seen as shameful, unacceptable. Matters are now so arranged that one is not allowed to pass judgment on the lifestyles of others, even though we know that children of one-parent families do less well in life than those lucky enough to have both parents at home, to keep them from harm; who know where they are at night; to read them (read them) bedtime stories; who have shelves full of books; who give them love, affection, and reassurance; who know the location of the off-switch on the TV; who instruct them in the difference between right and wrong.
Nowadays, well, anything goes. If your child can’t read, it’s the fault of the school, rather than the fact that you don’t have any books in your house, or read to your children. If your child can’t use a knife and fork, that’s the kindergarten’s fault, and nothing to do with the fact that you’ve never had a meal round a dinner table rather than on the couch in front of the TV. If your child is suffering from neglect, it’s the fault of the health authorities or the hard-pressed social worker, not the fact that your own life is chaotic, that the child doesn’t have two parents at home (and always the same parents) rather than playing bingo or down the pub, or a single parent who is trying to do the impossible. What no-one is allowed to do is criticize this state of affairs – we are only asked to pay for it, and pick up the pieces when it goes wrong.
Matters have reached such a state that such moral relativism is now guaranteed by law. What finally prompted me to write this post – after some days of inchoate anger – was the discovery that the police stood back and let the looters loot, the fire-raisers burn, not for tactical reasons, nor because they were low in numbers, but because of the fear of litigation for heavy-handed tactics; for the fear of abusing the looters’ human rights. It is the mantra of human rights that now prevents teachers disciplining errant pupils; that prevents police from using any force at all to stop criminals; and even preventing parents from disciplining their own children. Therefore it is now your human right to live like a beast, and damn the consequences. It is now your human right to pillage, burn, loot and destroy, without ever having to take responsibility. If Mum and Dad are too stupid, too ill-educated, too infantilized, too absent to stop you from taking responsibility for your actions, then the creaking apparatus of the welfare state and the criminal justice system will try to do its best, which, while valiant, is no substitute for the real thing.
You (yes, you) now have two choices. The first is to rediscover the moral fibre of our grandparents. Yes, they might have been poor. Yes, they might have suffered racial and religious discrimination. But they knew the value of education, and they knew what was right, and what was wrong. To paraphrase Norman Tebbitt, they wouldn’t sit and whine like toddlers that their lot was someone else’s fault – they’d get on their bikes, go out and make things happen, for the good of everyone, not least themselves.
The second is to stay as you are. If that happens, the police will no longer be unarmed. Many people I know to be otherwise mild-mannered and liberal have called for rubber bullets and water cannon, if not tanks and live ammunition. If that happens, then we will be Syria.
The choice, friends, is yours. Which is it to be?
Make my day.