The Cork Board

Blame the parents


I, like everyone else, was appalled by the level of wanton destruction and violence during the rioting in England’s cities in recent days. There appeared to be no apparent reason for any of it and the destruction of small businesses and, in some cases, homes above shops, seemed to defy rationality.

So, politicians cut short holidays and have appeared on our tv screens harrumphing about the state of society and the need to instill discipline into the young people doing the rioting. Without any hint of irony it didn’t take long for the rhetoric to fall back onto the hackneyed old line….blame the parents.

Maybe we should. Maybe it is their fault if “little Johnny” is seen running from the scene with an armful of shirts from Next or Topshop. But I don’t think it is as simple as that. When we’ve had riots and demonstrations in England before the reasoning has often been clear-cut. This is not the case, I think, now.

Let’s step back and see where we are in our society today. Margaret Thatcher famously said, “There is no such thing as society”. The implication being that it is every man for himself. She was wrong about many things. But perhaps that’s too far back. Hang on. Let’s quickly shoot forward to more recent times.

The pillar of authority began to wobble with the scandal of MPs stealing tens of thousands of pounds through falsifying their expenses. Some went to jail. (The plea, “I’ve paid it all back”, rang hollow.) Then the global banking crisis hit everyone when Greed Rampant turned in on itself. Even today, the markets are struggling to recover and regain any sound footing. The Murdoch phone-hacking scandal exposed not only the callousness of the Murdoch empire but the transparency with which officers and politicians in high ranking
positions can be bought and influenced.

Jobs are cut, prospects diminished. The Education Maintenance Allowance is removed from young people and university fees are trebled.

Petrol prices have risen, sometimes steadily, sometimes in horrendous leaps, to an all time high. Gas and electricity prices rise by percentages in their teens with no redress for the customer. And in the last few days Tesco has been fined for fixing the price of dairy products.

Inflation in the UK is likely to hit 5% shortly. Higher than it has been for years. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider than ever. Is it any wonder, then, that some might feel helpless. Looters, it would seem, have turned out to be a broad range. From teaching assistant to graphic designer, 30 year old to 10 year old, white, black, male, female.

Cameron sticks it to the people.

And so, against this backdrop, our privileged leader steps forward to “blame the parents”. So that’s alright then. We know whose fault it is. It has nothing to do with the behaviour of those in more privileged positions, then? Those whose “violence” is to abuse position for self gain. It has nothing to do with the example they set?

Society is valid. It never goes away. It is what we are and what we create. From the thieving MP via the Eton educated Cabinet to the hard-pressed family in the wider country. The sooner politicians take their share of responsibility for the society around us the better off we will all be.

18 thoughts on “Blame the parents

    1. I have a lot of time for Darcus Howe but I think he was clearly wound up during this interview. The pressures in cities are different, slightly perhaps, from the pressures in smaller towns and communities, but they are still there. We’ve always had a class based society. Right wing newspapers have always run with headlines that inflame tension. What happened was disgraceful but I do suspect it has been brewing. I feel for everybody who has been affected by this.

  1. Great piece! I’m writing a short post on the riots too. I’ll post it in the next few days and ping your post as I have similar thoughts in my blurb. K

  2. I was shocked too although perhaps that in itself is surprising. I’ve become so skeptical and cynical about Government and politicians everywhere that nothing really shocks anymore and that to me is the saddest part of this whole tragedy. Politicians do it all the time, shift blame and emerge unscathed. Well some may ruin their careers but the amounts of dough they have stashed away in Swiss accounts I’m sure makes up for what little discomfort they do have to face, if and when caught! Here in India, they live like Kings even in prison, shameless and unrepentant. It makes my blood boil.

    Sorry for the diatribe…politicians have a way of getting my hackles up! My heart goes out to the people who suffer in times like these, lose loved ones for such trivial reasons or worse no reason at all 😦

    And Thatcher said that?? Which planet was she living on?!

    1. I too have come to the conclusion that there are no perfect leaders, CGG. However, there are some better than others and some who genuinely try to improve peoples lives. Today, though, I believe we are stuck with a crowd who want to change things for changings sake and to not think things through. There’s a sort of “take away the rubber ring and let’s see if he can swim” mentality. Sadly, many sink.

  3. I believe in your argument. However I still feel that violence cannot solve, nor gain change in a positive way. I do believe that parents have a tremendous influence on their children, especially before they hit their teenage years, but these individuals have the opportunities to make choices for themselves, and ultimately decide what kind of person they want to be. Some may have to work much harder than others to change, but it is within us to do so if we so choose.

    Anyway, I agree that politicians should take their share of responsibility for the society, but I think everyone should do this peacefully. Change society for the better by using legal methods, by appearing professional, and putting off to others that you should be taken seriously (not out of fear, but out of respect).

    1. Exactly Jennifer, I agree with you, and there are too many who think that the world probably owes them a living. But we’re developing a divided society if we carry on in this direction. There are so many policies and contradictory statements/events that just don’t add up. I don’t condone the violence at all and I applaud those who call for calm at these times. I hope the positive statements made by community leaders can lead to a brighter future for everyone affected.

  4. “…the situation of being in the company of other people…” In my dictionary, this is the third definition of the word, society. That it’s third is a shame, because it’s the definition I always think of first. That may be why I think the systematic devaluation of empathy (by the corporate culture that holds so much of the money and power) plays a large part of what’s been going wrong all over. Even when we teach our children all the values that are driven by empathy– there’s still corporate big business, the government, and the places where we expect them to eventually make money for their daily bread, that tell them how much the powers that be actually believe the world turns otherwise. They blow mountains up into rubble, poison fresh water, mistreat workers, and teach our children to be cutthroat salesmen when they enter the work world.

    I don’t believe that violence can ever change things for the better. But neither will ignoring the truth about society. I want us all to be peaceful, respectful, professional and use legal channels, too. But really, where are we shown that that will make a difference? I think we need a third option that’s based in the real truth about how people feel and how they learn.

    1. Excellent comment, Ré. You make some excellent points. Also, in the workplace, roles that enhance empathetic qualities are not seen as roles that deserve greater rewards eg, nurses, charity workers, social workers. Governments, despite the rhetoric, do not lead by example. Examples of such occur every day. Our current Government is particularly clueless, which is scary. Yesterday Cameron said that anyone convicted of a public order offence from the riots, and is living in Council (social) housing, should lose that benefit. So, a rioter who is convicted should be thown out and made homeless. I despair sometimes. It won’t happen, but it does show how they think.
      Fortunately, communities such as Tottenham, where it all started, are coming together and rebuilding, regardless of race or religion. Sometimes, out of darkness cometh light. I hope so.

  5. “. . . when Greed Rampant turned in on itself.” Brilliant turn of phrase. Nicely written. I think politicians and newsmakers are looking for easy, pat answers, and as you say, this was a complex situation that had been brewing.

    I think the same will happen in the U.S. if things get much worse here. We have the same problems — middle class sinking, the top 1% with most of the wealth and getting richer, a poor class that is growing and wondering why it’s being ignored. What’s happening in the U.S. isn’t good and things are brewing here, too. I think we will see more of this upset and frustration boiling to the surface.

    The politicians here don’t want to represent the people, they represent big business instead, and pretend to give a damn about us, but they won’t spend money to stimulate the economy, they are completely bogged down with thwarting the President’s every suggestion, and they have no idea, really, how people have been affected with loss of homes/equity in their homes, job losses, etc., because they live in a rarified world where these things simply don’t touch them.

    Thanks for writing this. Makes sense and was thoughtful.

    1. Thanks Julee. From over here you get the impression that by hook or by crook the Republicans are determined that Obama will achieve very little thus making sure he doesn’t get another term. Such short-sighted selfishness must really grate. Let’s hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t kick off in the US. Nothing is achieved by it.

  6. It seems like the looters were simply opportunistic thieves. Underneath it all, there was likely a rational spark that got lost in everything else that transpired.

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