I’m finding it rather difficult to get this post off to a good start; the events of the last few days are whirling around in my head and I’m trying to look at things in a rational manner. As a result this post will probably not be the most streamlined piece of writing.
To say that I have been incredibly saddened by what has been happening around the country is a gross understatement and I’ve been equally saddened, and gladdened by the reactions of the general populace.
I must unequivocally state here and now that I do not agree with the looting, arson, theft or any of the activities carried out or the permissive attitude some have had. However, I do honestly feel sorry for any person who finds themselves in a position in our or any society where in order to feel that they matter, are part of something or to even make their existence known they carry on in the manner we have seen play out over the last few evenings. That isn’t the only emotion I feel at present of course; I am also heartily disgusted.
It has been said that those involved are not making any particular political statement and if we go by Michael Gove’s somewhat extreme reaction on Newsnight on the 9th any attempts to trace the origins back to policy ( changes/cuts to programs, most of which have an educational slant/core) are met with , in his case, a disturbingly vitriolic and unhelpful response. His assertion that Harriet Harman was being two faced and attempting to score political points were only met with his own brand of the same in pointing out that they were left with Labour’s mess/policy. In truth we have been left with a more complex fall out from Labour’s term, not least the mopping up action in the form of bailouts for banks who I am sure have and had at the time their share of Conservative boardmembers and the like. Also let us not forget that prior to Labour we didn’t have a blank slate; each government is left with the legacy of the prior to handle as policy or public opinion dictates.
So we have found ourselves facing deficit and needing to deal with the budget and as we have seen cuts have generally been the order of the day. Even before the general election the local Surestart centre and state maintained nursery saw massive funding cutwhere our local (Conservative council) saw fit to decide that the money earmarked for early years should be dispersed to not just the state funded nursery schools but also the private, independent ones which charge much higher fees.
The result? Firstly most groups provided were put on hold and eventually many cancelled altogether, and the provision now is much less than before. Among those who could afford it there was a mad scramble for places in the private nurseries. For the others? Those trying to put their children’s future first by 1) working to provide them with a bit more than they had 2) sending them to a centre with an excellent reputation for early literacy and engagement? Probably disillusionment with the system, torn as they are trying to fulfil the government’s demands for parents to be working and for children to meet educational targets.
This is just one instance, but it takes a very little stretch of the imagination to extrapolate how recent events have come about.
We have been hearing ‘disenfranchisement’ bandied about and is it any wonder? Already cuts are being made (and have been) to those services which help young people feel positive about their future. We’ve also been hearing people question the apparent ‘poverty’ when they carry smart phones and where certain brands of clothing. But this is besides the point, they have made owning these things a priority over perhaps decent food, foreign travel, novels. They may have a few middle to high end possessions but they are still poor in hope and aspirations.
Calling them things like ‘feral rats’ and ‘scum’ only serves to reinforce in their minds that society considers them as such, as valueless non-entities with no place in our society and sure enough that is how they will end up behaving.
With little education and the lack of skills or aspirations that will let them join in and be an active part of society is there any wonder that they don’t care about the damage they inflict on it, given how much damage it has inflicted on them.
Their attitude to the government/state and the police as a daily presence of the government in their mind can probably be traced back to school, their first personal experience with the state where it seems now that students in general are herded through form one year to the next with the only proviso of meeting the minimum grade requirement (if that) before they are allowed to leave. Teachers who went into the profession to make a different ground down and stymied by political mandate handed down by ministers who have probably never taught or seemingly tossed bread rolls through university.
If you are considered by the state, as a student, as yet another body, contributing some numbers to a league table of schools then is it any wonder that school has prepared you for little else than contributing a number to the unemployment or crime figures?
We’ve also heard outraged middle class cries of ‘where are the parents?’, assuming that everyone comes from a classic 2 parent family with middle class parents. It is worth bearing in mind that some of these looters maybe estranged from their parents for some reason, may have parents just as disengaged as they for very much the same reasons, or not have had any positive parental input. Indeed they may have been in care and feel doubly let down by society.
So where am I going with this? Well it would be nice if we weren’t in the position were we have a deficit to make up. Getting certain large companies and standout large earners to pax their tax would go a way towards improving the health of the budget as well as helping to counter the ill feeling those who do pay their taxes feel.
Helping all young people, especially those cooped up in the urban areas affected, develop a sense of pride, their worth and potential and of their valid place as members of society should be a priority for the government, through educational programs, work placements, anything that helps them develop skills and makes they responsible for providing something for themselves and their community.
For all their talk of a Big Society, it doesn’t work if a section, even a small part, of the population feels like it doesn’t apply to or even include them, that is for the likes of those who rallied on the vilified social media networks to help clean up.
I will probably have more to say on this subject but domestic duties call…