The aftermath of the riots – is it time to think about how we live?

Like many people across the country, I watched many ugly scenes unfolding on my television screen as scores of people vandalised properties, looted shops, burned down cars and tormented the police.  And as I watched young people running off with stolen goods, I couldn’t help but ask why these young people felt it was OK to behave in such an uncivilised manner, a question that took on a particular poignancy as these people are not much older than my own children.

Clearly I am not the only person to ask such questions.  Already arguments are circulating as to what, if anything, has caused these riots.  So far I have heard many people blaming parents, some people blaming it on governmental cuts and youth unemployment whilst others  have suggested that it is pure greed, opportunism and criminality that lie behind the riots. 

But for all of these different and sometimes opposing views, I do not believe that there is any one reason behind recent events and I certainly do not think that parenting is the sole reason behind the riots.  Instead I think what we have seen is the result of many complex and interrelated social and economic issues that are symptomatic of a country that has become selfish and greedy.

Amongst these issues is consumerism and a celebrity culture that places a lot of social pressure on people to keep up with the latest designer clothing, accessory or hi-tech gadget.  To not sport a particular type of clothing, mobile phone or laptop risks exposing a young person to exclusion and mockery.  As a parent of a teenage daughter, I have experienced first hand the pressure that this teenage consumerism places on her and her peers.  It is not helped by those who have the wealth or other means to freely indulge their offspring with all manner of goods in what feels like a game of oneupmanship.  To witness families trying to outdo one another with the latest gadget, white good or exotic holiday is one of the ugliest side affects of a materialistic society.

And for those with background of poor education, family unemployment and a sense of hopelessness and boredom in areas stigmatised by poverty, unemployment and dependency upon the welfare state is it any wonder that some people feel excluded and resentful of those who appear to have it all.   Are we not surprised therefore that some young people seek an identity through allegiance to another form of community – that of gangs and their skewed norms of social behaviour?

Of course claims of individual rights to the exclusion of responsibility, coupled with a disempowerment of parental and teacher authority has, I think, also contributed towards increasing apathy and lack of respect from certain sections of our society.  How often do we hear about, or even experience, young people rejecting authority in our schools and neighbourhoods and causing trouble for residents?

Is it any wonder then that, when the opportunity arose, these disenfranchised youths expressed their anger, frustration and disrepect for society by trashing our streets, our properties, our homes and businesses and stealing the high end goods that are so highly prized these days?

And before you all shout at me saying that I am looking to excuse their behaviour, I am not.  To look for reasons behind the riots does not mean that I support the rioters.  On the contrary.  Like many people I also feel feel anger and  disbelief at the scenes of destruction and violence in my society.  And like many others, I also believe that the people involved in the riots need to be punished,  though I am doubtful whether their punishment will be enough to prevent further antisocial behaviour  or address any underlying issues.

However, if we are serious about community then surely we have a responsibility to look carefully at the causes behind these riots and do something to include those young people who feel so marginalised that a criminal life starts to look more attractive.

(Written by me from my perspective as a worker in a deprived neighbourhood.)

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10 Responses to The aftermath of the riots – is it time to think about how we live?

  1. great post and well throught. i totaly agree i think te riots were caused becasue of the 2nd reason you said and that is governmental cuts and youth unemployment etc along those lines and im not sure if you blogged more about this subject but most people who were invoved in the riots about 70 % had some sort of spiciel needs and taken that all into account things do need to change and i think just put them in cells isnt going to help. what are your views on that even though it is a while ago now.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Thomas; its interesting that you say that about 70% of those involved in the riots had some form of special need. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I work as a support worker in community education and often meet (and work with) many students with learning difficulties and other issues. Many have gone through school not having their difficulties diagnosed or supported properly and have gone on to leave school with few or no qualifications. Not surprisingly this has had a negative impact on their lives such as unemployment etc.

      I’m sure that the students I meet are only the tip of the iceberg with regards to special needs and that there are many more out there that are not identified and leading difficult lives as a consequence. The students I work with are motivated to improve their lives and with support they do go on to get qualifications and move on in their lives. I am sure that there are many more adults and young people who are languishing out in society who are not accessing this sort of help.

      I have no experience of the justice system so I can’t comment on that but I do feel that there is a much wider prevalence of undiagnosed special needs in society than people realise. We need much more investment put into support work and mentoring for these people as I feel they need and thrive with one to one support.


  2. Really thoughtful post. I keep reading about what punishments people want the looters (and their families) to have and clearly they need to be punished but some of the suggestions seem to suggest they have no place in our society any more and yet so many of them are just kids and all ready so disadvantaged. Really hard but I hope that the powers that be take this as an opportunity to assess their own policies and how we got into this situation rather than just pointing the finger of blame at everyone else. Thanks for making me think!

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks for commenting and nice to meet you. I agree, I also think the rioters need to be punished but the level of anger and hatred at the moment is not helpful and I worry that it could feed into bad policy making. This is the last thing we need. Lets hope that things calm down and we can all contribute to a balanced debate on how we can repair our society.

  3. theramblingpages says:

    Very well written post, and alot of sense spoken

  4. Blue Sky says:

    What a relief to read this :) Though to be fair most of the blogs I’ve have read have been measured in their response…unlike the Daily Mail. I agree that there is likely to be any number of causes to what happened and that it will take time to work out the who, why and how of it all xx

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks Blue Sky. I just hope some of the reactions calm down. I am concerned that we will end up further stereotyping certain groups of people and already this morning I have heard the media questioning parenting, family life and single parents.

  5. Lizbeth says:

    Very well said. Looking at why this happened is often the hardest thing to do. Finding a solution will be even harder. Sigh.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I agree. At the moment the political and public agenda is being dominated by emotive descriptions of the riots which I can understand given the shock that people have experienced. Unfortunately people are not allowing a wider discussion of the possible causes of the riots and see any explanations as justifying the riots. I hope we move to a more balanced debate and discuss all possible causes because unless we do I don’t think we have any chance of finding a solution.

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