A vertical invasion of barbarians
Children are widely believed to be a blessing, and I suppose, in many ways, they are. But children are also a problem, in that each new generation of kids is a vertical invasion of barbarians. They have to be taught the details of how to behave in civilized society, to be instructed in its standards and norms. Moreover, those norms must be enforced, and violators must face the appropriate penalties for violating those norms. Doing all of this is an important charge, and you fail in it at your peril. Because, as the London riots show, the result of that failure is this:
The first line of defence against crime, the justice system, is not seen as sufficiently threatening to deter the youths. One of the group says this would be my first offence, "the prisons are over-crowded. What are they going to do? Give me an ASBO? I’ll live with that."
The government has failed to keep order, according to the group. They agree that their motivation is partially that "the government aren’t in control – because if they was we wouldn’t be able to do it could we?".
The low rate of arrest of looters is then also brought up as an incentive to loot, with one youth saying "they failed, innit? How many people have they arrested really, though? Ten." He then says "I’m not really bothered. I’ll keep doing this every day until I get caught."
The incentive to make money from their crime spree is clear: one of the youths says he has been looting because he didn’t want to "miss the opportunity to get free stuff that’s worth, like, loads of money".
Powerless families are also shown to be a major factor in allowing the looting to take place. One youth admits to warning his family he was going to be present at the riots, and then describes a subsequent telephone conversation with a family member: "He said ‘get home, you’re in trouble’ I said ‘no’ and just put the phone down. They can’t get into town, they can’t get me, and when I get home, nothing’s going to happen to me, I’m not going to get grounded or shouted at. I might get shouted at but that’s it, I’ll live with it and keep doing it."
These youths are not being irrational. Quite the opposite. They’ve quite fully absorbed the reality of modern life in the UK, a society that has largely abandoned the fundamental norms of civilization, giving them lip service, but without enforcing them.
Think of the very real shortcomings the attitudes above inculcate.
- The justice system is a farce, and no severe penalties need be feared.
- The government cannot effectively control lawlessness or protect property.
- The property of others can be taken without real fear of reprisal.
- Family discipline is toothless.
The larger society aids and abets these attitudes by defining self-defense as criminal vigilantism, and punishing the victims of crime for having the temerity to defend themselves, and perhaps injuring their assailants if attacked.
These youths in London and Manchester have learned their lessons well. Property owners cannot resist them, the police can’t control them, and if they are unlucky enough to get caught, sanctions will be minimal. These are not cultural attitudes that promote civilization. Quite the reverse, in fact. They are the attitudes of barbarism, in that they reduce all of society to victims—except for those that choose to be predators. The cultural message these youths have received is that predation pays and is relatively risk free.
They’re acting on that cultural message, in a perfectly understandable and rational manner, while authorities dither for days about whether the use of water cannons or rubber bullets are an appropriate response.
What these rioters need is the type of lesson that armed property owners convey with an immediacy that the police are unable or unwilling to provide. But, of course, in modern "civilized" Britain, that’s literally the last thing they have to fear.