It is simply pointless to suppose that lectures by MPs, schoolteachers or the Archbishop of Canterbury on the importance of fathers, of family discipline, of personal responsibility, or whatever, will have an impact on (or even be heard by) brutalised juvenile gangsters. The Left is wrong to think that state handouts will do the trick, the Right is wrong to think that punishment can do more than contain the problem; and all of us are wrong to think we can achieve much by "addressing the issues" or "starting a debate" - ie talking about it.
I've come to believe that Iain Duncan Smith's interest in the social policy equivalent of keyhole surgery - estate by estate, family by family, gang by gang, street by street, problem by problem, task force by task force, church by church and charity by charity - may bear more fruit; but it will be slow, expensive, messy and deeply unsensational. So will the concentration of resources on educational wastelands that Michael Gove's "pupil premium" implies.
He finishes by imploring Cameron not to knee-jerk to the right as a result of the riots -
There exists today a nascent Tea Party tendency in the Tory party. Its nostrils sniff the smoke in the wind. It senses it's moment may have come. I doubt this. The cheers of the Right are heady stuff, and can become addictive; but, like all addictions, they lure a statesman towards his destruction. Mr Cameron knows that he won by getting away from all that. His new friends hope he is now turning his back on huskies, hoodies and hoodlums. He mustn't. In today's applause lies tomorrow's danger.
The one obvious lesson to draw is that there was a very serious initial failure of policing. Only when the police stopped treating the riots like a community relations role-playing exercise at Bramshill did the hoodies’ cost-benefit analysis change.
I’m not being wise after the event. The monumental incompetence of the Met has been one of this blog’s longest-running themes. While individual officers behave bravely – in some cases heroically – under very difficult circumstances, their leadership is often woeful.
Fortunately, a solution is on its way; the requisite legislation is even now clanking through the tubes and chambers of our government machine. Yup: it’s time for elected sheriffs.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.
The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation - Peter Oborne.
Excellent piece from Toby Young in today's Telegraph entitled 'Moral relativism is to blame, not gang culture...'
Towards the beginning of Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s masterpiece about a group of teenage boys marooned on a desert island, a scene takes place in which the most vicious of the boys, Roger, throws stones at a younger boy whose sandcastle he’s just knocked down:
Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.
The problem with multiculturalism is not that different ethnic and religious groups can never peacefully co-exist, or that certain immigrant groups can never be persuaded to embrace our way of life. Rather, it’s the taboo it introduces against the teaching of substantive moral values to anyone, not just members of particular “communities”. It creates a general reluctance to promote any values other than procedural ones. The result is far too many people cast adrift, black and white alike, imagining they believe in something only to discover, when social order breaks down, that they believe in nothing.
Perhaps the root of the problem is the progressive Left’s conviction that mankind is essentially good. After all, if you think human beings are fundamentally benign and altruistic, then failing to teach them about right and wrong isn’t going to pose any major problems. They’ll just get along regardless. But the lesson of Lord of the Flies is that this is sentimental and naive. Released from the bonds of civilisation, human beings will quickly descend into cruel, atavistic creatures who pursue their own selfish interests at the expense of everyone else’s. Sigmund Freud got it right when he pointed out that men are not gentle creatures who just want to be loved. On the contrary, they are fundamentally territorial and aggressive:
As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus. Who, in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?
That’s what we witnessed during the four days of rioting – Homo homini lupus. It’s a mistake to see the rioters as belonging to a particular ethnic group or as being “outsiders”, as some local MPs claimed. They were just ordinary people who’ve been insufficiently socialised, members of all communities and none. What they lack isn’t material wealth or meaningful employment, but a moral framework that enables them to see that smashing shop windows and setting fire to cars – and stealing – is wrong.
For four nights, those precious six yards that protected the boy in Lord of the Flies were breached. Unless we reject the moral relativism that has led to this sickness, they’ll be breached again.
Near apocryphal warnings from two of the wisest seers in this mornings papers - both Janey Daley and Peter Oborne suggest the changes witnessed over the last three years are nothing compared to what is now before us...
Anthony Horowitz writes a great column on the moral bankruptcy of Labour's politics that led directly to phone hacking...
With Blair it was the political process that was the first casualty. moral ambiguity became the order of the day – and if our political leaders could get away with it, so could everyone else. The rich and the powerful were not only immune from the law. They were, via super-injunctions, protected by it. Public inquiries into perceived wrongdoing came to conclusions that seemed to bear little relation to the evidence.