Like a lot of comfortably-off middle class people I have had something to say about the recent riots in some English cities. I think there are many contributing factors to the unrest and none more important than another. There hasn't been much debate except between those on the right who want looters sent to prison camps (and beaten up when they get there) and those on the left who want to wish away social inequality by waving large wads of taxpayers' money towards a better life for everyone.
That's a trivialisation, I know. What else can you expect when most of us have forgotten how to question anything? This medium offers instant everything and the price for that seems to have been the ability to just stop and think for a moment. We're chatterati, tweet-stuffed stealers of opinion and so-called 'facts' with a diminishing ability to accept anything that jars with our own world view. We default to the wikipedia version of everything and retweet the 140 characters that align most closely with what we think we know. You can know a lot about everything without experiencing anything these days, and spread your opinion - as I am doing now - on the great and currently unregulated superhighway we have already come to take for granted.
So here is my summary of 'facts' that I have picked up about recent events. Do I believe any of them? It doesn't matter:
- The Metropolitan Police, for years, have been harsher on some sections of society than others.
- There is no society anyway, unless it's the Big Society that appears to be decent people taking it upon themselves to do the jobs of paid public servants.
- The 'media' speak at the people, not for them. The so-called social media is a dangerous and subversive channel that must be regulated.
- Tories are untrustworthy and dim toffs and socialists are profligate and blinkered do-gooders. Social democrats are well-meaning but straws in the political wind.
- Severe responses by the police generally prevent public disorder. Except in Northern Ireland.
- MPs looted huge sums of money from the taxpayer and the courts didn't work overtime to jail them.
- Bankers gambled billions away, caused a global economic crisis and still get bonuses.
- Our economy itself is based on traders buying and selling things that don't exist instead of having industries making good things that people want to buy and can buy at reasonable prices.
- There is a corporation in the USA that has more cash than the country itself and has based this on selling lifestyle gadgets cheaply assembled in China to consumers on the false promise that ownership improves the quality of your life somehow.
- Owning stuff is the only way to demonstrate your personal qualities. If you have nice stuff, it follows that you are a successful and decent person.
- Anything that cannot be seen, for real or posted on the interwebs, has no value.
- Greed is to be celebrated. Fame and respect is to be achieved at any cost, not earned.
- Benefit culture makes not working more attractive than working for a living. In any case, any jobs going have been taken by immigrants.
- People who are not white or black are Asian. English people are neither black nor Asian. Black people cannot be trusted. Asian people secretly or overtly sympathise with radical Islamic doctrine. White people are basically decent but, you know, there is a limit.
- To white people, centuries of European ebb and flow into the British Isles is not immigration.
- We're fighting two overseas wars and no-one really can understand why. It's either about freedom/democracy or securing cheap, privileged access to natural resources. Or both.
And the answer to rioting? Heavy and sustained rain. The strongest-held political belief or the desire to go grab a free TV is no match for the British weather.