Friday, 12 August 2011
The Riots.... Why did this happen?
After watching young voters question time this evening I just felt compelled to share my thoughts on the rioting that has taken place over many cities across the UK....
There are many avenues for blame, Parents, Schools, the Government... are but a few that have been mentioned on the news and in the papers.
Essentially above and beyond maybe any of these, may be the widening division between the social, economic and cultural facets of our communities.
Community is fragmenting.
Young people are being given no sense of belonging. No sense of future security.
Without a role in society, one that is valued, there can be no strong sense of allegiance or responsibility to that society. There is no stake. Nothing to lose. Without solid foundations of future security the transitory moment takes precedence. Long term goals are traded for short term gains.
There is certainly a growing sense of dis-empowerment and disenfranchisement in poorer communities over recent years.
The biggest voice many vulnerable young people have is as targets of amusement and bemusement on reality television shows.
Equally relevant is the clear discrepancy between how corporations, banks and politicians are treated for their crimes in comparison to the way young people from deprived backgrounds are treated. This disproportional "justice" only adds to the general feeling of disillusionment young people already have with institutions from banks to churches, to schools, to governments.
Spending on youth services, family services and children's services has been slashed since the conservative government came into power. These cuts obviously effect the poorest members of our society the most. Once again the most vulnerable are made accountable for the crimes of the powerful and elite. In lowering benefits, shortening council house tenancies, raising tuition fees... Poorer families have to extend themselves so much further just to tick the basics off the list.
We live in a rented council house and receive tax credits and although we are no way among the poorest of families I can't imagine that any of my girls will go to a traditional university. It saddens me to say this but the fees are just too high and not something we can afford. To start their lives off with huge amounts of debt is not a prospect I relish for them either, in fact it is one I hope, wholeheartedly they avoid.
But what I find most contention with is the blaming of parents.
We live in a pressure cooker of a society.... When is someone going to actually admit this!
When a young mother has to have 3 jobs to simply survive there is something going deeply wrong somewhere.
When people are mired in a lifetime of debt, simply to have the luxury of a roof over their head something is going deeply wrong somewhere.
When a family cannot raise itself without both parents working all hours so they don't even have enough time to connect with one another something is going deeply wrong somewhere.
Parents from a deprived background can't afford all the activities, resources and experiences that the wealthy can. These days with the economic pressures the struggle to find our children a place, a role, a sense of value and a reasonably comfortable seat in the assembly is running at a premium. The increasing "ghettoising" of schools and the catchment area lotteries are just one example of the pushing and shoving involved in raising children these days.
The children from deprived areas are simply born at a disadvantage. Why can no one admit this!
Families, particularly poorer families are struggling to keep up. There is little to no network of support, extended family, elders in the community... let alone anyone willing and able to take a little of the load without a fee to match the weight of it.
Everyone is simply too run off their feet to invest themselves emotionally, financially or physically in their communities. It's often hard enough to find the time for our own families at the end of a 10 hour day.
Blaming parents is easy. The problem is structural.
Our focus is off centre. Family needs to be the focus. Supporting parents, families and children should be the priority of any country.
More often than not family and childhood... in the traditional sense of what the word childhood means... are having to be sidelined in favour of simply trying to make it up the ladder. Things "Stuff" has replaced, connections, experiences and relationships.
Yes, hard work pays off and we need to give young people a sense of responsibility and accountability for their own lives but we keep them bottled up for so long and then at aged 21 expect them to suddenly "get it". Get what it takes to stand alone, without initiation, the wisdom of elders and often little to no "real life" experiences ...
When young people are pushed and shoved through every hoop and test and exam we can throw at them only to watch their hopes and dreams are dash against the ***ever rising and impossible to live up to competition*** before they have even begun... something is going deeply wrong somewhere.
When we glamorise violence in movies and video games and sanction public acts of humiliation in reality TV shows, yet expect our youth not to take their cues, something is going deeply wrong somewhere.
We say that Gordon Ramsay is allowed to vent dismaying amounts of anger, arrogance and cruelty to some unfortunate 21 year old sous chef on his first job simply because he can... Simon Cowell can extinguish a kid's love of singing his heart out in one stone cold dry sentence... Celebrities in "The Apprentice" back stab and undercut one another without a single shred of conscience.... And we can all snicker at the poor chat show "mutton dressed as lamb" ex show girl on Jerry Springer.... Yes it is all very entertaining and we are always glad it is not us at the receiving end, maybe we actually believe we are above it all.... But what is this teaching our children?
It teaches them that those that grab and grasp and claw their way to the top are life's winners. Those that back stab and fight and step on others make their dreams come true.
Those that take what they can when they can, put other's down, put the job before ethics and the rules before what is right, true, noble and good, ultimately succeed in this broken world of ours.
No the riots were not right. They were tragic, frightening and disturbing.
No there is no excuse for the violence the crowd unleashed upon the police.
Yet sadly, maybe this is illustrative of why it is so important that we get our priorities right where young people are concerned. There is a sense of meaningless for a lot of young people these days.
Ultimately they need a strength of vision. One they can really believe in. One that gives "real" not counterfeit meaning and hope to their life in this world.
Then they need the simple food of familial and community support, love and wisdom to pass it along to the generations to come.
Our children and their childhoods have got to start coming first.
Some interesting points raised by the Archbishop of Caterbury regarding the riots...