fightingthecage: (Angel Walking Alone)
[personal profile] fightingthecage
OK, I have to get this off my chest before I can get anything else done tonight.

First: the disclaimer. Which I hate having to make, because it shouldn’t matter, but which I understand helps prove/disprove bias in my opinions, and might stop someone getting angry at me for seeming to dismiss their opinion.

I am from a single-parent family that never received any benefits, barring Child Support (that everyone with kids gets, until recently at least). My mother always voted Liberal Democrat. I have never voted anything other than Conservative, and I’m not apologising for it. THIS WHOLE POST IS NOTHING BUT MY OWN OPINION. I don’t claim to know everything, and I’m certainly not claiming any definitive answers. I’m just annoyed at a lot of things I’ve been reading, and I want to clear my head so I can move on to something more useful.

Right, done. Good? Good.

For the love of God everyone, please please stop blaming everyone plus the kitchen sink for these riots. I read Twitter every day and there are a multitude of links to articles berating the government/loving the government, blaming the breakdown of society, or social media, or lauding social media. People openly ridiculing the Prime Minister, as though this is all his fault, is what annoys me most of all. And here’s why.

I was born in 1979. Among my earliest memories are of the miner’s strikes of the early 80’s, which went on for bloody ages. There was violence all over the shop, and people going hungry; there was police brutality, and feral behaviour by striking miners, everything. Everyone blamed Thatcher, possibly with good reason. Of course, there were some who loved her for it (not many), but either way, she didn’t back down. The unions – which had terrorised the country through the 70’s – were brought to heel, and the Far Left was made toothless forever. If you don’t believe me, look at New Labour today, who got into power as a direct result of culling the remaining socialists and moving to the centre. Anyway, I digress. People blamed the government.

Late 80s/early 90s – more riots. This time as a direct result of Thatcher’s Community Charge. Which was, let’s face it, a bloody stupid idea. She got the blame, it was the beginning of the end for her. We got John Major as a Prime Minister, who is mainly the target of comedians and Labour voters these days, when we look back.

Fun fact about John Major; for a time, he had the highest approval ratings of any Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. That’s right. He may have seemed boring, but whatever. The country was in good shape in the 90s (just as it was in the mid to late 80s, when the country saw that maybe moving away from loss-making industry, such as coal mines, wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Nevertheless, we got a Labour government in 1997. A Labour government with little discernable difference from Thatcher’s style in the 80s, right down to Blair preferring to make decisions over the head of his cabinet. With Labour, we got the Iraq war, and demonstrations of a million people in London protesting against it. Guess what? The government didn’t take a blind bit of notice of them either. Then we got Afghanistan, and the highest debt we’ve ever had, which, of course, is now being left to the Coalition to deal with.

My point? These riots have nothing to do with any of that. The civil unrest in my lifetime has, generally, been in response to something. Union activity, unpopular proposals from the government. They happen more when the country is worse off, as they do everywhere else. The thing they all have in common is that nothing ever really changes because of them. Did we convince the Labour government not to go to war in Iraq? No, we did not. Did the miners stop their pits being closed? No, they did not. OK, the Community Charge got scrapped, but only after Thatcher left office, and only, I suspect, because a lot of Tories didn’t like the plan either. If the whole party had supported it, it would have stayed in place.

I read on Twitter today, that Teresa May (the Home Secretary), said that crime is caused only by criminals, or words to that effect. People seem angry about it. It’s an over-simplification perhaps, but apart from that, I don’t see much wrong with it. Because the thing that’s really annoying me about all the opinions I’ve read on the rioting is that barely any of them blame the people that are actually at fault.

And they are; the rioters themselves.

There. I said it.

These riots, this looting, started because a peaceful demonstration over the shooting of a young man (who had a gun) turned violent. By the second night, all the talking heads were saying it was no longer anything to do with Mark Duggan, but was about groups of people wanting to steal stuff. And burn stuff, and smash stuff. It wasn’t political, or them trying to make a point. It was vandals who went on a spree.

I also read today on Twitter, people saying that punishing them wouldn’t do any good. Well, rehabilitating them probably won’t do any good either, in the vast majority of cases. Because people are people, and there are always people who will do this stuff. There has always been an ‘underclass’, and no amount of jail time, or social workers, or education for their parents will change that. I AM NOT SAYING WE SHOULDN’T TRY. There are always cases where it’s a success, and besides, we should never give up on trying to improve ourselves, or our society. But there has to be acceptance that this sort of thing will always flare up every now and again, because people are people. It’s hateful when it happens, and it’s stupid and mindless, but hey, so are human beings, a lot of the time. But I’m sick to death of the immediate pointing of fingers at the Government and saying, ‘IT’S YOUR FAULT’. Because it really isn’t. I’m pretty sure David Cameron didn’t want this to happen, or encourage it. The looters did it.

People can talk all day about how the government is failing us, and how Every. Single. Idea they have is worthless, and pointless, and omg they all went to Eton so how dare they venture an opinion on how to cope with stuff like this. For God’s sake. People who went to Eton are people too. And dare I say it, are probably better qualified to run an entire, First-World Country than all the people who didn’t go to Eton. Don’t get me wrong, I love to ride on politicians as well. I had a lecture from Charles Clark a few months ago (former Home Secretary; Labour) at the University I attend. I have no idea where he was educated, and I still have hate in particular for one of the ideas he was trying to get through when he was in government; that of mandatory ID cards. He showed us his. He still thinks they were a good idea. I still think he’s a prat. But what I will say for him is that he was intelligent, and well spoken, and while I didn’t agree with most of what he said, I could appreciate that he had knowledge, and the conviction to try and put his plans into action. Heaven forbid! An intelligent man, formerly in government. Rumour has it, there are more of them in there at the moment. But we must immediately hate them, because they can’t please all of us, all of the time.

This is a country of 60 million people. No government is ever going to be popular with everyone. But I really fail to understand how a man can stand up and advocate personal responsibility, can say ‘we need to take care of ourselves, and not expect the state to do it all for us’ and be criticised for it. Seriously. I don’t understand how that can happen. Do we really want the government to run every aspect of our lives?

There has to be a point where we stop blaming the government, and start to look at ourselves. I’m not saying that poverty has nothing to do with this...except I really am. BlackBerry closed down their messaging service during the unrest, because looters were using it to organise themselves. Looters with Blackberry’s? Don’t sound too poor to me. Sounds to me like they have stuff, and want more stuff. (I am tempted to make a comment here about how we’re all used to having things these days, but I’m sure people will see that as me criticising the ethos born under New Labour, and I’m not. It started with Thatcher, Blair just took it to extremes.)

We can say it starts with education. Teach kids to behave right, they’ll grow up and be good parents. It’s a good sentiment, and one I believe in wholeheartedly. Yet, at the time, I’m realistic. Which is what I think society needs. Because, you see, people are people. I’ll illustrate briefly.

My best friend was a teacher. During one of her training placements, she went to a school in Carlisle. 40% - forty per cent - of the kids were in care. The majority of the others were from broken homes. More than half of them had parents, one or both, with drug or alcohol addiction. Maybe a third of the kids themselves had ADHD. They used to take their Adderall, and sell them on the estates they lived on. My friend told me that she wasn’t a teacher there, she was a crowd-controller. A successful lesson was one where she could get all the kids to sit down for fifty minutes, and hold their attention. And before anyone thinks that she was a bad teacher – she wasn’t. She went on after training to work at one of the best schools in the North West. She was an amazing teacher. But the fact is, the kids couldn’t, or wouldn’t, concentrate. She couldn’t teach them GSCE standard topics a lot of the time, because they just didn’t get it. She taught the ones who could, and simplified for the ones who couldn’t. She had to allow them to use school for what they saw it as – a chance to get away from home for a few hours every day. She said many of them loved coming to school, because the alternative was putting up with their parent’s problems. The place even opened early and provided breakfast, for all the kids who wouldn’t get fed at home. 90% of them, she said, had absolutely no aspirations to get a job, let alone go on to further education.

Is this school the government’s fault? Well, maybe. It’s certainly not that of the dedicated teachers, who did their best. But all the people who point their fingers at David Cameron and say, ‘fix this’, ask yourself – what would you do? What would you do with a bunch of kids who have been failed BY THEIR PARENTS. Society, lack of jobs, whatever – it doesn’t make people take up alcohol, or heroin. People make that choice. Everyone knows that stuff is bad for them. Everyone gets taught it. I’d be willing to bet everything I own that if the government provided jobs for every person in the country, life would be better – and there would still be a proportion of men and women with addiction problems, or who didn’t turn up to work, or didn’t look after their kids properly. People are people.

One more word about personal choice, and lets go personal. I’m thirty two years old. I have a wonderful daughter, almost four. I have never been anything but middle-class, and grew up in the affluent end of that category. I live in a three-bedroomed house. I work part-time. I’m a full time student at one of the top ten universities in the country. I have a brain that got me 100% marks on more than half of my A’Level exams.

I was homeless for a month when I was a pregnant. I slept in my car. I bordered on alcoholism when I was nineteen, and I’ve used drugs occasionally in the years since. Not just marijuana (barely a drug, imo). Class A drugs. I ran up a debt problem that I sincerely hope no people reading this ever finds themselves on. Six years ago, I couldn’t go back to the Uni I was in, because I’d already dropped out of that one twice, and they’d only have me back part-time until I proved myself. I quit, and went on the dole. After rent, I had £8 a week to live on – I spent £6 of it on cigarettes, and ate baked beans on toast. That’s what it can come to, when you’ve had money thrown at you by easy credit, and a government that doesn’t curb it.

That’s what it can come to. It just as easily cannot. Do I blame the Labour government for letting me have all those credit cards, so I could run up debt? No, I bloody do not. I blame no one but myself, because it was my fault. My fault, and my choices that got me there. I am well-educated, extremely intelligent, and apparently incapable of making sensible decisions. But these days? I choose not to have a credit card. I’ve paid off my IVA, and don’t borrow money, with the exception of my contract iPhone. I save money and buy things when I can pay for all of it. I learnt from my mistakes. And I don’t thank the government for that either, because that’s also my choice. It’s called personal responsibility, and I for one, will never think badly of David Cameron for standing up, and saying that’s what this country needs.

It’s the job of government to keep law and order, yes. But we shouldn’t need them to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s common sense. Those looters knew they were committing crimes. They made a choice to do it, and they should be punished for it. It’s not the government’s fault they ran amok, and we need to stop acting like it is.

Right. Now I am shutting up, and going to do something productive. Feel free to agree or not, as you will. Choice, see?

Date: 2011-08-11 08:56 pm (UTC)
ext_53068: (Default)
From: [identity profile]

I couldn't agree with you more.

We've struggled from a young age to bring up a family, coping with multiple redundancies, negative equity and various other crises and yet we've never considered our life together as anything other than our responsibility. Neither have we wasted time blaming 'the man'.

I'm a fan of small government and 'big' people.

Date: 2011-08-11 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Exactly this. People should be measured by what they do for themselves, and others. Sitting on their arse and saying the government should solve every problem = just brings more problems.

I advocate help for those who truly need it, of course. But I also advocate punishment for those who deserve it.


fightingthecage: (Default)

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