Truth About The Riots In England

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We live in a low and dishonest age.  Political considerations cause almost all politicians and vast sections of populations to refuse to make fairly obvious statements of fact about the time in which we live.  I therefore take notice when someone decides to break this taboo.  Max Hastings, a British historian, we see a sample of him at work in the above video, shatters one great taboo by honestly describing the process by which modern Western society all too effectively produces amoral barbarians within its midst.  He begins:

If you live a normal life of absolute futility, which we can assume most of this week’s rioters do, excitement of any kind is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.

Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.

 They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.
They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.
They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.
Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.

A former London police chief spoke a few years ago about the ‘feral children’ on his patch — another way of describing the same reality.

The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call ‘lives’: they simply exist.

Go here to read the entire column.


He ends his column with this observation:

They are an absolute deadweight upon society, because they contribute nothing yet cost the taxpayer billions. Liberal opinion holds they are victims, because society has failed to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential.
Most of us would say this is nonsense. Rather, they are victims of a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline — tough love — which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live.
Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.
They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values than the young rioters of Tottenham, Hackney, Clapham and Birmingham.
Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights, for whom their monstrous excesses were ‘a great fire, man’.

What he decribes I see frequently in my legal practice when I am appointed by the court to represent some youthful malefactor, or appointed by the court to represent children or their parents in a case involving termination of parental rights.  Hastings correctly diagnoses how this came about:  children brought up by unmarried mothers where the father is absent or a completely negative influence, completely ineffective schools, almost no consequences for bad behavior, rampant drug and alcohol use.  Is it small wonder that they grow up unable to distinguish right from wrong, have zero interest in obtaining a job and marrying and raising a family?  Most tellingly there is also almost a complete absence of religion.  When I ask clients prior to sentencing if there is a priest or minister I could call as a character witness, the response, in a small county in rural Illinois, is usually that they never attend Church.

The under class created by welfare states in the West, welfare states that are manifestly coming to an end simply because the money is running out, tend to be populated by children in adult bodies.  By and large I do not blame them, since they are products of a vast experiment that has been ongoing in the West since the Sixties of the last century at a vast expense:  do away with the family by taking the father out of the equation as either bread winner or primary disciplinarian for children;  throw in large dollops of hedonism consisting of promiscuous sex, illegal drugs and legal alcohol;  have the State dispense material benefits to people who do not work; indoctrinate them in politically correct bromides in schools good for little else;  foster in them a huge sense of entitlement;  and finally  take God out of their lives by rendering God meaningless, a process summarized in the stinging words of H. Richard Niebuhr in describing Liberal Christianity:  “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”  This whole exercise in nonsense on stilts is ending in bankruptcy, moral as well as fiscal, an outcome predicted by many critics at the dawn of these welfare states.

We have been down the wrong path for a very long time and the riots in England are merely the latest manifestation of the putrid fruits of this grand and costly mistake.  Free societies cannot exist for long with these types of completely wrong headed social policies.  Democracies only function well when a vast majority of the citizenry are sober and industrious and lead orderly and useful lives, for themselves, their families and communities.  The words of Edmund Burke are just as true in 2011 as when he wrote them in 1791:

  “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”





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  1. Thank you for noting that Paul, I have made the correction. Alas, I slept in until 5:00 AM today and thus didn’t have time for my usual proof reading before the post was published.

  2. While we’re discussing the lack of any discernible moral compass, I thought for a moment after reading this piece that the Daily Mail might be moving beyond its primary function as a running infomercial for Lady Gaga and the Kardashian spawn. But after clicking to the home page, I see we’re out of luck. I suspect there’s a connection between what Hastings is saying and what Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids are feeding us, but we’ll have to look elsewhere to fully appreciate the irony. All in all, when it comes to geographical reporting, the Daily Mail’s coverage of the Martian landscape is probably more trustworthy than what it has to say regarding the moral high ground.

  3. I will register a partial dissent:

    1. Bad social policy is bad social policy. It may induce more frequent and severe rioting than would otherwise be the case, but rioting as a phenomenon is not strictly dependent on social policy. Episodic rioting is a feature of urban life that has a loooong history (which the welfare state does not).

    2. To say the welfare state is ‘running out of money’ is a metaphor which obscures what our actual political-economic problems are. Our societies are not households living off their savings, literally or metaphorically.

  4. We are running out of money Art in that our paper currencies are simply a reflection of the strength of our economies. Government debt and expenditure has reached a point throughout most of the West where it is having a baleful impact upon the economies. The US can always conjure money out of thin air in order to meet its obligations, but not without a bad impact on the economy.

    Mr. Hastings did not pretend that his analysis was the key to all examples of urban riots, but I think his analysis was completely on target in regard to the current riots.

  5. The one source of blame I think you may have missed is just how poor our current education system is for preparing people for jobs.

    I was in Catholic schools K-16 (sic), and it was awful even there. Two decades plus of “studying” things completely inapplicable to any job setting whatsoever. Very little of actual intellectual substance either.

    Two decades of marinating in worthless classrooms creates some pretty desperate people. I’m not surprised that the end product are individuals with little incentive or ability to earn a living.

  6. Don, there’s some good stuff here but I’d have to take issue with this:

    ‘Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.’

    Firstly, to paint all the rioters with one brush and label them as “feral” and “illiterate” is much too broad a stroke. Each person is unique, an individual, and though we as humans share certain characteristics, we are each ‘one of a kind.’ I believe Christianity teaches this in the saying that Jesus would have given his life even if there were only one person to save.

    Secondly, the prescription that ‘only education’, coupled with obedience to authority, is much too vague and simplistic. What does ‘education’ mean? What is to be taught? Who is to teach? All questions that Plato and Aristotle struggled with and differed about.

    John Taylor Gatto, in his eye-opening book, “The Underground History of American Education,” writes:

    ‘Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance; now it is transformed from ignorance into permanent mathematical categories of relative stupidity like “gifted and talented,” “mainstream,” “special ed.” Categories in which learning is rationed for the good of a system of order. Dumb people are no longer merely ignorant. Now they are indoctrinated, their minds conditioned with substantial doses of commercially prepared disinformation dispensed for tranquilizing purposes.’

    Bur rather than blame the underclass, Gatto goes on to write:

    ‘The new dumbness is particularly deadly to middle- and upper-middle-class kids already made shallow by multiple pressures to conform imposed by the outside world on their usually lightly rooted parents. When they come of age, they are certain they must know something because their degrees and licenses say they do. They remain so convinced until an unexpectedly brutal divorce, a corporate downsizing in midlife, or panic attacks of meaninglessness upset the precarious balance of their incomplete humanity, their stillborn adult lives. Alan Bullock, the English historian, said Evil was a state of incompetence. If true, our school adventure has filled the twentieth century with evil.’

    Thus, it seems to me at least, that the call to education and obedience to authority must address the ways that knowledge and wisdom are imparted, who is to do the imparting and what authorities are to be “obeyed.” Did not millions of Germans obey Hitler in the 1930s as the supreme authority? Did not the Japanese bow to Hirohito as their true god, even placing him higher than God Himself?

    It is easy and tempting to sit in one’s living room watching riots on TV and make blanket judgments. I plead guilty in my knee-jerk reaction in previous posts ascribing solely racial/religious motivation. Clearly, the causes are many and deep-rooted and, as you suggest, the ‘putrid fruit’ of rebellion.

    Perhaps the answers lie within each of us, not externally. To “know thyself,” as Socrates said, is difficult. Then he added, “If I knew myself I would run away.”

  7. There’s a tone in the excerpts that the rioters are incorrigible. Less so in the original article as a whole. For me, the quotes in Donald’s article presented a very non-Catholic impression that the rioters are beyond hope of domestication, a sub-species of human. I’d strongly warn against that kind of thinking.

  8. I can’t understand how certain people have the ability to make excuses for filthy arsonists and looters . . .

  9. As an attorney you surely must understand that police officers and teachers now have no authority at all, and must consider every working moment and personal contact as a threat not only to their safety but to their freedom because of lawsuits. Schools are defined by law and by fear; a police officer teacher who demonstrates initiative is outside one of the thousands of codifications of law and will be destroyed. I don’t think that powerlessness is their choice. Further, judges can only apply the law as it is, not as we might wish it to be. Politicians — well, we elect them, mostly by not voting at all and allowing the activist class to take charge. The Church of England is a vapidity and Catholicism is in one of its periodic spasms of self-doubt.

    Just to cheer you up.

  10. “Just to cheer you up”

    Thank you Mack! 🙂 I am truly cheered by the thought that the current situation cannot go on much longer. Machines before they expire often give off grinding sounds as the mechanism is wearing down, and the entire West has been hearing those grinding sounds for several years. Far better if we were getting rid of the welfare state because we decided that is was poison for the people it purportedly served, but it crashing from fiscal insolvency will do in a pinch. Saint Paul wrote long ago that those who do not work should not eat. In the 20th century we expanded the laudable goal of supporting those who cannot support themselves to turning large swathes of the population into drones. Far worse than the expense is what this has done to the human dignity of the recipients. Everything in this world carries a price tag, and few price tags are higher than dependence upon the State for subsistence.

  11. The state has assumed the role of God. People will gladly yield control. Slavery is easier than freedom. But society in general is coming to nothing here in the West, just as St. Paul said of the world in its current state.

  12. Yes, I agree, totally. In order to reign supreme, the State requires a crippled populace. It reminds me of the movie Misery, where the lady played by Kathy Bates had to cripple the actor to keep him where he was so that she could continue to nurture him. I think our institutions and government have become sort of like that. They create problems and then move in and tell you how they will fix them. And this recurrs continuously, except no one is laughing because it really isn’t funny. It’s stupid.

  13. “Saint Paul wrote long ago that those who do no work should not eat.”

    That was written to the Church at Thessalonika. They thought the Lord was coming back right away, so they sat on their fat lazy behinds, expecting everyone else to feed and care for them. I pointed that out to Truthie in my long winded dialogue yesterday, but it fell on deaf eyes (or blinded eyes, as the case may be).

  14. There will always be people who thrive on schemes that afford power to the State in the name of helping others. I’ve met up with numerous people like that.

  15. This subject is vital.

    The best of the post is the phrase – nonsense on stilts. Also, Edmund Burke’s proportions are timeless. I wonder how he would address the legislated Godlessness, space proximity (lack of open land), urban problem, and government money/debt constraints adding to the proportion of people who couldn’t conceive of his meaning.

    The worst of it is that barbarism is inevitable without serious, swift sanctions on the failures. I think the first change should be the Supreme Court revisiting the definition of a life and reversing the 1972 visit. While that is happening, the Legislative arm should scrutinize budgets as if their job depended on that. The Executive branch should foster this activity, while reading Edmund Burke’s proportions. Then, someone could complete the sentence about ‘no child left behind’, behind what?

    Otherwise, England’s barbarianism … This country has a stronger Catholic presence, which I believe is what holds us together so far. I also think that Mary prays for us. Maybe, we should revitalize our Rosary Societies or Sodalities while we wait and watch.

  16. PM, Burke knew human nature. So he was cautious about change and honored stability. He understood that fundamental truths exist that should always inform us regardless of context. Change, yes. But the right kind of change. And at a manageable pace.

    As for the Rosary, I’ve explained: it’s a merger of the Rose (love platonized) and the cosmic vision of Mary. The fusion of two perennial themes.

    Throughout the scriptural story we find that Mary plays a role in God’s plan. So does everyone he calls. That’s why he calls us: to work alongside him in redemption as we move toward his dream—New Jerusalem. We worship God and serve Him.

  17. The person must want to become a decent member of society. That is why St. Paul wrote that a perosn who does not work does not eat, that he may come to appreciate the work that is done for him, that he may come to see the goodness in others, in creation and in nature. That he may come to love God as God has loved him. These riots are the fruit of atheism, without our Creator and unalienable rights, what sovereign personhood, what human dignity, what patriotism, what love of neighbor will bring these feral adherents to demons into caring human beings?

  18. Yes, if you deny God, you deny man as well. Our concept of man today with all his rights, responsiblities, and worth is bound up in a two-thousand year old Christian conception. THat’s our anthropological sense. We want to hold onto the definiton, but it’s been uprooted from its origin.

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