This week I have been almost ashamed to be English as news of the recent looting and criminal damage has spread across the world's media. Then I remind myself that most of us are decent, hard-working and mindful of the feelings of others. Yet none of us should forget the lessons of history – that anarchy creates a vacuum, and that extremism often fills that void.
Intoxicated by their exploits, looters admit they are not poor and justify their actions by asking what fool would turn their nose up at the chance of “new stuff”. They say they loot because they simply can. These excuses remind me of the bankers, MPs and News Corp journalists as they tried to dig themselves out of their various holes – they knew how to profit, so they did. This, I think, is sufficient proof that criminality exists over the whole of society – indeed, being poor has never been a reason to be a thief. What an insult! Thieves generally have more than they need, or steal to feed expensive addictions.
Apologists cite isolation, disconnection and marginalisation for the looting – rubbish! They might be valid causes if perpetrators lived somewhere that quite literally had no jobs or shops or public transport – or free education, libraries, health care and refuse collection, or access to social security and other financial benefits – or even just clean water and crops that will grow! Why don't they think of this before they truant from school or take sick-leave for no good reason?
Some of us no longer seem to understand the meaning of simple words like shame, need, merit, empathy or sympathy. You don't have to be religious (but if it works for you, fine) to look into your own heart and make sure you have not prepared a seedbed for negativity. Above all, parents, don't nurture attitudes that allow your children to assume that everything they see can be theirs – unless you also emphasise that nothing worth having is ever achieved without effort or hard work. Respect has to be earned, not bullied out of people by sheer force of numbers. Rights are wonderful, but are worthless without responsibilities. Much of the language I've heard recently – from adults and children alike – has been the posturing of the school playground. When someone has raised a family, nursed a sick relative, fought a real war, given something up in order to help another, only then will they have earned respect, not because they ganged up and threatened someone vulnerable “behind the bike shed”.
I know my sentiments are not new or revolutionary. But I feel they need recording. And if more people in our very fortunate society spoke out then our country would not now be staring into a terrifying abyss.