London Riots – Harsh Judgement?

Social media in riots

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Seems like my radical suggestion that the British police should have used a bit of force to stop the riots in London and elsewhere was a bit brutal for some people. I had submitted a condensed version of my  blog post on the London Riots as a comment to a post on a blog by someone who is a great writer. Caleb Storkey 

I enjoy Caleb’s writing and respect his views, to his great credit he published my comment unedited and also responded with a very important question – where do we go from here?

Here is my response.

“Thank you for your thoughtful and obviously concerned reply Caleb. Yes we are probably poles apart across the political spectrum, but my comments were more from a basic “what is acceptable behaviour and what is not”  point  of view than a political one.

Suffice it to say that having lost my country (Rhodesia), a member of my family, and ultimately all my assets as a consequence of misguided British meddling in what was once a peaceful, prosperous country, and having seen communism and it’s junior sibling, socialism discredited around the world, I am not enamoured with liberal political parties. I accept that you have reservations about some of the Conservative party polices, as I do, but I believe that Britain would be far worse off today, if not for Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.

If we can agree that communism is not the answer, then the best system of government to date is the free enterprise system, warts and all. I agree that there needs to be some controls to prevent unfettered exploitation of people and resources. The problem in the West is not insufficient controls but excessive controls that make it extremely difficult for the average person to start a small business and protect his or her property. The system also rewards those that choose not to make the effort to support themselves, but instead expect the productive sector to support them through welfare.

Under any capitalist system there will be haves and have-nots, some will apply themselves and succeed, others will hold their hands out for benefits and when they feel aggrieved, start burning cars and looting shops as we saw this week. That is human nature, we cannot change it by legislation or by going easy on crime, that only makes a bad system worse.

Before you accuse me of speaking from a privileged position of wealth, I have known what it is like to lose everything and start again. Twice in fact. I did not start burning and looting, I chose to work at menial jobs as the first step to recovery.

You disagree with my point that governments were slow to respond in both Vancouver and London. Sorry, Caleb, we pay taxes for a police force that will protect us and our property. The first brick through a shop window or car set on fire should result in strong enough action to ensure that the riots stop right there. 3 days of anarchy and thousands of innocent people’s lives affected is totally unacceptable, and now I hear 3 young men were run over and killed in Birmingham. The cost and disruption of processing all those arrested is yet a further cost to the taxpayer which would have been reduced by decisive police action.

Regrettably, tolerating bad behaviour only rewards bad behaviour, whether it is from children, animals or mobs of rioters, and it teaches the perpetrators that there are little or no consequences for their actions.

Weakness and appeasement has never worked in politics, international conflict, negotiation or trying to stop mob violence. Why does NATO have such a problem in Afghanistan with so many of our troops dead or maimed? Because we are not prepared to be as tough or ruthless as the Taliban, I am not saying we should be, personally I would just let them get on with it themselves, but it is yet another example of the lack of resolve in the West to exercise the necessary force.

The city of New York reduced the highest murder rate in the USA and cleaned up the city, not by going soft on crime, but by a zero tolerance policy on all crime, starting with graffiti and littering, when people knew the consequences of illegal action, they started obeying the law and taking pride in their city.

Perhaps the police were heavy handed in the shooting of Mark Duggan, perhaps they were justified, I do not know. But to blame the police for the subsequent mob violence is ridiculous. Why do many otherwise rational and sensible (essentially liberal) people condemn all forms of violence and criminal activity except when the cause can be conveniently blamed on the police or the establishment, thereby justifying the criminals actions.It does not happen the other way round, very rarely does any one try to excuse a right wing criminal’s activity on the grounds that he was “disadvantaged” or his “rights” denied. And quite rightly so.

You ask what can be done to bring about positive change, I think it has to be a combination of zero tolerance for any forms of lawlessness, law-abiding citizens demanding that the police do protect their property and yes programs to get some of the so-called disadvantaged working.

There has to be an understanding that any one who breaks the law will pay the consequences, whether that person is a wannabe looter from a poor neighborhood, or a cabinet minister fiddling his expenses.

The ridiculous thing is that a fraction of the cost of the riots could finance many weeks wages on some civil projects. What projects? I have no idea, I am too far away, but with the Olympics a year away, I imagine there must be plenty of work that could be incorporated into projects like this.

But as a final point I have to add that those doing the rioting, did not appear too malnourished, if you want to see really disadvantaged people, go to Somalia or Ethiopia, thousands of those dying children would willingly swop places with the “disadvantaged” rioters in London.

Like you, I sincerely hope that your cities remain peaceful and that solutions will be found.” End of comment

I wish that Caleb’s view could be correct and that a softly, softly approach coupled with programmes to “uplift” the troublemakers would work.  Sadly I see no reason to believe that it has any more chance of working now than at any time in history.

Compassion and caring can only work when the boundaries and consequences of unacceptable behaviour are clearly understood, effectively and impartially applied.

What do readers think? Am I being too harsh?

Is it acceptable that rioters can cause millions of dollars or pounds worth of damages, injure policemen, disrupt thousands of innocent lives and as we now hear, murder 4 people?

Wishing you success in all your endeavours – and a peaceful weekend in British cities.

Peter Wright

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