Thursday, 11 August 2011

It's a hard life

Hands up if you are one of the few people in this country who use phrases like 'disenchanted youth' or 'nothing else to do'... or 'they have no prospects', when you talk about the individuals, some as young as eleven, who 'rioted' and stole from honest hard-working business people?

Good for you I say. And jolly good for those of you who revel in the 'they have rights' syndrome of society in which the youth of today are allowed, by merit of the goody-two-shoes of the European courts and other weak-minded people, to haunt the streets, mug the injured, throw stones, bottles and other debris at police officers, and torch shops and homes. Well done for complaining bitterly and endlessly about the 'heavy-handed' behaviour of law enforcement when faced with hundreds of feral, braying teenagers, hell-bent on causing injury or death. Let them stand there and take it. Let them leave their batons in their belts because that, surely, is sending out the right signal, isn't it?

We now have a dangerous situation in this society. So dangerous in fact that I fully expect to receive the usual number of threatening, poisonous remarks that I get from time to time when I vent about these things. I'll get them from people who fully support an individual's right to violently protest and let the authorities know who's boss - the same people who hate authority and loathe the way others live. Our societal situation is no different to that of a household, where parents (or in a lot of cases, single mums) have no control whatsoever over their children. There is no discipline, no moral guidance and absolutely no punishment or consequences for bad actions.

There are hundreds of thousands of disaffected people in this country. There are millions or people who can't make ends meet and who live in deprived, God-forsaken places, but not all of them behave like this. Not every single mum, or single dad has lost complete control of their off-spring either... but there is a seed of this problem in that kind of family set-up. A lot of our problems stem from a total lack of micro-Government within the home.

I saw a large, mouthy woman have a go at a man on the news yesterday. She endorsed the point I now make here. She said to the reporter that kids 'are treated like scum, so they behave like scum... what do you expect?' It was her universal excuse for looting, arson, violence and murder on the streets. It was a statement that would never in a million years, provoke the response 'Yes, you are absolutely right, and here is the solution'.

Then a man appeared and put his opinion forward, stating that what she had said was no argument and couldn't possibly justify what was going on. Interestingly, her short, fat eleven year old boy started to remonstrate with the man, as if he had a functional statement to make about it! The mother then verbally attacked the man, saying it was 'his ignorance that had led to this problem' and that he should 'jog on'.

Here's my point. I am from a council estate; I come from one of the hardest places in the country, where violence and theft was very common, and expected. I grew up in a working-class environment, not a poor one, because in those days there were jobs for everyone, but I still had a rough time of it. I suffered all of the stuff that child psychologists and social workers would label 'high risk' for bad behaviour... but I also had something else. I had a healthy fear and respect of the police and authority. I was given certain tools to enable me to see right from wrong, and to be properly scared if I did anything illegal. I open doors for the elderly and females (shamefully sexist, I know). I say please and thank you and feel guilty when I don't exercise manners when expected of me. Simple tools are required so that children do not become wild animals; strong, disciplined family environments are critical. I don't mean abusive families.

The Press has been to blame for a lot of the disrespect shown to police these days. Whenever a cop makes a mistake, or gets stupid and over-steps the mark, it gets inflated into a series of hysterical headlines that carry on for days, or weeks, so that Joe Public is in no doubt about who the real enemy is. The death of an innocent person at the hands of the authorities is an outrage, there's no question, but it might be worth considering under what circumstances some of those deaths came about. Was there a life-threatening situation in play... like a riot? Was a weapon being brandished? Are we saying that cops aren't human and that they can't feel frightened for their own lives?

If you don't agree with me, then what's your solution? Don't just attack my writing, because that's dumber than burning a shop for the sake of it. Tell me what YOU would do to sort this out and how it makes things better for us all.

I believe we need to return to values that are intrinsic to a safe, decent society. We need discipline; proper punishment for serious law-breakers. Let's bring back National Service. We can keep our armed forces up to strength and give these kids a place to go, money in their pockets and a sense of duty and commitment. It's not the cure-all, I know, because there were students, a teaching assistant and many other non-deprived individuals involved in the stealing spree - it wasn't just 'council-house scum', but it would begin to change how our children behave.

Three people died as the direct result of the violence that went on further north. These men were protecting their community. I found it interesting that while Turks and Pakistanis... and other 'minority' groups got themselves together to defend their homes and businesses, a twenty-odd year old moron ranted about how all the Polish were 'taking our jobs'. This guy, who also appeared on the news, looked like he'd never worked in his life and would never go on to do anything useful in society. The Poles do the jobs that Brits won't do, so his whole logic is flawed. He's repeating a rhetoric that is off-the-shelf racism and hatred. Thankfully, the white English didn't dishonour themselves because they too began to stand up for their streets. This, I believe, is partly why things have quietened down.

One man is shot by police in London. It's tragic but there must be a reason why an officer felt threatened enough to open up. If there isn't a good excuse, then he will face the consequences, but anyone carrying a gun should expect to risk being shot, let's not have any mindless arguments about that! A few days later and this country is in crisis; hundreds of businesses will either go under, or will face hefty insurance bills - or will move away from the very places they were serving and providing jobs to. A father tries to resuscitate his dying son, whose been mown down by a car, and we still have individuals whose mentality is so warped they can find sick reasons for it all to have happened. Even the family of the man shot by police had stated that the riots have nothing to do with their son's death.

We need to respect the rights of our children but we must stop telling them they have rights. Parents must start to show strength and deliver punishment so that kids learn there are consequences for their actions. They must also deliver praise and support. Society must create the biggest naughty step imaginable or we are all surely going to Hell.



JR said...


As always a double dose of common sense and perspective.

I agree with the points you make about background not being an excuse and the need for boundaries.

It may be unfashionable to say but honesty, courtesy, respect and hard work are the tools people need for life. With those as a bedrock, people have the grounding to take their life where they want it.

Best wishes to you and your colleagues in uniform who have had to deal with all the crap over the last few days.


p.s. your sexism is shocking. I hope your not as prehistoric as to compliment your wife/female friends if they make the effort to dress nicely/get their hair done, etc:-p

Anonymous said...

In my opinion,this all comes down to rights without responsibilities. Having one without the second is a recipe for the sort of anarchy we are seeing. People who would, I am sure, be described as members of the 'Underclass' seem to feel that they have the right to whatever they want (the contents of someone's shop, the 'fun' of throwing missiles at the police, or torching shops with flats built over the top) without the responsibility to respect the lives and property of others.
The police, on the other hand, have the responsibility to control this mess, which is largely not of their making, without the right to use whatever methods seem reasonable to them.
The politicians will bleat, and use this as a stick to attack each other, while the police & the law courts will have no additional powers or resources to deal with the problem. Many of those who are convicted will recieve a sentance that will in no way punish or rehabilitate them.
To be honest, I'd be quite happy to see some rioters on the receiving end of a water canon or some tear gas, if it enabled the emergency services to prevent the sort of tragedy that could so easily have happened in those flats at the weekend.
Dream on?

chris said...

Totally agree with all that you are saying. Parents need to take more responsibility for their children and know where they are.
To say that children have rights is correct but it should be rights within guidelines and rules set down by parents, teachers and the police. Teach that give respect to get respect instead of you have respect automatically with no regard for your actions.

brokenangel said...

Thanks you for pointing out just because people come from poor areas they dotn have to be bad.

Ive grew up in a minning town that is rough and poor and unfortuanlly ive had to spend the last week defending the fact that no i havent been involved and dont intend to.

To many people think that the area you come from dictates everything

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you.

Ricky said...

I agree (as usual) with many of your comments.

However, I totally disagree with:

"And jolly good for those of you who revel in the 'they have rights' syndrome of society in which the youth of today are allowed, by merit of the goody-two-shoes of the European courts and other weak-minded people, to haunt the streets, mug the injured, throw stones, bottles and other debris at police officers, and torch shops and homes"

There is no way that the European Convention of Human Rights (or the European Court of Human Rights, the Human Rights Act or any other legal Human Rights standard in the United Kingdom) excuses or allows the actions of the mindless idiots of the last few nights. To suggest otherwise, as I believe the statement above does, does nothing to advance the debate and simply perpetuates the totally incorrect view that Human Rights only exist to help criminals. The Convention is by no means perfect but it certainly does not grant anybody the right to riot, to attack people or property, or to commit any other criminal offence.

Rant over.

Fiz said...

Stuart, I have the same sort of background as you and I didn't grow up like that either. However our parents could discipline us when we had done wrong, or our neighbours would, sent their kids round to apologise if they had done wrong etc. Too much of what has happened is down to parents not being allowed to parent (good article in today's Guardian)and children having been taught all their "rights" without responsibility. Two of those looters had jobs in teaching and one was hoping to become a social worker- she stole a TV, then handed herself in "because she felt guilty"! She damned well should!

LiBallerina said...

Good on you at least somebody is saying it

CB said...

Well said!

Achim said...

I really don't have anything to say, but I agree with you Stu...

Discipline starts at home. Sure, if you are a single parent - it is harder to find time to discipline your young, but you can find time!

Reading some of the stories, it is good to see that the court system will give sentences to these young that are involved, but what about the ones under 12? A slap on the hand will not do.

Achim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xf said...


Salient and logical point. My view isn't that human rights per se is the problem; the problem is how it is perceived.

And I'm sorry to say this, but I think if you kill someone, or deny them their own rights, then you yourself should lose yours... they should be suspended at elast - BUT that doesn't happen, so decent folk tend to think they are being trampled over because criminals seem to have more rights then they do. The mind-set is that everyone is equal. We are NOT!

That's my point.

Xf said...


:-) yeah, I should be arrested

grump said...

Well said. I've been waiting to see what your opinion would be about this, and am glad that you're not one of these PC soft touches.

I also saw the report in which the overweight lady (the term lady is a little too flattering!) was somehow trying to justify these riots. The reason was stood right there - poor parenting skills.

There are always going to be families who don't exert enough authority over their children. There will always be parents who don't have the manners and decent traits themselves which would usually be instilled in their kids. Therefore it's the schooling system which needs to pick up the slack. Teachers and education staff need to be given more power and respect in the classroom so that children respect authority from a young age. Reward the kids who display good behaviour. I see it all too often when naughty, and downright rude, kids get special treatment and extra privileges because of their background. Fair enough, some kids really need a boost, but the vast majority don't. You have to earn rewards.

As for the generation that has become 'wasted' - my generation in fact - deterrent is probably the best way forward. I personally don't think National Service would be the way forward. Our Armed Forces are something to be proud of. We don't want to drag the quality of these men and women down for the sake of making rowdy youths useful.

However, the whole prison and prosecution service is a joke. I've heard from the horses mouth that many inmates live a better life inside prison than out in society. What kind of punishment is that? In my opinion the cells should be nothing than the four walls and a bucket. Good behaviour would then be rewarded with luxuries - a mattress, a cell with a toilet, a book. Only then will these scumbags learn that you've got to put something in to receive rewards, which can then be applied to society in general.

If that doesn't work then just round 'em all up, throw them in huge vats and convert them into electricity. Job done.

Josie said...

I disagree with your view.

Those statements you used as examples at the beginning are ones i have used. The behaviour of the rioter is inexcusably cruel and selfish, but those statements are some of the reason 'why'.

I believe that children should know their rights so as to avoid abuse. I was one of the generation that grew up not knowing my rights and an overinflated feeling of fear of authority, and those in authority abused it - i was abused. And i'm far from the only one. So i believe children should know their rights, but when they do wrong they should be punished suitably... but without removing them of their rights... surely that's not so hard?

As for what needs to change, these are my kindof ideas:
- better youth support (such as Catch22) so that if parents fail with their kids there's someone else to help guide a young person
- better education, which doesn't cost an enormous amount once you're over 16, including apprenticeships and training schemes - further education is impossibly hard to access nowadays
- more jobs. I don't know how. But if these kids had jobs available and the education/training in order to access them, then they'd have more to lose.
- stricter punishments. Maybe more/harsher community service?

And societally we need to change. We have a government who are stealing our educational opportunities, our public services, our public service jobs... yet still claim enormous amounts in expenses and give tax breaks to the mega-rich. We have parents who seem to be struggling to parent their children, and they need to change. And then we need to stop idolising material possessions, assuming them to be a sign of success.

Xf said...


Your opinion is just as valuable as anyone elses but did I say remove the rights from children? I was abused too and rights are important for protection but to use them against athority, whether inflated or not, is to invite trouble.

We cannot survive as a society without discipline and most of what you said is just what I have been saying for years. But your statement about poor parents being helped out by someone else guiding their children for them is typically part of the problem. What happened to parents taking responsibility for their own kids? why should we pay for someone else to guide them?

All young people deserve a good education, the right to work and all the benefits of a progressive society but there isn't any work around and very little money... partly because it is disappearing into the eternal void of social welfare and other costs.

merinz said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

I am old enough to remember when if you overstepped the mark at school you got the slipper or cane, yes I lived in fear of getting either - but never did. I have morals and hope I instilled some of them to my children (one of whow Stuart knows) and they were at one point in a single parent family, I still had time for them and no we didnt have much money but it didnt lead me to steal from shops.

I dont know what the answer to this is but I cannot understand why the rioters felt the need to rob the shops, they weren't protesting they (well most of them) were just interested in looting/stealing from shops and what they couldnt take they destroyed. People work long and hard to get where they do in business and some of these rioters destroyed someone's livelihood in one fell swoop, they showed no care as to whether or not anyone was inside buildings they set light to!! I can understand (not condone) the abuse of the police but the firemen and the ambulance guys is just totally wrong, I can only understand the abuse of the police as they are seen as authority. However I have seen an increased police presence in my area, I live in a very rural area and cant imagine there's much worth looting around here unless you want some grass/hedging and please do not set light to the hay as the livestock need to eat it over the winter.

Please keep safe out there.

Katie said...

I agree with everything you said. I'm 16 and think that these riots etc are disgraceful. I feel ashamed to be a teenager at the moment with all of this happening. These teenagers have absolutely zero respect for the communities around them. I don't believe that the man who got shot by the police has got anything to do with the riots. I just think that they wanted any excuse to do what they are doing now. It is disgraceful what they are doing, looting and destroying communities. These people need to feel the consequences of their actions.

I feel very proud of all our emergencey services, fire, police and ambulance, as they are doing an amazing job and risking their lives to help others. I'm just hoping and hoping that no-one in our emergencey services get hurt and injured as of a consequence of the rioters outrageous behaviour.

I'm 16 and I agree with everything you have said in this post. I think that there needs to be some changes, as we cannot allow these people to destroy out communities anymore than they have already.


Fiz said...

Katie, many older people took part in the looting, in their forties and well old enough to know better. I don't paint your generation all with the same brush, so please don't feel ashamed. You do did not do

Henry said...

Well said, Stu. Couldn't agree more!

Katie said...

Fiz-thanks. i just felt like i had to say something. It is the media really who have created this like they have been mainly focusing on the teenagers etc. X x

Xf said...


I was going to add my money's worth but Fiz said it anyway. There's no way that young people should blame themselves or feel to blame for the actions of a few.

Many of those who rioted and looted were late teens, early adults and had responsible positions or decent jobs in society. Remember that, in the wrong circumstances, the most unlikely people become the enemy ... I have assaulted and abused by more 'upstanding' citizens when they are drunk, than young people when they are drunk.

Among those stupid rioters were very young people - children and teenagers and in among those were the hard-core who, given any other time of the day, would still rob you and burn down your shop, if they thought they could get away with it.

I'm willing to bet that your parent(s) instilled some sort of respect and healthy fear of authority in you. The kids you saw shaming your generation more than likely do not have this and their parents are the very people telling them that the police are all bad and that the law is to be ignored.

Being a parent should be a licensed activity... but that's incredibly non-PC of me to say!

Most young poeple today are decent and give a damn. They just don't have the prospects and help they need to get on in life.

I could go on but I won't. You've probably fallen asleep. Take care.

JG7272 said...

I don't entirely agree with the tone you took when speaking about the need for stronger discipline in families, but I can't say you are wrong.

I am lucky enough to not be in the situation facing some Londoners. I live in America, in a small town a comfortable distance from a major Southern metropolitan area. I was borne into a middle class family. Things were never easy, but the basics for life and dignity were never lacking.

My sister and I were raised by my mother, as my parents separated when I was young. But I had a father figure I saw every day.

You speak of the need for a strong sense of discipline in the families, especially single parent families. I agree, but something else is needed to. A sense of worth. Not just personal worth (which is also lacking), but an understanding that things have a cost, and that cost must be paid. Your sense of personal worth shouldn't be tied to the material goods you have or lack, but to your accomplishments.

Unfortunately, hard work doesn't always pay off. The "American Dream" of working hard and creating a successful life for you and your family can be destroyed by injury or circumstances beyond our control. And the social safety net should be there to help those people. But the 1st-world countries of our hemisphere seem to be raising entire generations of people whom have a life long sense of entitlement, comfortable resting in that net. That entitlement to show up occasionally in the children of the upper class, whom had everything handed to them. But now it seems that almost every child borne in the slums or ghettos, or "economically disadvantaged" areas of our cities has this sense of entitlement.

When you mix poor discipline and moral grounding with an out-of-control sense of entitlement, you get temper tantrums. Bloody, fiery, disgusting outbursts that undermine the efforts of those whom are truly disadvantaged, but whom work hard, every day to make a better life for themselves and their family.

I pray that you and these you hold dear are safe in these trying times.

Richard Brennan said...

Agree 1000%. I wish every Guardian journalist could read this blog post.

Tracy Hall said...

I totally agree with your comments &views. Lets hope common sense prevails & society can begin to rebuild. keep up the good work.

J(3SqnRAF)Whitaker said...

I am an 18 year old who already has 3 years service under their belt in the Military. My father is in the RAF and i have lived behind barbed wire, calling people by ranks, officers by Sir or Ma'am, and adhering to very strict rules and regs since i was born.

I think that discipline starts at home. But the problem is that many of those involved in the riots have not had discipline instilled at home.

For them Discipline should start on the parade square at the hands of a Warrant Officer. Believe you me they would never walk down the street with their hands down their trousers again!

Xf said...

Absolutely but these kids have no idea what you mean, and a lot of people out there will disagree with us about this kind of discipline, calling it bullying, etc. It is very interesting to see that the Prime Minister and others in power are finally getting it though.

Without a strong sense of respect and discipline, there is anarchy. Someone has to be in charge.

Xf said...


They do read it... but I am not their kind of writer. They preferred Reynolds.

Anonymous said...

We received a phone about our 15 year old daughter shop lifting. My wife was furious. She spent 7 hours in the police station. When she came home she was confused and 2 weeks latter more confused. Our daughter and the friend had not taken anything. What the police stated happened was they walked away from another “friend” and left the shop before the other “friend” who was shop lifting.

As the police wish to discourage them turning to crime, they arranged that they join in a leaflet campaign to get people to be mindful of locking there cars. My daughter and her friend spent 8 hours doing this.

What confused my wife was. The shoplifter was released from the police station after 3 hours, our daughters 7 hours. After appearing in youth court was given a 2 hour work order, our daughter had done 8. In addition the parents of this other child where abusive to the police, court and youth worker. She stated it seemed that to commit a crime then it was 5 hours, not reporting a crime meant 15 hours. She lost all faith in everyone bar the police who she said had done there best and yet seem to be banned or stopped from doing there job.

This is where we are today... and why people are not scared of punishment. They see those who are innocent punished harder than those that are guilty (the girls and friends own comments).

In addition to the police punishment my wife grounded our daughter for a month. This was all because the girls knew the "friend" was going shop lifting before entering the shop. My wife stated to our daughter that she should not have gone with her.

But it makes you release how bad our courts are now.