What do we owe the looters?

Liz Emerson asks where ultimately the responsibility lies for London’s riots

We have all watched our TVs in horror as the looting and vandalism across the country has spread. The scenes are pretty much the same. Kids not much older than 12 or 14, wearing hoodies and scarves, taking what they want from where they like, displaying levels of violence that would do well in a video game. It feels a little like Lord of The Flies – boys not stopping to think of the consequences for themselves or for society as a whole.

We were of course all waiting for a death… not the tragic death of Mark Duggan that is, for his story was lost beneath the giggling of the child looters. Now we have them. Four pointless deaths. Families devastated and anger starting to spill out.

Reporters and commentators are starting to ask the “why” question. Why has this violence spread like wild fire through our communities and why do young people have no moral compass to stop themselves from taking what belongs to others?

Therein lies the problem.

These “youths” have very little future. They may all have a mobile phone, multiple satellite channels and HD TV but do they have the prospect of a good education, do they have the likelihood of a decent job with a future after they have left school? Will they be able to climb out of the cycle of inner-city poverty they may have been born into? Have they had decent parenting and role models telling them the difference between right and wrong?

Sadly we know the truth – we are constrained by our backgrounds most of the time and these kids are intelligent enough to know that. They also know only too well that there is little future for them so why shouldn’t they play their video games for real, take to the streets,  let their imaginations run wild?

We all know who are responsible. We are. Society is. The older generations who, through our own self-interest, prefer low taxes to greater equality. We should all be ashamed; ashamed for letting down a generation of kids.

So let’s not call out the army and get out our guns. Let’s do what a civilised society would do – sit down and talk about what the different generations owe each other and ask: where were the parents? Where was the teaching of right from wrong? Where were the role models and the moral codes?

Younger generations are our future. They are the future care-givers, pension providers, policy makers and voters. We owe them more than debts, cuts, distrust and alienation: we owe them fairer futures.

Posted on: 10 August, 2011

4 thoughts on “What do we owe the looters?

  1. Tom

    Agree. Parents are out working paying high housing costs. High property prices are entirely to the benefit of the elder generation, at the cost of the younger. Whether that is high residential rates of rent and mortgages or business’s struggling to grow due to high rents. The growth of the value of UK property has feed the boom years through consumerism, but now Government needs to prepare property owners for a steep decline in their values – in effect a transfer of value from the old (pension plans and homeowners) to the young – people buying and renting property for establishing business’s and families in.

    The Government has a lot to lose – property owners have been protected at every turn by the coalition but this change is essential.

  2. Greg

    One of the more thoughtful pieces I have read on this tragic sequence of events. Discussion should not be equated with a borderless liberalism and forgiveness What these kids did was simply wrong. However, given an inheritance of economic liberalism it is inevitable. Free markets might work sometimes, but when they don’t people tend towards empty, aggressive parodies of liberalism Total freedom, totally pointless, totally skint and totally hopeless. You know when mad liberalism has taken hold when a mob loots an Oxfam shop…

  3. Paul Iddon

    I also agree, and would add that the young generation pf parents are under huge pressure to meet monthly bills, and do not have the time to ensure that they are doing all they can to teach values and boundaries. Plus they may feel angry that they are in such an unfair position themselves, with little prospect of relief. I have to say the answer is to look more at the Scandinavian model. Houses are no longer homes in the UK, but ‘investments’ and as such should be taxed.

  4. HR

    This is an excellent article. Whilst not condoning or excusing the looting, the issues raised by Intergenerational Foundation in this article and in general are important in understanding the events in England this week.

    For the past few years I have thought that sadly the younger generation will inevitably lash out against the unprecedented inequality facing them and about to face them as austerity bites. I predicted that riots may happen if intergenerational unfairness continues and this week it was a warning shot to the baby boomers and the politicians that the youth cannot be ignored. If the coalition do not address intergenerational fairness as described by the foundation then these riots may repeat on a larger scale within the context of a political dimension which cannot be simply dismissed as criminality.

    The elected politicians and mainstream media have still not understood these important emerging issues and I would hope the IF engage with them and raise these issues in general but also whenever relevant and complex issues such as the riots happen.

    I reiterate that the disturbance was criminal behaviour but the intergenerational aspect simply cannot be ignored.

    I have for the past three years hoped that intergenerational issues were publicised and thank the founders of Intergenerational Foundation for setting up the Foundation.

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