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.