“Theodore Dalrymple,” in today’s WSJ:
In Britain nowadays, the difference between ordinary social life and riot is only a matter of degree, not of type…
The rioters in the news last week had a thwarted sense of entitlement that has been assiduously cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals, governments and bureaucrats. “We’re fed up with being broke,” one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one’s desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.
From Saturday’s London Telegraph on the recent riots. Get a kick outta the whole “separated by a common language” thing. But the point remains.
Over the past week we have witnessed the culmination of the liberal experiment. The experiment attested that two parents don’t matter; that welfare, rather than work, cures poverty; you tolerate “minor crime”; you turn a blind eye to celebrity drug use; you allow children to leave school without worthwhile skills; you say there’s no difference between right and wrong. Well now we’ve seen the results.
The modern Labour Party’s answer to every social question is to open the taxpayers’ cheque books. We’ve tested that world view to the point of destruction. The welfare state has never been bigger but nor have our social problems. Today’s historically high tax burden has forced parents to spend more and more hours outside the home, just to make ends meet.
The Left is always ready to attack hyper-capitalism for the ways in which it can erode community bonds, but it looks the other way when it comes to thinking about the ways in which the hyper-state can devour social capital. Labour has become the most materialist and consumerist of Britain’s two largest parties. Whereas Big Society Conservatives are immersed in the importance of relationship-building, within families and within communities, it is the Left that constantly emphasises the right to personal fulfilment.
It reveres “lifestyle choices” as though the kind of home in which a child is raised is somehow equivalent to whether you get your weekly groceries from Morrisons or Asda. Any political movement that is relaxed about the structure of the family will produce the amoral youths that rioted last week.
UPDATE: Another good one, passed along by an old friend, from London’s Financial Times:
In a country that takes order for granted, the speed meant a free-fall back to fundamentals, not just in an obvious Hobbesian sense, but in a way that made events feel more real… There wasn’t much time for disbelief… a short-cut to viewers’ unconsciousness provided by Britain’s rich tradition of fictional visions of dystopia, from George Orwell’s 1984 to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and of course anything by JG Ballard.
But following a week in which buildings and communities burnt the colour of A Clockwork Orange, this year’s prize for late literary prophet clearly belongs to author Anthony Burgess. With its depiction of a lawless Britain, where the police command neither confidence nor deference and residents live in fear of feral youth empowered by their own vernacular, the parallels in Burgess’s novel are instructive…
Numbed by the dullness of their existence, Alex and his gang of “droogs” revel in demonic violence to stave off the demon of boredom. The only way for them to feel alive is to be literally “alive and kicking”. For Burgess there is nothing paradoxical about an apathetic rampage… Self-destruction is more dystopian even than nihilism.
As in fiction, so in reality: just because the violence across Britain’s streets seemed to have no meaningful target, it doesn’t follow that it wasn’t directed at anything.