Consumerism and over-capitalism is at the root of western society's problems today. The journey to where we are now began 200 years ago, with the beginning of the industrial revolution. This eventually led to the breakdown of the extended family, as poor workers moved miles from their roots to earn higher wages, instead of working in service. Not that the creation of industry was a bad thing. Unfortunately, over time, the production of useful products, which improved the lives of millions, has metamorphosed into a system of greedy investors looking for higher and higher returns. Hence, companies are constantly marketing new versions of universally used gadgets or inferior products which have a short lifespan, in order to sell to throwaway consumers, hungry for the latest innovations. Whatever happened to products which lasted for years and were used for as long as they provided the service we needed? Do we really require a new model immediately it hits the market, just because it can do a few extra things for which we never asked and which are not necessary?
The MPs' expenses scandal, banking collapse and allegations of police corruption over phone hacking more recently fuelled the avarice of a society already spiralling out of control with the lack of discipline and respect for fellow-humanity.
Material wealth is now more valued than achievement from hard work - which may not result in a large pay packet. Young people's goals are more likely to be 'to marry a footballer/pop star' or 'to become famous,' in this age of achieving celebrity simply by being featured in the media - but not for anything worthwhile.
Our education system emphasises the importance of academic achievement, rather than focusing on encouraging all skills - whether intellectual or practical. Have you needed a good plumber, electrician, builder or carpenter recently? These days there are fewer, particularly ones who come with recommendations . Why is that? Could it be due to the lack of apprenticeships and the denigration of these trades, so young people no longer see them as worthy of consideration as a career? And yet these are skills needed to build and maintain the fabric of our society - buildings in which we live and work. Attitudes need to change. The focus on intellectual success needs to be balanced with an equal respect for practical expertise. Society needs those who can make the basic things we need to live more than those who move money around simply to make more money, without actually producing anything meaningful.
So, is it surprising that one product of this capitalist-driven society is an underclass of frustrated, ill-educated, unemployed men and women? Background, or 'class', is not necessarily an indicator. Young people need to have boundaries, which they can test. Without any discipline, they will be tempted into unacceptable behaviour simply through adults' fear of reprisals should they chastise them. If there is no fear of punishment at school or home, as any retaliation may result in children reporting their parents and teachers to social services or the police for 'abuse', there are no boundaries. Could this be why many of the rioters did not care, even if they were seen on CCTV, because they believed they would not be caught and, if they were, punishment would be minimal?
Not all children who grow up in a single parent family become disenchanted and disengaged from society. There are too many factors to be able to point to specific causes for those who end up in gangs with a vendetta against the society that has failed them. However, providing an education system which is inclusive and caters for the capabilities of all, rather than excluding those who do not fit into a rigid academic curriculum, would be a way forward. Exclusions tend to confirm feelings of being an outcast and, being part of a community, is all about belonging.
Teaching a sense of responsibility for one's own welfare would help. The welfare state was created to help those who really are unable to help themselves, not to provide a living for those who choose to be idle. It is a sad endictment of society when living on benefits is a positive choice for a better lifestyle than that which would be possible in paid employment. This implies that benefits provide a higher income than the minimum legal wage rate and that cannot be correct. The benefits system is so complicated that those in 'the know' seem able to 'milk the system', whilst others barely cope on what they receive. This state of affairs leads to all on benefits being tarred with the same brush of 'scroungers', when the majority are genuinely in need and have a sense of failure when not able to work. However, a blanket decision to remove benefits from all those involved in the riots is no solution either. The culprits should receive appropriate punishment but it would not be justice to visit their sins on other innocent family members who may suffer unfairly under such an edict.
The BNP have tried to perpetuate the racist myth that the riots were organised by black gangs but those arrested have come from diverse backgrounds and there is absolutely no evidence that even a majority of the perpetrators are gang members nor of a particular ethnicity.
Was the rioting politically motivated? There is the possibility that certain factions used the frustrations of some sections of society to fuel the uprising - perhaps as a means of creating anarchy? Starting around London, with other cities becoming involved later, so that police there could not come to London's aid, was the spread of the riots random or was it planned? Whatever the causes of the riots and, maybe, the motive behind them, this is certainly a time for re-evaluation of society, to change attitudes and values, in order to build better communities in the future.