At times like this it is difficult to resist the temptation to make unsubstantiated generalisations and rant uncontrollably about what you think is wrong with our society.
So I won't.
Lots of people have done lots of very bad things. It's their own fault and they are responsible for their actions.
But they didn't commit these crimes in a vacuum. Our society is screwed up, and that's something all of us are responsible for.
In the audio clip below, "Camila Batmanghelidjh, who founded the charity Kids Company, calls on society to understand why inner-city teenagers riot."
Two questions. Leave your answers below. (1) What is the problem? (2) What do we do about it?
Here's my first guess.
(1) The main problem is the disconnectedness of our society, with consumerism and individualism valued much more highly than meaningful relationships within local communities. This runs through all levels of society. There is no real connection between me, the place I live in, the people I buy things from or the people who employ me. All that matters is whether I'm a "have" or "have not". Can I as an individual live out my consumerist lifestyle? If I'm a "have" (job, money, possessions, opportunities), then that's fine. But if not, and if there's an opportunity to take from "them" and change from being a "have not" to being a "have", then why not take that opportunity? In other words, there are communities of "have nots" who feel no connection with the "haves" (such as owners of retail businesses), and that is one of the factors contributing to the recent rioting and looting.
(2) A big part of the solution is for each of us to let go of consumerism and individualism, and to think about what all of our actions do to strengthen the relational connectedness of our society. This includes what we do with our money. How does the way I use my money strengthen my local community? Are the banks and shops I use helping to create jobs for those who live in the deprived areas of our cities? Or are they bothered only about getting a low price and a good return on their investments, with no regard for the effect on fragile local communities, which amounts to keeping the poor as poor as possible and making the very rich even richer in the process? (Actually, am I bothered only about getting as much as I can for as little money as I can get away with too?) It's just one part of the solution, but I'm convinced that what we (relatively ordinary people) do with our money can make a real difference to whether our society is characterised by unfettered greed and consumerism (from the greedy bankers down to the opportunistic looters, with most of us somewhere in between) or by something better. For example, if most of the businesses we dealt with had social and ethical principles like those of the Co-operative Group, then wouldn't that make a difference?
Sure, there are other things to be done to deal with the symptoms — state investment in deprived areas, better policing, giving to charity, etc. — but I don't think these go deep enough to challenge the attitudes that permeate our society.
What do you think?