As I've listened to the coverage of the English riots, I've been struck by one thing above all else. The "authorities" just don't get it. Just, in fact like they didn't get it when the politicians were caught with their greedy snouts in the trough.
I've listen to people like Johnson and Cameron blustering and posturing about dreadful thugs, rule of law, authority, retribution, blah, blah... and not one single word about WHY. I've listened to angry police chiefs, found wanting yet again, blaming the whole thing on the miscreants, but never once asking WHY.
I've spent 20 years working with unemployed people, in Scotland, watching them become increasingly marginalised by society. Twenty years watching as factories closed down, as retail jobs increasingly were taken by students (who have to find over £100 a week in rent, even in Scotland, where there are no fees to be found), as fewer and fewer opportunities presented themselves for those who had no chance of university, and the number of college places were dwarfed by applications, and as people realised that unemployment, part time work, poverty and deprivation were their future.
Of course the politicians have to say what they are saying. It's what the public wants to hear. People who live in the riot torn areas are frightened and angry. They fear for their homes, businesses, their children. They fear for their way of life. So Cameron and Johnson must appear outraged; and the police have to appear confident that they can beat this. It suits all of them to believe that it's just thuggishness.
But we aren't going to make it go away by ignoring the reasons for it.
As Quiet Man said in a comment the other day, there is a level of resentment building up in England. And if the politicians and the police can't see it and do something about it, then whatever steps they take to damp this down can be only temporary measures, for as sure as eggs is eggs, it will come back.
Time and time commentators on the left have warned of the increasing gap between rich and poor that is so evident in the whole of the UK (one of the worst in the developed world), and most specifically in London where, because of easy going tax regime, live some of the richest people in the world, cheek by jowl with grinding poverty and neglect. I've seen it.
A short walk from a friend's luxurious apartment in Docklands, complete with gym and rooftop cocktail bar, lie some of the most disgusting dilapidated streets I've ever seen, where opulence is replaced by hopelessness and despair, drugs and booze.
The trouble is they have no respect for authority, say people, shaking their heads. But, as I said here, why would they have respect for a bunch of thieves and liars who care for nothing but themselves. “Authority” has to earn respect. If it’s not earned, it's not proper respect; it's fear.
And no, it's not just trendy lefty Tris that feels like this. Much more venerable voices, and far better minds, are saying the same thing.
As I listened this morning, to the prime minister and mayor politicking, I recalled that they were both members of the Bullingdon Club, an Oxford dining club for posh boys who's degrees were in the bag, so hard work was optional. Their objective on a dining evening was to dress in a Savile Row tailored outfit, go to a restaurant, get drunk and trash the joint. And in Boris's autobiography he boasts that his crowd used to get drunk and steal from Fortnums. Remind you of anything?
No, it's not on the same scale and of course the rich boys' daddies picked up the tab for the trashed restaurants (boys will be boys, doncha know), but nonetheless these are England's leaders...
Respect? Pfffffffff. I've far more respect for the slugs that are eating my garden. At least they do an honest day's work.