Sir Max Hastings is a noted British journalist (former editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph), historian, and author (notably Bomber Command, Overlord, and The Battle for the Falklands, and recently Winston’s War: Churchill 1940-1945). He currently writes a column for the Daily Mail, and posted his column last night on the subject of the riots which started in London, but are now spreading to cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, and Liverpool. The title of the piece fairly well sums it up: “Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters”.
The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.
Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.
They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.
They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. . . .
Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. . . . Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present. . . . The notions of doing a nine-to-five job, marrying and sticking with a wife and kids . . . are beyond their imaginations.
So how is it that the masses devolved to this state? Hastings devotes a generous amount of space to the explanation, and he has many targets which he leaves unspared, but one in particular:
Hastings concludes his long article with an angry appeal for a return to a sane social structure:
Today, those at the bottom of society behave no better than their forebears, but the welfare state has relieved them from hunger and real want.
When social surveys speak of ‘deprivation’ and ‘poverty’, this is entirely relative. Meanwhile, sanctions for wrongdoing have largely vanished.
Ken Livingstone, contemptible as ever, declares the riots to be a result of the Government’s spending cuts. This recalls the remarks of the then leader of Lambeth Council, ‘Red Ted’ Knight, who said after the 1981 Brixton riots that the police in his borough ‘amounted to an army of occupation’.
But it will not do for a moment to claim the rioters’ behaviour reflects deprived circumstances or police persecution. . . . [I]t is fantastically hard to help such people, young or old, without imposing a measure of compulsion which modern society finds unacceptable. These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better.
A key factor in delinquency is lack of effective sanctions to deter it. From an early stage, feral children discover that they can bully fellow pupils at school, shout abuse at people in the streets, urinate outside pubs, hurl litter from car windows, play car radios at deafening volumes, and, indeed, commit casual assaults with only a negligible prospect of facing rebuke, far less retribution.
John Stuart Mill wrote in his great 1859 essay On Liberty: ‘The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.’
Yet every day up and down the land, this vital principle of civilised societies is breached with impunity.
British Prime Minister David Cameron broke off his holiday to return to London to oversee the response to nights of the rioting, with a ramping up of resolve beyond what we have seen, including footage of rioters revelling in front of phalanxes of police, immobile in the face of such blatant disregard for authority and frozen by years of chilling instructions to give all due deference to the populace, lest they be charged with insensitivity.Only education – together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives – can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.
They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values than the young rioters of Tottenham, Hackney, Clapham and Birmingham.
Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights, for whom their monstrous excesses were ‘a great fire, man’.
And in a sign that other more draconian crowd control measures will now be at the disposal of the police he said: “We will do whatever is necessary. Nothing is off the table.”
In his strongest comments yet on the perpetrators of the violence, Mr Cameron said: “There are pockets of our society that are not only broken, but frankly sick...It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel that the world owes them something.” . . .
Attacking the looters for their lawlessness, Mr Cameron said there was a “moral problem”, often the result of poor parenting. He added that as well as a problem for politicians it was “a problem for society.”
Reflecting Cameron’s sense of duty, French President Sarkozy also returned from vacation, though not (for once) to address rioting, but for a meeting to shore up the French banking system, in crisis as a result of the overall European financial slow-motion implosion brought on by the Euro being sucked into the yawning abyss of debt brought on initially by Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal, then Spain, now Italy, ad desperare.
About our own budget and financial crisis, and in response to questions in the media about whether the desperate situation in the UK could happen here, Obama was not available for comment, as he is in seclusion on Martha’s Vineyard. (White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the vacation in words most strangely at odds with his professional journalistic opinion of the same situation with former President George W Bush.)