For the blinkered residents of Acacia Avenue, Middle England, the last few days have been very unsettling. They don’t like to be reminded that they live in a deeply divided society. The sight of feral youth rampaging through the nation’s cities looting and burning is deeply disturbing and a very unwelcome reminder. Shocked, their secure, tranquil little castles threatened, what follows is an outpouring of unbridled hate directed towards the miscreants.
Belligerent, hooded, cocky, nonchalant youth roaming the streets causing mayhem is not something that should be excused, far from it. The ‘full force of the law’, to use a fashionable phrase, needs to be used to respond to their criminal behaviour. But hate and opprobrium is an unhelpful and misguided response to a very deep rooted societal problem.
As a nation we respond swiftly and generously to disasters around the world, but we seem to have a deep seated reluctance to show compassion to those in our own backyard. The deprivation and hardship endured by many of our own countrymen and women is, curiously, something we would rather pretend didn’t exist.
Instead of trying to positively advantage needy communities and developing the young talent within them, we stand silent when they are made to pay for the criminal folly of bankers and lack of proper attention by our politicians by having educational supplements reduced and community centres closed. We blame and chastise the recipients of benefits for the benefit culture when the fault lies with politicians, who for decades, have ducked reforming the system because it might be cost them votes.
Somehow there has been a leeching of compassion in our society. In the last thirty years, the share of national income going to the least well off has fallen by a quarter, while the top 1% has risen by a half. Self-serving elites have created a society that benefits the few and disadvantages the many. As a result any fraternity that existed in our country has evaporated.
When the consequence of our stupidity bites us, as it has done this week, we would do well to consider what we can do to make this country more compassionate and more equal – one people, one nation. Now there’s a thought! There’s a mountain to climb.