Last week, events in England overshadowed the never- ending saga of Western indebtedness. When the first pictures of mainly Afro-Caribbean rioters in hoodies appeared, it was easy to conclude that it was the inevitable end result of multiculturalism; and that it was only a matter of time before some cynic pointed out that this predicable outrage was what "deranged patriots" like Anders Behring Breivik were trying to spare Norway from.
But blaming multiculturalism is simplistic. The matter is much more complex, and has more to do with class than race. British Prime Minister David Cameron keeps saying it is a law and order issue that will be solved by bringing those mindless thugs responsible to justice. It won't. He is, at best, only partly correct. The malaise is much deeper, with fewer options the more indebted the country.
The riots that spread in many large UK cities were detonated by a small protest over the police shooting of a black drug dealer, but rapidly morphed into an opportunistic smash-and- grab by a marginalised sub-class who live in squalor. Most are either underage or unemployable youth.
The same lethal mix exists in many countries - not just the Western democracies. The Arab Spring was ignited by deep-seated inequality, and similar mass demonstrations have occurred weekly in Israel of all unlikely places; apparently the cost of yoghurt (a staple), has spiralled out of reach. Riots are never far from exploding through the veneer of "normality" in China. In France, the marginalised are the predominantly Muslim inhabitants of the tower block suburbs that ring major French cities - who spend their Saturday nights torching cars.
In England, they are the dregs of humanity of all colours of the rainbow; who cannot escape being boxed-up in hideous council estates - literally for life. Job prospects are minimal, and their appalling surroundings are a catalyst for deep-seated resentment.
Social conditions that offer no hope have been the breeding ground for riots since time immemorial, and it is amazing that it has taken so long for big trouble to flare up all over England. Well-ordered society cannot survive if a significant minority are permanently miserable - being surrounded by the trappings of wealth only makes things worse.
Few readers of this newspaper are likely to have experienced crap British council estates firsthand, but if they had, current events might make more sense. My sole experience was some years ago, and mercifully brief, but I still recall the bad vibes. There was rubbish everywhere, and the stark, metallic "vandal- proof" lifts stank of urine. Things are much rougher now. After dodging a sea of discarded hypodermic syringes, you face the prospect of even worse unmentionables in the lifts, which you are forced to share with feral beasts. Getting raped or stabbed in these disgusting facilities is a constant concern. There is no alternative. Lugging heavy shopping bags up the stairs is not an option if you live on the 23rd floor - walking is equally dangerous. Little wonder these architectural disasters are such breeding grounds of anger and despair.
It is easy to bewail phase-out of corporal punishment, high-rise slums, or blame China for exporting mass unemployment to the world, as being the root causes of the trouble, but many school- leavers are quite unemployable. If you can't read and write, because you played hooky, or your "parents" couldn't even be bothered sending you there, then a life of crime/gang associations are your best career prospects.
This is no time for us to be breathing sighs of relief and reflecting that these troubles are confined to the other side of the globe. The packs of yobs in gangsta garb roaming our streets look remarkably like those in London. New Zealand is not immune, and we should take both Black Power and the Mongrel Mob gang leaders seriously when they point to a welling tide of anger and hopelessness among their recruits.
England may still be an inherently class-riddled country, but we're only marginally different.
Pessimists will see global civic unrest as a harbinger of worse to come. The explosive growth of an ignorant, unemployable underclass, multi-generational dependency, and family breakdown has been caused by the loss of menial jobs to Asia, and a lunatic welfare system that offers solo mothers the career option of breeding-for-cash a stream of fatherless losers and malcontents.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, invading barbarians ushered in the onset of the dark ages. The only difference now is that society will be overwhelmed by home-grown barbarians rather than uninvited foreigners.
What can be done to stem the tide of bitterness and frustration warping the outlook of unemployed youth and give them some hope? This is the major problem facing virtually all Western societies - not stupid side- issue irrelevancies like the "War on Terror".
The best solution probably lies in a carrot and stick approach involving welfare reform, while actively helping business create more jobs, and actively preventing state agencies (like railways) shipping jobs to China.
The initiatives announced by John Key last weekend aren't the final word, but at least they're a start.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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