Let me start like most of the politicians have today: there is no excuse for the violence that has been perpetrated on the streets around this country and the wanton destruction and theft that have been committed by the rioters and looters. They should be pursued by the law, arrested and prosecuted. OK?
But what next? Are we to believe that the riots were a one off? That these were the spontaneous acts of hundreds of individuals who just fancied smashing up their own neighbourhoods? That they are just ‘thugs’ and ‘evil’, as they have been described? That they just need a good long stretch inside to sort them out?
I don’t buy it. On any number of levels.
For a start, this isn’t the way humans behave. If people did this without reason and provocation then we simply wouldn’t have a society. There are a number of theories as to why (such as those posited in The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins), but whichever theory you subscribe to our recorded history shows a propensity for people to act within social norms.
“But these are different people. Not like us. They are ‘evil’ people,” the tabloids say. Bollocks. I’m afraid I don’t believe in evil people. Mad people? Yes. But these people weren’t mad. They were angry, desperate, and disconnected from the society whose rules they so clearly violated.
So yes, we should respond to their crimes in the way that our society has agreed. Protect our streets, arrest and prosecute. But we need to do a lot more than that if this is not to be a common occurrence.
For a start we need to talk to these kids – and the adults backing them up for that matter – and find out what brought them to this point. We need to make sure that when they leave prison they are not in the same situation they were when they went in. Then we need to make sure that the generations behind them do not ever reach that situation.
Whatever the reasons I doubt the solutions will be simple, or quick. But I know for sure that no simple, quick solution – like just locking them up – can possibly solve the problem.