Numerous debates, explanations, and non-explanations have followed the riots that tortured the UK early last week, and from the ashes and ransacked shops, two political positions have formed.
1. That violence and destruction is wrong. It is criminal, and we must fight against the criminals.
2. That violence and destruction is wrong. It is criminal, but we must understand the conditions that led to such criminality.
I don’t have a strong political persuasion other than I prefer to hear the intelligent response, as well as a belief that everyone has a responsibility to the community they live in, whether they are rich, poor or otherwise.
I also feel the UK is let down by the current political parties. Vote Tory, and the rich get richer. Vote Labour, and the poor stay poor. There is no political persuasion, that I know of, currently representing the ordinary citizen who goes out to work every day and is trying to pay their mortgage, support their ageing parents, put their children through University, and enjoy some standard of living. The Liberal’s are not that party. They don’t know where they are.
However, I feel Ed Miliband was right to say that “to explain the riots is not to excuse”, although poorly executed in his wimpish tone, because living in London during the trouble there was a real sense of tension, and not just from the under-classes. The conditions were right for the pot lid to blow, and blow it did. A City without a police commissioner, corruption through government and media, politicians all out of the country, job cuts, service cuts, rich getting richer (no more evident than in London), the middle ever more squeezed, and meanwhile the City is simply told to look forward to the Olympics, as if that makes everything okay. It doesn’t.
And then there is David Cameron; deeply entrenched in political position number one (and often out of the country or hiding behind Nick Clegg); the only position he can take if he wishes to keep his job as Prime Minister. But I have to agree, a PM who says one minute “Everybody deserves a second chance” in response to the criminal investigation involving his former press secretary, to four year sentences for those young people engaged in last weeks riots, many of which were caught up in a wave of adrenalin and peer pressure. I am sorry, but it smacks of double standards.
Boris Johnson was also caught out by not wanting to disrupt his jolly holiday, but I do admire his charisma and intelligence. He is the only leader who has voiced some ideas about putting the wrong right and last night spoke about the introduction of compulsory National Service.
Sadly, I doubt the country would ever be brave enough or organised enough to make such a thing happen, but I think it would be a fantastic thing for all sorts of reasons.
It would become a rite of passage. An experience that defines a culture shared by all. It does not necessarily mean going to war, but contributing to your country, possibly as simple as decorating an old age home or fitting a Naval ship with electronic systems (a little more advanced).
It is suggested that National Service would be a tough sell to the middle classes who might say – “Leave my little Joey alone … he is doing just fine thanks”. But such a challenge would be healthy. It is a challenge to all of us that says success is all about academic achievement and financial wealth. This is a drug we are all high on.
National service would give release to the pressure of success. An opportunity to pause before registering for an expensive University degree. What is the rush? And if we all have to wait a little longer , no one individual can outperform the other.
If a parent does not like the idea of National Service because they do not believe in Britain, then we are rooting out the problem. Such attitudes bread disrespect. Compulsory National Service would surely challenge this.
Also, and as a 30 something ushered through the system of education, university and professional life, I would give just about anything to know a skill. To know how to hang wallpaper, to wire a house, to build a wall, to make a go-kart. I would save a lot of money by knowing a few basic trades, and perhaps be less inclined to throw out and buy new – even the environment is saved!
Or is it simply a call to arms for all of us?