Nothing can justify looting and wanton vandalism but without hope there is nothing. In the absence of hope there are no aspirations or responsibilities, no fears of repercussions or respect for others and their property.
Alongside the rightful condemnation of those who looted or destroyed and those who stood by and watched, or turned a blind eye when stolen goods arrived in their household, there is a need for understanding of what lay behind these acts of criminality.
A world in financial meltdown cannot offer the next generation a better deal than the last, but it can offer hope if it prioritises the futures of the next generation alongside those of everyone else. Our political leaders are failing to deliver what they promised; that fairness and the protection of the vulnerable would form the basis of the coalition programme for Government. The programme needs urgent revision and correction.
The background noise to the riots and looting has been steadily rising from the failure of bankers and Governments to maintain economic improvement, from the failure of MPs to put their house in order and the media to report matters in perspective, from police corruption and failures to investigate wrong-doing, and the failure of the press to operate within the law and not destroy lives for the sake of newspaper sales.
Add in the changes to benefits and other financial challenges impacting directly on families who hear about bankers continuing to get their bonuses, footballers earning more in a week than they do in a year, celebrities getting away with bad behaviour; and then add in the direct impact on young people’s finances and lives from cuts to education maintenance allowance, reduced youth facilities in local communities, rising tuition fees and fewer paid opportunities to help out the family budget, and you have a toxic cocktail of resentment and sense of injustice.
All the while no one at the top is taking responsibility or being held accountable for their failings. Wilful blindness and corporate failure appear to attract rewards while opportunities at the grass-roots vanish and barriers to advancement are raised.
On the streets in London young people say they are stopped and searched, prevented from going about their business unhindered, and afforded little or no respect. This is the clear perception among young people interviewed and whether it is true is largely irrelevant. Perception is always more powerful than fact and Government must address both the reality and the belief on the streets. While rightly condemning a lot, the Government also needs to understand a little more.
Hope is the glue that binds people together at a community level. Strong and stable nations are born out of strong and stable communities. These hopes won’t be the same for everyone but everyone needs hope that they stand a fair chance of achieving their aspirations.
Hope based on a promise of equal opportunities, economic fairness and justice under the law is the new background noise we need in order to drown out the debilitating impact of only hearing negative stories from around the world.
While our Government is rightly sending out a clear message that recent events are intolerable and that we can and will bring the wrongdoers to justice, can they also bring hope back into the lives of individuals and communities because that is the new background noise we need, and Government must turn up the volume dial as far as it will go.