Posted by: Martin Scherer | 10/08/2011

It’s Good News week – Why is London Burning?

Someone’s fire bombed a shop somewhere, contaminating atmosphere, and blackening the sky.

From a police shooting came a protest march that released looters, arsonists and anarchists, raiding shops, burning shops and apartments above, hurling bricks and abuse at the police, across a dozen centres in London and half a dozen cities across England.

Why and how?

First the weather.

As the temperature rises toward 23C, 75F, the probability of people on the streets and disturbances increases. Water cannon would cool things off – as frequently used in Europe – and put out small fires, but for some reason British authorities reject the use of water canon. Why?

Organised Stealing.

This is not simply mindless revolt by an underclass. If it were the primary targets would be the symbols and representatives of authority. The primary targets now are shops that sell sports shoes, electronic goods, drugs, betting shops and bank cash machines. The principle target tonight is Manchester’s out-of-town Arundel shopping centre. One of the biggest in Europe.

The media.

Desperate to hook and hold an audience, these are wonderful events for 24 hour news and tabloid press.

Decades ago, most people were unaware of such disturbances until after the event. Attending the 1970’s Notting Hill Carnival when there was a riot.  I saw nothing until I got home to see it on the night TV News, when it was all over. Now it is thrust in their faces as it happens.

Crying crocodile tears, press hacks deplore the events. After the first night, several tabloid newspapers carried the same picture showing looters how to dress, what to do and where to do it. A hoodie in front of a burning car in a town centre. The TV repeatedly shows people running away from shops with arms full of stolen goods.

Freedom of the press is all, whatever the consequences. In the collusive relationship between press and police, the police allow the press into crime scenes to get their aftermath pictures. Reporters trespass into devastated shops.

I was there.

Those brave, or stupid enough, venture out onto the streets to watch the ‘game’ live. For it is a game. A dangerous, destructive game. The on-lookers bring out their camera phones and risk assault and mugging by criminals who don’t want to be pictured. Pictures are sold instantly to the hungry media, twittered or face-booked, with the un-spoken banner, “I was there, I bet your Facebook you wish you were.”

Social media

Using Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger, looters keep each other informed of where the police are absent and they can loot with impunity. This is not an Arab Spring. The police play catch-up. Rioting spreads like a virus from one shopping centre to another.

Marketing companies track social media to keep ahead of social trends to sell products. Why can’t the police?

Where were the police?

This is the most frequent question of the public whose homes and neighbourhoods are destroyed. Looting continued for nearly two hours in one London shopping centre before the police arrived. The media were there but not the police. Why?

During the fat-cat decades, funding for the police substantially increased their pay, numbers and specialists officers. What are all these officers doing?

This week an accident on the UK’s busiest motorway, the M25 around London, resulted in a lorry fire. Three people were injured but no-one died. Specialist investigation officers closed the road for 24 hours, creating 20 mile traffic jams, snarling up all the roads around South London increasing the probability of road rage and minor accidents. This is a frequent occurrence on British roads. Imagine the number of police tied up in such incidents. Why? Because policing motorists is easier than policing hooligans? Because policing the aftermath avoids the tougher job of preventative policing?

The police predicted riots.

A year ago, the police argued against cuts because they predicted recession would lead to greater social unrest. Why did’t the police reorganise to meet the changing social circumstances they predicted?

Probably because their senior officers were embroiled in the scandal of corruption with the press. That corruption goes further and deeper than Murdoch’s News of the World. Further than anyone has yet imagined and probably further than will ever be revealed.

It is all too easy to believe, that the delay and inadequate police response is a means the police are using to prove should be immune to cuts.

An aleinated police force

Concurrently running on British TV is a series called ‘Coppers’. It is a shocking revelation of 1984 state police, swearing, herding people like dogs, threatening to smash their faces, attacking first with truncheons into people’s thighs.

Too many middle class people can tell of the day they breproted a crime only to be told by the police that they were at fault and threatened with arrest for defending themselves. Is it any surprise there is a general misgtrust, dislike ane even hatred of the police.

Health and Safety for the authorities but not the public

The only police allowed onto the streets are those ‘trained’ in social disturbances and kitted out from head to foot in body protection with helmets and shields. Dressing like Darth Vader increases the probability those police become fair target for bricks and bottles. Meanwhile the majority of police officers sit in police stations and cannot be called upon for fear of their Health and Safety.

Firemen are not allowed to extinguish burning buildings because the police ‘cannot guarantee their safety’. Meanwhile fires spread from one building to another, across streets, destroying the apartments above shops, residents possessions and threatening their lives. Pictures beamed around the world, even on Al Jezeera TV, to welcome the world to the London Olympics

Is that all it is?

Hot summer nights, the opportunity to steal what you can’t afford, an irresponsible media, and inflexible police force of university graduates unwilling to face an unwashed underclass and a political battle over cuts?

Is this the inevitable consequence of recession?

Socialist politicians on TV claim the looting is due to government cuts, that looting, arson and anarchy are expressions of social injustice.

The problem with that argument is the cuts are yet to bite. Those rioting on the streets are not those who have lost their jobs, but those who have never had a job. The majority of jobs created in the UK in the last year were taken by immigrants. Employers choose immigrants because they show a greater work ethic and respect for their employer.

The unemployed still get the same social benefits as they did before recession. Why didn’t they protest five years ago, when all about were flaunting their new wealth?  Many of those looting are not of working age, they are school age. Like the kids rioting in Northern Ireland this summer.

Against the socialists, right leaning politicians point to recessions of the past when rioting was never witnessed on this scale. They point to their fathers who endured the Great Depression without social benefits, who got on their bikes and found work if only picking coal from slag tips. Two years ago, my American neighbour lost his job through knee injury and subsequent surgery. For the next year, he collected old copper wire and sat in his garage stripping and sorting. The activity helped him recuperate, restored his self-confidence and self-respect. A year later he was offered a job. What the employer saw in him was a self-reliant man worthy of employment. Socialism creates helplessness.

Crazy regulation

A decade ago, I knew British guys who when out of work would go tip picking collecting copper and recyclable materials. Now Health and Safety regulations ban them from the tips. This month I advertised for a labourer to help me refurb a flat. After 36 hours I had thirty applicants, some from skilled tradesmen even a civil engineer desperate to get back into work. I closed the advert, but when they learnt the job was just a week, they turned it down because it would take them six weeks to restore their social benefits. In that time they risked loss of housing. We live in an over-regulated world of non-work white collar jobs where working people cannot get on the first rung of the ladder back to work.

Let’s be honest. This is not the 1930’s. Nobody today endures real poverty. Real poverty exists in the third world, not the developed West. So why loot, arson and rebel?

Doing our own thing.

We were the generation that first demanded freedom from following in our father’s footsteps and the right to do our own thing. Like infants at the breast, baby boomers demanded immediate gratification, blaming parents and authority for the frustration of not getting it all and now.


To justify the popular belief, pseudo-social scientists like Bowlby claimed in ‘Maternal Deprivation’ that parents were to blame. This trend continues today in genetic theories that claim our behaviour is due to our genes. If it’s not today’s parents who are to blame, then it is our grand or great-grandparents. They are an easy target because they are no longer here to defend themselves.

Similar pseudo-scientists like Piaget claimed that a child is born perfect and will unfold like a flower to natural perfection. They claimed that people who are not perfect must have been ‘damaged’ by criticism or punishment for their behaviour.

This philosophy was adopted by all child-rearing practices. Parents were threatened with court and the removal of their child for physically chastising their children. A proportion of parents will fail, but with the theories of Dr. Spock, based on the junk theories of Freud, all parents abdicated parental authority over their children. Those who did were branded ‘authoritarian’.

Home is the first place children are taught appropriate social and moral behaviour. Schools are the place where children are taught how to behave in wider society. However schools have abandoned authority.

The result is 30% of children pass from junior to secondary school unable to read, write and add up sufficiently to learn and have none of the social skills conducive to learning in a senior school classroom. Yet virtually all children who bother to enter now pass their end of school exams, half all upper school pupils get A grades and every university student graduates. Even in my day, it was a well versed joke that those who failed their finals did so because they could’t even spell their own names.

Students are free to study whatever they want, even if that education does nothing to enhance their employment prospects. Media studies courses pump out twenty times the number of graduates than there are meida jobs in any year. Meanwhile science courses close for lack of applicants.

Freedom comes with responsibility. 

From the 60’s onward all manner of people demanded emancipation, before they had learnt how to be responsibly free. The result is not only the ferrule kids that loot British shopping centres today. It is shown in the immoral greed of bankers, mortgage brokers and ponsi scheme investment managers; teachers and nurses who work to the hour rather than pupil and patient care; press and police who bribe and line their own pockets before upholding the principles of their professions, and politicians more interested in re-election than taking the tough decisions to govern the country they were elected to govern.

British socialist politicians today blame the new Alliance government for what is the socialist legacy. The root of the problem lies in the free-for-all compulsory socialist state education system, where children are seen, heard and praised whatever they do.

We do not deprive children by correcting their behaviour. The days of punitive, humiliating discipline – bricks in the wall – are well gone. But in its place we have a laissez faire attitude that is a disservice to children.  What chidlren need is constructive positive discipline, that sets firm boundaries which encourages children to exceed boundarfies as they grow aned learn responsibility. Return to the oldest maxim in child rearing – ‘Give me a toddler and seven years later, I’ll give you a young adult’. If we don’t care enough for children to do that, why should they grow to care about us?

Whilst London burns through the greed of looters, the financial markets are in turmoil through the greed of bankers,  and spin doctoring politicians who will promise the world to get re-elected. The root of the problem lies in pseudo-scientists – Freud, Piaget, Bowlby, and Spock, who claimed that adults were born, not raised through childhood. People who told us to give freedom before teaching the social and moral responsibility essential to exercising freedom.



  1. Just sickening. It’s too painful to watch. They should all be lined up and shot. I’m ashamed to be British. Rubber bulletts and water cannon are too kind for these animals.

  2. Excellent article. Better, more incisive than anything I have read in the media. Thank you.

    Boyd Lemon-Author of “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” a memoir about the author’s journey to understand his role in the destruction of his marriages. Information, excerpts and reviews:

  3. Jack,

    My “two cents worth.”

    Britain is no longer the Britain of Churchill, is it? We Americans are in for it, too.

    Bowlby was right in one respect—on the surface—when he said that parents were to blame, but I do not mean “Maternal Deprivation.” I only mean that parents have played a major role.

    The World War II generation, upon returning from the war, had numerous babies and mutually agreed that they did not want their children to grow up during a depression and face the terrible wars they had just fought.

    They were well-intentioned. Their actions during the formative years of their children were, to me, quite understandable, though shortsighted. Had I been through those harsh times—really experienced them—I might have been tempted myself. It is hard to deprive your own child of things that are both readily available and already in the hands of your children’s playmates.
    What that generation did not realize, or was too often ignored, was that the strength of character that had prepared them to fight and win, had come from experiencing and overcoming, those very trials, deprivations, and tribulations they now sought to insulate their babies from. When both needs and desires are provided by loving parents, as though from a king or a state, expectations are greater, and different, from those expectations that are paired with self-reliance.

    Succeeding generations would, in the wild, discover that parents who did not grow up learning how to be self-reliant, could not teach their young how to do it. The young would either learn on their own…or die. We humans have had—yep—the government, state, or king, to continue the role of loving, giving, parent. Self-reliance be damned.

    Whenever the king and/or state take over the role of fulfilling said expectations, a recipe for disaster automatically ensues until such time as the system rights itself and self-reliance reenters the equation. Until then, God help those with the wisdom, strength of character, and courage to deprive the malignant, manic, mewling masses until self-reliance is present in society once again.

    Until the people who vote understand this system, or until we have a cataclysmic paradigm shift, those who give the populace, including the malingerers, bread and circuses, will continue to get elected.

    Does British law permit localized martial law? If it does, Jack, that may be on your horizon.

    Your good friend,

    Pat Gray

  4. ” Freud, Piaget, Bowlby, and Spock, who claimed that adults were born, not raised through childhood. People who told us to give freedom before teaching the social and moral responsibility essential to exercising freedom.”
    Can I quote you?!

  5. Ayonhere – feel free to quote. Thanks for the compliment of judging it worthy of quotation.

  6. Pat

    I sympathise with your view. In all situations, there comes a time to stop blaming the past and attend to the future. For all of us that time comes when we claim to be ‘adult’. At that point we should thank our parents for whatever they gave us if only life, learn from their mistakes or failings, and apply those lessons to raising our own children.

    The British don’t pay much real attention to marriage.

  7. Boyd – Thanks for your compliment.

    ‘Digging Deep’ is a great book, easy reading, that rings a cord for many men, but it left me wondering if you had taken on too much responsibility for failed marriage. It takes two to tango.

    I’ll leave others to read and decide for themselves.

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