So, here on the Little Island, the hooded monsters have finally arisen from the depths of the council estates and wreaked a vicious, sad, destructive and ultimately pointless vengeance. I say ‘finally’ because this mayhem was on the cards at least twenty years ago and probably a lot longer. Are we surprised? It seems so. Though to have missed, over all that time, the many signs that have been pointing in this direction bespeaks to me of obduracy and blind eyes being turned towards things no-one wanted to see.
We in the UK, exist today within what has become an almost total spiritual, moral vacuum. It is perpetrated all the way down through every level of society from the very top. Unwittingly maybe, but unwitting is not an excuse. Every government over the past thirty years at least has allowed and encouraged a rampant commercialisation to be the deity before which we, as a society, are expected to genuflect. Everything is money; ‘value for money’. It would be good – mind-boggling – to hear a government minister talk of ‘value for principle’. As a nation we have, in so many areas of life, abdicated our morality and then wonder why the young – and the not-so-young it would seem – appear not to know right from wrong, and even if they do, not to give a toss anyway. You reap what you sow.
None of that is to condone what has been going on. It’s sickening and one hopes the perpetrators will be brought to justice, even if only to try and make clear to them that whatever grievance you may have, whatever mess you think someone else has made of your life, you don’t air it by destroying the lives of others; that other people hurt, just as you yourself do. But if we avoid a serious look at the real, deep-down causes – even if the finger then points to our own selves – we ensure a repeat performance at some time in the near or distant future.
The UK is in terminal decline as a nation and as a world power. That’s OK. Nothing lasts forever. Rome was once overlord of Europe and beyond. All things end, for life in all its senses is a cyclical process. Our main problem is that we have not accepted this. We have not had the wisdom, the confidence, the generosity of spirit. We still cling, for reasons which are quite beyond me, to some view of ‘Great Britain’ which was already out of date by the time of the Boer War. So we prance across the world stage as though Victoria were still on the throne, spending obscene sums of money while at home our old people are being systemically mistreated in ‘care’ homes, our education system drops further and further down the international scale, our young people binge-drink themselves into middle-aged illness, and the hooded monsters rise up out of the council estates because they are lethally resentful and bored witless. They have no job prospects, they have fewer and fewer playing fields where they can work off their testosterone and get to learn about others and about themselves, they have no realistic say in what goes on in the country, they have no skills except those they’ve learned on the streets and those which have been passively encouraged by proxy by successive governments – those of the Wii, the Xbox, the computer game – the latter often grotesquely violent. Meantime, the bankers walk away still with unthinkably huge bonuses, the police have been caught with their noses in the trough filled up by the Murdoch empire, celebs blatantly parade their wealth, their often disastrous relationships and their nevertheless, ‘glamorous’ lifestyles.
And in the background of their lives – my life, your life, all our lives – is a video wall of mostly infantile trash and superficiality. Everywhere you go you are bombarded with TV commercials – in the home where so many people have the TV on as a matter of course all the time, in supermarkets, in shopping centres. Everywhere you go you are pursued by some organisation trying to ram some product – often with spurious claims for its effectiveness – down your throat. And you are informed that if you buy it, your life will, in some way, be changed for the better, the easier, the more convenient, the quicker, the faster, the less thoughtful. Do we believe it? Do they, the monsters from the council estates believe it? Who knows? What is for sure is that wherever they go and wherever they turn in their everyday lives, those same people who did this recent wrecking are beset, as are we all, with officially-sanctioned lies and half-truths. That is the environment into which they have been born and brought up. Where is truth then?
I have every confidence that the police will soon have brought this particular outbreak to an end. But if then our reaction to these dreadful events goes no deeper than the purely punitive – so favoured of the Tory right – we will simply be putting off the next and probably even more sinister occurrence. This problem has been many years in the gestation and goes to the very roots of our society; reforming it will call for political and moral courage beyond anything we’ve seen in a lifetime; this should go to the top of the agenda, bar none. The Prime Minister has today, had the courage to state publicly that there is a sickness in our society. I hope he and his government too have the courage, the wisdom and the humility which they will surely need.