London burning

For days now, as rioters basically own large parts of the city and the contents thereof.  The Prime Minister, who is the unenviable position of watching helplessly while his capital self-immolates, has chosen to emulate Nero and fiddle while it happens:

David Cameron said every action would be taken to restore order, with contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours’ notice. …

Earlier, he said police had the legal backing to use any tactics necessary to bring the rioting across England under control, including using baton rounds.

A provincial such as myself has trouble with the concept of a Prime Minister having to tell the police that they have the legal backing to end riots.  Were they waiting for permission?  Amazingly, repeated reports suggest that they were: reports that the constables declined to intervene when witnessing beatings and robberies, and told those defending themselves to stand down.

Some folks have gotten sick of that approach, having seen how it tends to encourage bad behavior.  God bless the Turkish Kurds of Hackney (via the Swillers) for standing up to savagery and barbarism.  Not in the way that PM David Cameron would have chosen, perhaps – at least, not publicly:

We have seen the worst of Britain, but I also believe we have seen some of the best of Britain – the million people who have signed up on Facebook to support the police, coming together in the clean-up operations.

Yeah – Facebook.  We’re with you, bobbies!  (Or, not so much. Riddle me this: how many “likes” does it take to actually repel a thrown brick, or douse a Molotov cocktail?)  And like good and loyal thralls, the citizens of England are told not to protect themselves or their property; rather, they are enlisted in the heroic clean-up and repair effort instead.

The lovely S Weasel described the problem quite aptly

This isn’t the first time people in London have burned down their own neighborhoods. The reaction before was to hose them with money and ‘understanding’.

People who make their livings in words and theories and romanticize their power are always gobsmacked (and often yob-smacked as well) when they forget about all the other, more-tangible sources of power, such as curbstomping and gunfire.

This soft approach almost seems instinctive to the modern ruling class: searching for root causes and understanding, buying compliance by retreat and compromise and, increasingly, with actual bribes.  (And this is what they are, no less and no otherwise.)  It was already dubious theory at the outset, and knowing it was motivated by kindness is no comfort.  Far the reverse, in fact: the worst harm is done through a virtue grown monstrous in the absence of a counter-balancing virtue.  And in the end, of course, the virtue one starts with cannot long survive either.  It degrades into a mere habit of action without any thought or virtue behind it.

Thus it is now.  Is it a kindness to those whose businesses and lives are being so blithely smashed?  For that matter, is it even a kindness to the rioters?  Perhaps tens of thousands of them have gotten involved.  Many will be arrested and go to jail; many will be injured, some possibly killed, during the riots, either by the police, fellow rioters, or outraged would-be victims protecting themselves.  It would have been far smarter to deal sternly with the consequences of crime and misbehavior before it became so commonplace and thus unmanageable, and before it descended into such misery and horror for so many.

Any attempt to reconcile the lawless to society is doomed to fail when the lawless lack any motivation to quit their wickedness.  That’s the part of this equation that’s always missing, leading to mayhem as surely as night follows day.  If we’re really serious about being kind and understanding to “disaffected youths” we have to offer them a real alternative.  Calling them “disadvantaged” isn’t enough.  It’s frequently a lie anyway.  Society has given them a life free of penalty for their wilding ways, and subsidized their aimless sloth and casual cruelty: what disadvantage, exactly, do they have under those conditions?

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