The events of recent months have served to show the gaping cracks appearing in the walls of our Nation’s social framework. MP’s expenses, the Global Banking Crisis, the NOTW Phone Hacking, alleged incidents of corruption in the police and many public sector agencies along with the riots in England last week have all furthered or created public disbelief and angst. To say our foundations have been well and truly shaken is something of an understatement.
I would like to think that I’m simply and flippantly decrying our inability to make real change for the future however; unless we take cognisance of the past, I doubt it. If there had been a little more space between these separate issues, I don’t think we would be anywhere near as angry as we actually profess to be. However, as much of the current media and public opinion would appear to suggest; already the worst of these events i.e. the riots, appear to be… Just soooo last week!
So as Tottenham tries to get back to some sort of normality, is the speed at which we are moving forward from the carnage, a throw back to that Great British trait of pulling together in times of adversity? A factor so admirably illustrated in two World Wars or, as I unhappily suspect, indicative of that new but inherent social factor… Fickle materialistic individualism… “It didn’t affect me so FFS let’s move on and BTW where’s my bonus?”
David Cameron has promised the government will boost troubled-families plans and Theresa May tells police “we back you” (belatedly) however; we’re simply back on the tracks of the same old same old in the inter-party political point scoring. This predominant sad factor tends to define much of our governmental process as Cameron and Miliband draw battle lines again. I would like to think the quantity and close proximity of these events may finally be having the desired effect but I doubt it.
Our society and it’s leadership may (belatedly) be awakening to smell the coffee however; without a massive sea-change in our politics and social ideologies, the proposals and promises in the aftermath of these events are likely to be little more than the usual hot air and probably too little too late. I suppose one always has to live in hope!
I don’t know about you but as I get older (and as you can probably tell from my tone), I get ever more despondent about the politics and social framework of our once great little island. What angers me even more is the amount of self-serving and self-interested individuals within our management structures. A factor that continually blights the efficiency of many businesses, the majority of our political system, many of our public agencies and impacts negatively upon our society as a whole.
As individuals, we have a tendency towards living out our lives in the (often virtual) here and now. We take little interest in our social and political history and in general, many tend not to concern themselves with the future. Implications of our actions or inactions are mostly immaterial to us, a fact that probably has the most profound impact upon our ‘broken society’. All are issues that are hardly surprising when you consider how; our society is based more and more upon individualistic and materialistic worth and aspirations.
Since the riots all and sundry so-called ‘experts’ have nailed their colours to the wall of causation. As most intelligent and educated people know, and as I have intimated previously, the reasons behind the events of last week, perceived and actual are infinite. One factor that is however more important than many, as we appear to like living in the here and now, is that of policing…
The folly of cutting police funding: …Ultimately in the long-term I think it’s just as important to increase the amount we spend on social workers as it is the police, but in the short-term it would be incredibly unwise to cut police funding…(Dr Matthew Ashton*)
I deliberately chose to quote Matthew because of the political content and to illustrate one of the points at hand; too much politics has an adverse effect upon society. However, unlike many of a political bent, he’s usually far more objective than most. I’ve never been that much of a political animal myself, and certainly not in any overt manner however; there will be those who suggest I chose Matthew’s quote because of my own personal agenda… Not so!
I believe that much of the narrowing of our perceived and/or actual political divide in the country over recent years, has been of some benefit to our society, long may it continue. However, any further narrowing of this political divide is often precluded by the methodology of our media machine; instruments that unlike many of those elsewhere in the world, also tend to display political tendencies and a little too much opinion instead of fact…
Our love affair with the predominance of individualism in our society tends to be born out of the fact; we also have a tendency towards considering or examining events and issues in almost total isolation of the bigger picture, let alone understand them. We continually consume (mostly) emotive and sensationalistic media headlines (and opinion) at an alarming rate, get a brief taste then spit them out without ever digesting the full story.
This trait is a direct result of the fact we are no longer well read, despite the fact more people than ever attend university… Notice I say ‘attend’ as opposed to ‘graduate’ with any worthwhile educational qualification. We are happy with snippets of information, be they fact, innuendo or opinion. We fail to examine the cause, assess fact, theory or consider personal agenda that may be behind the information we receive. Just because someone says something, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is fact. Take the myriad of rumours and comments circulated within social media forums during the riots as a case in point. In addition, we generally fail to take account of history and rarely look at things in the holistic manner we should.
Another major factor in our inherent individualism is the manner in which we select, appoint and develop people for the management and leadership roles within business and our society… It’s all about ME… I am, I did, I’m responsible for, I developed, I caused. Until it all goes wrong, then suddenly and quickly it changes to them, they and those but “lessons will be learned”.
Whether or not we chose to do anything constructive about all these recent events, or indeed make any significant changes to prevent any (or all) of it happening again (as ever), is sadly a whole different ball game and one that remains to be seen… I believe the walls of our previous political and social folly may finally be crumbling and as a result, perhaps people are now realising that; ME is simply a component of part of US. Having said that, I’m not stupid enough to hold my breath.
*Dr Matthew Ashton is a full-time lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. He lectures in the area of British politics, Media politics and American politics.
- Rioting down the Road to Hell? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Benefits and Baloney of Bratton Babble (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Cameron and Miliband to face off over riots as cross-party unity crumbles (guardian.co.uk)
- Fact. There is a link between cuts and riots (guardian.co.uk)
- PM vows war on gangs after riots (independent.co.uk)
- Riots prompt new policing advice (bbc.co.uk)