Monday, 8 August 2011

The Rise of the British Underclass

Riots in London, bored teenagers, the same class of casual criminal that appears on the streets of Dublin when the opportunity arises to break into footlocker, burger king, and other businesses that appeal to them - they are the underclass, and I won't go into poetics, as Frank Gallagher sums himself up perfectly.

There is obviously a correlation with unemployment, but neither is there a single-variable 'cause'. Most of these people don't want to work, born on the backs of parents who wished to work, couldn't find it and gave up, and passed on a culture of fecklessness to their children, who don't even look for work in the first case although there is not enough to go around anyway.

It is obvious that most of these types cannot be defended easily, just as it is barely possible to communicate with them "Av you got a fag, mate?". Ha, I think Harry Enfield & co captured them better than many a left-wing academic . In the papers, opinion is actually balanced in comments. Some media actually just report facts without making causal links, which is great. In the comments, people oscillate between "bunch of known local hooligans" to blaming govt/society/parents for allowing this set of circumstances to arise.

The problems clearly are linked to the decline of industrial Britain, failed social policies, lack of education, breakdown of civil order and duty, and police brutality. The latter was the spark but all of these explanatory variables weigh in to various degrees.

There is no solution, except perhaps to conscript these youths into sub minimum-wage factories (illegal), export underachievers (illegal), cordon off the area and place food in trays (immoral), genetically modify the perpetrators (may exacerbate the situation), and so on.

In fact, I would wager that we are going to be stuck with our scallies/disenfranchised, chavs/troubled youths, knackers/deprived inner city resdents, and scangers/poorly attired bored kids for quite a while.

I partly grew up in a place in terminal decline though my parents were too sensible to have us stay there into our teens, and to be honest, when I return to my "roots" my first feeling is "fuck this place". It is rough and not a nice place to live unless you don't know otherwise.

To deal with it, you can either work at the macro level to bring the legal structures (force) and facilities (employment - paid or otherwise) to get the underclass emerging, or at the micro level to at least separate the smarter ones from the non-hopers and alleviate problems through proactive engagement.

The government could easily force all benefit claimers to do some physical community work, with immediate suspension of benefits for non-compliance. As a society, we have gone too soft and woolly, and 'nudges' must be backed by sticks (not necessarily batons). But without provision of training and employment, there is no way out (without stating this as the cause).

If there is one thing l learned in my transition from chav society to rural Ireland, is that there is nothing as great a stabiliser as a hard day's work. There is a reason why the remnants of the working class (who actually work hard) take pride in a long day's toil followed by a pint of bitter in the local. They have earned their rest.

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