A few thoughts.

A few thoughts have occurred to me over the last 24 or so hours. I’ve decided to lump them all into one place.

Spot the difference

There was a young man from Tottenham on the radio earlier. He had a style of speech which would have had Daily Wail readers reaching for the cornflour blue notepaper and calligraphy pen, but he made some very interesting points.

He was perfectly explicit in his opposition to the idiots doing the looting and burning, and unlike some media commentators made no attempt to excuse the actions of the morons at large. However, he did draw some fascinating parallels about the relationship between the ‘great and good’ of our society and the so-called rioters.

I’ll not try to paraphrase his words, nor to replicate his style, but argument went something like this:

‘The answer is simple, because it is wrong, but when you get past that, why should these people not go and do what they’ve been doing? What are the examples that they have been set?

The bankers have ruined the country and have not been held accountable, they have stolen billions of pounds from us and give themselves enormous bonuses from what they have taken. They’ve looted the country and got away with it. They’ve had their hands in the till.

The journalists have shocked and sickened the nation, they have violated people and destroyed their livelihoods, left them bereft. It isn’t just the phone hacking, but the constant untruths and innuendo that all the media peddles, and they get paid handsomely for it, while being courted by the rich and famous. A few token heads on poles will mollify the masses and things will carry on pretty much as before. They’ve profited from the wilful and spiteful destruction of people.

The politicians have lied to us since free, open elections have existed. They’ve had their hands in the till, and have made up their own rules to allow them to do so, it goes far beyond those prosecuted. What is the difference between a kid smashing a shop window and taking a £500 TV and a politician taking your wages before you’ve even got them and buying a £500 TV with it before turning round and proclaiming ‘I’m entitled’ ?’

At this point the example of people being punched and beaten in the street was being made. His response (same caveat as before);

‘Yes, and politicians, against the will of the people send our planes to bomb and our soldiers to shoot people, and when we say we don’t want it, they go and do it anyway, and then send us the bill. They act like children screaming and shouting at each other, in their own way getting in each other’s faces, they destroy everybody’s lives and businesses. They too act like the law doesn’t apply to them and then can do what they want, and they get away with it.’

The man was at pains to point out that all of these, looting and destroying included, was wrong, and all of them need to be stamped out and punished. I see where he is coming from, the looters may be more graphic, but is there such a big difference between the lot of them, the damage they do and misery they cause?

Taking the law into your own hands.

The next thought is about the phenomenon of groups of people banding together to protect their families and property. I’ve heard the line a few times today ‘taking the law into your own hands’, well, here’s a shock, it is our law, the common law is owned by all of us, that’s why it is common, the statutes are made in our name, by people chosen by us for this purpose, they belong to us as well. Once you make the law the sole concern of a group of arbitrarily selected ‘appropriate’ people, lawlessness is the only outcome.

The riots have been a prime example of this. The same line has been trotted out by the police that it is best left to them. Yet the common law is clear, and goes back almost 800 years; it is not only permissible, yet would seem to be our duty to apprehend criminals, whether one is a constable or not. You can be prosecuted for refusing to assist.

The police cannot be everywhere at once, unless you hold the above to be true, and accept the seventh Peelian Principle:

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

So, in the absence of uniformed members of the public nominated as police officers, what are people supposed to do? Silently stand aside and let their businesses be looted and houses burned? No, people banding together to protect their property and lives is an honourable duty, and a truer mark of civilisation and functioning society than a welfare state and cohesion outreach diversity officers could ever be.

I’ve heard the word vigilante trotted out by the BBC this afternoon. The dictionary.com definition is quite enlightening as it would seem to refer to two states which have subtle but important differences:

1. a member of a vigilance committee.

2. any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.

Now, in the first instance we have a group of people who are being vigilant, keeping watch over someone or something. In the second instance we have someone who is looking to mete out some form of justice.
There’s a whole world of difference between keeping watch over your property and going out with the intent to seek out potential rioters and do them over. So let’s drop this idea that people joining forces to ensure the peace is not breached in their street are somehow doing something not entirely permissible, shall we? This is not a case of ‘oh they really shouldn’t be doing that, but desperate times, etc.’
While we’re on the subject, I also think it shows how far the police and public have become estranged in recent years. I attribute no blame to the front line officers, I can only imagine that they are immensely frustrated with the scene that has played itself out in front of them. It is precisely because of situations like this that the vast majority of officers join the police. Despite all the criticism the police come in for, from me included, I know that an overwhelming number of them join because they want to make a difference. However, their management, station environment, bureaucracy and social-workeresque environment do them a disservice. These incidents have demonstrated a huge disconnect and lack of public confidence in a police force that they feel no longer serves them. Good people will avoid the police in general because they simply do not trust them. I don’t know what the answer is, but sometimes I think people want a little bit more Gene Hunt, even if he wasn’t perfect.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

And now for the controversial bit. A number of adults who are directing and facilitating the actions of the looters aside, the majority of people involved in these disturbances have been minors or young adults. I’m not sure that prison and/or youth detention is the solution.

In the majority of cases, this isn’t going to be a case of an individual making a foolish decision in an otherwise fairly blameless life – in those instances prison can be an answer, I think the problem here is that we have individuals who are completely dysfunctional, in themselves, their families (such as they may be) and their environments. They are not being taught how to be people in the home, by equally dysfunctional parents/siblings/carers and school is not the place for these lessons to be taught, that is an institution for an academic education, there should be no place for citizenship classes in school.

Re-offending rates show that youth detention and/or supervision is not working. However, there is a kernel of a good idea at play, it frustratingly is prevented from germinating, though, because the thing is, locking them up will prevent them from acting like a clot on the streets for a while, but we can’t lock them up indefinitely. Taking them out under ‘supervision’ for this, that and the other activity seems like a reward, many would say it is. Although it is true to say that valuable life lessons can be learned from the activities they are taking part in. Can. Under the right circumstances.

Unfortunately the youth supervision system is not the right circumstances. I truly believe some of these kids can be helped, but in the first stage it would not pretty. Channel 4 ran a series a while ago called ‘Bad Lad’s Army’, and I was quite taken with it. The premise of the show was simple, take a load of ‘bad’ 20 somethings and give them some good old 1950′s style National Service. It was entertaining TV, especially with the tantrums in the early weeks, but much more often than not the young men found that the experience had a profound effect upon them, it taught them the importance of self reliance, teamwork, compassion, justice and more important than anything else, self respect.

I’m not for a moment suggesting we bring back National Service, it ain’t going to happen for a whole number of reasons. Nor am I suggesting that people be conscripted as some sort of punishment, I don’t see why the army should be lumbered with them and they don’t have the resources.

However, I think there is a definite advantage to be had in drawing up a programme along the lines of the show. I’m not talking about the short, sharp shock of yesteryear, but a programme run by former army instructors, designated as prison officers, on a closed site where youngsters (let’s say from 14 to 23) have the cockiness metaphorically knocked out of them and then, more importantly, are showed something that these kids have never been shown in their lives; they can achieve where their whole life, partly through their own faults, partly through the fault of their parents, and partly through the fault of a broken system has shown them to be nothing but failures. They can rely on themselves and their peers where their whole life has been a litany of neglect and broken promises. They can learn, they do have a brain, there is something they can be good at, when their whole lives they’ve been told they are stupid and useless. They can do something right, and be congratulated and thanked, something they’ve probably never heard in their lives.

The workers who run the current supervision schemes have little or no sanction. The people running this scheme would have to be given pretty far ranging powers, powers including control and restraint, however if it is one thing I’ve seen demonstrated by the personnel running the ‘bad lad’s army’ is their drive to turn these kids around and the deep conviction that these kids/lads can be good and can contribute. It would provide very useful employment to those leaving the forces and, if successful, would save the State (so, us) a small fortune in ongoing benefits payments.

It would not be a timed course, there would be no home release, there would be no visits until a certain point in the course had been passed. The course would last until the youngster had displayed a change in attitude and attained a certain level of performance.

It could change and save lives.

I’m not naive enough to suggest it would suit everybody, although I see no reason to discriminate on the basis of gender (although I would prefer the centres were single sex), it would be wasted if the newly graduated youngster was to go straight back into a home with abusive/neglectful parents, it would be inappropriate for younger children. It would not teach the youngsters to kill, but it would teach them weapons respect. It would take them abseiling, canoeing, climbing and all the other stuff that the supervision orders take the youths out to do, but that would only be once the foundation had been laid, and as part of a properly constructed programme with teeth and sanction that would teach them real life lessons that they’ve been denied – at the moment the programme tells them ‘mis-behave and get a fun day out’, this programme would still provide a fun day out, probably many fun days out, but there would be a lot of work to do to earn it, a concept alien to many of them. The carrot is fine, but there must be a stick, not to aimlessly beat them with to say ‘bad kid’, but a stick to prod and guide.

People that have earned respect from themselves will respect others.

Oh, the hand-wringers would be aghast at the idea, but sorry, hand-wringers, we’ve followed your approach for the last twenty years, look what it has got us.

I really do think it would be worth a try. There’s no point beating these youngsters down (again, metaphorically) unless we help them up afterwards.

37 thoughts on “A few thoughts.

  1. As CR said, this is a brilliant article. You could have even gone a step further and highlighted the corruption within the Police force, that’s now coming to light.

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  3. Not a chance. Probably.

    That being said, Facebook and Twitter is making interesting reading especially on the subject of being too soft. I wonder how much attention the politicos are paying? But there’s no point in being harsh without having a positive product at the end of it.

  4. If a dog is unruly and yoiu beat him all you have is a beaten dog, of little use.

  5. I agree with the thoughts put down on this blog, the issue would be getting it past the Common Purpose traitors.

  6. Excellent analysis.

    And yes, I do think your ‘Bad Lads’ camps have merit. I’m far from being a softy liberal but have never been convinced that prison works beyond as a place to keep the insane and truly bad people. Strangely, I have a theory for absolutely everything – except an alternative to prisons – its a solution that continues to escape me. But surely we cannot keep building them forever and incarcerating ever greater numbers of people?

    Lets face it. If prison worked then doesn’t logic suggest that over time you’d need fewer of them? A simplistic assertion certainly but it makes you think that perhaps we’re (as a society) on the wrong track!

    We should try the camps… complete with wooden huts, no central heating or home comforts. Lets make them appreciate ALL of life’s luxuries. Drill it into them that their home life isn’t underprivileged, far from it. They might not have everything but what they do have, and probably don’t even notice, is a hell of a lot more than many people in the world have. So yeah, a dollar a day spending money, fetching their own water, doing their own laundry and cooking and no tv or phones too.

    PS. Where do I apply to be camp commandant? Seriously, I’d be really good at it :-)

  7. Put your hosting provider on danger money. They’re going to be busy.

  8. The bankers have ruined the country and have not been held accountable, they have stolen billions of pounds … But was that,formally, theft? Are the bankers who broke the actual law of the land the same ones who got away with it. Or are they in jail like Barnie Madoffs. The formal law matters, no country with the rule of law, no free country, can keep always people from getting away with being dodgy.

    By failing to distinguish between lawbreaking and misbehaviour we can only strengthen the impression that the law is not enforced. Thus calling for the heads of non lawbreakers (whether bankers or hoodie teens) not only weakens civil rights, it also weakens law and order.

  9. Good article wolfers, one of the better, more considered ones I’ve read. I remember the tv show and agree that some form of programme like national service would be helpful, but alas isn’t going to happen.
    I saw this article the other day, http://marcgawley.com/2011/08/09/i-predict-a-riot/ which looks at police numbers, and leads in to your Tottenham guy’s comments about “why should these people not go and do what they’ve been doing?” – they’re unlikely to be caught.

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  11. As all the above. An excellent post, chock full of common sense – an attribute sadly lacking in the political classes. As noted already, the flog ‘em and hang ‘em brigade would consider it an unacceptably soft option, and the limp-wristed liberals would be wittering on about the poor dears’ “rights”. However, I think you’ve got it spot-on.

    I also agree with your young man from Tottenham. When we are lied to and deceived on a daily basis by politicians and their “experts” via the ever compliant MSM, it really isn’t surprising that dishonesty is seen as an acceptable approach to life.

    Once again, Snowolf, an outstandingly good essay, and one that should be read by every politician.

  12. Great stuff and a thought-provoking read. But where are the jobs going to come from? As I understand it, youth unemployment is currently around 20 per cent (1 in 5). Surely another strand needs to be a concerted political effort to create worthwhile jobs for people to do, that pay significantly more than being on benefits.

  13. An excellent piece. Please do send it to Cameron and Theresa May. It is a great explanation and a very positive method for helping the youth. It reminds me very much, in part, of my CCF training at school.

  14. Excellent idea. St Kilda springs readily to mind as an excellent location. And no wooden huts- better that they build their own shelters and accomodation. And have to grow at least some of their own food, and tend some livestock.

  15. Excellent article!

    I saw Bad LAds Army and was impressed by the turn around in most of the participants. Several went on to join the army for real.

    I have thought since that it would be a great idea to put into real practice. To supply boundaries and to give people self-respect and self discopline that have been missing from their lives before would go a long way to helping these people to become normal members of society.

  16. You seem to have managed to pull together the nuggets of thoughts I’ve had for such a long time, only I couldn’t have expressed them in such a cogent fashion. One of my biggest concerns is that these young people have no sense of their own worth, precisely because no one has ever demonstrated it to them. Hence, your ‘bad boys’ camps idea is such a good one. (And yes, definitely separate the sexes, NOT because of sex per se, but because boys and girls react differently when they’re around each other – the energy is dissipated because it’s directed ‘outwards’ rather than ‘inwards’, where it should be, initially at least.)

    Very thought-provoking, and very wise.

  17. Ah yes, the infamous Hitler Youth Camps, where we can indoctrinate the young. Or re-indoctrinate them.

    Why not start in the schools and instead of filling them with Socialist drivel you actually teach them the 3 R’s. And weekend outings would be a great idea. Perhaps we could start some charitable organizations, let’s call them The Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. Hmm, I wonder?

  18. Adrian: A fair point. I’m neither endorsing nor rubbishing the young man’s argument, it was merely a perspective which I found thought provoking.

    Kat: That’s a whole other article, but I agree with you wholeheartedly. When you’ve got youths being turned away from Subway for a lack of experience, something has gone wrong. How much experience do you need to make a sandwich, FFS? I’d point at how John Copperthwaite helped build Hong Kong on a regime of low corporate and individual taxation for starters.

    Apache: If you’re accusing me of being a socialist or national socialist, you’ve obviously not read much of what I’ve written. The Scouts and Guides are fine up to a point, until you mix in the whole promise to God thing, then it all falls apart – plus they have no sanction. The sort of people out looting probably aren’t going to be interested, unless you’re advocating obligatory membership, then we really do get into the realms of the Hitler Youth.

  19. No no, not accusing you of anything. And you are correct but I plan to read more of what you have written.
    After reading “Life At The Bottom” by Theodore Dalrymple, I started to question western values. Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” was a mirror image of what Diarymple wrote about. I was shocked. I had seen “To Sir With Love” but didn’t know this was still a reality in England.


  20. In which case, Apache, I apologise if I have done you wrong. I perhaps misunderstood your opening statement.

  21. Well written and very thoughtful – Will be passing it on. :)

  22. Excellent idea and that is why our esteemed politicians will never do it.

  23. All three arguments very well put. As for the last might I propose that the inmates of the BadLads camp be paid no attention whatsoever unless they speak something like the Queens English and not the phoney Afro Caribbean street gutteral “dis ting innit” as shared by all members of the untermensch be they black, white, asian or whatever since “speaking” in that way merely reinforces their unemployability.

  24. Very good. This has a lot of merit. However, it has been done before, in a piecemeal way. It does work. The follow-up phase, once they had been released back into society (so to speak), would be critical. It would need to lead to a set of employable skills, and then a job. It is worth bearing in mind that a lot of soldiers leave and join civvy street only to end up on the scrap heap (10% of the prison population is ex-military). Skills must follow after the “change-in-attitude” training.

    On the skills front, one thought is to have “pioneer” teams. Once the young lads complete their initial “boot camp” (attitude training), they are then allocated to a pioneer team. This pioneer team has real work projects to complete. It would be labour-intensive type work. It would be primarily projects that contribute to the community – canal footpath reconstructions, canal widening, council-house refurbishments, archeological digs (the heavy stuff) – or areas of weaker commercial activity and impact – urban market gardening, bee-keeping, animal husbandry, painting and decorating, window cleaning, basic catering, etc.

    Once they had completed 18-36 months of this Phase 2 work (it would include as a minimum 100 days of “field work”), they would be eligible for grants for further skills training. The more “field work” they did, the bigger the grant.

    Phase 3 would the skills training, and Phase 4 the transition it the commercial world of work. Participants would also be heavily encouraged to go back into Phase 2 projects at any time to help out – i.e. mentor – and also back into Phase 1 as living proof to the youngsters in Phase 1 that the system works.

    Phase 5 would be eligibility for commercial work contracted out by employers looking for people at short notice with a ‘can-do attitude.

    Computerisation would help track all the different projects being done, and those with outside skills would be encouraged to participate voluntarily and provide basic skills training sets for projects, beyond simple digging and lifting work (a basic requirement for Phase 2 personnel).

    All the participants would be provided a basic wage of say 50-60 quid a week – from the pubic purse (accommodation would be on-site for projects). Management of each team would be by professionals (perhaps ex-servicemen, but not exclusively) with skill sets roughly in the project areas. All teams would have access to other skills provisions to help with the projects they do – project assessment beforehand would give some idea of what extra-training might be needed beyond just digging!

    None of this will work without mentoring, though the amount will lessen as the young lads progress through the phases. It will also need public funding, and the input from outside from volunteers from all walks of life (i.e. pre-project assessment, running computer databases, financial auditing etc).

    It could be done.

    Nick Ferriman

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  26. Brilliant article, one of the best parallels i’ve seen drawn.

    I would dearly have liked to hear the original radio interview with the Tottenham resident, don’t suppose it was on a channel with listen again facility?

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  28. The comments from the radio caller were a good read, but as to the reality TV inspired solution you outline – what is the difference between this and correctional boot camps in the States? Very little, as far as I can make out?

  29. Judd – It was on R5L – but I couldn’t tell you which show, one of the problems of working shifts, I’m afraid, time of day tends to lose its meaning.

    Paul – I couldn’t tell you the difference, I’m afraid, I don’t have the knowledge of the US penal system – although it appears to me that it is all about punishment rather than real rehabilitation (our is bad enough, but that’s because it isn’t willing to be tough in a positive fashion) it just seems to be harsh to keep the voters happy, rather than helping the inmates. The result? The largest prison population in the ‘free’ world.

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