Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Meditation on the Dionysian London Riots

The recent riots in England clearly mirror rioting episodes in the USA which  invariably follow an incident and result in both looting and arson attacks. Attacks always focus on local businesses.

I have a lot of experience of pupils expelled from London schools:  some are really deprived (through no fault of their own). Others are marauding, confident, brash gang members, who worship only money. I recognise some of the rioters' behaviours as belonging to the latter category.

But I believe that the single force now tipping city gang culture "over the edge" is the UK's TV and media, which are unhealthily focused on wealth, luxury goods and celebrity. Thus poorer people equate finding their own identity solely with having "things". In other words, the impression is that to be a viable human being you must have things, and preferably designer items.  This is the clear message of advertising - aimed at the gullible.

The media are constantly hyper-arousing material longings which cannot be fulfilled by people without training or qualifications, or whose income is very low in relation to, say, London prices. Having said that, we know that some of those arrested are assistant teachers, graphic designers and recruits to the Army. In other words they have a modest income, though possibly not enough for coveted luxury goods. Of course, bookshop windows were not smashed. Education or training was, significantly, of no interest, when in fact, training and education does offer the route to a better life and an income. We need to stress again this way to a better life, because it is being seriously undermined by the UK media and vast Lottery winnings.

In my view, these riots are a worrying Dionysian ("Pan") pagan outburst, a sad reflection of a deeply material, secular culture which urgently needs to return to traditional Christian values. Young people must value education, hard work, respect and self-discipline. We must erase the notion of instant gratification.  We and the media must halt this wrong thinking.

Daily exposure to £150m Lottery winners and TV "celebrities" who make vast amounts of money from no talent whatsoever, undermine the will of young people, without roots, to work hard and learn. This gives the poorly educated the notion that they should be so lucky. This public worship of the "golden calf" encourages people to think that they are owed luxuries.

In fact, hard work, education, or being willing to move to find a job -  if there is work - respect for the law and other people, creativity and enterprise -  are the only way forward for everyone. We must mend our public values, or our cities will burn, destroying our and their future.  It is a kind of Retribution

The media must reflect again traditional values in the light of the seriousness of this situation and restore the link between family, training, education, effort and income.

A similar thought is expressed by this Oak Hill College blog:

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