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Editor's Blog

It's just not cricket: the Riots Report

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The Independent Riots Communities and Victims Panel was set up to examine and understand why the August 2011 riots took place. The Riots Communities and Victims Panel’s final report has now been published. This sets out their final findings and recommendations for action to help prevent future riots. This report has been presented to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Official Opposition.

After the Riots: The final report of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel

I have not read this report in full yet, but having seen some previews in the press and a few of its snippets and general findings I can only say 'welcome to a bygone age'. "Character-building"? Throwing money at 'problem families'? Alternatives to custody? My assessment of the riots hasn't changed: see Riots, aggravated shopping and 30 years of opportunism, although I admit a little more appreciation of the fact that some rioters were feeling economically and politically disenfranchised: see the press cuttings UK riots: the psychology of looting and If the rioting was a surprise, people weren't looking and my comment Rage and riots, all in CrimeTalk.

My first response then is that this report doesn't seem inclined towards a deeper sociological analysis of the UK's political economy in order to understand [a] the acute materialism our culture now suffers from and [b] the impact of current high youth unemployment, government cutbacks and years of reducing alternatives to hanging out on streets, such as sport and worthwhile FE. It's not characters these young people lack but a decent society. The present one is barely fit for purpose and will continue to generate these outbursts combining pointless material accumulation with anger at the failure of parents and authorities to provide anything worth believing in.

The materialist culture is a bigger problem than most people have allowed for. A people that uses wealth and money as its key criterion of assessment is always going to be devoid of character and values, irrespective of parenting quality and availability of sports centres. Arguably, an even bigger problem is that if you are going to emphasise wealth, money and the 'business plan' as the keystone of your society then you had better have a really fair distribution of that wealth or else the alienation caused by inequality is always going to cause social problems. That's the rub, and why Marx sold a few books: you cannot have crude Thatcherite capitalism without a socialistic approach to distribution and consumption.

My only hope is that the call for character-building leads to a resurgence of grass-roots cricket. Who wants to form a team? Let's call it the Rioters CC - I bet the fast bowling attack will be good! CLR James will be up there laughing his socks off and saying we should send them all to Ruskin to read Arnold and Carlyle. The problem with that is that if they did, they would not recognize any English sense of fairness or decency amongst the selfish and blind rulers of today's society - and so return to the same conclusion they'd already got to on the street.....that it's a society for the rich and money rules above all.....

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