The Left blame welfare cuts and the moral failure of society’s leaders. The Right blame the bludger mentality and soft policing. As usual, the truth is more like c) neither of the above.


Some have portrayed the riots through the social frame of family decline and fatherlessness, while others viewed it through the racial lens, before hastily backtracking when they saw white faces beneath the hoods.

While many of these viewpoints point to a general sense of unease and frustration among a section of Britain’s youth, none of them explain why half of England ended up looking like a Boxing Day sale where someone forgot to open the store doors, with shoppers forced to smash their way in.

There’s a clue to the underlying cause in the rioters’ behaviour. As many have pointed out, there were no placards. There was no leader to follow and no aim to achieve. There was nothing, except a mad grab for high-end consumer goods.

If lawless consumerism was the end game, it’s not much of a stretch to say that consumer culture itself was the fuel that lit the bonfire.

If there’s one message that pervades modern western societies, it is this: Own it and you’ll be happy. Don’t and you won’t. Those three necessities of life – food, clothing and shelter – seem terribly quaint nowadays. What good is food, clothing and shelter if it’s not Wagyu beef, Prada and a perfectly renovated inner city pad?

In Don Draper’s 1960s, the advertising industry was the mainframe computer that propelled consumerism into the modern age. Advertising is still powerful, but there’s now an even stronger force amplifying the consumption message, and that force is reality television.

No matter what channel you switch on, you’ll find someone showing you how to cook better, dress better, live better.

Watch MasterChef, or whatever the British equivalent is, and you feel like a downright loser for sitting at home having your beans on toast on a Sunday night.

Watch one of those renovation shows and your self esteem is hardly going to skyrocket if you’re stuck in a 30 storey tower.

Watch Next Top Model or buy any magazine and you’re hardly going to be happy wearing tracky dacks from Kmart. As a much more “indoors” society than Australia, British youth is fashion obsessed. Just look at the unexpected transformation of Burberry from yuppie brand to “chav” brand. If you ain’t got the gear, you’re not in the game. At least, that’s the message.

Of course, you can always change channels to one of those cheesy American dramas, where earnest teenagers with expensive clothes and too much makeup tell each other “the most important thing is to be yourself”.

Oh, but let’s be real. Everyone knows being yourself is more fun if you’ve got really good stuff to be yourself in. That’s pretty much the mantra of modern life in the West, and don’t think the good folk in England’s council estates don’t know it any less than you or I.

Of course, none of this is to excuse the opportunistic frenzy of violence, destruction, looting and even murder we saw in the England riots. But it goes a fair way towards explaining why a mass outpouring of civil unrest would mostly manifest itself as an all-in free shopping spree.

Last week, London shopkeepers told of late night phone calls from young people asking whether they stocked certain upmarket brands. Safe to say the kids weren’t inquiring because they planned to visit during store hours the next day with their hard-earned.

The simple fact is, we are taught that owning stuff is what makes us feel good, and the quest to own that stuff is what drove England’s youth to the streets en masse. Just ask kid the kid in the YouTube video. When asked by the Sky News reporter if he had any bad feelings about looting, he said:

“No, cos I’m watching my plasma that I just got. It feels like Christmas came early.”

He might be a thief but at least he’s an honest one.

Most commented

116 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • Erick says:

      06:13am | 16/08/11

      The riots were not due to any single cause. Consumerism was a factor, along with many other factors.

      Most events have multiple causes. There were elements of racism, welfare cuts, soft policing, fatherlessness, bad parenting, bad leadership and many other factors that contributed to this toxic brew.

      It will take some serious study to disentangle all of these, but each of us will nurse our own pet theories.

    • Super D says:

      06:51am | 16/08/11

      Indeed there will be many theories as to what ultimately provoked and sustained the rioting.  I just hope that we can reach a consensus that it was wrong.

    • Mike says:

      07:28am | 16/08/11

      Correct Erick, and add to that list the stupid “Gangsta” culture in the UK that has kids idolising criminality.  It is NOT about rap music or blaming that as degenerating our youth (which I actually think is ok, and besides, people said the same about Elvis, heavy metal and rock), it is about the idiotic ‘get-rich quick, champagne bling’ mentality that everyone thinks is their right.

      When you have kids using the term “respect” and don’t even know what it is or how to use it properly (“Give me respect”, “If you don’t respect me for being Gangsta, I’ll shoot/glass/bottle/bash you”), and tweeting “Kill the 5-0”, no one really talks like that in the UK.  It is a stupid Americanism.

      We don’t actually idolise sports stars or academics anymore in the UK, or aspire to be like them - people who research cures for the worst diseases or make us proud of our country, we just worship false gods in the form of faux reality TV stars, celebrities and musicians, some of who have less than savoury pasts.

      It is bread and circuses for, as you say, a consumerist society.

      No one was robbing stores for food, it was for computer games, bikes, creatine powder and hoodies.  If people were looting JUST for food because they were starving to death - like the people in Somalia right now - then maybe you could understand why people did what they did.

    • fairsfair says:

      08:12am | 16/08/11

      Well said boys!

      Great article Ant.

    • john says:

      08:42am | 16/08/11

      @Erick
      “It will take some serious study to disentangle all of these, but each of us will nurse our own pet theories.”

      Meanwhile the elephant in the room is on life support. Its a clear division between haves and the privileges & opportunities that go with it, and the have nots.

    • Jade (the other one) says:

      08:50am | 16/08/11

      Erick, I absolutely agree with you. I’m a bit sick to be honest, of these articles by social commentators and the like, all trying to promote one cause. Mostly I think it’s so they can ignore those causes which would necessitate some serious questioning of their own beliefs.

    • The Real Julia says:

      08:57am | 16/08/11

      It’s all Tony Abbott’s fault.

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:05am | 16/08/11

      The other one was laziness.

      These people are too lazy to go out and earn the income that will enable them to buy the goods. Thus when opportunity presented itself they looted the goods.

    • Erick says:

      09:15am | 16/08/11

      @john - Do please try to keep up. It’s already been established that many of the rioters were quite well off.

    • John A Neve says:

      09:16am | 16/08/11

      Erick,
      You have missed the most important factor; over population.
      Resulting in lack of employment, a greater drain on the welfare systems
      and a increasing divide between those that have and those that have not.
      As the population grows, so will this problem

    • john says:

      09:43am | 16/08/11

      @Erik,

      A reality check please, although you sight , and it can be argued there were ‘many’ that were well off, the vast majority clearly were not.

      London these days is a vastly divided city of somewhat “modern bohemianism” exacerbated by the GFC and the insanely wealthy. The UK melt down has only been compounded by Ireland’s economic catastrophe & the dismal performance of the UK overall. All bets have been placed on an Olympics economic recovery, but that will be short lived.
       
      The riots didn’t come to any surprise to me, especially when over time you hear media stories like public servants squandering public money on moats smile

    • fml says:

      09:48am | 16/08/11

      Belmming heck Erick, a reasonable post by you. well done. You get some action on the weekend? or you getting soft in your old age?

    • GOLD says:

      09:55am | 16/08/11

      @ John A Neve - i think Raj from Big bang theory said it best -

      Raj: Nice place. Reminds me of my parents’ house back in New Delhi.
      Howard: You’re kidding.
      Raj: No. We are very wealthy. But the only difference is, we have more servants.
      Leonard: More than this?
      Raj: More than we can use. You see, in India, we don’t make the mistake of letting our poor people have dreams.

    • JohnB says:

      09:59am | 16/08/11

      @John A Neve

      Absolutely. We’ll ignore that though John because we’ve got this wrong notion that more people means more for me. It is in fact EXACTLY the opposite. We erode our life style to achieve nothing. There is absolutely NO sensible reason to populate. There’s not even a moral reason. There are 80 million EXTRA people on the planet every year. Us taking 200 thousand makes zero difference (freeing up 200 000 spots overseas to then be filled in less than a day, NOT A TYPO)...This should be the number one priority of the Green’s party by a gazibillion miles…Where is it? Not even on their radar. If anyone can give me a positive reason to populate, I’ll counter it. It simply doesn’t make sense for the collective good of Australia.

    • Mr Pod says:

      10:32am | 16/08/11

      Another reason that came from rioters themselves via London Radio was gang marketing. The original riot caused by the Tottenham crew put out a challenge to other areas who said “this north london crew is in TV, we is badder man, lets shoo ow a riot should be, innit” and so competitive rioting ensued, I can’t help admiring such “can do” attitudes.

    • Tchom says:

      11:31am | 16/08/11

      @john
      I don’t think the riots started because of some kind of class angst (by and large). They don’t care that some people are richer then they are. Popular culture idolises people who have enough money to do whatever they want. As Anthony brought up in the articles, its more about their aspirations and values. The culture that the rioters have grown up has been so consumeristically focused, that they could with a clear conscience exploit the chaos of the riots, break the law, ruin livelyhoods and assault strangers.

      Just think about Apple’s latest iPhone slogan: ‘if you don’t have and iPhone, then you don’t have an iPhone.’ Marketing driven by peer-pressure

    • Frank says:

      11:58am | 16/08/11

      note to Anthony MasterChef began in the UK then came to Australia…

    • Craig of North Brisbane says:

      12:29pm | 16/08/11

      Wow, another sensible comment by Erick that’s right on the money.  Everyone is looking for a single cause, but there isn’t one; and there isn’t a single magic bullet solution that’ll fix this all up, either.

    • Shifter says:

      01:56pm | 16/08/11

      @JohnB: which brings us to the question of why is economic growth good?

      In Australia it’s often stated that we need to grow the economy, and to do that we need to grow our population. Given our #firstworldproblems may end up being third world ones, ie lack of water, how is either growth policy sensible?

    • JohnB says:

      02:54pm | 16/08/11

      @Shifter

      The only people growth is good for is big business. Business would be sustained with no growth.

      I fully agree with you that our problems will become third world ones…We are being led to certain disaster by greed of business and a clueless government. The electorate is far too dumb to work it out soon enough to change things.

    • Kika says:

      03:09pm | 16/08/11

      Erick last week you were blaming race. Have you changed your mind?

    • acotrel says:

      03:52pm | 16/08/11

      There were riots in the UK when Maggie Thatcher started her vaunted economic reforms, which threw a lot of people onto the scrap heap.  What makes you think this new incidence of dissent has a different cause?

    • acotrel says:

      04:02pm | 16/08/11

      @John
      ‘Meanwhile the elephant in the room is on life support. Its a clear division between haves and the privileges & opportunities that go with it, and the have nots. ‘

      I agree, and I’ve never been anywhere that it’s more obvious than in the UK !  US President F D Roosevelt had an answer in his ‘new deal’. But that’s probably impossible in the UK.  And in any case there is always a concerted effort by the conservatives, to maintain the status quo.  Any moves to change the system would be opposed?
      The situation will get worse.

    • LC says:

      09:30pm | 16/08/11

      Wow pick me up off the floor. A logical and well reasoned comment from Erick.

      Top job. smile

    • acotrel says:

      06:32am | 17/08/11

      @SuperD
      ‘Indeed there will be many theories as to what ultimately provoked and sustained the rioting.  I just hope that we can reach a consensus that it was wrong.’

      It sounds like your message to the excluded in society,  is simply ‘hold still while we do it to you’ !

    • Super D says:

      06:13am | 16/08/11

      Interestingly Australian Masterchef is a derivation of a British show of the same name.  There are significant differences however.  While the Australian show progresses through eliminations to a blockbuster finale the British show is far more modest with 3 contestants competing to win each week.  The British show provides a pathway to a career in hospitality, the Australian show and shortcut to cookbook authorship.

    • fairsfair says:

      08:17am | 16/08/11

      The British version is much easier to watch. Our version was OK as a one off, but like ch9 did with the original Block - they need to put it to bed for a couple of years and when it does come back, it will be just as big as ever.

      However Ant is dead right. Masterchef (and particularly Junior Masterchef) reallly preens people into thinking mum’s meat and three veg is just not good enough. We need something better. We have to have something better. Not only was a casserole easy and nutricious - it was economical, and when you are feeding a family you can’t make fantastical chicken stuffed with gold coins….

    • grumpy middle aged man says:

      09:19am | 16/08/11

      A pet peeve is seeing all the gold flakes being put on food. There is absolutely no point to it except to say “I ate gold”, is your life so vacuous that this is your pinnacle of culinary delight? I feel like serving up a lump of lead as a entree for them to chew on until mains.

    • Sam Chowder says:

      11:28am | 16/08/11

      Australian Masterchef is amazing,  I love watching meat and veg being cooked.

    • Fingers says:

      06:15am | 16/08/11

      Can someone keep us updated as to when these lot get arrested, because I’m betting it will be before the end of the week.

    • AlyssaKT says:

      10:17am | 16/08/11

      Great guessing @Fingers, they started arresting people LAST WEEK.

      Try watching the news some time.

    • S.L says:

      06:33am | 16/08/11

      When one of these losers get caught (whether in the old dart or here) it’s never their fault. They are downtrodden and had nufink else to do! The coppers are the enemy and society owes them a living. It makes me sick, I see these idiots every day!

    • toms says:

      07:47am | 16/08/11

      ....

      Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
      You gotta understand,
      It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
      That gets us out of hand.
      Our mothers all are junkies,
      Our fathers all are drunks.
      Golly Moses, naturally we’re punks!
      RIFF and QUARTET:
      Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
      We never had the love that every child oughta get.
      We ain’t no delinquents,
      We’re misunderstood.
      Deep down inside us there is good!

      RIFF:
      There is good!

      ALL:
      There is good, there is good, there is untapped good.
      Like inside, the worst of us is good.

      SNOWBOY (imitating “Krupke”) (spoken):
      That’s a touchin’ good story.

      RIFF (spoken):
      Lemme tell it to the world!

      SNOWBOY (“Krupke”) (spoken):
      Just tell it to the judge.

      RIFF:
      Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
      My parents treat me rough.
      With all the marijuana,
      They won’t give me a puff.
      They didn’t wanna have me,
      But somehow I was had.
      Leapin’ lizards, that’s why I’m so bad!

      DIESEL (“Judge”):
      Right! Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
      This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
      It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
      He’s psychologically disturbed!

      RIFF:
      I’m disturbed!

      (etc, etc, etc)

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:54am | 16/08/11

      Good article, Ant.  Money the root of all evil.  My line’s a little preachy and as such needs salt, but the basic premise is still strong.

    • Super D says:

      08:15am | 16/08/11

      The basic premise is ridiculous.  Money is nothing more than a medium of exchange.  If anything it’s getting money in exchange for doing nothing that is the root of all evil.

    • marley says:

      08:25am | 16/08/11

      Actually, it’s the “love of money” that is the root of all evil.  That may seem like a bit of pedantry on my part, but it’s not really - it’s a recognition several thousand years ago that greed and envy were part of the human condition.  Obviously they still are.  I suspect that’s one of the reasons communism never worked - it tried to ignore a fundamental human trait, the desire to look after number one.

    • Adam says:

      08:48am | 16/08/11

      Sorry Mahhrat, if you are going to go preachy and paraphrase the bible, the quote actually says, ‘the LOVE of Money is the root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Tim 6:10). Money, or the lack thereof, isn’t the problem – people are. The love of money, more commonly known as greed, continues to plague people. Though we might not all riot, how many of us can say we are not ourselves guilty of greed? Myself Included.

    • Dino says:

      08:49am | 16/08/11

      @Mahhrat, a small correction. The LUST for money is the root of all evil. One of the few things I remmebr from Catholic primary school.

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:10am | 16/08/11

      Quite right Marley, I forgot that bit.

      I’m not sure it’s as ridiculous as you think Super D.  What money’s exchangeability ultimately did was disconnect us from the producer.  The rise of consumerism is due, I believe, largely because we stopped needing to go to the man who grows fruit in order to get fruit - a “company” buys the fruit and puts it in a place and we go THERE to buy the fruit in the name of “convenience”.

      Why do you think there is such a resurgence of Farmer’s Markets?  People have woken up to G.Harvey and like and are seeking ways to cut out the middle men of the world who use the exchangeability of coin (and little else, truth be known) to make their living.

      Supermarkets are the easy target of choice in this example, but if you look you can see where we are creating ways to get around the middle men of the world - buying direct from the producer online is another fantastic example.

      Money allowed that sort of thing to happen, and while it’s given us great things, it’s given us painfully awful things as well.

    • Charity Box says:

      09:25am | 16/08/11

      @ Super D…I totally agree

    • Mayday says:

      07:02am | 16/08/11

      Yes its tough out there in consumer land when you don’t earn a living, they were operating via the law of the jingle and consumer envy certainly played a part.

    • Erick says:

      07:53am | 16/08/11

      “the law of the jingle”

      That’s consumerism!

    • Kipling says:

      08:31am | 16/08/11

      “Law of the jingle”

      That’s Gold

    • Dash says:

      07:25am | 16/08/11

      This is all very much like the climate change doomsdayers. The lack of rain was blamed on climate change and this year too much rain was blamed on climate change. And in two years time when we enter a period of stability and bushfire risk returns, that will be down to climate change.

      Fact is, England has had riots for years and hooliganism for decades. Look at the riots they had during the 70s and the football hooligans of the 80s. There seems to have been this issue for quite some time in the UK. Brixton riots, northern England race riots. Brick Lane bombing. All before social madia and welfare cuts.

      To me, having lived and worked in the UK this has more to do with their class structure and more importantly the attitude of people towards that system. I was amazed at how prepared people there are to just sit back and accept their lot in life on the back of where they were boorn. That just doesn’t happen in places like Australia and the US. There people have a much more postive attitude that they can build a better life for themselves.

      Unfortunately in Australia we have a government which is punishing people for their success. Its a disgrace and this ALP attitude that people deserve something for nothing in this world, leads directly towards the type of nonsense we’ve seen in the UK. The ALP are playing class wars with the carbon tax, the flood levy, the superannuation tax chanhges and the introduction of proposed changes to the private health tax rebate to name but a few.

      People should be able to work hard for a better life for themselves and their children without being punished for doing so! The ALP throw money at people who pay little if any tax, and who are also already on welfare. Yet they slug the people in the community who drive the nations wealth. Class wars are very dangerous. Yet Gillard and her Socialist Forum ways seem to be dragging the ALP further and further to the left! Guess it explains their current primary?

    • Blind Freddy says:

      10:03am | 16/08/11

      There is a subtle but important difference between ‘class’ and ‘wealth’. There is a correlation but they are not the same. Money can’t buy class etc.

      Money provides a means of social mobility while class constrains it. Taxing people with relatively more money at a relatively higher rate is not class warfare. We do not live in a meritocracy; and never have. People are born with all sorts of advantages (economic, physical and mental ability and/or disability and other life-opportunities etc) over other people and those advantages are often on the back of the collective community and social project – they should pay their way.

      For many entering life is like entering a game of Monopoly that has already been going for thousands of years – all of the properties are owned, all of the utilities are owned – you future is prescribed and determined. Those who have inherited their place at the table and all of the advantages that come with it should recognise their privileged position. And, if they don’t? Don’t be surprised when the board gets turned over half way through your game - they don’t wanna play no more - innit.

      If you want laissez-faire capitalism, economic law of the jungle – everyone for themselves etc., then also expect a social jungle where different values prevail and different people rule. It’s ugly - but neglect only feeds it.

    • Anubis says:

      11:15am | 16/08/11

      @ Blind Freddy - “Money can’t buy class” Too true. just look at the Beckhams of the world and the likes of Snooki and Paris Hilton. Clear proof that money can’t buy class.

    • KH says:

      07:40am | 16/08/11

      Yet another simplistic argument about why it happened - this times its ‘consumerism’.  Last week it was ‘racism’, and ‘class’.  What will it be next week?  Riots and social unrest have been a part of the British landscape for centuries.  Back in the 1700s this stuff was going on - at one point they had an annual ‘rioting season’ around easter!  Its some weird part of the culture over there.  I doubt there is any one answer, but even more so I doubt that it is consumerism.  The US and Australia are just as batty when it comes to owning ‘stuff’, yet I don’t see widespread rioting and looting on the streets of New York or Melbourne. 

      Looking at this recent outbreak in the context of history it suddenly seems quite tame by their usual standards.

    • Kika says:

      03:25pm | 16/08/11

      Very true!

      “The revolt later came to be seen as a mark of the beginning of the end of serfdom in ... England, although the revolt itself was a failure. It increased awareness in the upper classes of the need for the reform of feudalism in England and the appalling misery felt by the lower classes as a result of their enforced near-slavery”

      What has changed?

    • Peter Tavare says:

      07:47am | 16/08/11

      Those who suggest the riots were a reflection of a complete breakdown in the moral fibre are very mistaken. As a Pom myself and one who returns regularly to the UK, the riots did not reflect the wider Britain. Nor did it reflect all the immigrant communities who’ve settled in the UK. For instance, how many kids of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Polish etc origin were involved? Virtually none, if any. Why? Because they work. They come to the UK to build up their lives, not tear the place down. David Cameron’s tough speech last night is correct. They have to target those sectors that are broken, not the overwhelming majority of the UK population who are hard working, committed to the country and want to make it great.  You only have to look at England’s cricket team to see what happens when enough hard work is invested by a group. The UK will bounce back, but the time for mealy-mouthed platitudes and excuses are over. It’s time for solid, fairly harsh, action.

    • Michael N says:

      10:00am | 16/08/11

      Peter - while I’m appalled that the English cricket team owns the number 1 ranking in Test cricket, I do agree wholeheartedly with your points. I’m sure everyone outside the UK appreciates that it is a very small sector of society who are to blame and I hope the targeted response has the necessary and lasting solution for the problem.

    • Alison says:

      07:51am | 16/08/11

      So instead of thieving on a regular basis, they decided to do it by rioting, setting buildings on fire, killing people etc., ? 

      That would be so they didn’t draw attention to themselves and possibly end up in jail ?

      While looting may have been one of the outcomes, I sincerely doubt it was the starting point.

    • deb says:

      07:51am | 16/08/11

      Freedom is the day when your daggy clothes are happy on the old bod and the old tele will do until it blows a tube? or whatever they have these days.Greed/envy is a nasty,nasty disease eating away the soul.
      I didnt suddenly become enlightened or have a brick hit me on the head!
      Just woke one day and found that the neighbooors could have the latest toys and welcome to them.Me, i will wait until i can afford the newest tele or fashions from Target.
      If only kids today didnt have to compete with material things as some sort of badge of belonging.
      Be indivduals!

    • Tony Baloney says:

      08:20am | 16/08/11

      Gordon Bennett, you wouldn’t Adam and Eve it. Watching the riots, you could have been forgiven for thinking you weren’t watching a reality television show….such is the shite shown nowadays on our TV.

    • Pay that says:

      08:35am | 16/08/11

      “Watch MasterChef, or whatever the British equivalent is”

      hahahaha… nice one. 2 pts.

    • Richard the Lionheart says:

      08:38am | 16/08/11

      Good article. I recently purchased a council flat (cheap for London) in NW6. 16 story 1969 model. I was amazed. Two girls on reception every day, live in manager, gardener, maintenence man, daily cleaner for landings, lifts and public areas, car space, great security and meeting reception lounge for tennants meetings and functions. There are a few white residents and rules against noise and parties. It is like staying in a three star hotel. No riots this part of town ... touch wood. Answer? Depends on the council management.

    • Jay says:

      08:46am | 16/08/11

      There is an alarming lack of purpose in many people’s lives which our society at this stage cannot address. I was on the dole for quite a time,started to drink and was suffering from terrible depression. I made the decision that rather than sit at home I started doing volunteer work. Unpaid, but it still gave me a reason to get up in the morning. A few months later I managed to get a job and have not looked back. The ‘do gooders’ cater to the lack of worth that these people feel by blaming others for their plight, instead of saying; ‘look you have the cards you have been dealt with.You can whine about it or get out and do something’. There are many people in our society who definetely need assistance i.e carers for eg, and I want to see our resources used on trying to help these people.

    • fairsfair says:

      09:10am | 16/08/11

      Thats why I like the concept of work for the dole (though I don’t think it is effectively implemented). People need to be made aware that you don’t get anything for nothing in life. If you are on welfare, you should be required to do community service. Unemployment benefits should be treated like a job. Hours, performance managed etc. Almost like an employee of the Government doing menial tasks. You don’t do the work, you don’t get paid, or you should have to pay back the funds like a HECS debt once you are working. 

      To you though Jay, I say - good on you. You sound like a stand up person. I was unemployed for about three months in 2008. Right as the GFC ‘hit’. My issue was that I was only looking for jobs in my preferred field. I was either over or underqualified and having just moved home after a few years away, nobody would give me a start. I never got to a stage where I needed the dole. I had savings which I ate through and was able to live with my parents. In that time I repainted their house, cleaned their gardens and was essentially their maid while they both worked. I was running out of things to occupy me though, when I finally landed a permanent position.

      I can understand how people could become depressed and angry. I can’t understand how anyone would lash out in such a way though, particularly when they could find things to do to occupy their time - like you did. Even if they were to pick up rubbish on their council estate. Its not about what you are doing - it is about having a place to be and a reason to pull yourself out of bed in the morning and not get hammered the night before.

    • Anna C says:

      10:00am | 16/08/11

      I agree with you Jay. These ‘do gooders’, who are now making excuses for the rioters actions, don’t seem to understand that they are doing them a great diservice. Making excuses and providing them with sympathy for why their lives are shit isn’t doing them any favours. Welfare should be a safety-net to assist people get back on their feet, not a way of life ...END OF STORY. These ‘do gooders’ are sending the dysfunctional underclass the wrong message i.e. that they are victims of society and that is why they cannot get ahead in life. This is the wrong sort of message to be sending them. The dysfunctional underclass need to take some personal responsibility for their lives and their actions. They need to understand that to better themselves they need to study and work hard just like everyone else.

    • James1 says:

      10:48am | 16/08/11

      This will no doubt be unpopular, but I am a bit of a fan of the US unemployment insurance system, if we were to modify it somewhat.  I would prefer a system wherein people who don’t study or aren’t on a pension get a set period of benefits - say, 2 years - after which they can no longer claim and must work.  We could put single parents on these after their children are old enough to attend school, and we could limit payments to students to the time it takes to complete a bachelors degree - if you fail courses and take too long, tough, you have to work to support yourself for the remainder of your degree.

      Combine this with comprehensive, universal welfare quarantining, where welfare money can only be spent at shops and there is very limited access to cash (allowing, say, 10 per cent of any individual payment to be withdrawn as cash), and you have a welfare system that would actually lead people off welfare.

      As it stands, there is far too much carrot and not enough stick in our welfare system.  By placing a definite end-time on welfare payments, the threat of staying on welfare for too long would outweigh the benefits, and everyone, including those on welfare, would benefit.

    • AdamC says:

      11:15am | 16/08/11

      James1, I am not too big a fan of income quarantining: it further infantalises the already infantalised. I do agree with time limits on welfare, though. These should be quite short, six months or so. By cutting the timeframe of receipt, you can increase the rate. My preference would be for benefits to be calculated as a proportion of previous wages or salary (within reason).

      It seems to me that our welfare system is purpose-designed for the chronic receipients. Indefinite entitlement to receipt combined with very low rates make the dole utterly useless for the genuinely frictionally unemployed. I would also eliminate youth allowance altogether. (That is a bizarre entitlement) and use some of the proceeds to directly fund higher education.

    • Steve says:

      02:13pm | 16/08/11

      Tough restrictions on the dole is fair as long as there are jobs to go to.

      The main lack of jobs comes from small businesses not starting up that could have started up. Good business concepts that didn’t get going because someone would not risk their own money.

      In business you look for control and certainty as much as possible. Would you surrender control of you financial security to a hoody wearing regulated workforce protected by unions? A PC society that comes down on you if the white/black/Packistani mix or male/female mix doesn,t come up to expectations?

      To risk your own money you need a workforce that says “yes guvnor” when given instructions, turns up on time except for genuine illness, doesn’t steal from you and works with the care and committment something approaching what you would do yourself as an owner. You also need to be able to dismiss them if they don’t come up to the mark.

      The real story of intergenerational unemployment in the UK and parts of Australia is not in firms that have laid people off but firms that never got going that we have never even heard of.

    • Geoff says:

      05:18pm | 16/08/11

      Jay, and fairsfair.  Good bloody job. Nail, hammer! Full credit to you both for what you did.

    • Al Chunk says:

      08:53am | 16/08/11

      “why half of England ended up looking like a Boxing Day sale where ..”
      Hardly half of England.  IMO The stats will show no real increase in criminal activity but more focused into hotspots.  Most of theses areas have had “no go” police areas in them for many years,  they are heavily socially engineered sink holes and always igniting, but never getting enough critical mass to interest media.  There is nothing new about all this, only that this activity became visible.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      08:53am | 16/08/11

      If reality TV is the cause, how come all the people that watch it aren’t looting and rioting?  And are people really that stupid that watching tv gives them low self esteem?  If you can’t use your brain and say “what I’m watching is entertainment, highly choreographed to keep me watching it”, then perhaps you shouldn’t be allowed to live unassisted.
      We all have individual choice whether to earn our money and save for things we want or to become consumerist zombies.  If we choose the latter, it’s because we want to and not because someone is forcing us to.  But that’s right; none of us have personal responsibility anymore.  It’s always someone or something elses fault.

    • Tina says:

      09:06am | 16/08/11

      Why do we always try to justify or find an explanation for someones bad behaviour? Why is it up to us to fix it?

      Trying to identify the reasons for their behaviour just makes them feel what they did was somewhat ok. I dont see why the “good” members of society are supposed to take the blame for the ones who fail in society.

    • fml says:

      10:16am | 16/08/11

      Dont do anything then, problem solved.

    • Blind Freddy says:

      10:46am | 16/08/11

      If someone elses problem is that they want to inflict harm on you - don’t you think it makes sense to understand what their problem is and “fix” it?

      “Fix” it could mean many things, but if it were “fixed” we could all sleep a bit easier.

    • Tina says:

      11:12am | 16/08/11

      What I am trying to say is that it upsets me. I know we have to look into the matter but that doesnt stop me from thinking “I get up every morning doing my bit, pay my taxes, dont litter the streets and respect other peoples property”. And it upsets me that others dont.

    • Shifter says:

      02:32pm | 16/08/11

      @Blind Freddy - speaking of fixing, I wonder if you could run a voluntary sterilisation programme. For those who qualify, a free massive plasma TV and stereo system.

      It’d just be like legalising abortion’s effect on crime stats in the US.

    • AdamC says:

      09:31am | 16/08/11

      “If there’s one message that pervades modern western societies, it is this: Own it and you’ll be happy.”

      Well, sort of. We have a consumer society in which production is geared to meet the preferences of people (i.e consumers). We also have a communication architecture to market products to consumers in the form of advertising, product placement and the like. I don’t know the extent to which this consumer society caused the London riots but, in any event, what is the alternative? Clearly, even the rioters themselves support consumer society, given their coveting of chavtastic designer trackies, etc.

      Of course, these events have a number of causes. As usual, some of the more important one are also the most controversial. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8700109/Historian-Starkey-in-racism-row-over-riot-comments.html) As usual, these issues are likely to get the least attention despite being among the most important drivers of the London violence.

    • watty says:

      09:33am | 16/08/11

      Don’t think “I am a thief…but an honest one” will quite wash with the beak?

    • Tim says:

      09:38am | 16/08/11

      The riots wouldn’t have happened if we’d had another Great War to thin out the numbers of ordinary lives.

    • Trevor says:

      11:32am | 16/08/11

      And the generals (can) give thanks while the other ranks hold back the enemy tanks for a while? - Sorry couldn’t resist! But yeah, a lot of these people would have only qualified as cannon fodder in previous epochs. I blame the success of the the nuclear deterant!

    • Tim says:

      02:16pm | 16/08/11

      If ever there was an argument for nuclear disarmament, this is it. We just don’t get the opportunity to send the riffraff off to get shot anymore!!

    • Max, says:

      09:55am | 16/08/11

      This is the culmination of 2 generations of neglect , soft sentencing and the nanny state.  Poor little darlings,  are literally paid by the state to sit on their posteriors, complain about everything and plot criminal activities.  Trouble is they can not be “transported”.  Conscript them, give the Army a real challenge and put them to work .  (sorry about the four letter word, WORK)

    • Craig of North Brisbane says:

      12:51pm | 16/08/11

      I’m pretty sure the army has better things to do than look after these brats.

    • marley says:

      02:03pm | 16/08/11

      Oh, I don’t know.  I am just not sure that teaching these guys to use guns and bayonets is a really good idea.

    • James1 says:

      02:50pm | 16/08/11

      Indeed marley.  Can you imagine how the police would have fared had the looters had a solid knowledge of formation marching and tactics?

    • Anna C says:

      10:16am | 16/08/11

      “If lawless consumerism was the end game, it’s not much of a stretch to say that consumer culture itself was the fuel that lit the bonfire.”

      I think Anthony is being a tad disingenuous in blaming the looting on consumer culture. I think that the looting had more to do with rank opportunism then with anything else. These looters saw an opportunity to steal amidst the chaos of the riots and grasped their opportunity. To blame consumer culture is to take personal responsibility away from these people and to treat them like dumb animals. Is that what you are saying Anthony that the looters are dumb animals who can’t think for themselves?

    • Steve says:

      01:27pm | 16/08/11

      Anna C. Most of the time water fowl that look like ducks and sound like ducks are actually ducks unless of course it’s a cygnet.

      Having been wtaching re runs of Attenborough’s “life on Earth” series on TV, I find the contrasting of looters to dumb animals very insulting to animals.

    • Blimey says:

      10:34am | 16/08/11

      Hey Punchsters, can you quit it with the continued articles about the UK riots?The ever tenuous links you want to draw between it and whatever agenda you seem to want to bang on about are so transparent, it’s embarrassing. Yep, small pockets of London threw some things about. Fact it, they’ve been doing it in London for centuries. This event wouldn’t've lasted more than a day or two in the UK papers. Grow your own news, chaps.

    • marley says:

      01:00pm | 16/08/11

      If what you’re saying is true, why are the Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent, not to mention the lesser tabloids, all featuring articles on the riots in first or second position on their websites?  Seems to me it’s lasted more than a day or two in the UK papers already.

    • Blimey says:

      01:16pm | 16/08/11

      Generally, these papers are now talking about sentencing and what’s occurring there. They’re not still talking about the reasons why it happened. It’s very easy for Australian journalists to come to their own (in this case) shoddy conclusions from afar.

    • marley says:

      01:44pm | 16/08/11

      Okay, so what you’re saying is, the UK papers have in fact covered it for more than a day or two.  And by the way, I seem to have read, possibly in those self-same papers, that more than a few pockets of London were involved - as this map suggests:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-incident-map

      And for the rest, well, lets see now - The Independent’s cartoon is about the aftermath of the riots, and one of its editorials and a whole slab of letters are about the riots.  The Guardian is running four opinion pieces analysing the riots and the political response, the Times has a lead opinion piece about the police reaction to the riots, etc etc. 

      Seems to me the British press is in fact doing quite a lot of analysis, trying to work out what happened and why.  And I see no reason why Australian and other international media shouldn’t look at the issues too, to try to understand what were the causes, and whether the same ingredients are present in our own societies.  Analysis is a legitimate exercise, even if it’s facile.  And so is commenting.

    • Blimey says:

      04:57pm | 16/08/11

      I’m all for analysis and commenting.But not from 20,000 miles away from people who don’t have a clue about the complexities of UK culture and yet happily trumpet their uninformed opinions, simplistically attributing it to ‘lack of smacking’ and ‘Reality TV’. As I mentioned earlier, rioting and thieving in London has been happening for centuries and is very much an expression of the intensity and complexities of one of the world’s great cities. Articles such as this one are just desperate, ‘click-seeking’ twaddle.

    • Blimey says:

      05:44pm | 16/08/11

      I meant 20,000 kilometres, not miles.

    • Sean Williams says:

      02:12am | 17/08/11

      Be fair the poor dears need something to talk about Blimey, nothing happens of any interest in Australia, quite literally nothing. They import our culture and pass it off as their own - “MasterChef, or whatever the British equivalent is” LMAO!!! - so they may as well import our news too!

    • Stockinbingal roo says:

      10:49am | 16/08/11

      It is amusing that so many of us, 12 000 miles away have the answers to solving the problems of England. I’m glad my family left in 1853. Also, to the people that winge about people bludging what are you doing on this website, shouldn’t you be working? (Yes, I’m a hypocrite).

    • Kika says:

      03:21pm | 16/08/11

      Convicted to Paradise I say!

    • Bitten says:

      11:23am | 16/08/11

      You can intellectually masturbate about root causes all you want. At the coalface, it’s a bunch of badly behaved dipsh*ts behaving like badly behaved dipsh*ts. You can dress it up however you want, but that is the reality in the cold light of morning.

      None of the dipsh*ts appearing before a magistrate at a commital will be able to whine about the decay of society and the influence of consumer-kulcha. They will be called to account for their actions and they’ll have absolutely f* all to say for themselves. See they know exactly what they did and why they did it: because they felt like it. It felt good. It suited them at the time and why the f* shouldn’t they? That is the criminal dipsh*t mentality all over. Stop trying to intellectualise something that is inherently moronic. They won’t get a decent punishment of course, which will reinforce the mentality. And so on and on it goes…

    • Shelly says:

      11:26am | 16/08/11

      Good article.  Having been in England recently and particularly these areas where the mob riots occurred, I was aware of an obsessive consumer society, but it was more than just consumerism, it is a ‘posh and becks/footballer wives’ lifestyle consumerism.  I think you have hit the nail on the head.  I agree with other posters that there were other elements to it but the end game of the riots appeared to be grabbing as many high end goods as you could for free - by all manner of people, white, black, well-off (grammar school kids), employed, unemployed.  Just look at the hijacking of the Burberry brand.

    • jim morris says:

      11:39am | 16/08/11

      So what have the rioters learnt from the events of last week?
      1. Get a balaclava and a spare jacket.
      2. Everyone carry a small plastic bottle of inflammable liquid.
      3. Increase the numbers and spread the action.

    • Shelly says:

      11:57am | 16/08/11

      4. And bring your shopping bags

    • Kika says:

      03:15pm | 16/08/11

      Flammable or inflammable?

    • Yuri says:

      05:59pm | 16/08/11

      @Kika. One idiosyncrasy of the English language is that flammable and inflammable mean exactly the same thing.

    • Cathcing up says:

      11:46am | 16/08/11

      “These people are too lazy to go out and earn the income that will enable them to buy the goods. Thus when opportunity presented itself they looted the goods”

      If what you say is true, why are so many in court, educated and employed. .

      Oh, and far to old to be considered a teenager.

    • Nikki Heat says:

      12:19pm | 16/08/11

      Its called British History.English people have been fighting each other , their neighbours and the world for over 3000 years.

    • marley says:

      01:01pm | 16/08/11

      There haven’t been “English people” for 3000 years.

    • Nikki Heat says:

      12:21pm | 16/08/11

      If the Liberal Nationals ever got into federal government thanks to the media, then Australia would become the second England!

    • VVS says:

      12:37pm | 16/08/11

      Would our cricket team start winning Tests again like England? If so bring on an election before Summer!!

    • Shelly says:

      12:48pm | 16/08/11

      Right - because we are in such a good place now Nikki…./sarc

    • Nikki Heat says:

      12:50pm | 16/08/11

      The federal election is in the third quarter of 2013 ! That is three summers away! Labor will win easily ! Nobody would make Abbott or Turnbull PM !!

    • Shelly says:

      01:58pm | 16/08/11

      What is your point?  Have you seen the polls, Australia cannot sustain another 2 years of this Govt and their litany of policy bungles - take a look around!!  But I understand, with Labor voters it is tribal and ‘whatever it takes’.  Socialism is fine until it runs out of other people’s money…

    • Demoman says:

      12:59pm | 16/08/11

      Having lived in various locations in Europe I would say that the lower classes in the UK are FAR worse than the lower classes in Germany, Holland, France etc.

      I honestly don’t blame the upper middle class for their contempt for the lower classes, they are truly vile. To top it off they’re also extremely unattractive.

      Why can’t lower class Anglos be like the lower class Japanese?

    • Rick says:

      01:37pm | 16/08/11

      The reason for this is that the cops shot a black guy.That started a riot, when these things start they are likley to escilate.ie. LA riots when Rodney King was filmed being beat up by the cops, the only reason that didn’t spread was the cops in the US did a decent job of controlling it. Pommy cops ... well no one expects them to do a good job like the rest of that mob. Good at rioting but.

    • Anjuli says:

      02:12pm | 16/08/11

      We all have our thoughts on the riots, unless you have been and lived in the UK I don’t think that any one can realize just how serious it was getting before, some thing had to give. I brought my family to Australia some 38 years ago it was bad enough then, in parts .A phone call from my niece last night was telling me of a family whose son was taking part in the riot. The mother was in denial that he was there even when she was shown the photo .She didn’t see why she should be evicted from her council house if her son is found guilty which is what the authorities are planning to do, then it comes out that she is 2000 pounds in areas with the rent not showing any shame,this just shows the mentality of some.

    • Oliver says:

      04:03pm | 16/08/11

      Since the conclusion of WW2, the UK fed it’s largest corporations with cheap labour from it’s least educated classes and convinced their middle class to consume their produce en mass.

      Today, where manufacturing has effectively been out-sourced to developing countries, English society is now comprised of generations of under-educated and practically redundant citizens who do not have the means (education), the role models or the funding to do much more than live out their lives as best they can. They have been abandoned by a system that no longer has a use for them.

    • John says:

      07:14pm | 16/08/11

      “It is NOT about rap music or blaming that as degenerating our youth (which I actually think is ok, and besides, people said the same about Elvis, heavy metal and rock),”

      You gotta be kidding me, like metal and rock are cultures! rap music is culture, not only a culture but a criminal culture. The genius fruit loops in the American music industry, have been pumping this degenerate criminal rap culture to our youth for ages. I personally think they do it on purpose to degenerate. It’s utterly amazing you have criminals spewing their nonsense rap music on how the police get in the way of their drugs deals, murders and rapes. Rap music must be banned, and throw the CEO’s that market this criminal culture to our youth to jail.

    • Samantha says:

      10:58pm | 16/08/11

      Oh for goodness sake don’t keep blaming the Americans for everything…the Brits did it with punk music and others did it with heavy metal…seriously how about we just wake up and take responsibility for making a huge mistake in allowing to make everthing acceptable eg single parenting, divorces and just plain lazy people who think that they are owed everything in life just for being born. Bring back discipline, bring back police power, bring back teachers powers. If you cannot discipline your kid then the teachers and law makers will do so. The soft approach does not cut it anymore. The sad part is we need a huge wakeup call like a world wide natural devasation or a world war or a world depression for the youth of today to learn.

    • biscuit says:

      11:05am | 17/08/11

      soooo…consumerism caused the riots? are you trying to say that people who couldn’t afford a new plasma or the lastest burberry just couldn’t take it anymore and burst into a rampage to get stuff? en masse?
      the looting was a result of opportunisism in light of the reduced capacity of the police due to trying to contain rioters, not the other way around…

    • Pip says:

      12:30pm | 17/08/11

      Exactly my thoughts. It’s a bit hard to Facebook, Youtube and Twit without the right equipment. And this whole shift in lifestyle / expectation has happened within my lifetime. And I’m only half way dead!!
      Oh, how I pine for my childhood sometimes.
      I’ve always thought of London as being the canary in the coal mine.

    • Henry Elliss says:

      04:01pm | 17/08/11

      Not important I know, but the “English equivalent” of MasterChef is… well, the ORIGINAL MasterChef. It’s a British format…

    • Thommo says:

      05:05pm | 17/08/11

      388 deaths in custody - zero police charged - that’s the real cause of the riots. And then they were allowed to develop and run a few days so Britain could then hire private security companies like America. It’s all part of the plan

    • Samantha says:

      07:58pm | 17/08/11

      Thommo…Thommo…Thommo…more excuses….its because the man in the moon is blue.  How about people take a step back and seriously look at themselves and their expectations and realise that they have their limitations as human beings and not envy people that have more

    • Banjo says:

      09:18am | 17/10/11

      Kewl you shulod come up with that. Excellent!

 

Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more

28 comments

Newsletter

Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter