Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Please be aware there will be strong views in this post. Those of a nervous disposition should look away now. I'm afraid today is not about the delicious world that is weddings. Also I am am completely happy for you to disagree with me. I want discussion.

As I sit in my ivory tower I can hardly believe how my beautiful home city has been raped and pillaged by mindless thugs. I am finding it particularly difficult to put my thoughts into meaningful words.

I understand those on Saturday afternoon wanting answers. Yes that was a silent and civil protest. People are not shot our our streets by the Police every day. Yet if I assume that not all the information released by the Police is not misinformation - the chap who was sadly killed was still a drug dealer. That does not mean he deserved to die but I'm afraid my sympathies do not stretch too far for him save his immediate family who may have known a different person. However, I think it is important to step back and realise (and be thankful) that we do not live in a police state and that the use of deadly force is not common nor is it recurrent event. Yes things do go wrong and mistakes are made but Operation Trident is doing a very good job in a very broken society. A society which thinks it is okay to wield guns and terrorise because this is what this is - Terrorism. I do not use that word lightly. It has gone further than simple looting. Looting which no business can completely insure themselves against. These are not the rich, as the stupid children on television seem to believe.  The businesses you a pillaging are local businesses with no money. People who want to work and make something of themselves. These are not people who are happy to be a third generation dole seeker. (P.S. Despite being eligible, I do not receive any money from the Government - I do not believe I deserve any extra money because of my situation. If that means working longer before retiring then so be it.)

Yes, I have grown up with privilege. Privilege for me was a constant roof over my head (for the most part - living in awful rented homes was never good), both parents (although not always in the same country) and, most importantly, love but even in my relatively sheltered community there were children who came to school unwashed, hungry and for want of a better word, close to broken. However did these children give up? No because their families wanted them to succeed, and by extension they also wanted to achieve. However there is a flip side to this encouragement and for me the root cause of our problems.

As a child now, you are constantly bombarded with people's "easy" success. Sing a few notes and you will get a record deal and be "famous." To be famous is all many children want. (The idea always seemed horrifying to me!) Having a brother teach in a relatively poor area he would only agree that they expect so much from so very little. It's not fair if they don't get help with their work and by help I mean the teacher doing their work for them. Case in point, a girl at my school, an only child (perhaps relevant) was/is a completely awful singer. I wish I could link to her site but that would be incredibly cruel. She actually is not that bad a song writing but her voice is abysmal. However, I know that her parents thought her to be perfection personified. They praised her at every turn. Sent her to music school, drama school and any other art school they could find. Now what does she do? She works at a shop, once a week. Why raise her expectations? She only wants to be a singer now. For me it is the most unkind. No wonder children feel disrespected and undervalued. Some have been taught from a very early age that they can get whatever they want, whenever they want. It becomes very clear that they expect to earn £40k straight from university and be able to walk into a job. (Oh how I know that is not true!) You may disagree but I am afraid they expect everything handed to them on a plate. Jobs, exam results and ultimately money. It is quite obvious we are the ones to blame.

Or perhaps I should talk about those parents who have no interest in their children. You know who I am talking about. The mothers who seemingly need to talk to everyone and anyone on their mobile phone except their own children. What do they need to talk about? Whilst you are wheeling your child around the world, show them the sights and smells which can invigorate and inspire. My parents worked, and they were often away (my father up to a year at a time - at one point he was taken hostage - but another story for another time) but they were always there to read with me and impart knowledge. They cared enough to want to spend time with me. Sure you may not like your children all of the time but you must love them. The love engenders security and with security can follow self actualization. If you have children they are your responsibility alone. Yes schooling is important but teachers are not glorified childminders. It is up to you to help your child grew up to respect you and their community. If you don't care - who do you expect should? I know that you think it should be the State.

Perhaps we should move away from communities encouraging 14 or 15 year olds to have children. Why do you think you have the right to procreate if you have no means of supporting your child? I grew up with both parents working and all my grandparents working. I was born into a family who could afford a child. Money was always tight but my parents chose to make sacrifices for both me and my brother. Sacrifices for which I am very grateful. I would agree that perhaps the way my parents dealt with me by saying I would never succeed is also not the right way to mold a young child's mind. It has caused me a few issues. (However reverse psychology has made me achieve higher than most - but please don't use it. It breaks your brain!)

People talk about the cuts, they they are the root of all this evil. Unfortunately because we have an aging population and some bad fat cats lost some of our money. WE HAVE NO MONEY. The Government can't make it appear. I'm not saying it isn't their fault but the situation in which we find ourselves in is untenable. There is no money left. Yes you can cry that your pension is the only reason you do your job but do you really think the government can support you for 40 years in your retirement. These calculations for retirement at 50 were made many years ago when people were meant to die before they reached 80. Can you not see the problem. I agree you have been deceived but if there is no money, there is no money. Indeed with my cynical hat on do we honestly think that all the kids involved recently would be the ones attending school or popping into youth clubs?

So I started off by thinking I would just get very right wing and say that the youth are broken and it is all their own fault. However, I guess I've realised that our own society is to blame. It's not about race, it's not about poverty, it's not about the lack of Police on the street.* It's about the lack of responsibility by families. It starts from day one and continues indefinitely. I was going to question why the youths felt the need to cover their faces if they felt they were doing no wrong and what punishment befits their crime?

Bean and I had a heated debate whilst listening to people say nothing on Newsnight about how to deal with the situation. It is thought for the most part the criminals have no jobs. So to make them work sounds like a good idea. Yet it takes away from those who have been honest and true. The same for signing them up for national service. Do not belittle the work that is done by dedicated servicemen across the globe by diluting their numbers. I have other ideas but I fear they are a little too, Demolition Man to really work.

I see no obvious solution. I imagine because there is no obvious solution otherwise the problems that occurred over the past few days. I just hope that things settle down soon. I hope there are no more losses of life. Please can we show the world that we are not just thugs but that we do deep down, care. I fear that the minority may very much overshadow the wonderful majority.

Finally, I'm hoping you don't, but if you do know of anyone (or even suspect anyone) check out the Met Police's Flickr page and get them punished. They do deserve it. They have ruined people's lives. They need to be shown they are part of a community and in this community we do not tolerate such behaviour. Respect is earnt not doled out when you reach the age of majority (or even before that).

*Please don't blame the Police. They do a bloody horrible job. Yes, no-one makes them do that job but many see it as a vocation. At least they try. They want to be on the street helping people. So don't be appalled by the lack of arrests (although I still think 500 and counting is impressive) because to arrest and then process at the custody suite take hours. Hours that could be used to protect. Good choice chaps. I think you are fabulous. 


  1. I think the problem is that there is no obvious long term solution that wouldn't involve some big changes and big changes means money and as you said - we don't have any money. Its not just pensions that are based on dated calculations, everything is changing faster than our government can.

    I definitely don't think you can fully blame the youth though - there is a whole culture out there that is based on generations (families as you say) that live in the same kind of way and feel like they have no other choice than a criminal life... I feel more upset that this has been ignored for so long more than anything to be honest.

  2. You are totally right with a lot of this, especially the bit about respect must be earn't. The problem is nowadays people are born with an expectation, and that is that they are owed something, and this is not just deprived children I am talking about but ALL/MOST children.

    There is no authority, no fear, no respect for elders because we have created a litigious society afraid of reprimanding and restraining children when they do wrong (No I am not saying smack the kids - the threat alone was enough to keep us in check). But now kids know this, they know they have the power, that they can't be touched, so why the hell are they going to respect or obey?

    As for not having any respect from others, well kids all I can say is get yourself out there, fend for yourselves in a moral, justified and honourable way and the respect will come flooding to you. You have to earn it just like the rest of us andd you have to keep on earning it throughout your life, just like the rest of us, it is not your god-given RIGHT.

    Great post Anna x

  3. Saw your comment on Twitter... you don't write like a constipated! That was hilarious... You're a great writer! :-)
    Anyway... what you said is very true. I myself come from a country where to get anything out of the government may mean waiting until your hair turns grey. So people work. End of.
    Student loans, grants??? Ah ah! Funny joke! Job seekers allowance?? Ah ah! You can wait forever! Council flats? Ah ah, how long are you prepared to wait? One girl gets pregnant at 16...the whole town is going to know. Disgrace on the parents!
    Come on, who are we kidding? England and the freebies it gives everyone is paradise compared to most countries, and yet it grows the most dysfunctional kids I have ever seen. And that's because some of these 15 yos are children of women who had them at 15, who they themselves are just about starting to understand what being an adult means.
    Please make no mistake. I don't come from a particularly privileged family. My dad didn't go to school, instead he went to work at the age of 10 and moved to the north of the country with his family when the work where they were living run out. Today my dad is a taxi driver and has been working 7 days a week for the past 50 years to give his children and teach us the value of hard work, but NEVER EVER sacrificing quality time with us.
    Today I suffer with a chronic illness that would give me entitlement to disability benefits. But at the age of 29 I can't and I won't let someone tell me that I should give up and let the government step in. Instead I gave up to a career, decided to work freelance part time and try to get my own wedding planning business going. Boy if it's hard work, but what choice have I got?! All I know is that nothing is for free. Not even in this country.
    Parents, stop blaming schools and teachers. You gave birth to that child, you have the responsibility to teach them morals, good ethics, religion and hard work.
    These kids should all go to prison and, when they come out, give a % of what they earn (if they ever get a job) for life to a fund supporting businesses that have lost all in the London riots (if I can continue repaying my student loan for life so can they).

    No more : the government and authorities have never listened to these youths... these youths have got nothing to say! Because their brains is fully of junk. Find me a rioter that is a full-time student / worker and is mentally sane! Everyone has a choice, regardless of where they come from, what family they were born in or what town they grew up in. To live you need to work, not walk the streets at night terrorising people, destroying shops and stealing.

    Pathetic to say the least.

    That's it, I've said it! Hope you, hard working Anna, will have a prosperous business!

  4. i am so conflicted about everything that has happened. Kids running round in expensive trainers and organising crime on their iPhones claiming that they do it because they're poor seems insane, compared to the starving, suffering masses in other parts of the world.

    But what these kids are poor in is STUFF. In the same way that they believe they should be famous for not doing anything, they think they are entitled to material goods without earning them. They are bombarded with messages from the media, from society, from their peers telling them that if they don't have the latest thing then they're nothing.

    The fact that the money they do have they spent on tracksuits and not nappies, or food, or whatever is indicative of the values they grow up with. And you can't exactly what people spend their benefits on, as far as I'm aware. But that is where the theft comes from, presumably. They're OWED it, innit.

    One day, years from now, still broken and discontented, they will be an adult with a responsibility to society and when some upstart kicks their front door in or smashes up their car or worse, then maybe they will regret this. But the fact remains that as long as they continue to feel entitled and think they are invincible and can get away with it, they will still try to.

    I would have more sympathy if they had, say, attacked Sloane Square or The City, or some sort of icon of wealth. But they are effectively shitting on their own doorsteps and making things worse for themselves in the long run, which sadly they are too ignorant or ill-informed to realise. They are driving away business, investors and homeowners from their own areas, thus decreasing any future opportunities and so the vicious cycle continues...

  5. Well done for voicing such an honest opinion. I really feel for kids today especially the disaffected teens. To make things better we need to focus on education - not just for grades and school board impressions but push for a variety in our education system to encourage and support those that can't handle the standard academic subjects. And back this up with basic education on day to day living, how to manage your money, business requirements etc - no one needs a compulsory education in Religious Studies, Community and life knowledge is far more valuable.

  6. Yay. Tough talking! When my daughter was small (long time ago) I took her to a birthday party at her school friend's house. The mother had boasted many times that she and 2 other friends were going to get pregnant so they could get council houses. They had no intention of the father's being around. Life went according to plan for them. Babies first, council house next, benefits to follow.

    The party was in said council house. The mother was f'ing and blinding at her own boy, who was totally ignoring her and kicking lumps out of a neighbour's caravan. She walked away and he carried on.

    Over the years these three kids got into all sorts of trouble because nobody checked them. Nobody stopped them doing stuff they shouldn't. Mums each took cleaning jobs but didn't want to officially work cos they would lose their benefits. Kids ran riot. 2 of them ended up in prison. Don't know what happened to the other one. Lives mapped out at an early age by mothers who saw their kids first and foremost as a nice little earner. A means to a more comfortable life.

    So here's what I think needs to happen. I think we need to do something now to support all of the kids out there with inadequate parents. That means giving teachers and those in authority actual authority.

    But we also need to draw a line in the sand and say that from this point forward, from TODAY, people will not be funded to bring kids into this world for whom they will take no responsibility.

    There are many many people - way too many - who live in poverty. They don't rob. They don't destroy and they try to do better for their kids. Then there's the underworld of kids who have never had this kind of love and care. I feel desperately sorry for them as it is their parents, not they, who are to blame. We have a whole generation of kids who are going to strenghten this underworld unless authority is restored and respected. Policemen able to say no. Teachers able to discipline.

    We can try to repair the damage that has already been done. But more importantly, we can stop, right now, enabling people to bring children into this world without at the same time committing to raise them right.

    Yikes. How right wing do I sound. What is happening in the UK makes me so sad just now. No easy fix. But we need to stop pussy footing around speaking politically correct nonsense.

    I'm prepared for the backlash!! And I'm pressing send. noooooww!

  7. Dear Anna,
    I am rather lost for words on all that has been happening. That is not like me. I think I am still in shock.
    What you have written so well here really reflects what I have been thinking and feeling but have been to stunned to articulate.
    I think, perhaps, now that I am a mother myself it has made my head spin more than ever.
    Thank you for writing this post and helping me to think through it all x

  8. I don't normally comment on blogs but there has been so much said about what has happened the last few days and yours seemed a good post to respond to! First of all I will say of course you are entitled to your opinion, but I fear you have got several things wrong.

    A child acquires their values, their expectations, their sense of morality, justice and ethics from the world around them. That world includes their immediate family, but perhaps more crucially it also includes the wider society. What society teaches us is more crucial because it is the state of that society which determines the kind of the family that child grows up in. Your piece places a lot of emphasis on the responsibility of parents, and of those mothers who gab on their phone and ignore their children, who are probably also on benefits right?

    But what we must ask ourselves as a society is this. What kind of a world is it where a better option for a young woman is to have a child and live off what is actually a miniscule handout a week? What kind of a life have they been born into where this is the only option that seems possible? And when I say 'born into' I don't (as you appear to) blame the parents, I blame the state of the society ( by which I mean those in power) which has let this cycle continue. Because those parents were also once children, most likely also growing up in this never-ending cycle of deprivation.

    Your friends aren't looting, my friends aren't looting, the government's children aren't looting and I doubt Oxbridge graduates are looting. Minus perhaps a few exceptions, the majority of people looting do so because they are on the outside of a society which continually tells them that all they need to do is work hard and they will succeed, yet when they come from a background of no support and no confidence, the ability to 'work hard' is even further out of reach. Where education is not encouraged because their parents were not encouraged, where having children at 16 seems like a better idea than making a worthwhile contribution to the world and pursuing a career they are passionate about. We must ask ourselves why stealing trainers from JD sports seems like a good idea to some people and not to others. The answer: it seems like a good idea if you have very little else to do or believe in. If you see your life going nowhere wouldn't you want a wide-screen tv too?

    It is sad that the targets of the riots were often local shop owners, but poverty and a lack of opportunity unfortunately tends to hurt others at a similar or slightly higher level on the ladder. The rich and advantaged are too distant, too abstract and too different to be real and effective targets, the damage to them won't hurt, so it won't be real - and the frustration needs a real outlet. The tragedy is that when the 'undersociety' turns, it can turn against others like it.

    The lucky ones such as the wealthy, the educated and the fortunate do not do these things, not because they are 'better' people and less evil, but because they have had better pasts and can expect better futures. These riots are in fact perfect proof that circumstances make the person, people are not born bad lazy and yobbish, because if it was a matter of birth, wouldn't we find some of this 'thuggish' behaviour in those that happened to grow up rich as well? we see this behaviour from the poor and disadvantaged because poverty breeds it, not the other way around. Until people with your kind of views understands this, your ivory tower will be in jeopardy.

  9. Anna, the more I hear from you the more I come to realise that you are eminently sensible!

  10. I have been thinking about a way to respond to this but just couldn't find the words... Anonymous has found them perfectly.

    It's a cycle of abuse/deprivation/poverty/worthlessness that looks set to continue. And it's wrong.

    Another thing I think it's important to point out - the government is making it harder for all of those things that can erase this cycle (like education/employment/community investment) to happen. There is a sense of hopelessness about this, for all concerned.

    This is well worth a read too, far more eloquent and know's what she's talking about!

    ‎'It's not one occasional attack on dignity, it's a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession'

    Great post Anna, always good to start a discussion.

  11. Really interesting post Anna, and I agree with so many of your points. I thought "Anonymous" made some interesting points too; but what are the answers? It is a societal problem, but it's rooted in the (lack of) strong family values. When children are having children, what hope is there really that there is a solid foundation to flourish from. Having worked in the criminal justice system, I have managed third generation offenders, who are entrenched in an environment that merely perpetuates the sense of disenfranchisement. Yet it is important that we don't allow that to be an excuse either. The number of times I have heard the line, "The system has failed me" just thrown out with no real understanding of what that means or how that is really so. They hear this being discussed around them, and cling onto the words like life rafts to absolve them of taking any responsibility. To try and tread the line of providing support yet encouraging self efficacy is tough, particularly when any form of intervention is often brief (for example I would work with my offenders for an hour a week, once a week. There were times I genuinely could see a sincere understanding and belief in them, that they could see there is more for their future if they would just believe in it. But the moment they walk out the door, they are back in their own environment where those feelings of motivation fade fast away...) How can we build more ongoing pro-social modelling into the lives of those who live so far from it? That's the million dollar question!

    (PS. I didn't have time to read over this, so I hope it makes sense!)

  12. I'm really glad that you linked this post from your post today (17/8), as hadn't seen it. As an inner-city school teacher, and former special constable, I was shocked, but not surprised, at the attitudes displayed by the young people given airtime by reporters.
    To me, you have succinctly summed up what I have been trying in vain to convey to many people I know - that the kids I teach don't care that they have to work to get their grade c, because they're 'gonna be a footballer, innit'. The culture of our society is, unfortunately, to want it all, to be the best, and to do it with little outward effort. I wonder, have you read Katherine Birbalsingh's excellent book 'To Miss with love'? (With a brother in teaching you might have.)


So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.


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