Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Take Away Responsibility, And Men Will Become Irresponsible

The fires of poverty and injustice are raging through the suburbs of France this week, and have now made their way to the centre of the city of Lyon, a place which was once the home of a brave resistance, fighting off the distant Nazi tyranny. The smouldering whiff of rebellion courses through the air of a nation founded on the principles of freedom, equality and brotherhood.

We in Britain would be deluding ourselves if we claimed we did not understand the kind of violence that is tormenting the most depressed parts of the French Republic. Since the turn of the century, we've had rioting, which superficially we have concluded was down to racial problems. In Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and Leeds, we have seen violence, all of which we decided stemmed from the issue of race. In Glodwick, two Asian youths quarrelled with two white youths, before a wave of violence tore the last remnants of community in Oldham to the ground. In Harehills, the arrested of an Asian man was the catalyst for a night of violence in Leeds.

Whilst we may not yet have seen violence on a scale that France has endured for the past two weeks, it is still despairingly easy to come to one simple conclusion: our society is in a crisis.

The most deprived communities of Britain, just like the most deprived communities of France, are in a perpetual state of depression. Joblessness, criminality and dependence breed a society of men and women with no hope in their lives, and nothing to live for. Fear is a constant. These communities, often council estates created by government, designed to be the perfect havens for the working men of our nation, are under the thumb of violent youths, drug-dealers and gun-toting maniacs. Nobody can trust one another. People become atomised, destroying any sense of community and responsibility for one's society. This all sums up the dark, shadowy depression that has crept into the poorest parts of both our nations, and which can only be solved through serious change to the structure of our societies.

In France, the rioters and their sympathisers and apologists complain about the high-handed and apparently institutionally racist authorities, ruled over by the tough Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. It is quite possible that they are right. Too often, authority has no respect for the people who must submit to it. This is just as true in our nation, where the police have become distant and something to be quietly feared, even by the law-abiding majority. As they race across the streets of estates in their cars, sirens ablaze, stopping often to tell good people they are doing something wrong, and avoiding the gang on the street corner which looks as though it should be avoided at all costs, it is easy to conclude that they must regain the trust and respect of the most impoverished communities. It is easy for authority to demand respect, but only wisdom can teach you that the two guiding rules of respect are that it must be earned, and it must be mutual.

Of course, in Britain, there is no suggestion that respect will ever be mutual. The poorest people of Britain are ruled over by a distant government which has no respect at all for their wishes or their concerns. When the State takes away responsibility from the individual, the individual will become irresponsible. By removing freedom over all manner of issues from the British people, it has taken away their responsibilities. And now, in the most depressed communities, the lack of responsibility people have for themselves, their families and their communities is exactly what is destroying the very fabric of society.

The State has taken away the freedom and the responsibility of some of the poorest people in the French banlieues, and now the cities are burning. It truly terrifies me to contemplate how near we may be to the same thing in the inner cities of Britain.

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