What’s in store for England?

Economic decline and rioting on the city streets of England are filling our newspapers at the moment, but very little attention is being paid to what things are going to be like when all the furore has died down and we have to rebuild what has been damaged and lost.

It feels as though we’re on a precipice, on the verge of ecomonic disaster and momentous social change. And not just us, I hasten to add – the USA, Spain, France, even China to some extent – one by one the economic powers are falling, and I haven’t heard anyone even allude to what the world is going to look like when the last power bloc falls.

England stands firmly within an international community, a complexity of economically interdependent relationships whose strength ultimately relies on the strength of the American economy. The plunge into ridiculous levels of debt since Bush’s decision to deregulate the financial industry has undermined those relationships, and those who have taken the dream of capitalism between the bit and galloped off in pursuit of perfect freedom are now miring themselves and others in the bog of being unable to extricate entire countries from this now unsupportable debt.

And so the worsening economic climate has been a major contribution to social disaffection. The police shooting of Mark Duggan was catalyst rather than cause of the ensuing violence, as discontent has been rumbling and building under the surface of our society for quite some time now, perhaps even generations. Unsurprisingly some of the major media-fed characteristics of our society – such as the drive to possess, and the centring of ones own world around oneself – have driven the wedge between the wealthy and the impoverished in England deeper and deeper every year. As a nation we are all, including myself, responsible for having created the mess we are in, being almost completely unable to see the value in caring for the wider society we ought to be a part of.

For some individuals, the immediate aftermath of the riots is clear. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods have been destroyed, to those who have suffered injury or bereavement. They are ever-present in my prayers as they face the coming weeks and months and possibly years of coping with the fall-out of the awful events of this week. As a nation, staggering through a social crisis that no-one seems to have foreseen, and simultaneously suffering from the blows of international economic decline, it feels as though we have a long way to go before we reach any kind of stability. I wonder why it has to take a crisis this deep-running to bring people together; still, it is hopeful that we are now beginning to show, as a nation, our potential to see beyond our own individual needs. Witnessing the hordes of people cleaning up the damaged streets, and reading of the generosity of those helping affected people, is a tonic amidst so much suffering. If, as we rebuild businesses, homes and lives, we can build such expressions of generosity and good will into the fabric of our society, then whatever the future brings for England, we will be better resourced to deal with it.

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5 responses to “What’s in store for England?

  1. I’m not sure this will change anything. We need to address the roots of the discontent and treating the disaffected youth harshly and cutting benefits of the deprived won’t do that. Murderers and gang leaders need to be punished and removed from society so they won’t have further opportunities for their criminal activities, but we need to be more imaginative than simply sending the rest of them to prison. In my opinion they need to do something such as well-thought out and well-supervised community service that will teach them the three R’s needed for a healthy society: Respect (for themselves as well as others), Responsibility and Relationship. I’ve more to say on that subject on my own blog.

    This map is interesting http://james.cridland.net/blog/london-riots-plus-deprivation-interesting/ It shows that the unrest in London was pretty much in the areas of multiple deprivation, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. So we also need to address deprivation and poverty in the UK

  2. I’m talking more about long-term strategies to effect changes in social attitudes rather than the immediate need to deal with rioters. And there’s this awful sense of ‘them and us’ which the government is doing nothing to counter, when what we all should be doing is accepting our collective ownership of the problem of divided community – not creating a war between the ‘civilised’ and the ‘uncivilised’. We may fight back with words and sighs and tuts and self-righteousness, but all we achieve is greater division. Pouring all our energy into improving police responses to riot situations will not salve the national conscience, as the violence is a symptom of this much deeper disaffection that’s been building up for such a long time. Yes, it’s very important to address the problems of deprivation and poverty, but not even that is the root of the disaffection; the root the pursuit of self-interest and acquisitive goals, and that needs to be challenged across all levels of society.

    • “the root of the disaffection; the root the pursuit of self-interest and acquisitive goals, and that needs to be challenged across all levels of society”.

      How do you propose we do that, Sarah?

  3. Is that one of the unanswerable questions this blog is all about?! It’s a fairly utopian idea, I know, and a lot of people will probably think that it’s therefore unachieveable, but times like this show us what potential there is within us as a society to care for something beyond ourselves. We won’t be able to create a perfect society, but we could try and create a better one.

    The problem seems to be that where in the past there were great thinkers coming up with new social and economic ideals, such voices now are either silent or unheard. There is plenty of reactionary response, but nothing strategic. And in the midst of economic chaos, with capitalism struggling to justify itself, there are no alternatives being suggested. Our social structure is to a great extent built around capitalist ideals and clearly is not working. Have we as a race got tired of trying new things, new ways of governing ourselves in relation to one another? Or has our imagination run out? I don’t know, but my thoughts are that we need philosophers (and I suppose economists!) to do some thinking and people at grass roots level who believe in the need for change and are willing to work for it.

    I suppose alternatively if the capitalist regime is ‘saved’, for good or ill, it ought to be possible to regulate it better with regard to its detrimental effect on the planet and on humankind. Balancing our individual needs and wants with the needs and wants of those we live among; resisting the power of the media which tries to tell us that we are the most important person in the world, and that possessions create personality; actually taking an interest in local and national politics beyond our own blinkered agendas; through acts such as these it ought to be possible throughout all of society to redeem capitalism into something that is more appropriately tailored to human need rather than human greed. I could speak of the international benefits of such actions as well but that’s a whole other chapter…

  4. We do seem to have capitalism “gone mad”, these days; unfettered consumerism devoid of any sense of compassion or responsibility. I think most human beings will favour some kind of capitalism, but it certainly needs redeeming and rethinking.

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