Following the riots of the last few days there are a range of voices trying to explain the underlying causes of the out and out criminal behaviour of a very few young people. One reason given is the lack of identify with our societies. And some of the reasons given for this is a general lack of respect not only for the law, but for anyone set in authority including parents, teachers and the police.
But it is not only the young who show disrespect for civil behaviour. A large number of adults, many of them old and who know better, show disregard for what one would consider responsible behaviour. Frequently I see mothers, driving their children to school, on their mobile phone. The mayor of London is seen riding his bicycle without a helmet. People without justification parking is disabled parking bays because it is too far to walk from a normal bay or, as sometimes is heard, ‘I will only be a few minutes’.
The other day a woman in the supermarket I was in realised she had forgot something so left her trolley for four minutes whilst she went to search for whatever she had forgotten without any consideration for other shoppers already queuing up. Today, when I returned home someone parked across my driveway to make a phone call. When asked why he did not park a few yards up the road told me to ‘cool down’; no apology, no regret. My inconvenience was irrelevant, his needs were paramount.
We have lived through a few years where bankers have effectively busted the banking system and, having been bailed out by us, the tax payer, are back on the bonus gravy train. Senior police offices are resigning or being suspended because of inappropriate behaviour. Most MPs abused their expenses system and were required to pay back money, a few taken to court and jailed. Newspaper reporters, executives and owners being two faced about how people phones were hacked; even one paper being closed with the loss of many jobs of many who were totally innocent of the owners and executives illegality. Executives in the alcohol industry denying that price has any bearing on sale of alcohol to the young, and the government being too cowardly to act by setting minimum prices and demanding responsible selling.
It is said that we should set a good example for the young, that they need role models. But when many in authority around us seem to be able to flaunt good, honest, behaviour and get away with it; when many of them are constantly pushing the boundaries to see how much they can get away with, what ‘example’ is being set. In a consumer society, where the ‘me’ is more important than the ‘us’; where those that have least are expected to pay the most; and where trying to explain the cause of civil unrest is denigrated as justifying criminal behaviour, what outcomes can we expect? And where the BBC in trying to achieve balance provides air time to a range of views, resulting in both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ being given equal weight, is it any wonder that confusion reigns as to right and wrong when it would appear that ‘my’ view is just as valid as ‘your’ view.
Until we recognise that for many years we have all been contributing to a more disrespectful society, then we are unlikely to be able to change much about our society in the longer term. Sure, there will be a few changes made in the short term, but the society we have today is the society we have all been helping to create, little by little, by both omission and commission. If we want the young to change, then we the parents and grandparents must start the change. We need to show more respect to our fellow citizens and we have to make clear, by our deeds and our actions, what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.