Sunday, August 03, 2008


The spate of knifings in London recently have generated a predictable share of moralising and chest-beating one-liners from politicians and hacks. David Cameron chose to mark the death of a young boy by haranguing the most oppressed in society to pull their socks up and accept some responsibility for their plight:

"We talk about people being at risk of poverty, or social exclusion - it's as if these things - obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction - are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.

Of course, circumstances - where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school, and the choices your parents make - have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make.

There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth anymore about what is good and bad, right and wrong. We as a society have been far too sensitive.

In order to avoid injury to people's feelings, in order to avoid appearing judgemental, we have failed to say what needs to be said."

He has a point you know - the Labour government has been rather permissive when it comes to poverty - though perhaps only it that it has permitted it to thrive. At any rate, what Labour ministers should have been doing for the last decade is to aim a few more moralities in the direction of the poor, the alcoholic, the fat. "Lay off the cheeseburgers and, y'know, try some of this delicious Bulgar Wheat Salad from Fresh 'n' Wild" Or "Stop wallowing in poverty, old chap, and get yourself down the job centre. We all know that you will work all the hours God sends for just enough money to keep you fed and watered, but at least you can bask in the warm and noble glow of self-sufficiency!"

The conclusion of Cameron's stupid, infantile drivel is that "[this] is why children are growing up without boundaries, thinking they can do as they please, and why no adult will intervene to stop them - including, often, their parents. If we are going to get any where near solving some of these problems, that has to stop." Nothing to do with the yawning gap between rich and poor, nothing to do with the fact that the system makes it virtually impossible to escape the trap of poverty, nothing to do with the fact that young people and working-class are systematically demonised by a quite awesomely moralising mainstream press, nothing to do with the fact that ordinary people feel "undervalued and under siege". No, our so-called "broken society" has been caused by - you've got it - political correctness.

Gordon Brown, meanwhile, has proposed community service and curfews as a solution to knife crime (his policy, supported by the Tories, of making people work for their benefits by doing community service alongside convicted criminals tells you something about New Labour's utter contempt for the poorest in society).

So, in lieu of anything sensible or compassionate coming from the corridors of power, what is to be done? What can the Left offer to improve law and order? As a starting-point, I shall merely state that Lissagaray, in his history of the Paris Commune, noted that violent crimes were almost unheard of during the two-month long "government of the people by the people". Indeed, robberies and muggings were at their lowest for any quarter-year period between 1850 and 1900. Perhaps the fact that education was freed from the wild superstitions of religious belief, that working conditions were radically improved, that for the first time people were valued for their ideas, their skills, their contributions to making the city a success, actually, you know, made people happier?

Just a thought.


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