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I hope these riots are a wake-up call. Otherwise, London could end up as lawless as Nairobi

Tough decisions lie ahead

By on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Violence in Hackney, east London (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Violence in Hackney, east London (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

There is really nothing to say about the London riots that has not been said already. All sensible and moral people must condemn these criminal acts, for which the perpetrators are to blame. But, of course, every criminal and/or sinful act has a history behind it, and these criminal outbreaks are no exception. On that subject I defer to Melanie Phillips, who is spot on in her analysis:

I have written for more than two decades on the various elements that have contributed to this collapse of order: family breakdown and mass fatherlessness; the toleration and even encouragement of grossly inadequate parenting; educational collapse which damages most those at the bottom of the social heap; welfare dependency; political correctness and the vicious injustices and moral inversion of victim culture; the grossly irresponsible toleration of soft drug-taking; the shuddering distaste at the notion of punishment and the consequent collapse of authority in the entire criminal justice system; the implosion of the policing ethic and the police retreat from the streets; the increasing organisation and boldness of anarchist and left-wing subversive activity; and the growth of irrationality, narcissistic self-centredness and mob rule and the near-certainty of a fundamental breakdown of morality and order.

This has been going on for years, as Melanie points out, and we have tolerated this type of behaviour, though on a smaller scale, for far too long. I wonder how many readers, like me, have had the desolating experience of trying to confront badly behaved young people in a public place? Try, for example, asking some teenagers to turn down their music on a train, as I once did, and see what happens. Or try to tell some Catholic schoolboys on a bus to stop swearing, and see what response you will get, and how little support you will get from your fellow members of the travelling public.

Even mentioning incidents like these makes me feel like Colonel Blimp; but it is important to remember that crime is not an issue of left and right: it affects us all.

People who doubt this should try and live in Nairobi for a bit. Nairobi is an almost completely lawless city, without a properly functioning police force. As a result rich and poor live in terror of crime. This makes things that some Londoners take for granted – such as a drive at night time – frightening. Murder, rape, carjacking, home invasion, muggings, theft, are all common. One consequence of this, I assume, is that even though Kenya is growing economically, it would be growing much more if one could walk down a road in its capital city at any time of day or night without having to look over your shoulder. Kenya earns a lot through tourism, but would earn far more if the Foreign Office travel advice did not make such chilling reading. The US State Department is even more forthright in its advice:

US citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as clubs, hotels, resorts, upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship. US citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.

That advice does not leave many places uncovered, does it. Even going to church may be risky. Given this advice, which reflects a real situation, tourists may be frightened off, and foreign investors may think twice.

The London riots may well have a similarly damaging effect on London’s reputation. If you were a potential tourist, would you want to come here after seeing the recent television footage? If you were thinking of doing business here, would you want to buy or rent one of those now vacant lots in Tottenham High Road?

Cities can go into decline, and they can, in extreme circumstances, die. The usual example of the latter is Detroit. That is an extreme case, and London is not on its deathbed, but the idea that London may be in decline – like Nairobi – is not beyond the bounds of possibility. Economic growth is already at low levels, and these riots may well ensure negative growth next quarter; the stock market has already tanked, and these riots will cause it to fall further, as insurance companies have to sell off stock to raise money for their pay-outs. We need a spirit of enterprise and job creation but many of the small businesses burned out in recent nights will never re-open.

One hopes, of course, that these riots will be a wake-up call, and that they will lead us to abandon the failed policies that have brought us this far. The consequences of carrying on with the approaches that Melanie Phillips so rightly lambasts are too depressing to think about. Some tough thinking and tough decisions lie ahead – if only our politicians have the courage to face both.

  • ConfusedofChi

    ” if only our politicians have the courage” …..therein lies the rub!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/susanwbailey Susan Bailey

    Check out this video of the mayor of Philadelphia’s straight talk to young people involved with flash mobs – we need more brave souls like this man! http://www.lauraingraham.com/b/VIDEO:-Philadelphia-Mayor-Michael-Nutter-tells-it-like-it-is/-419823300508592281.html

  • http://profiles.google.com/susanwbailey Susan Bailey

    Check out this video of the mayor of Philadelphia’s straight talk to young people involved with flash mobs – we need more brave souls like this man! http://www.lauraingraham.com/b/VIDEO:-Philadelphia-Mayor-Michael-Nutter-tells-it-like-it-is/-419823300508592281.html

  • St

    what kind of idiot journalist are you? you ought to be ashamed of writing such as useless piece of article! out of all the countries you choose kenya and you still get it wrong. shame on you.

  • Matt

    glad riots happening in UK, UK looted the Africa, India etc what goes around comes around and for that I’ll have a glass of wine. More carnage the better, completely wreck your economy beyond repair.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    Nairobi may not be as safe as Vatican city, but it’s far from the death zone you make it out to be. There are no mass shootings or riots (except during elections). Although I do agree with you that the crime rate deters trade, though it’s social toll is greater than its economic one.

    Perhaps you might have chosen a real violent city, like Rio de Janeiro or Mexico, cities which have mass shootings and in the case of Mexico (country) a death rate which more than meets the U.N. criteria for declaring civil war (which is, I think, 1,000 deaths per year). (I’ve never been to these cities, and the reality might be much different than portrayed in the media, naturally.)

    Secondly, Nairobi is in no way in decline. In fact, it might possibly be one of the fastest growing cities in the world. However, with a lower crime rate, it would obviously be much more attractive (to all but the security companies anyway, which seem to have sprung up like weeds).

    With those major corrections out of the way….Your point about this being a result of failed policies across the board is very valid indeed.

  • guest

    That’s life in post-reformation Britain for you.  No moral compass; no surprise.

  • Brendan Marshall

    Nairobi?

    Perhaps Mogadishu (Somalia) would be a better example. If you look up the word “anarchy” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Mogadishu next to it.

  • Anonymous

    I would add that Detroit, too, isn’t exactly dead. The crime really isn’t that bad for a large American city, there’s just not much going on there and the population has been declining for some time. Large parts of the city have simply been given over to nature, quite an interesting sight actually, although I don’t think I’d like to live there.

  • Erplad

    Is this the best you can do? Copy and paste a load of predictable drivel from Melanie Phillips in the Daily Heil.It all a case of personal morality, political correctness and soft drugs? Right. Delude yourself with this nonsense if you wish but things aren’t going to improve if you do. The economic and political order you and Phillips support has presided over an inexorable shift in wealth from the bottom of society to the top. If people are deliberatly brutalised with poverty and hopelessness. . they’ll act like brutes without hope. And why shouldn’t they just take what is not theirs given the example set by the financial captains of industry and our elected Mps who did just that? Michael Gove was on newsnight pontificating about criminality and morality, yet this is a wealthy man who claimed for his baby’s nappies on his expenses. What’s really the difference?  The Financial industry crashed the economy through crass stupidity and greed and then loot the public purse to bail themselves out so they can continue. Our Government is,as we speak, bombing innocent men women and children in Libya in order to loot that country’s oil reserves. If mugs looting shops and destoying their own communites changed from tracksuits to business suits they’d no doubt receive a knighthood.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I do not support the current political order. This posting says we need to change our policies. But perhaps you were so cross you failed to read it correctly?

  • Anonymous

    London is never going to be Nairobi or Detroit, London has seen an awful lot worse and overcome attacks from various groups and forces since its beginnings. Ordinary Londoners are used to being attacked, we just get on with it. It’s what we do. Leave the inflammatory headlines to The Daily (Hate)Mail, you really should know better.

  • Anonymous

    London is never going to be Nairobi or Detroit, London has seen an awful lot worse and overcome attacks from various groups and forces since its beginnings. Ordinary Londoners are used to being attacked, we just get on with it. It’s what we do. Leave the inflammatory headlines to The Daily (Hate)Mail, you really should know better.
     

  • Adamgthomson

    Are you serious? Has it escaped your observation that Britain has rejected Reformed Christianity just as much as it has rejected Catholicism? Are you seriously suggesting that Britain had no moral compass in the days of the Puritans (the most extreme manifestation of Protestantism)? Or that the present rioters are staunch advocates of Luther’s doctrine of justification? The fact is that Britain has rejected the Christian Faith as such, not just one particular form of it, and is reaping the bitter consequences.

  • Donald McKinnon

    A pathetic article for sure. Alexander please please please for the sake of good journalism do your research before simply writing an article based on absolute nonsense. Nairobi? are you sure about this if this was written in the late 90s then I could agree! but as an expatriate in Nairobi and having worked across the world, I’m sorry to inform you that you have seriously got your facts wrong. Nairobi crime rate has dropped, the economy booming attracting foreign investors at an exceptional rate considering the its continent counter parts. I would advise you to revise your article. 

  • Emma

    Some of these looters arrested have been given only a matter of weeks or no more than 4 months in prison. The penalties should be far more severe than that! What’s to stop them from going out on the street and burning more buildings and causing chaos once they are released? Also prisons in this country are not the grim places they are meant to be. The punishments are in my view too light, these rioters should be imprisoned for years not for a few weeks! They need to learn that there are consequences to evil, if people do not repent they will go to hell for all eternity. The only way to be saved is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. If they spent more time in prison, then conversion of their souls would be possible, but will they ever change if their penalties are so easy??

  • guest

    That was my point; having rebelled against the authority of the Church established by Christ, founded on Saint Peter, prefering the option of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong, it is no surprise that ultimately Christ has been completely thrown out the equation.  Followers of the reformation decided they would not be told how to behave; ringing any bells?

  • Cyrenian

    ‘All sensible and moral people must condemn…’. Is this not judgemental self-righteousness? Yes it’s true that some marginalized young people exhibit ‘anti-social behaviour’. They aren’t, it is true, inhibited by bourgeois morality. They *express* their prejudice, anger, frustration, boredom and alienation. I wonder how many of those condemning the riots repress the murder in their hearts? Or have longed for an opportunity to express it in print. And yet as Jesus taught us there can be no distinction, no casuistry. We are all sinners, and we should be careful not to judge. I have worked and now live alongside ‘NEETS’, ‘the underclass’, the ‘socially excluded’, or however one wants to label them – labels which incidentally betray the idea that economic productivity and social compliance are the measure of a man. I am no better than them because I bottle-up my emotions and stifle my instincts. How did you feel Father when the kids abused you on the train? What they need – what I need, and what we all need – is forgiveness and love.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that many here want to nit-pick about Nairobi etc. Brainwashed as we have been by the liberal elite for 5 decades, most are too frightened to express any opinion which is not acceptable to the (atheist) intelligentsia: ie. that there is such a thing as right and wrong, people must be responsible for their own actions, that respect for others must be paramount in any society…I could go on. But all this has been distorted by those whose real motives are usually very suspect: often a strange mixture of post Victorian guilt and a 1960′s do-your-own-thing philosophy. How we get from where we are to where we would like to be – I don’t know.

  • Cyrenian

    * ‘bourgeois social ethics’ :)

  • SOSJ

    So they should be allowed to run riot and and ruin other peoples’ livelihood and life’s work? Yes, it is easy for criticism to go over the top, but for heaven’s sake cannot you see that much of this is due to the inaction of the authorities in the face of  wanton license and criminal behaviour  by such people over decades which has led to hurt, suffering and even death of innocents? When it reaches epidemic proportions what do you expect. Surely a little charity is due here too, though you may want to moderate the viewpoints expressed?

  • SOSJ

    Knee jerk reaction. So it is OK to loot and destroy if you are “poor” (incidentally many of those involved are probably much better off materially than my generation were when we were young). I thought Christianity was meant for all – rich or poor – demanding from all of us love for our neighbour. Previous policies have failed utterly as Fr Lucie-Smith says and pushing the class argument does not help us to find a solution for this crisis, indeed it exacerbates rather than helps.

  • SOSJ

    I am shocked to see such a venomous view expressed. Surely no Christian of any ilk can hold or approve of such a judgement on a whole nation.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    uring that time I went to four funerals of colleagues who had been murdered. I met numerous people who had been carjacked, assualted in the street, shot (though not killed), attacked with pangas, raped, and robbed. I know that of which I speak. Kenyan people often cite security as their number one concern. Their governement has failed them. And for many people in the UK today, their government has failed them – failed to protect them from rioters.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Sorry the opening sentence disappeared from the above. I wrote: I spent four years in the Ngong district, leaving in 2007 and duriung that time….

  • Cyrenian

    No, they shouldn’t be allowed to run riot and ruin other people’s lives. But we need to be addressing the cause and not the symptoms, and I’m afraid an authoritarian crack-down will only suppress the symptoms…temporarily. The problem lies *in” our society, not outside it. This is the rotten fruit of a rotten tree. And let me underline that I’m not condoning what has happened. But we ought to pray for *all* those involved and keep the judge within us at bay. And the death of innocents…well…what can I say? This shouldn’t surprise a Christian.

  • Adam Thomson

    “Preferring the option of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong.” “Followers of the reformation decided they would not be told how to behave.”

    Is that really fair? They were willing enough to submit to Scripture. That certainly isn’t refusal to be told how to behave. They appealed to Scripture against the authority of the Church. But surely that is legitimate. When St. Paul preached to the Bereans ‘they welcomed the word very readily; every day they studied the scriptures to check whether it was true’ (Acts 17.11). They checked whether the apostle’s teaching was true! And they did so by appealling to Scripture.

    No, I confess that I don’t see the connection between the Reformers’ appeal to the written Word of God and a bunch of lawless criminals rampaging through the streets of London. 

  • Adam Thomson

     Incidentally, I live in a country where 80 percent of the population claim to be Catholic, but which is far more lawless than the United Kingdom.

  • http://twitter.com/morysireland Morys Ireland

    Something that really needs to be looked at after all this is the situation in our prisons. Our whole approach to dealing with crime and criminals themselves needs to be seriously reviewed. Too many people come out of prison only to re-offend – if prisons are not there to stop people re-offending then what are they there for? Clearly we must have the capacity to lock up the most dangerous of individuals for reasons of public safety, but for the thousands of others (no doubt soon to include some of those rioting/looting of the last few days) who serve short sentences prison seems to be of no use at all to either them or society at large.

    At the moment prisons neither punish nor help those who have committed a crime. While not exactly a five-star hotel, some prisons provide inmates with luxuries like satellite television that are not enjoyed by many people in the outside world. At the same time however, it seems we are simply locking people up for the sake of it. Time spent in prison could be used as a huge opportunity to turn an offender’s life around – all sorts of educational, sporting and vocational opportunities could be made available. We almost need to turn them into mini-educational institutions in their own right.

    We’ve tried using prison as a punishment and it doesn’t seem to work – making the punishment more severe is not likely to improve the situation. Perhaps instead we need more community sentences and a greater focus on helping offenders to find a way to contribute positively to society. That way we might help to prevent some of the scenes we’ve seen in the last few days from happening again.

  • Mcdonap

    I’m not sure what atheism has to do with it.  I read recently a glowing tribute from Matthew Parris, a Tory MP in the Thatcher years, to Dawkins’ ‘Selfish Gene’ – a manifesto for young Thatcherites, as he put it.  And the arch-utilitarian Savalescu has been denouncing social equality as a ‘vice’. For that matter, Ayn Rand, heoine of the Tea Party, was a hedonist and sexual libertarian.

  • guest

    The thing about the Protestant sects is that there are as many interpretations of scripture as there are people.  That Christ handed on authority and responsibility for His Church to Peter is a fact that cannot be chucked away-  a rejection of authority has consequences; I believe it has led to the current relativism and the general rejection of Christ.  That does not mean to say that I think all Catholics are perfect, or even good; far from it- it depends as always on the formation within the family.  As the Catholic Church is the only Church that still preaches Christ’s message about the indissolubility of marriage, and still has teachers like Blessed Pope John Paul II illuminating this for each new generation (read his Theology of thge body) I believe that it is in this Church that the answer to the current problems lie (absent fathers, breakdown of the family, lack of morality) The riots were not caused by material poverty but spiritual poverty.

  • guest

    Spiritual poverty, in the UK, where the established religion in each of the 4 countries comprising it is Protestant. 

  • Erplad

    I am not condoning the actions of these people. I feel that just focusing on good/evil argument is infantile. The problems facing our society are more complex than the reasons given by Melanie Phillips and the PM. The problems are more socio-economic rather than moral. And why not address this as a class problem? There wasn’t any rioting in leafy suburbia. And the hypocrisy from conservative politicians and commentators is nauseating. The neo-liberal consensus of the past 30 years has been one of get what you can and to hell with everyone else. Isn’t that what these people are doing when looting shops?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading my post, but I’m afraid to say I really have no idea what you are talking about – I mean that literally !

  • Matt

    I beg to differ! I believe that what goes around comes around! and indeed GB has raped, pillaged, looted, murdered all in the name of the empire! Surely you now cant expect me not to feel a little jubilant when the very people you have oppressed, enslaved, looted from become the very poison that will be a part of the engineer of the fall of so called Great Britain? The very policies you set will be the very policies that enslave and crash Britain. 

  • Donald McKinnon

    not quite sure what your hidden motive is here Alexander but from the comments I’m not alone in finding it just a tard bit peculiar that you would single out Nairobi, when there are other cities around the world that are far more dangerous than Nairobi. I’m not in anyway saying that Nairobi is highly safe. I just find it odd that you would pick Nairobi…. propaganda through the ‘holy’ church? surely wouldn’t be the first would it now father…

  • Stefano12

    I think you should be saying london will become like the vatican city…. Vatican city has the highest crime rate in Europe when taking into account its population1