|This frightening picture of a Polish woman jumping|
from a burning building in Croydon during
recent rioting was in many newspapers.
Commentators have come up with a mixture reasons for the looting and the cause is far from clear. For some while we have been told that Britain is broken. Attempts at diagnosing the problem and finding a solution seem to have failed so far. If British society really is broken then I think it is high time we had a national debate about how to mend our society, so I would like to suggest that rather than tinkering with superficial things we need to go back to the fundamentals, and I don't mean insisting that single mothers should be frowned upon or that corporal punishment should be re-introduced in schools.
My suggestion is that we need to put much more emphasis on the three R's: Respect, Relationship and Responsibility.
Respect is a two way process and has to be earned. We cannot insist that younger people respect us if we show them no respect. We cannot insist that people should respect us because of the relationship we wear or the position we hold if we treat them with contempt or act in ways that don't earn respect.
Self-respect is important, too. People with self-respect are much less likely to go looting or behave in other anti-social ways. People with self-respect are much more likely to respect other people. Therefore it would greatly benefit our society if we learn to foster each other's self-respect and to avoid damaging it.
Working for a living wage and being able to support yourself and your family helps restore self-respect. While I believe in the importance of the welfare state and supporting those who have the misfortune of being unemployed and unable to support themselves, perhaps we do need to consider ways to help those people for whom the world of work is unfamiliar.
Single mothers need moral as well as financial support and should not be given a bad name, but rather helped to gain self-respect. In fact we need to find ways to help young women develop enough self-respect to say 'no' to sex when they don't really want it and not to feel so dependent on men for their sense of self-worth.
At the same time some men need help to find ways of feeling good about themselves that don't involve exerting power over women or anyone else.
Relationship is the basis for society. We cannot respect people we don't know. We don't feel responsible for strangers and we feel little compassion for people who seem remote from us. It is fundamental for parents to have a good relationship with their children, but it is also important for employers to have good relationships with their employees, the police to have a good working relationship with the local community and neighbours to foster good relationships with each other.
Responsibility is the other side of rights. All rights have corresponding responsibilities.
Employees have certain rights but they also have the responsibility to work to the best of their ability.
Employers have to accept responsibility for poor family relations if they don't pay a living wage or expect their employees to work long hours. People who are worn out by working long hours to make a living wage or who are hardly home long enough to see their children won't make good parents. I suggest that parents who choose to work long hours when they can be comfortably off working less hours are not showing proper responsibility for their duty of care to their children, but I appreciate such parents are the minority. Many people have no choice of job if they want to keep their family well looked after. People who are treated badly and paid poorly by employers will not feel valued and their self-respect will be lowered as a result.
The unemployed, while being entitled to benefits have a responsibility to look for work and to take any employment they are offered if they are capable of doing it and it is legal. I understand that the process of looking for work can be demoralising, I was unemployed for six months myself, once, and I have spoken with many long-term unemployed people in the past. I think government schemes to encourage people back into employment should offer practical help and not too many reprisals. However, it appears some people are so used to living on benefits that they lack the motivation to find work, but I would have thought they are very much the majority. Perhaps benefits should be earned by work in and for the local community doing things that wouldn't be done otherwise, in a way that increases unemployed people's self-worth and sense of purpose.
Parents have responsibilities towards their children. While I agree it is a good thing that women are now treated on a more equal footing in the workplace, this means that parents need to decide how the children will be properly cared for, which one of them will stay at home in their early years and who will be there at the school gate, not too exhausted to listen to them and give guidance and discipline when it's needed.
Equally we need to get across the message that it is the responsibility of young men and women to avoid unwanted pregnancies and the spread of disease if they decide to have sex. Sex education in school is not entirely successful, so we need to explore other ways to get the message across and helping people take more responsibility in this area of their lives.
There has been much talk recently of the British police force policing with consent, but we have also heard of recent incidents of a heavy handed approach by some individual police officers. Policemen and women have to take responsibility for their actions. Consistently treating certain groups of people with a lack of respect and exercising undue force will mean that relationships between you and that group of people will deteriorate and it won't just be you, but also your colleagues who will be seen as behaving in this way. Just as some police officers may see all black youths as possible criminals, some black youths may well see all police personnel as heaving handed and therefore consider them “the enemy”. It is important that people in authority are not judgmental and learn to reduce rather than increase conflict and violence by the ways they act and speak.
Politicians and the media also have to take responsibility for the way they talk about certain groups in society. Calling anyone “scum” shows a definite lack of respect. Whipping up hatred, anger, fear and resentment shows a great deal of irresponsibility and suggests a certain amount of immaturity.
Our government has to remember its responsibilities at home rather than rushing out to get involved in other people's wars. I'm not advocating that either we or our government ignore the starving and the destitute in other part's of the world, but getting involved in other people's wars rarely, if ever, has a positive outcome for us or the other people and it's so easy to back the wrong people who turn out to be worse than the last regime.
What can we do, as individual members of our society, to get the message across to our government that we want better job prospects for all, better education, policing and healthcare rather than bombs being dropped and bullets being fired in our name?
Advertisers also need to be more responsible and stop making outlandish claims for their products that cause suggestible people to believe that their self-worth lies not in themselves but in a pair of designer trainers or the latest technology.
|Rebuilding Britain one piece at a time!|
Can we make Britain a responsible and respectful nation built on compassion and good relationships? What do you think? Is this the way forward? If so, how can we spread the word? Do you have a better suggestion?