Predictably enough the riots have created a space in which people feel permitted to voice yet more stereotyping and denigration of several groups. Most notably to me, perhaps because I’m sensitised to it, is what I’ll call, “single Mum bashing”. Single Mum’s and the underclass (assumed to be the same thing by many despite any number of easily accessible studies that show the diversity within that ‘group’) are allegedly raising entitled, ill disciplined and reckless youngsters with no sense of personal responsibility or social conscience.
So that’s a problem of single Mums and the underclass right?
This reads, to me, more like a description of our society as a whole. The people at the ‘top’ are modelling low standards of criminality from politicians expense scams that have gone unprosecuted (theft is fine, you can get away with it), to the bankers ridiculous behaviour that was conducted without scruples or any concern for others and who not only got away with it but were bailed out by the state (selfish, reckless behaviour is fine and profitable and you can get away with it).
The culture of taking what you can get and there being no consequences is not restricted to the so called underclass but is rife all through society and in the end it is the people at the bottom who suffer the consequences of it as the top guys get bailed out and continue making money whilst the services that the poor, the disabled, the struggling rely upon get slashed and burned to recoup the losses.
To see this as a class problem is silly at best and exploitative and opportunistic at worst. It is the same mentality and crimes just acted out within the arena available to each man. A 200K bonus for one, a pair of JD sports trainers for another. Likewise JSA for one and billion pound bailouts for another.
If you want to find terrible parents who don’t take care of their kids you can find them throughout society, though some obviously have money to throw at the gap to make their neglect invisible. Most of us don’t get to send our children to boarding school when they get in the way of our ‘lives’ or to send them to boot camp or military school when they ‘go off the rails’. When good parents’ children have problems they desperately want to help but find their options are extremely limited without that kind of money to throw about.
If you want to find people who live off the state and have no respect for society you can – some of them are married, some are not, some have children, some do not. it is not restricted to one type of living arrangement. Some are politicians, their dodgy expense claims and the mates they make back hand deals with. So again it’s not a question of class either.
If you want to find good parents with strong values and excellent parenting skills you can find them throughout the classes and ethnic groups and household sets ups, white, black, asian, working or middle class, married or single, straight or gay, etc. Good parenting is not the characteristic of a particular class or sexuality or household arrangement. Though we do know that the level of poverty and education of the mother has an impact on child outcomes across the board. A factor we could actually have an impact upon if we looked it square on. In fact recent moves will have an impact on this, sadly it will be a negative one.
Scapegoats have been around forever. The current favourite is single parents. We know what scapegoats were, they were a thing to throw the communities shit at and chase out of the village as a symbolic way of renouncing the ills of society but of course the ills did not belong to the scapegoat so it achieved nothing other than making the crowd feel good about themselves and comforting them with a false simplistic idea of what the problem was (not them) and how to fix it.
Amidst the non sequitur rhetoric of the ‘broken family’ we hear the unquestioned fact that children lack male role models. This bemuses me somewhat. Men are the ones who commit most violence, who commit most burglaries, who riot, who engage in street violence and violence in the home against ‘their’ women and children, who take reckless decisions in the banking industry bringing the country to it’s knees and then expect to be bailed out etc etc. And it is these role models children need?
In reality we have no shortage of the modelling of maleness in this society. What we need is BETTER male role models. We need men to stop modelling the exact behaviour that these kids were engaged in. It isn’t women teaching that violence and total disregard for others is good and the mark of a strong human being. It is men.
Turning this round to be the fault of women (and of course those who dare to live without a man are the worst) is predictable but it is a lie and a lie never changes anything – even if the crowd have a whale of a time chanting it and slinging their own failings upon it as was always the case with scapegoating.
This is male violence and entitlement, perpetrated by men, role modelled by men at EVERY level of society. It is men who need to start behaving better and setting better examples and to stop excusing each other for greed, violence and social immorality.
We are not, in my opinion, suffering from ‘broken families’. We are suffering from a broken society. Things can only stretch so far before they snap. The gap between rich and poor reached that critical point. Young men in the poor camp fought back using the same ethics, methods and objectives as the men in the rich camp have modeled to them – smash and grab, take what you can because you can, assume you’ll get away with it.