scapegoating: the flexible friend of hegemony

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.

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13 Responses to scapegoating: the flexible friend of hegemony

  1. Milly says:

    It clearly isn’t a question of there being enough role models. During and after the first world war (and to some extent the second world war), many children grew up without fathers and many child grew up in a society with far fewer men because huge numbers of men were dead. There wasn’t a sudden collapse in boys behaviour as a result. The boys simply modelled their behaviour on the men who were in society.

    So I agree with you, boys are not behaving badly because they don’t have enough male role models. Boys are acting badly because men are acting badly. Men need to start behaving more responsibly and start being better role models to boys.

    And maybe we should be moving beyond either of these kind of worlds. Maybe we should be aiming for a world in which boys don’t aspire to grow up to be define themselves primarily as male, but one in which they see all adults as role models, and grow up to see themselves primarily as human beings.

  2. Mouseface says:

    I heard the news on Radio 1 whilst driving home from a lovely week away yesterday afternoon. Back to reality with a huge thud. I listened as the presenters interviewed various different speakers/members of the public/shop owners etc, to get their ‘take’ on the recent riots and in particular, the looting.

    Those directly affected were heart broken, devastated to lose their life’s work, their jobs and there shops. I listened as a lady told of how she’d had her brand new car burnt out, another who’d had her shop looted and trashed by a ‘gang of yobs’. I listened and felt my heart sink. My Brother works in one of the cities hit. His shop was raided and now he is unsure as to whether or not he has a job.

    Then I listened to the excuses from those who are in charge of the clean up, in charge of giving us, the outsiders who can only stand by and watch answers as to why this happened……

    Excuses ranged from the offenders being out of work/in debt/living off low income and in desperate need of the trainers they stole. Others claimed that the looters didn’t know any better (queue my blood reaching boiling point) and then we had the classic ‘well, this sort of thing is to be expected’ type comments.

    WTF? Why is it to be expected? I honestly could not believe that people thought that ANY of the behaviour was ‘because of something’


    It’s because they thought that they could, as the poster above says. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I bet if the police interviewed EVERYONE who was involved in all the smash and grabs, all of the thieves, they’d find more than one with a degree, or full-time jobs, or two happily married parents, or living in a private house, with good schooling, has great prospects, and is highly intelligent so knows that their behaviour is wrong and illegal etc.

    Same old same old.

  3. Mouseface says:

    Agree – Every piece of footage that I saw, showed male looters, male rioters and gangs of males running through the streets. Who was it that said we (society) needed better male role models to ensure this sort of thing didn’t happen in the future? Utter bollocks. If this is how ‘male role models’ behave, then I fear we’re going to have a lot more of this to come.

  4. underclass.sister says:

    its quite worrying that some cant see what is really going on.
    the goverment has now got theyre excuse to get rid of certain members of society-with no questions asked……except you cant just get rid of people can you…..hmm…i wonder whats looming.
    the media has been hyping this up for ages…benifit scroungers…..single mothers and a pop at the disabled.
    now we have a riot and people about to be evicted/lose benifits.
    i dont condone whats happened at all but strangely enough…its the very people who the goverment hates that will be most affected……largely single mums in social housing.
    well-we have got a social housing problem havent we….instead of building more….chuck people out.
    what about the guy in social housing that fiddles hes work expenses and puts in dodgy insurance claims…..will he also be chucked out…….nah-dont be silly.
    and for all them people who are having a dig at single mums and theyre parenting[and actually theres a lot of very good single parents about]…..take youre head out of youre arse!
    you never know whats round the corner-you can never say could be a single mum tommorrow…….and it could be youre son fiddling expenses-but thats ok eh.[shhhhh-as long as no one notices]
    we dont just need good male rolemodels…..we need to stop bashing single mums and wake up to the fact that a lot do a sterling job-some in difficult circamstances.
    by the way-i like youre blog scapegoat-i wish you every success with it.

  5. Mouseface says:

    Exactly sister, no-one can predict the future. Tomorrow what if YOU became disabled due to an accident or illness, become a single mother, or lose your job due to a sudden closure, What if tomorrow, you woke up and your entire life had been turned upon it’s head and you had to go into social housing or claim Income Support. What then?

    And again sister, your points about those now in the firing line are spot on.

    Food for thought.

  6. Really enjoyed your post. The bit that really resonates with me is needing good role models within the home yet many (most?) rioters were male. Also in the Telegraph they seem only to be reporting on women, particularly mothers, and children who are now appearing in court in connection with the riots.

  7. sunshineandbooks says:

    Great post. Completely agree with everything you write and many of the comments posted afterwards.

    I always get very cross at the ‘children need male role models’ line. Er no. Children just need good role models full stop. Unless you believe that men and women should have very different roles based purely on their gender? Apart from conception/gestation/labour/breast-feeding I can’t think of any personally. My son’s gender is only one small part of his make-up. His personality, likes, dislikes, values, attitudes, talents, strengths, weaknesses are all far more important than his gender. As long as he understands what makes a good human being he won’t go far wrong. It doesn’t take a ‘man’ to show him how a good parent behaves, how a responsible citizen behaves, how a nice person behaves. It just takes a good parent, a responsible citizen and nice person.

  8. Reblogged this on scapegoatsanctuary and commented:

    just revisiting this a few years on. interesting to see what i thought then and how things are now with more condem years under our belt.

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