The Problem With Politics Is It Doesn’t Understand Human Behaviour- London Riots

I found tears in my eyes as I tried to explain the riots to Curly Headed Boy this morning (5.5yrs old).  But I have had to explain something similar when local teens burnt down a pile of things near where I live.  One blog post can’t explain away the whole of the London Riots, and I’m not going to try and do it, but I am going to explain what us as parents can do right now.

The problem with politics is that it doesn’t understand human behaviour.  Its a pile of people on the right believing that the world ‘should’ be one way and a pile of people on the left believing in another way.  The middle road of the liberals should technically work, but doesn’t because they don’t really understand how the world of human beings works, and just cherry pick the options that they think will sound the nicest.  So they put in place a pile of ideas, and have no clue about the repercussions.  I understand the concept of how the world ‘should be’, but the reality is that there are a pile of humans in the way of that and ‘should be’ doesn’t work in reality.

The other problem with politics is that we don’t have much choice in who we put in power, and then for some reason we give them a huge amount of our personal power and stop taking responsibility for our own stuff.  I’m not saying that we should be out there stopping the rioters, but I am saying that many of us (myself included) blame the government for stuff that really we could be sorting out for ourselves.  Hence a pile of people rioting and taking no responsibility for it.

So how did I explain it to my little boy?

I pointed out to him what a tantrumy pain in the butt he becomes when he is spoilt.  Have you ever noticed how your kids behaviours are worse after a visit from a kindly relative who let them have everything they wanted or after a major treat that you organised?  Have you noticed how they become more demanding?  ‘Little Lord Fontleroy’ we call curly headed boy at these times.  These rioters are like big 5yr olds having a massive and hell of a lot more destructive tantrum.

The reason is that when we get too much for too little effort it makes us think that we deserve things, but ironically it squashes our self-esteem and makes us feel horrid.  Add to that a need for rules and safe boundaries as children, and you get people who get bored and destructive.  Remove the security of parents who know how to love their children by seeing both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ sides, rather than being abusive or overly supportive and you again affect their sense of security which they try to replace with ‘things’ they can buy.

I have no doubt that there are people in poverty in england, but they are not rioting.  They would be looking for heaters, food, and blankets.  They are the people who don’t know how to work the system, and who have really basic needs that are not being met.  They are the people that we are failing in the UK, whilst we give too much to a generation of young people who are just too damn spoilt.

So when my son asks me why people are rioting I say that they were not lucky enough to have parents who made them do something for every treat, who were strict and consistent about their rules, and who loved them from the top of their heads to the bottom of their toes.  He understands this, so this is the easiest thing I can say.

He asked about the police and why they couldn’t stop it, and the answer is that the system we have in the UK doesn’t hit people where it actually bothers them enough.  If curly headed boy doesn’t care about a punishment then it wont work on him.  I’m not that tough, I just make sure that I use things that are fair and that mean something to him.  For example; it starts with going into another room and counting to 30, then maybe a 5min time out, or a removal of a treat, or taking away a toy for 24hrs.  They are never too harsh or heart breaking, but they are fair and make sense to him.  (Little Dimples will need a totally different system as she was born naughty!).

I’m not saying that prison is a great place to be, but if it doesn’t stop people from offending, then it’s not going to work.  If you knew you were going to spend a lifetime paying back the damage you had done, then that would be a very different situation.  If you knew you were going to have to work to fix the damage you had done, it would be different.  If you knew that you were going to lose your benefits after bad behaviour, but be taken care of for 2yrs in a hard national service like we used to have, it would be different.  I can see why there is a sudden interest in the death penalty returning, although I’m not sure that is the choice I would have.  We can’t remove ‘criminality’ from our world, but we can reduce it by making it a damn site less attractive.

What can we do about this chaos?  Well start at home first, use the simple rules I’ve mentioned to love our kids with.

If your kids are involved, and you can’t keep them in, then you need to make sure that the police knows about them; keep them safe from more riots and from a future where they think that they can get away with anything because they deserve it (very easy to say I know, and hard to do).

Tackling the riots?  Well we need to use people’s values to stop the riots and stop them happening again.  For a small percentage I think that education and the ‘softer’ side will get through to them and help.  But for the majority I’m sorry I think that it needs to hit them where it hurts; prison, their benefits, and some kind of national service ala old fashioned bootcamp kind.

For the future?  No one should get anything for nothing.  Keep the benefit system, but if you get benefits and you are capable of moving a finger then you should get the right to do something, even if it is only a little thing.  Carers looking after those who can’t move, therefore deserve to be paid as a proper job.  This gives basic self-esteem, and is only fair.  Mums are a different matter, as they aredoing something; they are taking care of children.  However, I must admit that I think that young single Mums would be better off being put together in specific communities, rather than getting houses of their own.  OAPs have done their bit, but they aren’t useless, hell I have an OAP looking after Little Dimples for me and she’s a fabulous 73.  And the bored young people?  They need boundaries, structure, rules, not benefits.  If they aren’t going into further education or apprenticeships, then I cringe to say it ‘bring back national service’.  Our system of punishment?  Where it’s not a death/physical attack, then make the people pay in kind for what they did by fixing it, or paying to fix it.

New Laws?  There is one new law needed ‘only people with common sense and nonse should be able to make decisions for the country’.  Everything is topsy turvy and quite ridiculous, with a pile of jobs worths, health and safety nuts, insurance ambulance chasers, and higher punishment for minor offences that child abuse.  Not sure how to put this one in place; any ideas?

Right, I’m going to get off my soap box.  I’ve never posted politically before, and I hope that it doesn’t cause offence.  My objective was to give you some ideas as to how to explain to your little ones what is happening, but I did have a bit of a rant along the way.

9 comments

  1. Thought provoking and I love how you explain it, but not sure I entirely agree.

    “when we get too much for too little effort it makes us think that we deserve things” – granted these kids seem to have Blackberries, but surely envy plays a greater role than being spoilt – some of them were stealing packets of crisps from Poundland. Surely many of these kids grew up in violent circumstances seeing no chance of getting what others take for granted.

    This is related and wonderful: http://www.independent.co.uk/o?pinion/commentators/camila-bat?manghelidjh-caring-costs-ndash?-but-so-do-riots-2333991.html

    1. Thank you ever so much for your reply – funnily enough I was thinking about a conversation I had with some local kids recently about envy as I was driving to get my kids.
      If you think more deeply about envy there are 2 issues …
      – I is a lack of understanding about how ‘successful’ people get there and that it’s not just luck, but that the opportunities are open to everyone. I’ve been amazed by the local kids and their thinking of how out of reach a place like mine is (the average house price for my area, in no way the highest).
      – Envy comes from thinking that the other people don’t deserve to have something that they don’t. It’s not anger because we have things, when you look deeper it is again a feeling that they don’t deserve what they have.

      I haven’t had a chance to read the URL you mentioned – I’ll do it later tonight xxx

      1. Hi Chris,
        I’ve read the link you mentioned and seen her name a lot today on twitter. She undoubtedly knows the areas, and I agree with her that some of the youths can be reached with education, and an approach that is softer. She sounds great, but ….

        But still it’s really important that people don’t get something for nothing for their own self-esteem, it’s a basic rule of human behaviour, so whatever answers we find, it must include fair exchange.

        And I wonder where ‘community’ starts – isn’t there something that ‘we’ can do about community, or do we have to rely on government to do it? There are plenty incredible stories about communities that have pulled themselves back. (It is very difficult, I don’t doubt that – we have an area of concern incredibly close to where I live).

        Plus, although empathising and understanding is important, it’s also important to empower not victimise these kids. Again, something I learnt the hard way – sympathy will get them nowhere; telling them that they have been victims of their circumstances won’t help them. Showing them that they are capable of turning it around, that they are responsible for their actions and that there are repercussions if they don’t gives them a chance to become more powerful.

        Let’s hope that some amazing changes for our society come from all this destruction – normally destruction creates amazing changes.

        1. Hiya Chris
          Oooh you’ve got me thinking – Love it!
          You are right – it is not wise that we have cut the services that keep young kids safe and sound. Add to that the likelihood that their parents are on benefits as well, and they would expect to get the same. Plus they are probably surrounded by people with beliefs that keep them imprisoned in a powerless and horrid reality.
          But when do we become masters of our reality – I was talking to someone about this today. Am I lucky to have made very different choices to other people in my family – I’m not sure whether I’m lucky I made the choices or whether I can attribute them to me deciding to be responsible for my own life? It’s kind of chicken and egg – I can look back, and I can remember when I consciously took more responsibility – but before that I’m not sure I can take credit for it ……
          mmmm you’re going to have me thinking about this for a few days!
          Thank you again, I love a thought provoking comment xxx

  2. I totally agree with you that we don’t hit them hard enough, and I think National Service as a punishment is a great idea! It would teach them to be responsible for themselves and others. I also agree that the majority are looting for the sake of it – immodium, for God’s sake?? – but I have also seen advertised online 600 iPhones, so there are organised criminals taking advantage of this to make cash further down the line.
    I also think that where kids are concerned we don’t do enough to help them occupy themselves – either as a government, as a community, or as families. From the age of 14 I wanted to be anywhere other than my home – I was lucky enough to have a passion, and parents that could afford to help me follow it in my spare hours. Many young people aren’t that lucky, but are still desperate to be independent and away from the family home. If these people had access to facilities and activities to occupy themselves proactively, I wonder how many of them would be out looking for trouble.

    1. You are right actually mummy – there is both an organised criminal element and I’m worried about a more insiduous anarchic influence as well – some people love chaos.

      Funnily enough when I was thinking about it overnight I was thinking about what life is like without a lack of purpose or as you put it ‘passion’ …. it’s not a nice place to be …. I feel another blog post coming along ;o)

  3. Yes, we share some of our view and agree w you Mummy.. our team stayed up past midnight to churn out some msg’s for the youngsters.. one of the most powerful ones is this 40 sec video..http://youtu.be/Vjyn2PcJbE8
    & yes, inspiration & passion and PURPOSE .. i reckon is what keeps a community together..

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