September 2011        

“Slow-motion moral collapse”

The recent London riots constitute the worst civic violence in Britain for a generation. Five people died, thousands face criminal charges, and millions of pounds’ worth of damage was caused. According to the prime minister, David Cameron, Britain must confront the laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness that fuelled four days of rioting. The cause, according to Cameron, is “slow-motion moral collapse.”
     Amazingly, I find myself in agreement with a Tory prime minister. The cause is slow-motion moral collapse. Moreover, I agree that laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness fuelled the rioting.
     The moral collapse is intrinsic to free-market capitalism. Britain is an unequal society. Boredom, isolation, lack of opportunity and poverty are the consequences of the free-market ideology that has been implemented with such gusto in Britain. The same is equally true in Ireland.
     In Britain, for as long as I can remember, the free market has been championed by Cameron’s Conservative Party. Remember Thatcher’s ‘There is no such thing as society?” The people of London have just reaped the whirlwind Thatcher sowed. Those who help themselves at the expense of others, those who behave in an ultra-individualist manner bordering on sociopathic, are simply following the example set by those at the top.
     Laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness have certainly fuelled the rioting: bankers who pay themselves multi-million-pound bonuses, politicians putting in new kitchens by courtesy of the citizenry, and police officers taking bribes. Those in a position to improve society have instead focused on self-advancement. That is what Thatcher taught them. For more than a generation these people have taught, by example, the ethos of Gordon Gekko. We are witnessing the consequences. Now, as the economy implodes, the elite circle their wagons and wring their hands.
     The laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness endemic to the British ruling classes is not confined to that island. It is pan-European. It is vital that we confront and struggle against these conservative business, political and establishment elites. Their laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness have to be brought to an end.
     The buck for the recent social breakdown stops firmly at their door. There is a simple solution to ensure an end to such rioting as we have just witnessed: an equal, democratic society. However, Cameron and his colleagues in both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are too lazy, irresponsible and selfish to adopt such an elegant and simple solution.
     They are in for a bumpy ride.

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