This here be a long rant. If this were anyone else I would say, edit, woman!

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but last week there was quite a lot of drama emanating from the BBC; pictures of England burning (must be very careful to say “England” because the Scots and the Welsh get defensive on this point), pictures of people looting TVs etc etc.

It wasn’t me. I wasn’t raiding Foot Locker for some freebies. Pinky Swear.

Anyway, there have been a million different analyses as to WHY IT HAPPENED, and actually the truth is, it doesn’t just boil down to one thing at all, but many, which is a problem for the poor old politicians who are desperately grasping for an immediate solution, but that’s life for you.

My own father, and I say this with much dismay, sent me a link to this article which claims that the riots happened because English kids don’t believe in a deity.

My own father. Who brought me up in an areligious environment. Who would talk with me about religion in a philosophical and historical manner, but not ever in one of belief.

I do think my father does believe in some kind of deity, but we were brought up without any reference to religion at all. My only exposure to religion was at school (model C schools all seemed to be Christian when I was wee) and from my own volition – I went to Sunday School for a while.

I was very disappointed that he sent me this link, and very disappointed in the link. It was in the Daily Mail, which has absolutely no credibility beyond as a tabloid, but it does reflect the views of a considerable number of people.

I am not a religious person. It is difficult to describe my religious views but I can try. My views change too, so this is what they are for now. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said I believe in “something” out there. Not any more. Not for now.

I am aware that the majority of people are deeply religious and do believe in a God, and I am in no way challenging your views or saying you should think the way I do. I honour your right to your views, and have no objection to them. I hope you will honour mine.

I cannot claim that there is no God, I have no proof of that. I cannot claim that there is a God, I have no proof of that. I choose to live my life as if there is no God, because at the moment, deep in my heart, that is the “belief” so to speak, that I favour. But I fully accept that I just don’t know either way, and as I don’t know, I don’t really worry or think about it.

I choose to focus on this life as if it is all I have, whether or not it is true. I choose to live as if there is no higher power.

That does not mean that I live without being grounded in morality.

I do not believe that morals are “fixed and eternal”, as the article claims. Those claims are philosophical positions, ones that I do not take. I do believe that we humans make our morality and that it has evolved over time. For instance, murder has long been accepted to be wrong, but what constitutes murder has not. In the past a person could be hanged for theft. Today I would consider that to be murder. A woman could be stoned if she was raped. I consider that to be murder too. A widow could be sent to her death with her dead husband. Murder? I think so.

I get my morality from living in humanity. It is simple. I love. I love other people and I know that you love other people too. I don’t want anyone to harm the people I love and so I would never harm the people you love.

Life is hard, short and brutal. I would not want to make it harder for you in any way, by stealing from you, or hurting you, and I wouldn’t want you to do that to me.

It really is as simple as that. Kant, a philosopher, made up some rules for morality that have been contested to some degree but that still make general sense, and are similar to the religious principles most people are taught:

1)Do not do that which you would not will to be universal – ie if I steal a car, imagine the world if everyone could steal cars all the time

2) treat people as ends in themselves rather than as means to ends, because that is how you would wish to be treated

It gets a bit more complicated than that but it boils down to “treat others as you wish to be treated”.

You don’t need to believe in a God to appreciate that and to wish to be kind to others. I take deep offense at the implication that atheists or religious abstainers, as I think of myself, are immoral or amoral. That is a fallacy and it is not why English kids are looting shops.

Why are they? I think there are many many reasons.

One question is, what are the parents here teaching their kids? If there is a lack of religion, a lack of hellfire and religious consequence in their lives, are parents giving their children alternatives?

I think in the UK, sadly, discipline is a dirty word, and children do need discipline, they need strong boundaries, because morality is not innate, it is not universal at all. There is no point giving a small child a printout of Kant’s categorical imperatives. They will come to understand and appreciate moral principles later on, but at first kids need to be told that they are doing things wrong and behaving badly and they need punishment to reinforce that.

In some ways I do see the usefulness of religion in a child’s life. The fear and the obedience come first, and the understanding later. I see that many people want and need the idea of punishment, of dishonouring a God by behaving badly. These are far more severe motivators than any I have. My own morality stems strongly from my desire to not harm others, but I realise that a child needs to be given a strong reason why they must not harm others, and without religion this is more challenging. But most certainly not impossible. After all, I was raised without religion.

I’m not saying they should necesarily be smacked (although some boys have told me that it was the only thing that worked for them), but some form of punishment is necessary and in the UK this does not happen.

Teachers are not allowed to discipline kids at all, and the kids know full well that they can do what they want. Both my parents teach here and see this for themselves every day. Kids can swear at teachers, throw things at them, run around the room shouting. And teachers are powerless to do anything for fear of being sued or fired.

So when the kid looters said they were showing the police they could do whatever they want, that is because they really can do whatever they want. There are no consequences for their actions here. These kids are not at a stage where they can appreciate the finer points of morality, and as they have never been punished before, they are not operating in the realm of morality at all.

Secondly there are a group of parents here who wish to abdicate any responsibility for any aspect of raising their child once it has been squeezed out. It is up to the government, apparently, to impart everything, from nutrition to morality, and the parent can blaim the government if the child is not up to scratch. And oh, they do.

Which is just plain WEIRD. What is the point of having  kids then? Well, there are the child benefits…

I also believe that in order to sort out the large income gap between working class and middle and upper classes, the government (whoever they were, I don’t know British history too well) decided, like all governments do, to use a quick fix, a surface method rather than going deep, and made stuff, goods cheap and easily available to everyone. They made materialism,  aquisition of stuff into a religion.

IT was one of the things that first struck me when I arrived, how easy it was to afford whatever stuff you could want. And how much stuff people are buying. The very economy here depends on people buying stuff, and so it has become the religion that it is. But just because the looters were already wearing nice sneakers and using smart phones to coordinate, does not mean there is no poverty in their lives. Their lives are still emotionally poor , educationally poor, but materially well off.

Parents here will put buying stuff above saving, for education, for nutrition. And in some ways it is important, because a child can die a social death for wearing the wrong brand here. The religion dictates the norms and the norms are Nike and Ugg.

They, we, have been fooled into thinking we are living in an equal society now. But the real poverty is something that is not easy to see, and takes generations to set right.

Ambition is something that needs to be taught, by parents. Aims, dreams, ability to see opportunities, to want opportunities, to find your own value and meaning in life, that comes from your parents. Morality, good relationships, respect, all come from parents.

And poorer parents are less likely to know how to impart that knowledge, coming from backgrounds of abuse, poverty and inadequate education themselves. Couple that with the fact that parents here don’t want to teach their kids anything, and you can imagine that some kids would have a hard time seeing the point to anything at all.

Of course there is poverty and inequality. And with years of unfair inequality comes anger, resentment (rightly so) and a sense of entitlement. Poorer people here resent being told what to do because of the shitty way they were treated in the past. The problem is they refuse to listen to anyone about anything, even rational things like the disciplining of a child. And of course the kids pick up that defiant “don’t tell me what to do” attitude from them.

People do get tired of being invisible. And neglected. And having no opportunity. And they try and try and try to make themselves heard until they just break down and do something destructive, even self-destructive. And then people listen. Poor people do not usually influence a country, it is the people with money who influence decisions. But via destruction these people can find a powerful voice.

And the government does forsake poorer people, of course it does.

And you know what, when I was a kid, I felt deeply inadequate because I didn’t have nice stuff. My parents did not have as much money as the people around us. We were not poor but we were comparatively poor. And I felt very insecure about my clothing. I’m not saying I would loot a shop to rectify the situation, but I can relate.

And young people are just idiots and sheeple. We all were once, and I am sure we all know what it is like to blindly follow the crowd in an overwhelming situation. Most of them will grow up and learn to behave, or so we hope.

And I can keep going and going with possible reasons why England was burning.

Not believing in God is not one of them.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:21:38

    eeeeep. What a long read! But I made it! I did it! I’m so good :P *victory dance*

    Its always a myriad of issues and never just one. I am an undercover christian because I dedicated my life to bible study at one point so I know so much it’s infuriating. So it could be part of the problem BUT I cannot say difinitively that they need Jesus.

    What they do need is something they can believe in. Not necessarily a deity. But some point of reference where they can look with respect and awe. Someone/thing that believes in them and that will work for them. Saying religion is just an easy way of saying they need something to believe in.

    In fact I think the riots are kind of a step in the right direction: they were saying you know- eff the system. make it work for us as well. I think its an outcome of a consumer-capitalist society. Kind of making all those things worthless by burning them down. A nice little eff you to the system.

    Well, looting will always be a by product and I myself would have waltzed into the iStore for a single iPad. Simply because its too bloody expensive for its functions (or lack there of) but still practical because I use an Apple laptop. So… it would be my eff you to Apple, really. hahaha.

    Oh, bad Paula, I know…

    I love your paragraph saying “People do get tired of being invisible…” I adored it. And I know it. Its a very difficult thing. And awesome too.

    See… I can be logical sometimes. Boooyah. Never again. I think it was the length of what you wrote couldn’t resist being smart too :P

    Reply

  2. Paula
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:25:39

    PS the reason why it’s awesome is because people don’t realise the power of invisibility. But if you feel powerless in your invisibility- its another story entirely.

    Reply

  3. Paula
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:27:54

    PPS Yes, when I start a new one, I shall let you know :D

    Reply

  4. seamonkeypo
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:33:58

    Woman, you deserve a medal for reading that!!! I should put a disclaimer at the top: do not actually read this, I just need to get it off my chest!

    You should know by now not to read my rants. They are way too long to be considerate. My blog morality needs looking at.

    Reply

  5. tiah
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:40:25

    It would take a very long winded reply to address everything you packed into this post. But as to the religious argument – plenty of religious people riot and go a bit nuts in the name of their god. Just saying.

    Reply

  6. Prixie
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 07:04:58

    What a well thought of post. I actually concur with your sentiments. As I was reading, I thought of my life motto: “Treat others as how you would like to be treated.” Coming from a Hinduism background, the notion of karma has always been present. And I think if people begin to understand that they are responsible for their actions, that it has a cast ripple effect that eventually comes back in some form or another, the world will be a better place.

    My heart bled sadness when I seen images of London burning.

    Reply

  7. Helen
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 12:54:27

    I won’t go into religion as being a priest’s kid I have waaaay too man issues with religion vs faith and nice people vs good people vs church people.

    i will say that as someone who has worked all over the place in neighbourhoods that I feel that parents need to be harsher with their kids. Discipline is not the job of the teachers.

    When I worked at the video store kids used to trash the place and throw tantrums and parents would get DVDs (ie rewards) to shut their children up. I threw a tantrum in a video store once. I think I was taken home and it was months before I got to pick a movie again.

    Another woman has uncontrollable kids so she gives them demerits throughout the day and if they are under a certain number they get a reward. I can tell you this – it’s not working. He’s a horror.

    I’m not saying we should beat our children, just that parents nee to stop awning off their job on teachers, Sunday schools and other ‘authority figures’ – a parents needs to say ‘Go to your room and no X-box!’ and be listened to. Without some kind of respect for elders how are we going to teach morality in any way shape or form?

    Reply

  8. seamonkeypo
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 15:03:22

    You guys, I am feeling seriously guilty about writing such a long rant, a list basically of everything I ever thought of about this whole situation. It was selfish, cos no one should actually have to read a blog post that long. Thank you for reading, and don’t mind me!

    Reply

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