The Cruelty of Compassion – The Riots In England Of August 2011

In August 2011, a black man, Mark Duggan, was shot by police in England. Riots ensued. The riots had “gleeful assaultiveness, the party atmosphere, the unembarrassed rationalizations for criminal brutality.” says Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal. She says that even a number of regular job-holding Britons took part in the action. The riots became fatal to three men who were killed because they had assembled to protect a local business, and to an old man who died after being beaten – he had attempted to stomp out a fire set by the marauders.


The riot fits our idea of evil, because the rioters burned down stores of people who had done nothing to them, and forced people to strip naked in the streets, again, people who had done nothing to them.

So who were the rioters.  Wikipedia says that:

The ethnic makeup of the rioters varied in different cities: 76% of those arrested in Manchester were white, while 29% were white and 39% black in London, and the West Midlands was the only area where more than 6% were Asian

The rioters were disproportionately black,  but in some cities most were white.

Now how does one prevent riots like this? Does one abolish the welfare state? Does one expand it? Does one use more sensitive policing, so that people like Mark Duggan don’t get shot? Does one use tougher policing?


I’ve heard some of these viewpoints have been expressed. For instance, former (left-wing) London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the root causes for the riot were government spending cuts.


In the USA, there were “flash mobs” of blacks attacking whites in several cities (unrelated to the riots in Britain), but (liberal) Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy ignored the racial aspect and blamed the attack on “flash mobs” of bankers and mortgage lenders who attacked the economy first, thus provoking a response.


Here are some viewpoints that I may shed light on the riots and the psychology and causes of them. I have not included the entire articles, just excerpts.


  • Viewpoint 1: THEODORE DALRYMPLE: THE BARBARIANS INSIDE BRITAIN’S GATES (Wall Street Journal)”…The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker’s Transylvania. Indeed, well before the riots last week, respectable persons would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters. In Britain nowadays, the difference between ordinary social life and riot is only a matter of degree, not of type.

    A short time ago, I gave a talk in a school in an exquisite market town, deep in the countryside. Came Friday night, however, and the inhabitants locked themselves into their houses against the invasion of the barbarians. In my own little market town of Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, where not long ago a man was nearly beaten to death 20 yards from my house, drunken young people often rampage down one of its lovely little streets, causing much damage and preventing sleep. No one, of course, dares ask them to stop. The Shropshire council has dealt with the problem by granting a license for a pub in the town to open until 4 a.m., as if what the town needed was the opportunity for yet more and later drunkenness.

    If the authorities show neither the will nor the capacity to deal with such an easily solved problem—and willfully do all they can to worsen it—is it any wonder that they exhibit, in the face of more difficult problems, all the courage and determination of frightened rabbits?
    The rioters in the news last week had a thwarted sense of entitlement that has been assiduously cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals, governments and bureaucrats. “We’re fed up with being broke,” one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one’s desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.
    “There are people here with nothing,” this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate.

    “But while the rioters have been maintained in a condition of near-permanent unemployment by government subvention augmented by criminal activity, Britain was importing labor to man its service industries. You can travel up and down the country and you can be sure that all the decent hotels and restaurants will be manned overwhelmingly by young foreigners; not a young Briton in sight (thank God).


    “The reason for this is clear: The young unemployed Britons not only have the wrong attitude to work, for example regarding fixed hours as a form of oppression, but they are also dramatically badly educated. Within six months of arrival in the country, the average young Pole speaks better, more cultivated English than they do.
    The icing on the cake, as it were, is that social charges on labor and the minimum wage are so high that no employer can possibly extract from the young unemployed Briton anything like the value of what it costs to employ him. ”



  • Viewpoint 2: MARK STEYN: THE NEW BRITTANIA (National Review)
    Mark Steyn

    Big Government debauches not only a nation’s finances but its human capital, too.


    … There is literally nothing you can’t get Her Majesty’s Government to pay for. From page 205 of my book:


    “A man of 21 with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute.”


    Hey, why not? “He’s planning to do more than just have his end away,” explained his social worker. “Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.”

    Why do they need a Dutch hooker? Just another hardworking foreigner doing the jobs Britons won’t do? Given the reputation of English womanhood, you’d have thought this would be the one gig that wouldn’t have to be outsourced overseas.

    While the British Treasury is busy writing checks to Amsterdam prostitutes, one-fifth of children are raised in homes in which no adult works — in which the weekday ritual of rising, dressing, and leaving for gainful employment is entirely unknown. One tenth of the adult population has done not a day’s work since Tony Blair took office on May 1, 1997.

    If you were born into such a household, you’ve been comprehensively “stimulated” into the dead-eyed zombies staggering about the streets this last week: pathetic inarticulate sub-humans unable even to grunt the minimal monosyllables to BBC interviewers desperate to appease their pathologies. C’mon, we’re not asking much: just a word or two about how it’s all the fault of government “cuts” like the leftie columnists argue. And yet even that is beyond these baying beasts. The great-grandparents of these brutes stood alone against a Fascist Europe in that dark year after the fall of France in 1940. Their grandparents were raised in one of the most peaceful and crime-free nations on the planet. Were those Englishmen of the mid-20th century to be magically transplanted to London today, they’d assume they were in some fantastical remote galaxy. If Charlton Heston was horrified to discover the Planet of the Apes was his own, Britons are beginning to realize that the remote desert island of Lord of the Flies is, in fact, located just off the coast of Europe in the north-east Atlantic. Within two generations of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, a significant proportion of the once-free British people entrusted themselves to social rewiring by liberal compassionate Big Government and thereby rendered themselves paralytic and unemployable save for non-speaking parts in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And even that would likely be too much like hard work.

    …Yet a police force all but entirely useless when it comes to preventing crime or maintaining public order has time to police everything else. When Sam Brown observed en passant to a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street in Oxford, “Do you know your horse is gay?”, he was surrounded within minutes by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed, tossed in the slammer overnight, and fined 80 pounds. Mr. Brown’s “homophobic comments,” explained a spokesmoron for Thames Valley Police, were “not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area.” The zealous crackdown on Sam Brown’s hippohomophobia has not been replicated in the present disturbances. Anyone who has so much as glanced at British policing policy over the last two decades would be hard pressed to argue which party on the streets of London, the thugs or the cops, is more irredeemably stupid.

    This is the logical dead end of the Nanny State. When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the British welfare regime in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want” to be accomplished by “co-operation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from life’s vicissitudes, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. As I write in my book: “Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity.” The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers, the highest abortion rate. Marriage is all but defunct, except for William and Kate, fellow toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. From page 204:

    “For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population”.

    …Big Government means small citizens: It corrodes the integrity of a people, catastrophically. Within living memory, the city in flames on our TV screens every night governed a fifth of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. When you’re imperialists on that scale, there are bound to be a few mishaps along the way. But nothing the British Empire did to its subject peoples has been as total and catastrophic as what a post-great Britain did to its own.

    There are lessons for all of us there.

    Rudyard Kipling

    Bret Stephens quotes the British author Rudyard Kipling (born in India in 30 December 1865) who wrote about the welfare state, “all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins”.

  • Viewpoint 4: Among the Thugs, by Bill Buford – a review by Sheila O’MalleyThe book “Among the Thugs” is about soccer thugs in Britain, and was written long before the riots happened.
    I think it does have some bearing on the riots. But the people described here may not have been among the rioters at all. In fact, they are intensely nationalistic.
    Here is an excerpt of what blogger Sheila O’Malley says about the book:
    “Bill Buford researched this book, Among the Thugs, for years. He spent every weekend traveling around with various football clubs in England, because he was curious about the rioting and the violence. He wanted to observe it, he wanted to get close to it. He was obsessed by it. What is it that made young English males destroy entire towns every single Saturday? Why? You can feel the obsession in the book, which is why it is so powerful. This is a brutal read.

    …the world he describes is an upside-down one, where good times are measured by the amount of damage one inflicts, where the football itself seems like a sideline to the main event: riots, violence, and, in some cases, murder.

    …By the end of it, I was dying for Buford to get out. To leave the thugs to their pointless nonsense and hope that each one of them gets banged upside the head one day, putting him out of commission for good. This is the kind of anger the book brought up in me.

    …This is the way they talk about it. (the violence)

    They talk about the crack, the buzz, and the fix. They talk about having to have it, of being unable to forget it when they do, of not wanting to forget it – ever. They talk about being sustained by it, telling and retelling what happened and what it felt like. They talk about it with the pride of the privileged, of those who have had, seen, felt, been through something that other people have not. They talk about it in the way that another generation talked about drugs or drink or both, except that they also use both drugs and drink. One lad, a publican, talks about it as though it were a chemical thing or a hormonal spray or some kind of intoxicating gas – once it’s in the air, once an act of violence has been committed, other acts will follow inevitably – necessarily.

    And how would I talk about it?

    …Violence is one of the most intensely lived experiences and, for those capable of giving themselves over to it, is one of the most intense pleasures.

    Sheila adds: It’s not pleasant to spend time with these people, and I found much of the book outrageous and infuriating. It is ignorance writ large, the combination of resentment, anger and self-pity that we can see in certain sections of our populace today, the worst combo known to man, where everything is turned upside down. Those who are the most aggressive complain that they are the most persecuted. Those who are on top complain that they are on the bottom.

    As I (Sheila) say, Buford does not pull his punches:

    “I have lived in England since 1977, and one of the things I’ve learned is that you don’t talk about the working class, at least in any detail, unless you are working class yourself. You don’t criticize the working class or make generalizations about being a member of it. You would never point out its traits in someone. It is not done; even today, you leave it alone. It is understood that non-working-class people don’t have the right to do so.

    “As a consequence, however, few people have come out and observed that the working class doesn’t exist any more.


    “it is still possible, I suppose, to belong to a phrase – the working class – a piece of language that serves to reinforce certain social customs and a way of talking and that obscures the fact that the only thing hiding behind it is a highly mannered suburban society stripped of culture and sophistication and living only for its affectations: a bloated code of maleness, an exaggerated, embarrassing patriotism, a violent nationalism, an array of bankrupt antisocial habits. This bored, empty, decadent generation consists of nothing more than what it appears to be. It is a lad culture without mystery, so deadened that it uses violence to wake itself up. It pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that it has smell.”


    Sheila mentions one case that really struck her of a “regular guy” with wife and kids and a job who during a riot after a football match committed a psychopathic crime that I cannot repeat here.

  • Viewpoint 4 – From conservative Ann Coulter, who doesn’t buy the root causes idea:
    Ann Coulter

    “Why were black and Hispanic gang members looting after the Rodney King verdict? As if you needed to know, a Los Angeles policeman recently told me that the gang members he arrested in the riots said they didn’t know or care about Rodney King.


    “Why were masked hoodlums smashing Starbucks windows in Seattle a decade ago when some bankers came to town? They’re against the “global economy”? What does that even mean?


    “Like Satan, mobs are good only for destruction and chaos. The putative “cause” is always incidental.”

  • Viewpoint 5 – From conservative Thomas Sowell
    Thomas Sowell

    “In both England and in the United States, whole generations have been fed a steady diet of grievances and resentment against society, and especially against others who are more prosperous than they are. They get this in their schools, on television, on campuses and in the movies. Nothing is their own fault. It is all “society’s” fault.

    One of the young Britons interviewed in the New York Times reported that he had learned to read only three years ago. He is not unique. In Theodore Dalrymple’s book, “Life at the Bottom,” he referred to many British youths who are unashamedly illiterate. Dr. Dalrymple says, “I cannot recall meeting a sixteen-year-old white from the public housing estates that are near my hospital who could multiple nine by seven.”

    In the United States, the color may be different but the attitudes among the hoodlum element are very similar. In both countries, classmates who try to learn can find themselves targeted by bullies.

    Here those who want to study in ghetto schools are often accused of “acting white.” But whites in Britain show the same pattern. Some conscientious students are beaten up badly enough to end up at Dr. Dalrymple’s hospital.

    Our elites often advise us to learn from other countries. They usually mean that we should imitate other countries. But it may be far more important to learn from their mistakes — the biggest of which may be listening to fashionable nonsense from the smug intelligentsia.

    These countries show us where that smug nonsense leads. It may be a sneak preview of our own future.

    “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Looking at all these viewpoints, I would have to say there is a cruelty in compassion. The compassion that creates the welfare state is one factor in the collapse of society as a whole. There is no doubt suffering that it was intended to alleviate, but it causes more suffering in the long run. For instance, one British caller to a talk show I was listening to said that some single women in Britain deliberately have a child just to be eligible for subsidized housing. Its not difficult to see that this child will probably have issues growing up, and we know that children of single mothers are more likely to be failures in life.
It would also make sense to me that a population that is deprived of guns (“the great equalizer”) cannot stand up to thugs who are much better at dealing violence. A justice system, such as in Britain, that coddles criminals does not reduce criminality. Dorothy Rabinowitz says that a former Scotland Yard official John O’Connor told the BBC that what Americans did to control crime is “they locked people up… We haven’t got the heart for that over here.” Said a former police union head “Americans police by force. We don’t want to do that here.”
Whatever they are doing – is not working. There are multiple causes for what happened, and we cannot step inside the mind of a violent rioter, but I would think that they are the types that will only change (if that is possible) by hitting a brick wall.


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