Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Face to Face - Nick Clegg is wrong on this one!

Today DPM Nick Clegg went on the offensive against the rioters in order to build some resemblance of public confidence in the measures being deployed by the Government and their trust in the liberal democratic rhetoric that I believe is much needed at a time like this.

Nick might be on to something, but I seriously doubt it!
The announcement of a series of Probation Trust Payback Schemes should be welcomed as forcing all the rioters into prison will only give them the education they never received in the first place, however, this would be a higher education of crime and thus not delivering the reformed individuals our society is wanting to see. Instead, the punishment that the public want to see meted out can be properly balanced with the positive effects for the individual by making them work and rebuild their communities in the light of day, under the watch of those who they've hurt so much and whose some lives are permanently changed. I'm hoping a combination of embarrassment, public shame and an inner want to see their prospects truly changed will form an aspect of the personal foundations they each need in order to build a better life.

Unfortunately, all of this was going too well for Nick to receive a rousing applause and so he had to come out with a brow-raising demand such as "I also want them to face their victims" in order to 'understand its real people they've affected', an opportunity to explain why they did it and to apologise. Firstly, I hope he made these remarks under the assumed-expectation that no meeting would go ahead without any victims consent because these people have just gone through a week of hell and forcing them into confrontations when they don't wish it would be completely unacceptable.

That accepted, we still need to decide who, if anyone, will benefit from such an encounter? The rioter is unlikely to have changed their mindset or cultural values anytime soon and I strongly suspect they will see it as just another hoop in which to jump to freedom. Their explanations and apologies will be as carved, crafted and planned as the destruction they left behind them whilst going about their rampage last week. Kids at school get told to say sorry to one another and 'write a letter', for the most part, they quickly learn these are just formalities so that the teacher feels something has been achieved and it can all be patched over, patching over this civil bullying is not an option and the real solution needs to be much more comprehensive.

My suspicions aside, I do believe there is scope for some culprits and victims to understand one another. Without a face, its hard to place your emotions and feelings over the event. The rioter has for the most part not seen the victim and only see's the gains for themselves, likewise, the victim only sees the destruction and chaos around them whilst not understanding the person and their life behind the riot. There is room for understanding one another and it will form a paramount step in the renewed social cohesion that our society so badly needs after last weeks riots, however, I suspect if handled badly and participants poorly selected, then the outcome will only be more pain, resentment and confusion between the community groups.

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