British riots: addressing the “why”

David Cameron’s answer to the British riots seems to be better policing. No doubt there could be improvements, but they shouldn’t be measures that hurt ordinary citizens, like the PM’s suggestion that there could be state controls on social networking.

If we really want to prevent such destructive rioting we have to address the “why” question. Why were so many British youth so angry and alienated that they would go on a violent rampage?


New Zealand Herald’s

news editor Graeme Baker attempted to answer that question in a column headed: “

The riots were mindless, but not without reason

.”  He argued that many of the rioters can’t see a future: “there are 400-odd unemployed people for every job advertised in Tottenham, many of those part-time shop or cleaning work for minimum wage.” Add to that the big gap between rich and poor and you have an explosive mixture.

Could it happen here?  It may be less likely, but New Zealand society has some of the same ingredients: growing social inequality and a

teenage unemployment rate of almost 30%

. We can’t avoid addressing these problems.