Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined his ‘big ideas’ for reforming society, so that there is no repeat of last week’s riots. His plan is to introduce compulsory ‘national service’ for all 16 year-olds, and to stop benefits and remove tenancies from anyone convicted of ‘anti-social’ crimes.
The ‘national service’ is to be non-military, and would involve all 16 year-olds having to attend three-week courses in abseiling, canoeing or some other ‘outdoor activity’. The teenagers would also be expected to take part in a ‘community project’. So, in reality, Britain’s young people are to be forced onto outward-bound schemes, and are then to work, for no pay, on tasks that otherwise would be done by workers receiving a wage.
What is to happen if a 16 year-old decides canoeing or hanging-off a rope somewhere is not for them, or what if a teenager understandably objects to being forced to work for nothing? Will there be sanctions? Will parents be punished if their 16 year-olds – adults in the eyes of the law – decide not to take part in Cameron’s jolly wheeze?
Where are the qualified and vetted instructors going to come from in sufficient numbers to provide outward-bound courses for every 16 year-old in Britain? Where will these courses be run? How much will taxpayers have to fork-out to pay for them?
This is the big idea of the man who is running our country. Seriously?
Notwithstanding the fact that Cameron’s scheme does not take account of the very different circumstances of each 16 year-old in Britain, there is the small matter of how abseiling or canoeing is supposed to stop disadvantaged and marginalised teenagers from reacting angrily to the reality imposed on them by distant and out-of-touch politicians.
Then there is the plan to stop offenders’ Social Security benefits, and to terminate the tenancies of anyone who has a family member convicted of an ‘anti-social’ crime. Are we really being asked to believe that the prime minister of this country thinks putting people out on the street with no money will transform them, and their families, into model citizens?
The problems that have created so-called ‘feral’ youths and marginalised communities started under the Tory Government of Margaret Thatcher. They continued under New Labour – the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown oversaw a rapid expansion of the gap between the rich and the poor in Britain – and are getting worse under the present UK administration. For 32 years successive British Governments have considered ordinary working class men and women to be expendable. When young people see no jobs, no opportunities and no hope of a better life, is it any wonder they are angry? Is it any wonder they react against ‘the establishment’, the politicians and the ruling elite who have created a society that has designated them as worthless?
Removing Benefits and throwing entire families onto the street will only make things worse. Compulsory outward-bound courses and forcing teenagers to work for nothing will benefit very few, other than the private companies running the courses and ‘community projects’.
If we want to create a society where everyone adheres to the laid-down social ‘norms’, then we need to allow everyone to live a ‘normal’ life. Living a normal life means having a job, being able to support yourself and your family, knowing the dignity of work, having a pride in your community and your part of it. Living a normal life for our young people should be seeing opportunity ahead, knowing they are a valued and respected member of the community and of society – but that is not the life Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg have created for our teenagers and young adults.
Only when we put people before profit, only when we structure society to meet the needs of ordinary men and women rather than the profit-driven interests of multi-national corporations, will we get back to a national situation where everyone is valued, where no-one is written-off and marginalised, and where no-one feels so alienated they believe they have to riot to get their voices heard.