Friday, 26 August 2011

Cablegate highlights that U.S. distain of West Papua is undiminished after 40 years

This disgraceful cable from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, is something I truly hoped I would not see: contemporary documents showing that U.S. indifference to Papua is as strong as ever.  I had to wade through 400 pages of declassified documents for my university dissertation on West Papua; page after page of racist, ignorant, scheming betrayal of an entire people.  To fill people in on the sordid tale, a mere two weeks after gaining independence from the Dutch, West Papua was invaded by Indonesia under the pretext of rescuing them of subversive minorities. It was an invasion sanctioned by a United States desperate to keep hold of a key, non-communist country in a highly volatile area of the world.  The reason? Well, it does kind of look like it's all part of the same place, I mean, it's just one massive archipelago right? Oh, and it has the worlds largest copper mine in the world...

Here are some excerpts from the cable:

"The group's focus on "self-determination" basically makes their efforts a non-starter with the GOI. Moreover, the exiles' almost exclusive focus on Papua's legal status highlights a growing rift with activists inside Papua,who are considerably more moderate."

The Act of Free Choice was the deeply ironic name given to the UN ratified sham election in 1969. 1050 hand-picked (by Indonesia, obviously) Papuans voted unanimously to give up their hard won flag, their fledging independence, and become a province of Indonesia.  The declassified documents make clear that everybody knew this was a sham; that near every Papuan despised the Indonesians that had been subsidised to colonise their land afresh; even that there was a high likelihood of human rights abuses.  Yet they have the temerity to ask for self-determination? Pfff!

"WPNCL spokesperson Paula Makabory asserted to poloff in a recent telephone conversation that numerous Papuans within Indonesia supported the coalition. She added, however, that she could not provide more details out of "fear" for their safety."

Nice quotation marks asshole.

"The new group's grievances are not new."

No shit?

"The WPNCL's approach basically rests on the claim that Indonesia illegally absorbed Papua (then Dutch New Guinea) through the 1969 UN-supervised Act of Free Choice."

Their "claim", as you call it, can be verified by the person you are writing to at the State department if you wish, or you could google it? This though is the killer paragraph...

"WPNCL statements also regurgitate many of the dramatic but vague claims that are the stock in trade of Papuan independence supporters. These include accusations of genocide, gross human rights violations and massive environmental destruction purportedly committed by Indonesians."

Ouch. Don't you just hate hearing the same old stock-in-trade accusations of genocide? It all gets so boring doesn't it? I also like the way that he says, "purportedly committed by Indonesians", as though the companies committing the destruction weren't American and British.

"Ronald Tapilatu, an advisor to Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu,[said] it would... undercut the efforts of both national and provincial leaders to implement Papua's Special Autonomy agreement with Jakarta."

This would be the Special Autonomy Agreement introduced in 2002 that has done next to nothing in nearly 10 years? 

This next I am particularly pissed off about, and not just because it is the Catholic Church standing up for oppressors... again. Here are the thoughts of Budi Hernawan, Director of the Jayapura Diocese Peace and Justice Secretariat (SKP)...

"The WPNCL's activities could hamper the work of human rights advocates in the province. WPNCL public statements combined claims about alleged human rights violations in Papua with demands for political independence. This, according to Hernawan, made it more difficult for human rights defenders to convince Indonesian authorities that they were only concerned with human rights and did not have a position on Papua's political status. "We can only work if we are seen as above politics," he said"

So, Papuans should learn to stop worrying about self-determination, even though it is the only logical response to the human rights abuses, political imprisonment and genocide, just so that the people investigating these crimes can be taken seriously by an oppressive regime that has no interest in listening to them anyway.

These concerns were not for the likes of America back in 1969, and sadly neither are they now.  It has been over 40 years since the Act of Free Choice, 40 years of genocide, abuse, environmental devastation viewable from near space and absolutely no moral evolution for the U.S. government.  They have morally stagnated; no better now than a generation ago, just PR savvy.

Papuans deserve freedom. Someday they shall have it.

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Manifesto for Social Evolution in the UK: Part 2

Welcome to part two of my sociocultural evolutionary manifesto for reforming the UK's institutions.  Today it is the turn of education and housing...


If there were one sector of society that should evolve alongside communication technology it is education.  Knowledge is information, whose transfer directly benefits from technological advance.  Yet here we are in the 21st century with what appear to be factories attempting to force children of all shapes and sizes through the exact same hole, metaphorically speaking.  Education has a duty to embrace the tenets of cultural evolution mainly because they are also the basic tenets of a good education; communication, synthesis of ideas, progression of discourse, adding to human understanding.  They are thus because education as an ideal transcends identity, serving our basic, inherent desire to rationalise the world.  What we need to do is ensure it goes back to these ideals, out of the grip of Government Inc ideology.

First of all, exams are the most pathetic way of making or breaking years of hard graft; they utterly misrepresent any likely future scenario for utilizing these skills. We don't lock ourselves in the bathroom with naught but a pad and pen to complete a report due in 90 minutes, do we? The whole point of the system as it is is to ensure standardisation in evaluation so that grades actually mean something in the context of everyone else's grades.  Yet one person (me, for example) can study tactically and another person can work day and night on the entire course and they often  still come out with the same grade.   Perhaps it was because I am lucky in that I personally don't mind taking exams, but here again is another problem.  We are condemning the unlucky, those that for whatever reason can't handle pressure that is in no way necessary, to potential lifelong negative consequences. Such a simplified, artificial, irrational system as this cannot hold legitimacy in such interconnected, fibre-optic times.  We need virtual systems to track, accumulate and share knowledge we gain through education, borrowing ideas from RPG's.  Teach kids in ways that they understand; the benefits could be far greater than we know).  

Why do we still have textbooks?  They can't move, can't play sound, can only provide maybe a couple of gigs of pre-defined information, cannot join you in learning with kids all over the country, nay, the world.  They can't even be updated for crying out loud, you actually have to buy a whole new set!  Being centrally  controlled by the folks in Westminster, our education system is held hostage, condemned to evolutionary stagnation for all but a few schools, sorry, academies, that were lucky enough to be expensive political photo-ops.  We also need to accept that children come in all varieties, with different skills and interests.  We must find a way to vary methods of learning to fit each child; forcing all the children to fit the same antiquated and counter-intuitive system is absurd, something that particularly impacts boys.  Talking about fitting education to the needs of the child, any child in this case, why don't we start feeding them properly?  Complicated stuff I know. 

Not only do we need radical ideas, cultural evolution always works best when experimentation can happen in multiple, interlinked locations and knowledge shared and synthesised. For this reason we must decentralise power, preferably down to individual school levels, so that teachers are free to teach in ways that suit their students.  Give them the freedom to borrow from other teachers around the world ideas, games and techniques that might actually work; or else continue to do nothing in a system that is cracking at the seams. 

For higher education, I suggest we stop talking about how wonderful interdisciplinary work is and actually take the plunge.  I had to beg to be allowed to take the Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science course, a course that changed my life, simply because it wasn't in the school of humanities.  Putting these artificial walls up helps nobody.  What we need instead is a format whereby students are free to go to any lectures they wish during the first two years, perhaps with a minimum figure per week.  Lectures should be recorded and made available online with forums and chatrooms.  A weekly seminar allows you to present on the best/most interesting lecture you saw last week, or alternately respond to a previous presentation by another student.  The first two years should be about allowing students to take their own path, with the freedom to learn different subjects depending on where their thinking takes them i.e. no exams, no marking.  Come the third year, students would pick two dissertation questions, entirely of their choosing.  For each work, the student chooses three types of professor (e.g, historian, social scientist, cognitive scientist) to convene and mark it as a group.  This way, students are free to go beyond the knowledge of their teachers, force established professors to consider alternative views and break the closed structures of defined disciplines.  

Just because capitalism doesn't care much for History doesn't mean it isn't important, perhaps if they realised that they'd have a better idea of their own intransigence.  Universities must be about knowledge and only knowledge; enough with the GovCorp subversion.  They must be independent, affordable and seek to expand virtually to greater numbers of people.  Which brings me to my last point...

Most importantly of all, particularly in light of the fees hike, is the need for recognition of people's ability to educate themselves.  I resent the fact that in order to get jobs for which I am perfectly capable, I am required to get massively in debt so that I can own a piece of paper from someone assuring employers that I do actually hold information in my head.  Almost every person in this country now has access to a previously unimaginable wealth of knowledge and educational resources, factors greater than the entire education system could have provided just 20 years ago.  We cannot continue as if the only education that matters is the one granted official status by the state.  Not only does it mean a reliance an out-dated, nationalist-centred syllabus, but it also discriminates against those who cannot afford to go to university.  Giving individuals direct access to nationally recognised qualifications, to be completed in their own way, at their own pace, is long overdue and could radically empower those who feel excluded.    

Well, this is a pretty simple one.  Not much cultural evolution has to say on this one, unless you want to talk about architectural styles.  Or we could take about historical accidents?

Apparently, because I was unlucky enough to have come of age after the housing boom, I am now forced to pay one of the thousands of already wealthy people who bought up every cheap house going, split them in half, and rented them out. As with every other under-30 who doesn't have rich elders, my wife and I have absolutely no hope of owning our own home despite both having jobs.  Norfolk, where I live, has seen house prices treble and quadruple in the last 15 years, mainly as second (or third, or fourth) homes for greedy people.  The UK has one of the smallest average house sizes of the developed world, with rent accounting for an ever increasing portion of people's salaries. How can we as a generation take authority seriously when we see them doing nothing to tackle this gross injustice, while they sit on multiple homes, often paid for at our expense, earning inordinate amounts of money for doing absolutely nothing?!

Where are the new builds? Where is the investment in new home technology?  Where is the protection for those priced out of living near their family because of the artificial prices created by self-imposed mega-salaries of financial industries gone mad?  Is our construction industry so healthy that they don't need the work?

How does government, or the public for that matter, expect the young to have an inherent respect for property when they themselves blindly hoard it to the exclusion of a whole generation?  Where is the sense of shame or duty to rectify this betrayal?  It is the same place it has always been, throughout History, for property owning classes: nowhere.  It has ever been thus that ownership of land and property has acted as a barrier to sharing identity and moral concern; it shouldn't surprise us that by merely increasing that number to a large part of the older generation shouldn't change that dynamic.  Now it's become a generational divide, wonderfully illustrated in the book Jilted Generation, rather than serf and lord.  By denying us this opportunity, authority is satisfied to see us as cash-cows for the already wealthy, accepting huge chunks of our meagre minimum wages each month because we have no other choice. 

In the long run, I expect such greed to be seen as deeply immoral.  But, since evolution is a step-by-step process, reform must first come through affirmative government action: investment in new builds and investment in providing affordable mortgages to first time buyers.  Eventually, the issue of hoarding property will have to be tackled, perhaps through having upper limits on the number of properties you may own with the excess being offered to tenants with rent, back-dated, going toward payment of ownership.  The owner gets paid, the tenant feels they are not being fleeced, house ownership goes up and society gets a bit more equal.

Coming soon: The Media and the Internet.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Manifesto for Social Evolution in the UK: Part 1.

"Those who make peaceful evolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
What Kennedy meant to say...

I had wanted to write about the punitive sentencing that occurred in the wake of the riots, yet the more I thought about it, the more depressed I became.  The issues were so clear to the non-ideologically bound that they had already all been said.  So, in an attempt to get ahead of the curve, I figured someone had better make a start putting forward some solutions...  

This is not about left and right. This is not about socialist or capitalist.  This, a manifesto for reform for the institutions of the UK, is an attempt to derive solutions to our growing malaise from the philosophy of cultural evolution and complex systems.  Over the coming two weeks I will review, using a framework derived from cultural evolution, each of our public institutions and sectors of society that I see as being in need of urgent evolution, lest they lose all significance and authority to the new generation: the police, the justice system, education, housing, employment, the economy, foreign policy and state governance.  Often the foundations upon which they are based centuries old, using misguided concepts often much older still.  In a time of globalisation and exponentially growing communication technology, we must bring them up to date if we are to expect them to remain relevant to 21st century identities.  If they are not, they risk losing all authority and right of representation, with potentially disastrous consequences if resisted.  

I just want to finish my introduction with this:  I do not see it as my job to describe a utopia before demanding people adhere to it.  If that's your impression, then you've misunderstood.  Evolution happens a step at a time, by definition.  I'm just aiming to point out the bleeding obvious to those that are blinded by walled identities in the here and now... it's for tomorrows generation to pick up the ball and keep heading in the right direction.  All we have to do is leave the world slightly better than we found it.

First up, law and order.

The Police

Firstly, I'd just like to say that I once seriously considered becoming a police officer (and still would, should they significantly change).  There is something noble in principle about protecting people... so long as by 'people' you mean 'everyone', equally.  The list of grievances justifiably held against the police grows by the day; deaths, cover-ups, obfuscation, lie after lie.  The fact that most coppers are probably honest, hard-working people is simply not a satisfactory defence.

The police represent one of the most closed institutional systems in the country.  Their shared language, uniform, privileged position of power, procedures etc, combine with the situational pressures of conflict to bond the group together (much like the army).   As such, it has always been seen as a virtue to stick up for your colleagues no matter what; conversely, the conflict inherent in grassing on a fellow cop has been staple diet for cops shows to the point of cliche.   This level of tribalism might have been sustainable once, but no longer.  It is simply not possible to maintain that level of corruption, that many deaths in custody with seeming immunity, the brazen politicisation... not when every citizen has a camera in their pocket.  Such a closed system evolves slowly, if at all.  The police may be independent in name, but their remit is determined by government, not the people*.  As such, it is the poor who represent the police's 'other', those who transgress capitalism's norms, be it in their dress, their disdain for greed or their misfortune to have been born into a class forgot.  While it remains this way, there will always be incidents that continue to decay what little remains of a reputation they have

In such a situation, assuming the majority of police officers are honest people, we should expect to see officers speaking up, denouncing those shown to have defiled their position in the name of the people.  I'd certainly like to think that at least one of them had got to know some of these youths to the point of empathy, and then on to questioning their own actions publicly.  That this hasn't happened is telling, and in a large way makes each and every one of them an enabler.  This is why I couldn't be a police officer; at the very best I would never get promoted, at worst who knows?

They need opening up.  All data must be on-line.  Civil rights groups, lawyers and the public should be the ones to hold the police to account, people whose identity allows them to do the job that needs to be done.  Clearly the IPCC is far too close to be considered impartial; certainly their record is pretty pathetic.  The anger felt by thousands when they think of the name Ian Tomlinson, to cite but one person, simply cannot be undone.  It is there in the cynicism greeting each report of a new death at the hands of the police, in the resigned sorrow for the latest family to get lied to and dicked about after losing a loved one.  The public must be allowed to video police actions and record conversations if they so wish (not least because technology will soon be doing that for some 24/7 anyway).  I would go further and consider helmet-cams for armed response units that upload to independent servers... the first public inquiry avoided would ensure they pay for themselves pretty quick.  If the police don't like the idea, perhaps they should stop routinely covering shit up?

The police must be seen to be about more than simply stopping criminality.  Combine probation and front-line duties, let those on the street get to know these kids in deeper and more constructive contexts than stop-and-searches.  Government must give police greater support by increasing investment in youth clubs and groups who do great work like Connexions instead of seeing youth related services as an easy target for slashing budgets.

And the most painful thing?  When officers and politicians admit the police were corrupt once and yet insist that things have changed.  As if they would even know.

The Justice System

An activist awaits trial.  They know, their friends know and their lawyers know that whether they get off or get sent down depends largely on whether Judge A or Judge B is appointed to the case.  If you think this is an exaggeration then congratulations to you; you are lucky (or submissive) enough to have not experienced the pleasure of finding out the limitations of 'universal' law.  This alone says all that needs to be said about the problem inherent in our justice system: that power is too  to ensure objective, consistent application of law.  It is also too concentrated in it's identity (rich, largely male, largely white); an identity far too exclusively intertwined with other rich white guys in the police, the government and business boardrooms to ensure equal representation for the whole population. 

A dangerous number of people now view the justice system, correctly as it happens, as representing the power of wealth; a number that is only going to rise as communication technologies advance.  This is because of the inherent contradiction between the underlying capitalist assumptions of national courts and the multinational, globalised culture we now inhabit.  Do not preach to us about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights only to throw those who embody it's spirit in jail for having the temerity to disrupt a British company turning a profit.  

What I wouldn't encourage is a radical overhaul.  For all it's faults, our system in the UK has built within it mechanisms that allow for evolution of law.  It may be slow to do so, often to the point of exasperation (see: Drug Reform), but there is much that can be done without risk of evolutionary over-reach (otherwise known as revolution).  As with all institutions, transparency, open data and an acceptance of new communication technologies must be a basic starting point, including easily searchable and mashable data records from individual judges to national statistics.  Law cannot remain cloaked in legalese and expect people to feel represented.  Activists must be allowed to speak their cause when in court for non-violent direct action and, if shown to adhere to international humanitarian law, they must trump issues of purely economic or political interest.  How else do we avoid another Diego Garcia or West Papua?

Finally, the one thing you absolutely must not do, under any circumstances, is allow criminal minds to congregate in a culturally closed system, away from society, for any length of time.


Seriously, of all the flaws in our institutions, none compare to the prison system for sheer misguidedness.  If you were to look at humans as they truly are, a complex system governed by cultural evolution, then prison is the complete opposite of what is needed.  At the heart of this misunderstanding is an immature concept of justice as retribution, of responsibility lying absolutely in Judeo-Christian notions of the soul and free will.  Instead, it is simply a mechanism for providing feedback to the system, issuing formalised judgements of  collective will in order to influence the community as a whole.  By shutting these people away, we are merely hiding from ourselves evidence of our collective failure, or, more likely given its power, the failure of authority.  
Restorative justice is exactly what cultural evolution demands, offenders being made to see the damage they have done and, where possible, meet the victims themselves.  It would take a much bigger budget than such measures have now, but it must be considerably cheaper than housing them in criminal finishing schools and tarring them with further non-constructive social stigma? We need a serious reappraisal of the fundamental nature of law and justice; who it represents, it's necessary limitations and most importantly of all its need to be grounded in universality and objective fact.  Do not hope for progress while bankers, arms dealers and corrupt officials act with seeming impunity while thousands are criminalised for smoking a natural substance often less harmful (certainly to others) than the champagne they so lovingly hold as a mark of sophistication.

On Monday: Education and Housing...

* No, they are not the same thing. See: Government, coming soon

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

So many long words to say such a stupid thing...

I accidentally 'liked' someone's comment on Anne-Marie Slaughter's post on the UK riots in The Atlantic (disclaimer: yes, she mentioned my post, and yes, I'm happy for that, but no, this isn't an excuse to link to it) because, were you to switch the first 'homogeneous' for 'diverse', I could totally see it as a valid point of view that is seldom mentioned... 

Jean c Rien:

"I grew up in an ethnically homogenous, economically diverse neighborhood. It was crime free, and there was great community. I now live in an ethnically diverse, economically homogenous neighborhood. People are rude and/or hostile to each other. I'm going back to the 'hood."

Artist impression of Jean c Rien

Pissed about the liking of the comment that I couldn't undo, I spent the next half hour writing a a slightly pissy reply, hence why I thought I'd post it on here to compensate for the dirty of having fed a troll.... again.

"I used to live in an ethnically diverse, economically homogeneous area, and it was the best place I've ever lived, never known so many people in one place.

Instead of falling back on your own circumstance as being representative of the greater whole (which, when you think about it, is pretty arrogant), why don't you look at the stats, the actual data, that show a clear correlation between wealth inequality and quality of life.

If you did manage to find an area that was ethnically homogeneous and yet had wealthy people kicking it with the poor folks, please don't hesitate to tell us where... seriously, it could hold the key to you..., what? Proving racism is good? It's natural?

Our identity is not determined solely by our genes; cultural identity acquired through one's life has slowly come to dominate in humankind, as civilisation accumulated and thought evolved. That is to say it is malleable, evolving through the interaction of billions of minds in a complex system... if all races have equal access to cultural production, then within a couple of generations only hardcore fundamentalists would be left. Will your kids be one of those?"

Or we could learn from old Jean here how rich and poor can live in unequal harmony together... so long as they have the same amount of melatonin in their skin organ.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

And another thing on the riots...

I just wanted to speculate a little on my previous blog regarding the looters and the elite being more alike than they care to admit, and on where this may stand in terms of the very big picture...

A lot of interesting dissonance is being created as Cameron, mistaking the one portion of civil society he can relate to (Daily Mail readers, aka shareholders) as being representative of public opinion, seeks to make political hay with collective punishment and vengeful justice.  Quotes abound regarding the naked greed of these feral youth, quotes from people who own rather nice kitchens at the taxpayers expense.  Talking heads and hesitant journalists vie with each other to see who can get the analysis wrong in the simplest possible way, decrying communication technology with such imprecision as to make 8 year olds wince with embarrassment.

A woman accepts a pair of shorts the day after the riots, having slept through them, and gets five and a half months in prison, separated from her two children.  David Cameron hires someone he simply must have known to be a criminal in Andy Coulson and he wont even apologise for his judgement. Where is this woman's second chance Dave?  So many people are contrasting this response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, comparing the damage caused and the retribution dealt out.  How many bankers are in jail? Just how far does the hypocrisy have to go before the entire system loses all credibility?

I have written previously about how cycles of forms of identity, driven by technological evolution, are also revolving at an exponentially growing rate. We are reaching a new stage whereby identity creation is once again monopolised by a narrow point of view, only now that of money.  We know the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extreme nationalism; we have yet to see what forms of extreme manifestations will arise from fundamentalist free-market ideology.   

For possibly the first time in human history, the state and religion bare absolutely no relevance to a large portion of the new generation.  What has replaced them is an orgy of commercial culture, aspirational, shallow, meaningless, irresistible... created by the scientists of human manipulation and unleashed upon a public largely unaware of what they are up against.  Dark shit happens when you view the world through fundamentalist eyes; it doesn't matter if you see God, honour or money, the important thing is what you don't see: moral concern for those that don't share your views.  And when these people are in power... well, we've already seen enough of that haven't we, now that we are free to watch the suffering 24 hours a day?

It is a sick joke that I am 'represented' by those who have never known poverty simply by virtue of exiting through the right vagina.  Those protestors in Tahrir Square represent me more than you hypocritical fools. They want respect? They can bloody well earn it.  If the Neo-liberal agenda continues to push to, ironically, possibly the most fantastically self-deluded utopian ideal out there, I have no doubt the complete subjugation of state and religion that that would entail would see us on the road to all-out corporate fascism. Will corporations be brought to heel, or will they continue to blackmail nations, make social destruction in the name of efficiency a virtue and destroy foreign lands? One thing is for certain... the next ten years will almost certainly be the most explosive and significant decade in the history of humanity. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Let's cut the bullshit and start some serious debate shall we?

I'm sick to death of the partisan bollocks spewing forth from the usual cabal of out-of-touch opinion creators, both left and right, regarding the causes of the riots.  Actual reasoned analysis is thin on the ground, little diamonds in a sea of bile, ignorance and cliche.

This is a question of morality.

I have yet to see a philosopher interviewed on the subject.

Moral regard is determined by who and what you identify with, which is itself comprised of the culture through which one grows up. A large number of youths clearly have no moral regard for the police or for their communities.  Ergo, we can deduce that a situation has developed whereby large numbers of youths are growing up devoid of the kind of influences that generate shared cultural identity.  This is clearly evident; conforming cultural appearance (as suits are to businessmen), a shared dialect (much like that shared between politicians and the business world, not a coincidence and yes, the same applies regarding the moral concern...) etc; natural examples of divergent cultural evolution of separated groups (just like genetic evolution does).  This has made them so alien to the rich and powerful that they have zero chance of making it, no point in aspiration and through no fault of their own.  It is a mighty rare person who can buck the human instinct to conform in groups... do we then demand it of those who have the least instead of addressing the real causes?  Who has created the walls? Who has caused the segregation in the first place? Why is there such a huge gulf of worlds between the haves and have-nots?

There are no jobs. That's where most of us are forced to mix, forced to expand our moral concern by taking in structure, responsibility, exposure to people you would never normally mix with. What jobs there are do not pay enough, not to deal with the sheer volume of advertising generating needs and desires through a process of saturation (and now smart) bombing.  Whereas before one person could work and still happily sustain a family, now both parents (where there are two...) have to work just to survive, members of the ever growing working poor. There are no pools, there are no clubs, there is no chance of ever buying a house, ever going to university. There is nothing but corruption in their eyes, foolishly looking directly at the Sun much too often; the greed and dishonesty of the haves (politician's expenses, Ian Tomlinson, phone tapping, bailouts) acting as convincing rationales for simply doing whatever they want to do.  And why shouldn't they?  They have no moral concern for us. Imagine if the Right's dreams came true, and all the people on benefits suddenly worked really hard, doing everything they possibly could to get ahead. What would change? Nothing, except they'd look like chumps instead of scroungers.

Yet despite this, they still have to be seen to be responsible even if they are victims of the system (in the same way that we have to assume free will, even if science tells us it aint so).  Those kids have had little choice over their lives - that responsibility falls on the parents.  Unfortunately they may be just as excluded has the youth. Either way, society progresses with the aid of law and justice, and in this case restorative justice HAS to be the way to go. Until these youth are forced to face their victims, until they are forced to spend time working in the communities they trashed, how will they gain the experiences to help them break out of this limited group identity?

It isn't a choice between "It's poverty, leave them alone!" and "use live ammunition, that'll teach the bastards!". Criminality isn't some ontological entity, some insidious cloud that infects people... it has a cause like everything else in existence.  Neither is it a question of a bad soul which can be redeemed if broken first.  It is a reaction; a reflection of parts of society that our leaders are blind to; a warning sign of severe cognitive dissonance.  These youths and Politicians Inc are more alike than they realise:  both are closed systems and both have moral regard for their own groups first and foremost.  Society at large needs to realise this, because I fear the former will not be saved until we deal with the latter.