Nigel Shocking, just shocking these riots. Wouldn’t you agree?
David No. I’d say rather that they were expected.
Nigel Too right they were. These youth were disaffected. Nothing but products of a society which has given up hope on them. The only surprising thing is that the riots didn’t happen sooner and last longer.
David Hang on a minute. You’re saying that it was society’s fault that these people broke the law?
Nigel Of course. The evidence is everywhere. We have a society in which “bankers’ bonuses, MPs cheating on their expenses, unemployment, government spending cuts, poverty, social inequality” are routine. Society itself is to blame.
David Let us be clear. Do you claim that it was society that caused these people to steal trainers, iPhones, and televisions? To loot and destroy? To set fire to private property and to attack the police?
Nigel That is so.
David And that if it was society that was the cause of all this, the rioters themselves were not to be blamed? That although they perpetrated these criminal acts, they were justified in doing so?
Nigel A brutal truth and unpalatable. But one which is the case. As the Daily Telegraph said, it is our “culture of greed and impunity” that drove these unfortunates to violence.
David Very well. Let us accept your premise as true—that society caused these people to act in criminal fashion—and see where it leads us.
Nigel No tricks, now.
David Heaven forfend! But you would agree, I hope, that society—since it is society which we are investigating—is composed of people who, more or less, share a common culture or at least a culture which is in parts different than other cultures?
Nigel That is so.
David The culture itself is shaped by its members, by those people who live within certain geographic bounds. Its members interact with one another in ways too complex to track completely, but can we agree that it is these interactions that, so to speak, create the culture? And that culture and society mean much the same thing?
Nigel Of course.
David “Society”, then, is all the people living in some defined place. Society is comprised of all its members, and you say that society is to blame for the riots. Therefore, the rioters, since they are part of society, are to blame for their acts? Isn’t that opposite of what we assumed?
Nigel You don’t understand. When I say society is to blame, I do not mean all of society, but a part of it.
David Which part?
Nigel The part which controls the money and power.
David Do not these rioters control some money and some power?
Nigel They do, but only a fraction. It is money-hungry businesses and power-seeking corporations that control most.
David So it the business owners themselves that were responsible for their shops being vandalized and looted?
Nigel In a roundabout manner of speaking, yes.
David Would you agree that some among those business owners and corporate board members themselves commit crimes? That rioters don’t have a monopoly on lawlessness?
Nigel I more than agree.
David The class of businesses and corporations is not uniform. Some businessmen and some corporations are richer than others.
Nigel This is true.
David Then, according to your hypothesis, those lower in the hierarchy must have been driven to crime by those higher up. Something caused some businessmen to break the law. And the only explanation you have offered is that crimes are committed by unbearable urges caused by being members of the lower classes. It must then be that all crime is caused by person or small group of persons who sit atop the hierarchy.
Nigel I said nothing about unbearable urges.
David Did you not say, after amendments, that merely being a member of a lower class was what “drove” people to crime? And is not “being driven” another way of saying creating an irresistible urge?
Nigel Whether it does or not is not interesting. I protest your bending of words to suit your own meanings. It was clear that by businesses and corporations I meant an entirely different class of people, one who are wholly apart from those under them.
David So businessmen are not part of the same society? Then, since “society” caused the riots, it must be that either these businessmen or the rioters played the role of foreign invader.
Nigel You’re in the realm of the fanciful. Anyway, we would not be the first to arrive at the conclusion of class warfare for social justice.
David I would remind you that it was Cicero who said that an unjust peace is better than a just war.