sheer criminality?


In 1959, at a time of violent unrest among American youth, a publisher commissioned a study of juvenile delinquency from Paul Goodman. The resulting volume, Growing up Absurd, was an immediate if unlikely success. Goodman had already written more than twenty books, none of which had made any great impression. And fifty years on he is once again unknown. But to reread his book in the aftermath of this summer’s riots in Britain is to be visited by uneasy feelings. Prime Minister David Cameron’s initial response to the British riots, it will be recalled, was to blame them on something called “sheer criminality.” What that phrase meant became clear when sentences of four years were handed down for using Facebook to “incite disorder.” A month later Cameron acclaimed the “Spirit of London Awards”—according to their site, “a way of celebrating all that is good about the young, positive role models in London”—as a “powerful antidote.” One of its “London heroes,” a young table tennis player, visited 10 Downing Street to be paraded before the cameras as the acceptable face of youth. Cameron’s government has now appointed Louise Casey, “respect tsar” under former prime minister Tony Blair, to head the response to the riots. Labour leader Ed Miliband for his part has cried in the wilderness for “a new ethics.” Blair blamed bad parenting. Journalist Kenan Malik denounced the atomization and “moral poverty” of the society that had created the rioters.

more from Horatio Morpurgo at Dissent here.