FOR the English, there were many reasons why losing the American colonies was annoying. One was that America had been a handy place to exile convicts, some 40,000 of them over the years. George III took a personal interest in the hunt for new spots to resettle those (in his words) “unworthy to remain in this island”. Gibraltar was considered, as was west Africa, before ministers plumped for newly discovered Australia. By the time transportation ended (accused of lowering the tone of the Australian colonies), almost 200,000 men, women and children had been shipped Down Under, most never to return. Transportation was sorely missed: Parliament pondered newpenal colonies in the Falkland Islands and even Antarctica, amid public panicat the idea of ex-prisoners roaming English streets.
Repeatedly in history, when faced withrising crime or mob violence, respectable English citizens have yearned for those who alarm them to vanish: whether via the gallows, by removal to the edges of the earth, behind prison walls or (after race riots in the late 20th century) through calls for immigration to be curbed or reversed. Yet geography has just as often thwarted such desires: in urbanised, crowded England, the respectable have long lived cheek-by-jowl with those who alarm them.
They still do. Indeed, soaring property prices—which have pushed London’s middle classes into ever-edgier neighbourhoods—help explain some of the more lurid headlines during last week’s disorder. For instance, the press reported hand-to-hand combat between masked looters and staff armed with rolling pins at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Notting Hill, in west London. The last time England saw such serious riots, in 1981, much of Notting Hill was a tough place, still blighted by slum housing; now it’s a partly tough place, full of millionaires.
A week after the riots, sharp political debate has broken out about what lies behind those four days and nights of near-anarchy, and how to fix the social failings they exposed. Much of the debate has fallen into the familiar tramlines of a clash between an authoritarian right and a compassionate left. But other ancient echoes can also be heard.
Conservative MPs have praised judges for handing down swingeing punishments, including four-year jail terms handed to two men who (unsuccessfully) tried to whip up riots via their Facebook pages.Tory MPs have backed moves to evict the families of convicted rioters from council housing. The home secretary, Theresa May, says officials will look atgeneral dusk-to-dawn curfews. The conservative press is demanding the reversalof plans to scrap thousands of prison places (part of the drive to cut Britain’s budget deficit).
Such moves seem to chime with early public-opinion polls. YouGov, a pollster, found majorities for stripping welfare benefits from rioters, and for jailing looters, arsonists and those found guilty of violent disorder for several years. The newspapers and streets are full of voices declaring that family structures have fallen apart, and that society has been shattered by shifts in the labour market that have left England with an underclass knowing nothing of the world of work.
It is not hard to sniff the makings of an English panic. Popular responses to the 2011 riots—hefty jail terms, evictions and curfews—are all, deep down, ways of wishing scary people far away.
A classic text of English criminology, Geoffrey Pearson’s 1983 work “Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears”, lovingly traces repeating cycles of alarm about unprecedented crime rates and uniquely dreadful young people all the way back to the 16th century. The peak of transportation coincided with a panic brought on by the Industrial Revolution, which was held to have destroyed family structures (working mothers caused much alarm) and shattered traditional values. In 1843, at a time when about one in five of all convicted prisoners was being shipped to Australia,the House of Commons heard that the “morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly”, while parents in Nottingham were frankly “vicious”.
Yet even then, English reformers were buoyed by the inescapable reality that cities were thronged with both respectable folk and what were termed the “dangerous classes”. Proximity meant that questions of rehabilitation could not be avoided for ever.
Now, once again, politicians are appealing to the desire to expel and remove bad elements from society. That impulse lurks in the English urban character, but so does pragmatism. With luck, pragmatism will win.
Today’s urban English mostly seem to likeliving in their jumbled-up neighbourhoods. They do not wish to live in strictly segregated cities or nervous, gated suburbs. That should strengthen the hands of those urging rehabilitation over retribution. Even the most hawkish know the jailed will be out in time.
There are other reasons for hope. When England erupted in weeks of violence in 1981, the riots in Brixton, Moss Side and Toxteth left the country in a toxic stew of racial tension and mutual incomprehension. Newspapers of the day inveighed, nastily, against what one called an “unnecessarily imported” crisis of “ethnic criminality”. In riot-torndistricts, the police were widely hated. This time round, the mood in neighbourhoods recovering from looting involves relief as well as anger, and a strong desire to fix things. Racial tensions are lower. Nationwide, there is fretting about weak police tactics, which initially left looters feeling they could rampage with impunity. But it is easier to make the police a bit tougher than to persuade citizens not to loathe them.
希望仍在，还有其他原因。1981年，Brixton 、Moss Side和Toxteth三个城市爆发了长达数周的骚乱，让英国陷入种族冲突和互不理解的煎熬中。有人称这是一场”本不该有”的”民族犯罪”危机，当时的报纸对此进行了猛烈的抨击。受到骚乱影响的社区，警察处处遭遇白眼。这次抢劫风波后弥漫在社区上空的情绪，有如释重负，有愤怒，还有修复损失的强烈意愿。种族间的紧张气氛有所缓解。就全国范围而言，民众都在抱怨警察战术低劣，导致抢劫者从一开始就觉得他们可以恣意妄为且能免除惩罚。与其去说服公民不要憎恶警察，让警力生猛一些更为容易。
The English have given themselves a shock.They must now set to work making their society better. They have no choice.
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