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"The uprising of the working class..."



August 09, 2011 – Comments (17)

I have been following the riots in Britain.  Britain is of interest to me because I lived there for 4 months in 2005.  

From what I saw, Britain is a hard place to live.  I was shocked at the number of 30-something-year-olds still living with mom and dad because there was little economic opportunity for them.  I rented a tiny room in a house with 4 other adults and the cost of that rent would have gotten you a one bedroom apartment by yourself in Vancouver, and Vancouver is considered to have a high cost of living in Canada.  The other adults in the home were spending a significant percentage of their income on rent and from what I could see, after paying their bills there wasn't much left over.

It seemed to me there was huge apathy and I spent a lot of time thinking about what leads to such apathy, which I concluded was also about the lack of economic opportunity.  It seemed to me that Britain was probably 20 years ahead of Canada in declining lifestyle as you looked down the demographic cohorts.  

And it seemed to me that government taxes were high and services were low.  And they had creative taxation, like the TV tax.  I forget how much it was, but by law if you had a TV you had to pay this TV tax.  And then there was the council tax, which I also forget how much it was, but renters paid a municipal tax.  In Canada the landlord pays the property tax which covers the municipal services.

Being in a completely out of control education system, as I was in Britain, I was doing comparisons on funding.  It seemed to me the funding level was about 2/3rds of what we had in Canada.  I didn't work it out exactly, but the per pupil funding that the headmaster said we got was small compared to Vancouver.  And my teaching load was insane, 247 different students and 9 different preps.  In Vancouver teachers report working an average of 51 hours per week.  In Britain teachers who had been teaching for 20-30 years said they were working about 60 hours per week.  I put in about 12 hour days during the week, but I refused to work my weekends as I had gone to work in another country to see and experience the country.  No teacher there was keeping up with the marking despite the long working hours, and indeed many just weren't getting any marking done.  Parents biggest complaint at the first parent teacher day was, according the headmaster, "not a stitch of red in their notebooks."  I don't know what education funding has done there the last 5 years, but with their currency devaluation, with all else the same it would now be less then half rather then 2/3rds.  They had been hiring a lot of foreign teachers, which is much harder to do with weak currency.

So, one of the blogs that I saw this week listed countries that still have triple A ratings, and Britain is on that list, which given one the first things I was saying about Britain when I started blogging was the pound was going to crash because of their financial situation.  When I went to Britain it cost me $2.33 Canadian dollars per pound and today it would cost $1.54 Canadian dollars.  This rating system makes little sense to me.

I thought services in Britain were low when I was there, which suggests to me further cuts to government spending would be very hard.  But then, it could have been how they were spending their money, as they had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in all developed countries and the standard of living from welfare for those teen moms wasn't that much different from working at minimum wage. 

In any event, reading the article about the riots, there has been increasing social unrest due to cuts to social programs, pensions, and education.  The cuts they are making are being felt by a lot more people.

I do tend to think this rioting is more related to the long term declining lifestyle and it appears to be at a tipping point, at least for a very disenfranchised segment of their society, and what I quoted from the article in this blog title just really hit that point home for me.  

17 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 09, 2011 at 12:15 PM, Frankydontfailme (29.38) wrote:

Working class? Don't you need a job to be in the working class?

Nice write-up. 

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#2) On August 09, 2011 at 4:32 PM, SkepticalOx (98.91) wrote:

Awesome post +1!

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#3) On August 09, 2011 at 4:41 PM, truthisntstupid (90.65) wrote:

Hm.  Seems to me that when enough of the working class is suffering from unemployment and lack of opportunity to find honest work, they will be past caring whether anyone thinks they should still be considered part of the 'working class'...while they're beating you upside the head and taking your wallet.

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#4) On August 09, 2011 at 4:43 PM, umh (< 20) wrote:

Just an observation. I was in England back in the 70's and I noticed an extreme amount of apathy in most of the people I encountered. I was young then and just shrugged it off to being in a different culture.


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#5) On August 09, 2011 at 5:01 PM, wolfman225 (49.01) wrote:

I think the apathy was due to the lack of necessary engagement by the young people in the running of their own lives.  The UK government has, for years, promised a certain standard of living as a right.  Not as a goal to work towards.  Many have relied on that, doing little or nothing to provide for themselves.  Meanwhile, others invested in themselves and dedicated themselves to achieving success (however they defined that term).

Now, the bills are coming due and, due to the high unemployment (itself a result of reliance by the young on government payouts and guarantees) they are discovering the money simply isn't there. 

They were told they'd need to contribute towards the cost of their education, They rebelled and rioted.  They  were told that benefits provided by the government were going to need to be reduced to sustainable levels.  They're rioting again (the current "unrest" isn't really about police action), burning and trashing the very neighborhoods where they live, taking from others (or destroying) that which they don't have the ability to achieve for themselves.  To punish them for daring to succeed beyond the official government allocation.

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#6) On August 09, 2011 at 5:47 PM, dwot (29.73) wrote:

Another story on it, really focuses on the change in the division of wealth.  The job stats are awful, every job having 24 people wanting it.  Spend a few months looking for a job in that environment and it would be hard to remain optimistic, and this is what life has been like for some time.

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#7) On August 09, 2011 at 5:57 PM, wolfman225 (49.01) wrote:

^I'm not arguing with your point, dwot.  I'm simply pointing out that the roots of the current situation were planted decades ago.  You can't engender a culture of dependence and reliance on the government's ability to tax and redistribute wealth and not have riots when the people who have become unable/unwilling to provide for themselves realize that Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard is bare.

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#8) On August 09, 2011 at 6:34 PM, Frankydontfailme (29.38) wrote:

How long until it reaches America? I give it 15 months tops.

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#9) On August 09, 2011 at 6:40 PM, eldemonio (98.26) wrote:

It's not like these looters and rioters are rallying together against a common enemy as hinted at in the linked story.  

If it was truly about being fed up with government corruption, why aren't they burning the Palace of Westminster?

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#10) On August 09, 2011 at 7:26 PM, dwot (29.73) wrote:

Wolfman, that other story wasn't directed at your comment, it was just another story on the situation.

But, I agree that they have implemented policy that has led to terrible outcomes.  The teen pregnancy really amazed me.  I remember relaying the problem I was having with one child and his mom was only about 18 when he was born and I attributed some of it to that fact and the one adult in the house didn't think that was a problem at all, but the problem was the 14, 15 and 16-year-old moms.  Pretty bad when 18 is considered a perfectly ok age to start a family.  

And the children of these children were figuring that getting pregnant was a way to "independence," as long as you don't count government hand-outs...  They would get a place to live that was paid for and something like 100 pound per week.  When if you can get a job you'll probably only earn 160-200 pound per week, that's a massive teen pregnancy incentive.


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#11) On August 09, 2011 at 7:38 PM, dwot (29.73) wrote:


That video really brought back ickky memories of Britain.  I remember giving a colored girl a reward for doing something well, to her horror, and this 6 foot teen male taking it from her and I insisted he give it back and she was begging me to drop it because I was creating an environment where that thug would go after her later.

I found the behaviours, like what you just showed in the video, so disgusting,  I left early.  I felt buried in racism, contempt, violence, bullying, anarchy and pure poison.

Now, I had the priviledge to pack my bags and just leave but my students had to grow up in it.  I can't imagine how you do well in that environment.

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#12) On August 10, 2011 at 7:39 AM, outoffocus (24.13) wrote:

This is a great article and subject Dwot.  People need to see this stuff when they suggest that the US try an implement certain social programs simply because "Europe does it".  People need to see that things aren't always as rosy as they seem...

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#13) On August 10, 2011 at 8:49 AM, eldemonio (98.26) wrote:


Thanks for sharing the article and your experience.



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#14) On August 10, 2011 at 9:52 AM, tmathe85 (< 20) wrote:

I lived in Scotland for 6 years so I have some insight into that culture. A lot of whats going on in the UK is a product of a moral void left by 50 years of secularism. I call it the de-evolution of man....... acting like wild animals

 what ever happened to the proud stoic mentality that virtue is its own reward and holding dishonor as a worse fate than death...

 it has nothing to do with a lack of opportunities but a culture that rejects "the man" and glorifies "hoodilism"

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#15) On August 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM, dwot (29.73) wrote:


One of my constant thoughts while I was there was remembering my childhood history lesson and reference to the British as "barbarians" something like 2000 years ago.  I kept thinking I was in a sequel, "return of the barbarians."

I also met a retired teacher there my first week.  She was 78 and she said that a common discussion among her and her peers was that they were no longer proud to be British and she was glad she at the end of her life rather then the beginning.

And certainly to give any praise in the classroom was an absolute no-no.   

I just remembered seeing a tobacco advertising campaign in the early 90s for Reg.  I tried to find some images but what I found was mild compared to what I remember.  The campaign was essentially "f--k the establishment," and all authority and a celebration of jerks and hooligans.  Their teen smoking rate was going through the roof with this campaign and the entire campaign was about being the worst you can be.  It got banned in 94 I think, but it was exactly promoting rejection of the man and glorifying hoodilism.   

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#16) On August 11, 2011 at 1:39 PM, dwot (29.73) wrote:

I think they got the hoods in that video where they pretended to be helping and then robbed him,

17.45 A 20-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the robbing of Ashraf Haziq, the 20-year-old Malaysian student who was mugged on Monday, according to the BBC. 

17.08 Ashraf Haziq, the 20-year-old Malaysian student who was mugged by people pretending to help, is speaking on Sky News. Asked about the people who attacked him, he says:

I feel sorry for them, but it was really strange because amongst them there were children. That shocked me. There were boys in primary school, I think, it was quite shocking. I expect it to be someone older, but then there was this boy.

A reporter asks him what he feels is wrong with a country in which this sort of thing happens. He refuses to answer, saying it's not for him to say. He says he's had a lot of support, and that he knows that David Cameron has been talking about him in the Commons and that he appreciates it.


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#17) On August 12, 2011 at 11:17 AM, SweetMircha (82.04) wrote:

You've posted a wonderful and interesting blog DWOT.

It looks like the world is heading towards a social collapse in the not too distant future. 

I watched a documentary on The End of Oil just 2 days ago and, it was an eye opening experience to see the way the  trade of the world came to a screaching halt just 1 year after Oil ended. It went on to show how slowly civilization began to re-structure itself after spending years living as early settlers had. Smart scientists were able to develop a new breed of Oil from algae. This began an new world of trade.

I think the social unrest which you describe in your Blog is similar to the world as it could happen with the End of Oil.  It's relative I think.

The Doc was shown in Canada, where you & I both live-neighbours to one another.

Have a great day, neighbour.

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