25 August 2007

Defending the Socially Responsible

"We should ask not just what we expect from our government in response to these dreadful crimes - but what do we expect from ourselves and from society? Just as the Military Covenant sets out what we - society - must do for our military, so today we should consider our obligations in tackling crime and building a stronger society."

William Golding: Lord of the FliesWhat hope have we really got of realising the Conservative's vision for a socially responsible society when a train guard who was attacked by a group of disorderly youths after he asked them to take their feet off a seat is fired from his job? Southeastern railway say he should have walked away, but as the sacked guard, Robbie Moran notes, "Walking away and abandoning your passengers to someone that's being aggressive, that's not customer care to me."

Even before questions about the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones by a BMX-riding teenager in Croxteth have ceased being asked, today we learn that a 23-year-old man with learning difficulties, Brent Martin, has died in hospital after being "savagely attacked" by a gang of up to five youths on Sunderland's Town End Farm estate — an area of low-level anti-social behaviour and relatively low level crime.

David Cameron is surely right when he suggests we need "a national recognition that it is not just up to the Government to take responsibility for the state of our nation, it is up to all of us":

To me this is what social responsibility is all about. Not just sitting back and saying that the government must act, but all of us saying: this is my country, my society, my responsibility - and I must play my part.

It means parents taking responsibility for bringing up children properly. It means schools playing their part in instilling discipline and good values. It means all of us recognising our obligations not just as parents but as neighbours, as members of a community and understanding that those obligations are as important as simply paying our taxes and obeying the law. It means understanding and acting on that age old maxim that it takes a village to raise a child. It means retailers stopping the sale of alcohol to young teenagers. It means music companies, media companies, games manufacturers, not just thinking "what is my social responsibility as a company in terms of the projects I support and the charities I back, good and important as they are" but asking: "what is the effect of the music I produce, the games I market and the programmes I broadcast?"

That is true social responsibility.
We should be a country that defends the actions of people like Mr Moran, not one that always seems to take the side of the bully, even to defend the "rights" of killers such as Learco Chindamo.

Is William Golding's Lord of the Flies even required reading in schools still?