Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

This morning, there was a certain amount of train chaos as someone nicked a load of cabling from a signal at London Bridge.

Big old electrical cables are worth a fair bit, given the price of scrap at the moment.  We had some nicked in the village from a generator which was there whilst they worked to stop a persistent power cut problems.  So someone nicked the cables, prompting another five hour power cut.

Everyone’s got a similar story, it seems.

People are ripping apart the very infrastructure the country needs to keep working.

If it’s not nailed down, and it’s worth something, people are off with it.  Looting during the riots, manhole covers, lead roof tiles.  The list goes on, thousands of small crimes adding up to a bigger trend.

People feel they have a right to things, and hang the cost to society; the infamous phrase, that ‘sense of entitlement’, was trotted out often by various establishment figures over the last weeks.

But is it any wonder?

Firstly, for decades we’ve been told to “look to ourselves first”… it’s every man and woman for themselves.  Thatcher from 1987:

“We have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand”I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or”I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.” 

Subsequent Major and New Labour governments didn’t really change things.  The free market was allowed to run riot, with consequences we’re all too aware of.

I’m beginning to think there’s something in the way that the story of the last few years has unfolded; there’s something in the constant news coverage that’s perhaps exacerbated this ‘sense of entitlement’.

The content and tone of the coverage of everything from MP’s expenses to Banker’s bonuses has suggested that it’s open season for everyone… take what you can, whilst the going is good.

People must look to themselves first, after all, eh?

And so people follow this new spirit of society.  Avoid whatever tax you can, scam a little here, nick a little there, bend the rules wherever you can.

Perhaps the Cranberries summed it up nicely – “Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”

The looters did just that.  The going was good, everyone was at it… so they joined in.  And they targeted the brands they’ve been taught for years to desire above everything else.

They didn’t attack “government or authority” targets because they were told decades before that government wasn’t there for them.  They went for the throat of their new state figureheads; brands.

There’s a deeper issue here (and perhaps a longer post) within marketing about responsibility – how can you justify whipping up fervent desire whilst at the same time creating and maintaining financial barriers of exclusion?

Anyway, back to the point; people aren’t acting independently; we’re simply copying each other, and at perhaps the grandest scale of all.  It’s open season on whatever you can take, and anything goes.

As the Herdmeister himself puts it…

“Only by understanding the behaviour as a social phenomenon (and not one rooted in individuals) can we really get to grips with it and start to understand what we might do differently next time.” – Mark Earls

Beyond some of the other problems with the kneejerk ‘zero tolerance’ approach to lawbreaking being kicked around, it’s missing the bigger picture.

Our consideration of the problem needs to be wider, it needs to encompass everyone.

The banker, the looter, the MP, the benefit cheat, the tax evader, the thief who nicked the cables from London Bridge this morning; they’ve all been taught to look after number one first, and they’re doing just that.  And they’re copying each other.

What will it take for everyone to put a little more in, rather than take out whatever they can?