Wicked Issues and Blue Monday

Apparently the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year – it has been coined Blue Monday as a result, and apparently a formula was used to identify this day as the worst day of the year, taking into account weather and a range of other factors all of which contribute to an overall ‘down’ on that day.

With all that is going on at the moment, it is easy to feel that the world is a dangerous and out of control place, and that the compound effect of all of the challenging news can easily contribute to a feeling of despair and dejection. Quite genuinely for sufferers from depression, factors can very quickly weigh in to add to a general feeling of hopelessness and I feel acutely for the suffering that they go through and hope that they are able to find the help they need to recover.

One aspect of the news that is a particular challenge is the apparent increase in violent crime, especially in our capital. The news is full of stories about knife crime, with just last week a 14 year old killed having reportedly been struck off a moped and attacked. Regardless of the circumstances that led to this crime, it is an absolute tragedy and a very sad indictment on our society that a 14 year old becomes the victim of such a terrible crime.

Society is a complex thing, and the controls that exist to maintain cohesion are equally complex. Some of those controls are maintained as a result of laws, enforcement and regulation – and some come from within communities themselves, where tolerance levels are set and behaviour that is counter to the norm challenged. This latter form of control can be seen, for instance, in community action that was taken in a part of Bristol in the mid 2000’s to counter the proliferation of drug abuse in the area. The type of action that was taken is by no means isolated – I think for instance of women in Northern Ireland who spoke with a single voice to counter violence in their communities. These threads that bind communities, that subtly enforce standards and help maintain order are difficult to see but, sadly, easily broken. If trust in supporting bodies is lost, if sources of support such as community centres and referral centres are closed, if individuals who are key in those networks cease their involvement, these threads disappear and cohesion starts to suffer.

Community cohesion is built upon three things – the promotion and growth of social capital, confronting social exclusion and building social inclusion. Social capital is that element that makes people feel worthwhile within their communities, that breeds community pride and a feeling of well-being. Social exclusion are all of those things that set communities apart and can make them feel alienated from general life, whilst inclusion builds value and makes people and communities feel valued.

If we look at what is happening in some parts of society today in this country, we see division and disagreement spilling over into confrontation and violence, often with a strong element of hatred such as racist attacks. Communities within this can feel under siege, attacked, maligned and alone. This destroys social capital. Alongside that those self same attacks, media portrayals and political grandstanding excludes people and divides communities. Whilst all this is happening, social inclusion suffers not only from the effects of what I have described but also because austerity has closed so many services, opportunity has disappeared and funding not available for things that have in the past helped secure inclusion.

I think we can also add to this cocktail of woe a healthy dose of cynicism and bitterness. The economic divide in our country, and indeed globally, has never been so wide. Oxfam assess that just 8 people hold the same wealth as 3.9 BILLION people who make up the poorest half of humanity. This inequality, and such evident inequality, fuels bitterness. Not only that, it perpetuates suffering as wealth is directed one way and has no impact upon the lives of those who most need help.

I am not against endeavour, and I do not deny people the opportunity to capitalise upon their genius and hard work by making money out of their work. However, there has to be a recognition that we all hold a social responsibility to contribute to the well-being of all. This social responsibility is largely exercised on our behalf by government, through the re-allocation of taxes and the investment of national wealth to build infrastructures that enable growth and opportunity to develop. When people lose confidence in government to do this, when they see wealth being spent on other things that do not help them, when for instance questions are raised about the integrity of spending decisions then not only do people see inequality, but they also question the mechanisms that should be helping to lessen inequality and create opportunity for all.

It is therefore, in my view, a spirited cocktail of issues at the moment that, taken together, have the potential to fundamentally change our proud liberal democracy. The issue is not so much about whether we should stay in Europe, whether Policing is effective at countering knife crime, whether Government is effective – it is more about the net effect of the concerns around all of these things and the resultant impacts within society.

In my assessment, never before has security been so important. The next few months will see this country face realities the like of which have not been seen for generations. The potential for disorder is clear, and acknowledged. During disorder, as we saw from  the riots of 2011, retail locations in particular become vulnerable to attack as consumer and high value goods are sought out. Policing was stretched in 2011. Since that time, policing has lost a significant amount of capacity. The Police cannot protect premises from attack or stand as security on every location – it is physically impossible for them to do so, especially as they hold the responsibility of safeguarding the vital arteries and assets of state.

I do not wish to be a harbinger of doom – or be branded an architect of project fear – I am simply spelling out harsh realities evidenced from history. UKP can help. We can risk assess property and assets, we can place resource to protect, and we can provide CCTV and other forms of hard security very quickly. Maybe now is the time to take a look at your arrangements and give us a call

Written by Chris Singer, Chairman and senior advisor – UK Protection