You may recall the riots in the United Kingdom in August 2011 where over 170 people were arrested and buildings and cars were burned by rioters.  The question is, how should we understand these events? I What drives a privileged group of citizen to steal, burn, injure, and destroy?  As I consider all the evidence, I see these London riots as a a clash of worldviews.


First, there is a Traditionalist worldview reflected by some pundits who see the riots as indicative of a moral decay in society.  Take as one example this quote by Britan’s current Prime Minister David Cameron who sees “values-based education” as the both the problem and the solution.

Elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 2010 and Leader of the Conservative Party

The fightback also means rebuilding the sense of personal responsibility that has been eroded over the years by many things, from the welfare system where work doesn’t pay to the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights.

The British people have fought and died for people’s rights to freedom and dignity but they did not fight so that people did not have to take full responsibility for their actions. So though it won’t be easy, though it will mean taking on parts of the establishment, I am determined we get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights.

We are looking at creating our own British Bill of Rights. We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works and we will fight to ensure people understand the real scope of these rights and do not use them as cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense.

Above all, a social fightback means instilling in our children and young people the decency, discipline and sense of duty that make good citizens.

The first place people learn these values is in the home. That is why I make no apology for talking about the importance of family and marriage. Every government policy must pass what I call the family test: does this make life better for families or worse? Does this make it easier to bring up well-behaved children or harder? Family is back at the top of the agenda.

Second, there is another group of people who see The London riots as an isolated event that need not be addressed through systemic changes in society.  Note the article in the Guardian by Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of England, in which he writes:

British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007

The left says they’re victims of social deprivation, the right says they need to take personal responsibility for their actions; both just miss the point. A conventional social programme won’t help them; neither – on their own – will tougher penalties.

The key is to understand that they aren’t symptomatic of society at large. Failure to get this leads to a completely muddle-headed analysis.

Britain, as a whole, is not in the grip of some general “moral decline”. I see young graduates struggling to find work today and persevering against all the odds. I see young people engaged as volunteers in the work I do in Africa, and in inter-faith projects. I meet youngsters who are from highly disadvantaged backgrounds where my Sports Foundation works in the north-east and I would say that today’s generation is a) more respectable b) more responsible and c) more hard-working than mine was. The true face of Britain is not the tiny minority that looted, but the large majority that came out afterwards to help clean up.

While both Cameron and Blair make important points, both men fail to provide a comprehensive analysis; both attempt to cure a symptom without understanding the disease.  However, there is a third viewpoint that reflects a broader philosophy that I believe is behind not only the London riots but many of the events shaping Western civilization.

Third, there are people, both the Left/Liberal and the Right/Conservative on the political spectrum, who believe the London Riots are a matter of economics (Dialectical Materialism).  The Left/Liberal argue that the problem is rooted in the failure of the Free-Market and the solution is a switch to a more Socialist system.  The Right/Conservative argue that the problem is rooted in the failure of a Socialist-leaning economy and the solution is move toward a stronger Free-market system.  The solution each side wants is very different, but both sides are essentially expressing the same view that material possessions are the cohesive societal force.  Take this excerpt from the London Telegraph article titled, “I’m starting to think that the Left might actually be right” by conservative columnist Charles Moore.

Editor of The Spectator (1984-90), the Sunday Telegraph (1992-5) and The Daily Telegraph (1995-2003).

What with the the phone-hacking scandal, the eurozone crisis and the US economic woes, the greedy few have left people disillusioned with our debased democracies.

It has taken me more than 30 years as a journalist to ask myself this question, but this week I find that I must: is the Left right after all? You see, one of the great arguments of the Left is that what the Right calls “the free market” is actually a set-up.

The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything.

Moore’s view reflects a Marxist philosophy (Dialectic Materialism) that sees life as motived by material possessions. It is rooted in the following progression of thought.  Society is secular in origin because Humankind evolved from a random sequence of events that has no transcendent meaning.  To create meaning, the individual must build a strong sense of self-esteem (viz a vie, ‘self’ is the source of all meaning).  With meaning found in the individual, the collective is still faced with the challenge of setting a course for its future.  Many in the West have chosen Dialectical Materialism as the yardstick by which the people can measure right and wrong.  Consequently,. the responsibility of the individual is to serve the social-conscience using any tool necessary to achieve “justice”.

Within the system of Dialectical Materialism, both violence and service can be equally valid methods to achieve the goal of social justice.  Ultimately, the violence displayed in London is neither good nor bad. Violence is simply a morally neutral expression of anger toward what the collective-conscience has decided is economic injustice.  I hasten to add, we should not conclude that Marxism is a celebration of violence nor does it demand the use of violence. Works of service are an equally valid, and morally neutral, tool through which individuals can express their dissatisfaction with perceived societal injustice.

This third view best describes what is happening in the West.  Think of Dialectal Materialism as a Hungry Giant.  In one hand he holds a plate of “good deeds for the poor” while on the other hand, he holds a plate of “violence to poison the rich”. In each hand there is a different meal, but both hands feed the Hungry Giant.  Both meals serve equally the ultimate goal, social justice.

1 Solution

Dialectical Materialism has created a deep poverty of soul which is now manifest in the unCivilization of the West.  Must we continue to feed the Hungry Giant or is there another way? What then is the solution?

I will share my thoughts in the next post, “Treating Our Cultural Psychosis.”

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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