Nick Clegg and Britain Today

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat in the UK,  is the Deputy Prime Minister.  When he was 16, he wandered into a greenhouse and after playing with some matches to burn some cacti, set the whole place alight. The greenhouse belonged to a professor of botany who had collected cacti from all over the world. That greenhouse housed that professor’s lifetime work. Nick Clegg said he had drunk too much and admitted he was irresponsible. His punishment was to do community work. That he could go on to hold high office and potentially be the most important man in UK politics – due to a possibility of a hung parliament – speaks a lot about our current attitude towards wrongdoing and its consequences.

While it is fantastic that someone who was so irresponsible and culpable of such reckless conduct can go on to such great achievements, it is also a reflection of the British (and western? contemporary?) society’s attitude and tolerance for bad behaviour. There is now less fear for consequences of doing bad things.

It is a difficult issue. While one shouldn’t be punished permanently for past mistakes, what we mete out as punishment (can we even use this word anymore, as opposed to “consequences”, say) should also have that deterrent element. Somehow the message we are sending to the younger generation is not just that we will forgive past mistakes, but that these mistakes don’t matter in that we will in the end, forgive and all will be well. This message tends to remove any fear that what we do will have consequences and sometimes far reaching and irreversible consequences.

I wonder what the UK and other parts of western civilisation now thinks, after the recent riots in London and elsewhere in England.