It's a Riot!
The last three days have seen London engulfed in the biggest display of violence and rioting I’ve ever seen footage of in the western world. Sitting here at my desk as the sun goes down in Melbourne, Australia, I’m reading through as much as I can on twitter, blogs and news websites to try to figure out what the fuck is going on and why it’s gotten this bad, and it’s hard to keep my emotions in check. I’m angered and saddened, and like every other time I’ve delved deeply into an issue like this, I feel almost totally overwhelmed by it. The young people from London’s poorest areas are wantonly ransacking their own communities, seemingly without a single fuck given about anyone but themselves. Bloggers and politicians alike are making all kinds of claims as to what caused this shit to go down, with emotive and/or political bias being thrown all over the place, but amongst it all I have figured out some facts, which I will share now, and I’ll save my opinions for afterwards…
The trouble started when a man named Mark Duggan was shot dead by police officers in Tottenham last week (August 5th). Reports about the incident are conflicting- the police say they were shot at by Duggan- who they knew as a gangster and suspected to be a drug dealer- first, while witnesses say Duggan was pulled out of a car and shot while laying on the ground, and his family denies any involvement in gangs. In an area where the Afro-Caribbean population already felt unjustly abused by police, the death of Mark Duggan lead to a peaceful protest the next day, with around 200 people marching from Broadwater Farm to the Tottenham police station.
Then apparently a group of unruly youths took it too far by attacking a police car, and in a short period (a few hours maybe?) things had escalated to fireworks being let off at policemen, shop windows being smashed, looting and cars and buildings were set on fire. And on it has gone since then with he violence spreading to a wider area, with what are being called “copy-cat” breakouts in nearby cities.
The British Prime Minister has finally realised that the country kinda needs him, so he’s flown back from his summer holiday in Italy to try and sort it out. At the time of writing, he is supposed to be releasing a statement soon, hopefully with some sort of plan to help the police-force out. The mobs of rioters, most of them young men, seem to outnumber the police 3 fold every time they arrive at the scene, and the 500+ arrests that have been made throughout the affected areas didn’t seem to make any impact on these kids, who appear to want nothing more than to destroy everything in their paths.
A myriad commentaries are being made about these riots; it’s extremely difficult to not have an opinion if you read the information and watch the footage. Or indeed, are watching it unfold outside your building of residence. It seems so fucking obvious to me that these young, dumb, poor as shit people having been waiting (unconsciously or not) for an opportunity to let go and release all the anger and frustration they feel. I see kids like that every day that I’m on a train. You probably do too. Those young men and women who- for whatever reason- don’t have the drive to push themselves to find a long term solution to their problems, the kids who make you draw your bag closer to your body, or turn your music down a bit, or check to see if there are any people on the carriage who could jump to your aid, just in case. It’s got nothing to do with race. I want to make that much clear. It’s got to do with the way they hold themselves and the negative attitude they express towards their fellow human- they are the ones who are too damaged to care about very much, and when an opportunity for such an extreme rush comes along, they’ll let the remains of their empathy wither away and just do what they want because they feel justified by their anger at the world and by the safety of the mob.
I am not familiar with what it’s like to live in a desperately poor area with rife unemployment and gang culture, nor do I know what it’s like to be so desperate and/or stupid that smashing in the windows of a store to grab jeans and DVDs seems like a viable option, but it is as clear as fucking daylight that setting buildings on fire and rallying troops to your (total lack of) cause on a public forum like twitter will serve no purpose other than to prove how short sighted and self serving you are. There is no political drive there, no hint of intellectual reasoning, no legitimate justification, just a pack mentality based around a vague memory of a community member getting unfairly killed (maybe), a vague understanding of historical revolutions that involve violence, and a sense of being unfairly treated by authority figures, all of it encompassed by a shitty environmental upbringing.
Here is another fact: in every news report I’ve seen on Australian television about the riots in London, there has been mention of the upcoming Olympic Games, and a fear for the safety of our Olympians in 2012. If it keeps going at this rate, there won’t be a London to have the Olympic Games in by 2012. Maybe hashtagging olympicgames and londonriots in the same tweet will spark the rioters off on a whole new, more purposeful destruction spree? I for one do not give a flying fuck about the future safety of Australian Olympiads, certainly not more than I care about the safety of the people of London right now.
I can’t envision the outcome of these riots. What do you do with rioting for the sake of rioting? It’s not exactly political dissent, there’s no discernible chain of command, and there are a bajillion issues surrounding race and class prejudice that you’ve got to be very careful with… it’s got to end, but it’s got to end nicely. Shooting them all down isn’t an option. The entire Western world is watching. They can’t just hope the rioters will get bored and stop, because they might not. Can they bring the army in? Will that scare these fucking selfish morons enough to make them run home to their parents? What a weird, thought not entirely unexpected, thing to happen.
I was told to keep this one dry. I’m not sure how well I’ve done, given that my brain is alternating between screaming and crying. I can’t tell what’s coming through my fingers. Current twitter developments are encouraging though- there is a big volunteer cleaning effort in the affected areas, and hopefully seeing that going on will snap the violent dickheads out of it. But then again, if their previous behavior is anything to go by, they’ll keep not giving a fuck about other people and carry on trashing everything as soon as the sun goes down. I don’t know what to do. You don’t know what to do. I suppose all we can do is just not be dicks to each other and hope we can lead by example. Fingers crossed.
Best wishes go out to London, and to everywhere else in the world affected by selfish morons. I am truly sorry.