Playing Devil’s Advocate to the English Riots
The August 2011 riots of England and Wales were perpetrated by mindless thugs hell-bent on violent assault, the destruction of property and opportunistic theft.
The terror and anarchy that spread from the capital to other UK cities may have started as a peaceful protest against the fatal shooting of 29-year old drug-dealer Mark Duggan but quickly spiralled into chaos, fuelled by criminal avarice.
The reason and the message of that protest was lost the minute the first missile was thrown. This violence was not triggered by public unrest nor is it our melting-pot boiling over. This is not our Arab Spring nor should parallels be drawn with the civil unrest of the Thatcher era.
Of the 466 facing court over their involvement, the majority were inner-city males between the ages of 18-24. The rioters destroyed their own communities, driven by materialistic greed and selfish rage.
In addition to scores of injuries, three men were killed in a hit and run incident whilst trying to defend their neighbourhood and a 68-year old man was beaten to death for the simple act of trying to extinguish a fire. How can anyone say this was in Mr Duggan’s name?
These are often called UK riots, yet the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has objected to this term and rightly so; there was no violence north of the border. Scotland could hardly be said to be better off than its southern neighbours – these austere times have hit them hard but pillaging yobs aren’t tearing up Sauchiehall Street.
No good ever came from violence; it is the simple act of a coward and undermines any argument, rendering it unsound and untenable.
The August 2011 riots of England and Wales were the direct result of our government’s inability to govern and of its failings to protect. Rioters are a symptom of the problem – not the problem itself.
In a culture that sees our Government giving our money to psychopaths seemingly richly rewarded for destroying livelihoods and dragging the world’s economy straight to hell; that sees corrupt MPs given what seems like slaps on the wrist in comparison to the lengthy sentences handed down to their light-fingered constituents; that sees broad, disproportionate cuts and austerity measures that shrink the middle class and create a gulf between the common people and the cronies in human suits who offer little but platitudes of solidarity and self-sacrifice – it should come as no surprise to find a generation that are disengaged and angry.
Is there any wonder there is little respect for the police when it appears they answer to no one. More than 330 people have died in or following police custody since 1998, but according to a watchdog’s report no officer has ever been successfully prosecuted. Why should a young ethnic-minority male trust the police when his only contact is the harassment of stop and searches?
There is a crisis in this country with unemployment at a 17-year high, a crisis that sees more than one in five 16 to 24-year olds without a job. These young people have grown up in a celebrity obsessed culture that is focussed not on the altruistic merits of a Big Society but on individual materialistic wealth and the schadenfreude or vicarious thrill of reality TV.
We’re brought up to believe that consuming goods will make us happy and content. We’re encouraged to get into debt to pursue the shiny gadgets, the fancy labels, and we’re told that the economy demands it. So when we feel abandoned and underrepresented, when we can’t have the things we’ve been indoctrinated to believe we deserve and we feel powerless to do anything about it, shouldn’t we get a little upset?
I put it to you that a surprising majority of the people in the classroom I’m sitting in, if coming from similar backgrounds to the rioters, would have in some way found a way to rationalise becoming involved in looting. Not the beatings or the mugging or the arson per se but certainly in the confrontations with the police.
Peer pressure and mob mentality are powerful forces and the deindividuation of crowds is known to cause anti-social behaviour. People are angry and frustrated and scared; I don’t condone the violence or the destruction but I do see it as an inevitable path in our rotten descent into the end of this broken society. Any human who half-way knows themself understands that when push comes to shove, they are capable of anything; and we all most certainly need to be, because the mask of our world is slipping and the times they are a-changing.
Of course such broad generalisations as these in this limited scope are little more than intellectual masturbation. Not everybody involved in the rioting was poor and disenfranchised; not everybody was possessed by their inner demons – helpless products of a cruel, unjust society; no – some people are just cunts.