Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Riots

If you're reading a right-wing paper the situation is clear - they're a bunch of hooligans who need to be strung up, bring back the death penalty, blah blah. Read a left-wing paper and it's all deplorable, but understandable given the wealth gap, blah blah.

Rather than try to neatly package these events up to conform to their/our own belief system I want to ask a simple question - why is this happening?

Set aside the current spate of riots up and down the country for the time being and concentrate on the very first event in Tottenham. The police allegedly returned the fire of a drug dealer who was shot dead as a result. It's a rare event in the UK, but not unprecedented. The IPCC was called in as is proper and a peaceful demonstration held on behalf of the family to ask for "justice". Judging from precedent that should have been the end of it. It wasn't.

Following the largely media-ignored peaceful protest* violence erupted. Why? What made this incident into a priming event not only for riots in Tottenham but across the rest of London and the UK? Sad to say the shooting itself probably played little part directly, but acted as the last straw, the tipping point. It's quite possible that any vaguely overt move by 'the authorities' would have started this. As such it's not possible to point to any one thing that has led to this, but instead this needs to be treated as a huge miasma clinging to the people of this country. The large events dominate perceptions, but it's the ever present nagging events that truly create the build-up.

Yes the cuts played their part, but also we see groups such as bankers being rewarded for their mistakes; the constant sniping from the left-wing media about the wealth gap; the constant sniping from the right-wing media about crooks 'getting away with it'; food bills and energy bills going up while the companies proudly announce their staggering profits. Worrying about unemployment while our leaders holiday abroad in five-star hotels. Even 'stupid' things like the constant pressure to be perfect that the glossy magazines and the advertisers bombard us with. The 'silly' things such as bouncing over the potholes newly formed in a road that was only repaired last month. The sheer indifference some people seem to pay to societal etiquette or basic rules.

Everything just builds up until - snap.

"Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?"
"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?" [...] "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard,  more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."