Do you ever feel like you are watching history?
I’m watching BBC News channel (still can’t bring myself to watch Sky News, too hysterical), and seeing astounding scenes of buildings burning out of control. Scenes of shops being looted, and police attacked. It’s terrifying, and breathtaking in terms of the speed the violence and disruption has spread.
It’d be easy to name-call and pigeon-hole the perpetrators. Of course the violence is utterly unwarranted, of course the destruction is devastating. It must be terrifying for both police and for those living nearby the flashpoints. I can’t help but look at it sideways, though, and wonder why people are so disconnected from their communities and their culture that these riots and such destruction seem like an appropriate response.
In many areas of London, almost one in four of working age are unemployed. Young men, particularly young black men, are more likely to be unemployed than any other group. There is no immediate prospect for many of them of that situation changing. Participating in mass action such as we are seeing tonight, using social media as a principal method of communication, may be giving many a sense of purpose and belonging they haven’t experienced for years, if ever. And yet these are the areas which are experiencing, proportionally, the worst cuts in government spending. For the rioters, their actions are an expression of discontent and futility. Mindless thugs they may be – but that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. Writing them off does nothing to solve the problem.
As a country we are failing our youth, failing our minorities – and tonight we are seeing the results.